Hilary Summers


"The performance of […] Summers […] is simply outstanding."

Ramon del Buey Canas, bachtrack

"Contralto Hilary Summers is the soloist, her dark, plummy tones meshing perfectly with Nyman’s brassy-tinged textures."

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

"It was a wonderful performance, which Summers herself clearly enjoyed, made all the more riveting by her complete vocal command of the part."

Susan Doering, Vienna Review

"It’s almost invidious to pick out other names from either cast in what is such a brilliantly executed piece, but Hilary Summers is a formidable White Queen."

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

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A specialist in contemporary repertoire. Hilary Summers' three-octave range has excited the attention of many composers. Operatic world premieres include the role of Stella in Carter’s What Next? for Berlin State Opera, Madame Irma in Peter Eötvös’s Le balcon at Aix-en-Provence Festival, Miss Prism in Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and White Queen, Dormouse and Cook in Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Underground. Most recently she created the role of Nell in Gyorgy Kurtag’s Fin de Partie at La Scala, Milan to great critical acclaim.

Hilary worked closely with the iconic composer and conductor Pierre Boulez from 2004. With Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, she recorded his masterwork Le marteau sans maître, for which she won a Grammy Award in 2006. She went onto perform the piece worldwide. She also performed Le visage nuptial, Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Ligeti’s Aventures and Aventures nouvelles under his inspirational baton.

A greatly respected interpreter of Baroque repertoire, Hilary has long been in demand for Handelian roles. With William Christie she performed and recorded the role of Medoro in Orlando; with il Complesso Barocco the role of Idelberto in Lotario, and with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company she has recorded Juno in Semele, Disinganno in Il Trionfo del tempo; Rosmira in Partenope, Teodata in Flavio and Amastre in Serse. On the concert platform she has given over one hundred performances of Handel’s Messiah. Other favourite concert works include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Rossini’s Petite messe solonelle and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

She has forged a special relationship with the composer Michael Nyman and has toured the world with the Michael Nyman Band. He has written many works for her voice including the opera Facing Goya and the song cycle War Work. She has sung on several film soundtracks including The Claim; The Libertine and the Diary of Anna Frank (Nyman), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Joby Talbot) and on The Lord of the Rings (Howard Shore) and on TV The League of Gentleman (Talbot).

Hilary was very grateful to reprise her role of Nell in Pierre Audi’s award-winning production of Kurtag’s Fin de Partie at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia during 2020. Other recent highlights include filming a DVD of Gerald Barry’s Alice for Irish National Opera and Olga Neuwirth’s Bählamms Fest at the Ruhrtriennale Festival.

Next Season she will sing Little Buttercup in English National Opera’s HMS Pinafore, Fin de Partie/Nell for Opera National de Paris and give concert performances of Cesare/Cornelia at the Palau in Barcelona, Dido and Aeneas/Sorceress for Early Opera Company as well as a recording of Amadigi/Dardano also with EOC under Christian Curnyn.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Fin de Partie at L'Opera de Paris

Opera de Paris, May 2022

Nell, played by Hilary Summers peeks her head out of her dustbin to the sound of a snake charmer's music [...] The contralto deploys her deep, sweet, legato voice, very tenderly intoned and articulated.

'Nell incarnée par Hilary Summers sort la tête de sa poubelle au son d'une musique de charmeur de serpents. [..] La contralto déploie sa voix grave, douce et longue, très tendre, vibrée et articulée.'

Charles Arden, Olyrix

Kurtag's Fin de partie, Nell

Palau de Musica Paseo de la Alameda (November 2020)

The performance of […] Summers […] is simply outstanding.

5 Stars

Ramon del Buey Canas, bachtrack

Barry's Alice’s Adventures Underground, White Queen

Royal Opera House (February 2020)

It’s almost invidious to pick out other names from either cast in what is such a brilliantly executed piece, but Hilary Summers is a formidable White Queen.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Handel's Jephtha

Scottish Chamber Orchestra BBC Proms (August 2019)

Her portrait of maternal despair was vivid.

The Times

Hilary Summers, as the hero’s mother Storge, brought velvet smoothness to her forebodings.

The Scotsman

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