Hilary Summers

Contralto

"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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Born in South Wales, Hilary Summers is one of the world’s few genuine contraltos and has made over forty CDs spanning works from the early baroque period to the present day. She has sung in most of the major concert halls and opera houses of the world.

A specialist in contemporary repertoire. Hilary’s 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 has gone on to reprise the role for premieres at the Dutch National Opera, Opera National de Paris, and Palau de les Arts Valencia.

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 Solonnelle 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. Hilary has also collaborated closely with George Benjamin. Benjamin composed the contralto role in his first chamber opera Into the Little Hill for her. She has sung on several film soundtracks including The Claim; The Libertine and the Diary of Anne 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).

Recent highlights include filming a DVD of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Underground for Irish National Opera and Little Buttercup in HMS Pinafore at the English National Opera, Cornelia in Giulio Cesare at the Palau in Barcelona a recording of Amadigi/Dardano with Early Opera Company EOC under Christian Curnyn, to be released in Autumn 2022.

Next Season she return to the role of Nell in Fin de Partie for Opera Ballet Vlaandern and give concert performances of Dido & Aeneas and Charpentier’s Actéon for Early Opera Company, Handel’s Silla in Japan with Europa Galante, Messiah at Schleswig-Holstein Festival and a French tour of Mendelssohn’s Walpurgisnacht with Insula Orchestra, including a performance at the Philharmonie de Paris. Looking further forward, Hilary will return to the Opera de Paris in a major role.

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

Fin de Partie, Nell

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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