Ruby Hughes

Soprano

"Ruby Hughes is increasingly proving to be a key singer of the early 21st century."

Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter, Klassik.com

"Ruby Hughes rises to the challenge with bombproof technical strength and control, plenty of firepower where needed, and a thrilling instinct for capturing the persona of this fearsome anti-heroine..."

Malcolm Hayes, BBC Music Magazine

"A truly exceptional Soprano...her voice is not smooth or demure. It is clear, highly expressive with a marvellous timbre..."

SWR Germany

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Ruby Hughes is a former BBC New Generation Artist and was winner of both First Prize and the Audience Prize at the 2009 London Handel Singing Competition.

Her repertoire strengths lie in the music of the baroque and 20th and 21st Century. On the opera stage she has sung productions for Theater an der Wein (Roggiero in Rossini's Tancredi, and Fortuna in L’Incoronazione di Poppea), Aix-en-Provence Festival (Euridice L'Orfeo), Opéra de Toulon (Rose Maurrant Street Scene) and Potsdamer Winteroper (title role, Theodora) and in the UK has performed major roles with English National Opera, Garsington Opera and for Scottish Opera.

In concert, she has sung under conductors including Rinaldo Allesandrini, Ivor Bolton, Laurence Cummings, Thierry Fischer, Pablo Heras Casado, Rene Jacobs, Juanjo Mena, Gianandrea Noseda, Marc Minkowski, Hervé Niquet, Thomas Søndergård, John Storgårds, and Osmo Vanska.

Festival appearances have included the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, Edinburgh International, Newbury, La Folle Journée, Gent Festival OdeGand, Göttingen, Marlboro, Spitalfields and Beaune and Namur and she has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Schloss Elmau, Vienna Konzerthaus, LSO St Luke’s and in the US at both the Frick Collection and Carnegie Hall, New York.

Ruby is a true collaborator and she has forged particularly close relationships with Mime Brinkmann and Jonas Nordberg (baroque trio), Laurence Cummings, Joseph Middleton, Natalie Clein and Julius Drake, The Manchester Collective and United Strings of Europe.

She is building up an impressive discography including a solo recital recording for Champs Hill records and a disc for Chandos Records with Laurence Cummings and the OAE dedicated to Giulia Frasi, Handel’s lyric muse. For the BIS label she has recorded "Heroines of Love and Loss", dedicated to 17th century women composers which was released to huge critical acclaim including a Diapason d’or award and a highly praised album of works, nominated for a Gramophone Award, by Mahler, Berg and Rhian Samuel, "Clytemnestra", together with BBCNOW. Further she has recorded Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Minnesota Symphony under Osmo Vänskä and most recently a solo recital disc with Joseph Middleton titled "Songs for New Life and Love" including works by Mahler, Ives and Helen Grime. Future recording projects for BIS include a baroque disc with Mime Brinkmann and Jonas Nordberg, a programme with United Strings of Europe including Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra and two recordings with Manchester Collective to include commissions by Edmund Finnis and Deborah Pritchard as well as Britten’s Les Illuminations.

She has a passion for performing new repertoire and is a champion of female composers having had many commissions written for her including those by Helen Grime, Deborah Pritchard Judith Weir and Errolyn Wallen.

Future highlights include those with Orchestre d’Ile de France (Mahler 4), Stuttgart Philharmonic (Britten’s Les Illuminations), Residente Orchestra (Ruckert Lieder), Orchestre National de Lille (Mozart Great Mass in C), Potsdam Kammerakademie, Aarhus Symfoniorkester and recitals at WIgmore Hall and at the Muziekcentrum De Bijloke Gent.

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

Manchester Collective: This Savage Parade

UK tour, June 2022

The fourth, [song from Out of Dawn's Mind ] “Shadow”, is the longest and musically their emotional peak ... the voice more melodically inflected, and passion, anguish and consolation each wonderfully expressed by the soloist: her pianissimo at the close – “amazed” – was something to die for.

Ruby Hughes has the ability to live the emotions of what she sings, while using eloquent gesture and engaging your mind by her technical finesse and precision. Her party piece began the second half: Barbara Strozzi’s song “Che si può fare” (artfully and quite romantically arranged for strings by Fred Thomas), which makes a thing of beauty out of expressions of utter misery. She delivered it with moving expertise – that’s what artistry is.

Robert Beale, The Arts Desk ****

CD: Renewal (March, Shaw, Golijov, Mendelssohn) with United Strings of Europe

Released January 2022 (BIS label)

Welsh soprano Ruby Hughes is firmly in her element in each [Golijov songs], singing with becoming warmth and clarity of tone, as well as impeccable intonation and diction.

Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse

Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs, are also heard here for the first time with string orchestra accompaniment. They are sung here by the wonderful soprano Ruby Hughes, an artist with an endless assortment of vocal colors and a flawlessly instrumental technique.

Rafael de Acha, All About the Arts

…the Golijov songs with soprano Ruby Hughes are a fitting centrepiece.

Freya Parr, BBC Music Magazine ****

"The pairing of soprano Ruby Hughes with the string orchestra makes for music of remarkable poignancy and grandeur, and Renewal stands out all the more for including a performance so resonant. […] Hughes' haunting vocal conveys tenderness and despair and with maximum control. No moment on the recording is more powerful than this one, which is also perhaps the album's most intimate. The tone of the concluding part is consistent with the others, and Hughes again delivers a vocal of unerring pitch and shape. […] Hughes in the Golijov performance are remarkable."


Textura

Songs for New Life and Love

Ruby Hughes & Joseph Middleton, BIS label (September 2021)

Accolades: Scherzo Exceptional Albums of Dec 2021, Gramophone Magazine - Editor’s Choice 2021, Presto Editor's Choice Sep 2021, Presto Recordings of the Year 2021 - Finalist

I can’t recall a recent vocal album curated and performed with such care. Its starting point was a 2017 song cycle by Helen Grime powerfully charting the motherhood experience in words and music both poetic and blunt. This led Hughes and her nimble piano partner, Joseph Middleton, to songs by Mahler and Charles Ives (a most fruitful pairing), variously musing over love, new life and its corollary, death. The result is an album not designed for cherry-picking but for splendid absorption as a whole. […] Hughes feels deeply every word she sings. […] nothing obscures this glorious singer’s radiant tone and sensitive phrasing or the strong sense of her beating heart.

Geoff Brown, The Times

Light-voiced but strong and flexible, Hughes – with Middleton a sympathetic partner throughout – brings out the variety of Grime’s writing, from the mercurial rippling of Brew – “multiplying cells like pearls” – to the darting anxieties of Milk Fever and the grey pain of Council Offices. An imaginative recital, beautifully executed.

Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

The intense intimacy of this performance by Hughes and her excellent accompanist, Joseph Middleton, follows through into their Mahler. The two cycles here — Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, picking up the theme of the deaths of children from Grime’s final song — are sung with an inwardness that is both affecting and quite daring. Add in a clutch of Ives’s songs, including his loveable version of “Songs My Mother Taught Me”, and an imaginative recital programme is complete.

Financial Times ★★★★

At first glance Charles Ives and Gustav Mahler make unusual bed fellows. But on this excellent CD from BIS they flank a song cycle by Helen Grime to form a programme focusing on timeless concerns of love and loss, pregnancy and parenthood. It’s a serious and thought-provoking concoction entitled Songs for New Life and Love, to which Ruby Hughes and Joseph Middleton fashion utterly beguiling performances that will surely make for one of this year’s most rewarding and repeatedly played recordings.

[Mahler] In the traversal from numbed isolation to tentative spiritual solace, Hughes joins a distinguished group of interpreters and holds her own with the best of them. Throughout, she is a comforting presence, pure toned in the emptiness of ‘Nun will die Sohn’ so hell aufgehn’ and maternal in ‘Nun seh’ ich wohl warum so dunkle Flammen’ where ‘Augen’ and ‘Sterne’ (eyes and stars) are imbued with such beauty, one might forget how heart-rending these verses are.

[Grime] At times angular, spare and hauntingly beautiful, the music’s quiet complexities and expressive variety are negotiated by Hughes and Middleton in an involving account that will make this fine partnership a natural choice for more of Grime’s songs.

[Ives] To these songs Hughes responds with extraordinary delicacy, memorably heart-easing in the poignancy of ‘The Children’s Hour’ and the childlike simplicity of ‘Songs my Mother taught me’. Spinning the finest silk thread, Hughes will move you to tears each time you hear these songs. And as a night cap, she adds Huw Watkins’s classy arrangement of the Welsh lullaby ‘Suo Gân’.

David Truslove, Opera Today

And her [Ruby] artistry is even more compellingly conveyed with just piano: she and the excellent Joseph Middleton create a remarkable sound world of intense intimacy, captured by BIS in demonstration-quality sound.

Their approach fully lets both poetry and music come across on their own terms, and while there have been more powerful, more gut-wrenching accounts of these songs, there aren’t many so delicately touching or intelligent. The same approach pays dividends in the Ives selections, cleverly programmed around the Grime cycle, as well as in a wide-eyed performance of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen that glistens with a wonderful dewy freshness – from both soprano and pianist.

Huw Watkins’s unobtrusive arrangement of the Welsh lullaby ‘Suo Gân’, meltingly performed, is an inspired choice to complete the programme. An outstanding recital.

Hugo Shirley, Gramophone

Ruby Hughes commands attention throughout – there’s no ‘clever’ underlining, no irrelevant tonal refulgences or prima donna posturings. Intense concentration on text and emotional nuance replace them, and dovetail seamlessly with Joseph Middleton’s similarly insightful piano playing.

Terry Blain, BBC Magazine

Manchester Collective “Breaking Bread” collaboration

Live-stream, Nottingham (February 2021)

[Hughes] was on irresistible form whether conveying the Sapphic languor of Debussy’s Trois chansons de Bilitis or the metaphysical transcendence of Mahler’s Urlicht. And how effective to have a singer delivering such a varied repertoire straight to camera without any sheet music.

Richard Morrison, The Times

[…] guest soloist Ruby Hughes made her own choices from a very wide range of soprano repertoire as a major factor in the compilation of the programme: she brings beautifully meditative and focused singing to these songs.

Robert Beale, The Arts Desk

Soprano Ruby Hughes joined the players for songs chosen, seemingly, for the moment. John Dowland’s pieces mused on isolation – though the (uncredited) arrangements of his two laments “Flow, My Tears” and “Go Crystal Tears” created so much space around Hughes almost improvisatory solo line that loneliness was replaced by something more reassuring – while Ravel’s Kaddish provided a keening prayer of intercession.

But there was sensuality and hope too from the lazy eroticism of Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis (Hughes at her richest and most persuasive in “La chevelure”) and finally Mahler’s transcendent Urlicht – death reimagined as hope. This was an hour of music holding a whole world within it.

Alexandra Coghlan, iNews

[…] the lightness and clarity of Hughes’ soprano. “Go crystal tears, like to the morning show’rs/ And sweetly weep into thy lady’s breast,” she uttered, with almost tragic tenderness, the final syllable floating and fading, seeming to vanish, to slip out of time, and then gently re-emerge.

[…] Ravel’s Kaddish, from the Deux Mélodies Hébraïques, continued the lamentation and spiritual journey[…] Hughes’ soprano was unwaveringly warm and full, and the vocal phrases expanded with persuasive flexibility; she showed a tremendous and innate appreciation of the rhythms of the French text, and pushed forwards compellingly to the exultation of the final “Amen”, which releases the soul into the afterlife.

[…]The performance closed with spiritual transfiguration: ‘Urlicht’ from Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. Hughes’ solemn song was nevertheless opulent and intense, the simple rising intervals aspiring hopefully, lifting us towards the celestial lights above.

Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Berg's Seven Early Songs

Stavanger Symphony Orchestra / Pablo González (January 2020)

Ruby Hughes sang them [Alban Berg's songs] beautifully and sensitively, at times declaiming, other times with full sound. [...] It was an organic performance, with elaborate playing from the orchestra and a lot of fine detail work. Hughes received well-deserved applause for her acute interpretation.

Arnfinn Bø-Rygg, Aftenbladet

Clytemnestra, BIS Records / Naxos

BBCNOW with Jac Van Steen (released January 2020)

Ruby Hughes is increasingly proving to be a key singer of the early 21st century.

5 stars

Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter, Klassik.com

Ruby Hughes rises to the challenge with bombproof technical strength and control, plenty of firepower where needed, and a thrilling instinct for capturing the persona of this fearsome anti-heroine. […] .

They and Hughes also explore the rapturous soundworld of Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder with mesmerising poise and finesse: I’ve never heard the opening line of ‘Ich atmet’ sung more beautifully.

5 stars

Malcolm Hayes, BBC Music Magazine

[…] British soprano Ruby Hughes, who gives vivid voice to a more controversial wronged woman in the Welsh composer Rhian Samuel’s Clytemnestra, a powerfully impressive piece unjustly neglected since its 1994 premiere. […]

Time and again on this album — usefully filled out with Mahler and Berg, predecessors audibly close to Samuel’s heart — soloist and composer make Clytemnestra’s wrenching drama something tangible. When Hughes sings of fire, you feel the heat. At the word “weeping”, your heart breaks. Her eloquence is always unfussy and direct.

5 stars

The Times

[…] it's Hughes’s performance that carries the whole enterprise: vivid, powerful and superbly committed, bringing a real complexity and vulnerability to the character. She’s impressive in the couplings, too, using her lightish soprano intelligently in a sharply etched account of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder (with an especially fine ‘Um Mitternacht’) and a focused, uncompromising account of Berg’s Altenberg Lieder.

Hugo Shirley, Gramophone Magazine

Alban Berg’s settings of Peter Altenberg, atonal songs that draw directly on Gustav Mahler’s orchestral songs, his Rückert Lieder. Intelligent companion pieces in this recital from soprano Ruby Hughes, and her vocal quality suits them so well, a refreshing clarity and immediacy that’s like a splash of cold water from the mountain spring.

Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review

[…] soprano Ruby Hughes, the BBCNOW and conductor Jac van Steen give new life to Samuel’s powerful, seven-movement work for soprano and orchestra (here coupled with Mahler and Berg). […] it explores – with rare insight, passionately expressed by Hughes – the motives that led Clytemnestra to murder her husband, Agamemnon.

Fiona Maddocks, “Home Listening” picks, The Guardian

Mahler’s Rückert Lieder have been recorded many times over by great singers; what Hughes brings to her interpretation is a refreshing balance of expressivity, lightness, and clarity.

Azusa Ueno, The Classic Review

If you don’t know Ruby Hughes, then start with track 2 and Mahler’s “Ich atmet' einen linden Duft!” and you will hear as pure and sweet a soprano sound as can be imagined, perfectly suited to this song.

[Berg:] Here too, Ruby Hughes sounds equally engaged with this much stranger world (of both words and notes), with many an expressionist nuance in her handling of these enigmatic texts. […] the awkwardly angular opening vocal line presents no problems to this soprano. She seems able to cope with the tricky intervals and leaps across the passagio expertly. The odd line of sprechgesang sounds quite idiomatic here, almost as if Ruby Hughes specialises in the songs of the Second Viennese School.

[Samuel:] Ruby Hughes identifies with all this in her assumption of the tragic Queen’s role, her anger, cunning and despair a tour-de-force of vocal acting, in a part which makes demands on range, agility and colour commensurate with those made by Berg. […] In 2015, when Ruby Hughes discovered Clytemnestra it had not been performed since its première and we should be grateful she has championed the work with such commitment, for it is very well worth this revival.

Roy Westbrook, MusicWeb International

[Samuel:] …Hughes’s terrific account of the solo part. She’s in complete command, technically and expressively, whether singing from the depths of the “Lament” or nimbly dancing through the unsettled “Defiance” and concluding “Dirge.” [Berg/Mahler:] In both, Hughes – whose pure tone, even projection across all registers, and excellent diction recalls the exceptional Margaret Price in her prime – sounds glorious.

Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse

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