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 “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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