"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..."
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. She holds a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award and was Shortlisted for a 2014 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award.
She has become known for her interpretations of the music of the baroque and 20th and 21st Century, performed at every turn with a unique sensitivity and artistry. 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.
Ruby works regularly with 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 Vänskä. She is a passionate programmer, curator and collaborator and has forged particularly close relationships with Mime Brinkmann and Jonas Nordberg (baroque trio), Laurence Cummings, Joseph Middleton, Natalie Clein and Julius Drake, Huw Watkins, United Strings of Europe and The Manchester Collective.
Her captivating communication with the audience has resulted in invitations to give recitals at Wigmore Hall, Muziekcentrum De Bijloke, Gent, 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. Festival appearances have included the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, Edinburgh International, Newbury, Aldeburgh Festival, La Folle Journée, Gent Festival OdeGand, Göttingen, Marlboro, Spitalfields and Beaune and Namur.
She has built 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 in tribute to Giulia Frasi, Handel’s lyric muse. For the BIS label she has recorded "Heroines of Love and Loss", which is dedicated to 17th century women composers and was released to huge critical acclaim including a Diapason d’or award, a highly praised album of works by Mahler, Berg and Rhian Samuel, "Clytemnestra", together with BBCNOW, which was nominated for a Gramophone Award. She has recorded Mahler Symphony No. 2 with the Minnesota Symphony under Osmo Vänskä, a solo recital disc with Joseph Middleton titled "Songs for New Life and Love" including works by Mahler, Ives and Helen Grime and most recently a programme with United Strings of Europe including Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and String Orchestra. Future recording projects for BIS include a baroque disc with Mime Brinkmann and Jonas Nordberg, and two recordings with Manchester Collective to include commissions by Edmund Finnis and Deborah Pritchard as well as Britten’s Les Illuminations, a programme which they performed together in a UK tour to great critical acclaim.
Ruby’s passion for performing new repertoire and has also led to her becoming a champion of female composers having had many commissions written for her including those by Helen Grime, Deborah Pritchard Judith Weir and Errolyn Wallen.
Highlights for Ruby’s upcoming season include concerts with Bach Collegium Japan, performing Bach’s Matthew Passion under Masaaki Suzuki, Orchestre d’Auvergne (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 LSO St Luke’s. 22/23 will also see the release of the disk ECHO with Huw Watkins, released on the BIS label.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Britten's Les Illuminations
Orchestre National d'Auvergne, November 2022
Voilà bien le cœur de la soirée, moment rare et inouï dont la soprano britannique Ruby Hughes en est la reine couronnée. God save Ruby Ière ! [...] Tout au long des quelque huit numéros de cet opus 18 de Britten, Hughes ... alterne frénésie et déploration, rage et prières, provocation et douleur.
Here is the heart of the evening, a rare and exclusive moment in which the british soprano Ruby Hughes has been anointed queen. God save Ruby the 1st! [...] All throughout the eight numbers of Britten's opus 18, Hughes alternates between frenzy and deploration, rage and prayers, provocation and pain.
Roland Duclos, Bachtrack
CD Review : ECHO
Bis Records / November 2022 / Ruby Hughes, soprano / Huw Watkins, piano
Hughes’s pure tone and sensitivity shine out, her voice at times almost ethereal.
Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian
a typically striking recital from the soprano Ruby Hughes ... Hughes’s vibrato-light voice is extremely expressive even when her volume’s turned low
Geoff Brown, The Times
The cycle as a whole is deeply personal obviously because of the chosen text but even more so due to Hughes’ storytelling capabilities: she possesses the rare ability to make listeners feel like they are the only ones in the room.
Azusa Ueno, The Classic Review
Admire how vocally responsive Hughes is in the Purcell, how fragile and precious she sounds in Errollyn Wallen's "Peace on Earth" and how much she can communicate with barely a whisper of sound. Marvelous.
Jason Victor Serinus, Stereophile
Hughes floats above Watkins’s piano line with a poise that treads softly and enrapt [...] She’s an economical singer for whom ‘less is more’, instinctively husbanding her considerable resources so that emotional climaxes generate maximum impact [...] An exquisite release touched with poignant pleasures and depth-plumbing reflections that echo, re-echo, linger and endure.
Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine (5* Record of the Month)
Hughes latest program is smart, subtle and guaranteed to resonate. Hughes’s voice [...] is pure as starlight and contains whole worlds of emotion.
Rebecca Franks, Limelight Magazine
"One of the voices that touches me the most... each of her projects is original and sensitive, while she herself could be taken right out of a renaissance tableau."
"Disque du Jour" Emilie Munera and Rodolphe Bruneau-Boulmier's show "En Pistes!" , France Musique
Perhaps the best moments – and there are a lot of them – are those when we as listeners can be just transported by the sheer vocal beauty and refreshing candour of Ruby Hughes’s voice. Can Purcell’s “Music for a While” have ever been sung with more ineffable lightness than here? I doubt it
Sebastian Scotney, The Arts Desk
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."
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.
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.
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.
[…] 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
Ruby Hughes Repertoire
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Songs for New Life and Love (with Joseph Middleton)
Introduction by Ruby Hughes:
In 2020 I was invited by Helen Grime to perform a concert for which she had been commissioned to write a song cycle, a set of five extraordinary poems by Fiona Benson charting the interior and exterior worlds of pregnancy and motherhood. At the time of the invitation, I was myself five months pregnant, and once the concert came around it was very moving to perform this music, drawing from my own experiences as a mother of a newborn baby.
I soon set about planning a programme which would converge atmospherically with Grime's music. I wanted the listener to reflect on the themes of ‘new life and love’ in all its aspects. Gustav Mahler and Charles Ives came to mind immediately. I had always felt they were musical kindred spirits: in the way they imagined their natural surroundings and culture, synthesising the popular music around them with their own unique style.
For the Ives set I chose a selection of love songs, prayers and lullabies. With Mahler’s songs I wanted to explore love, grief, loss and reconciliation through two different lenses. In the first cycle we experience Mahler as solitary wayfarer: we hear of unrequited love in all its aspects. In the second cycle, Kindertotenlieder, Friedrich Rückert pours out his grief as a father bereft in songs about the beauty and innocence of children. There is an astonishing immediacy and emotional honesty in these two cycles which is prevalent too in Grime’s Bright Travellers, and which makes the songs timeless and universal in the themes they confront. The last track on this album is dedicated to my little boy Django. This lullaby has always been one of his most beloved.
Echo (with Huw Watkins)
Commissioned by & world premier recording at Carnegie Hall in 2017. Recorded for BIS in Spring 2021, due to be released Autumn 2022. Wigmore Hall performance 18 December 2022
The inspiration for this programme came about through my dear friend and collaborator Huw Watkins who wrote the song cycle ‘Echo’ for me to perform at Carnegie Hall. I was drawn deeply to his setting of Rosetti’s poem Echo, how the voice and spirit of a loved one would return in dreams. I began thinking about how my favourite composers across the ages have spoken and echoed one another lovingly in their music. These echoes have had such a lasting impact on our culture, sometimes in the most nuanced and unconscious way.
It’s enlightening for me to hear how Britten and Bach’s music has had such an impact on Huw Watkins and Cheryl Frances Hoad. Then to sing their music, to sense these kindred spirit ‘echoes’ helps me imaginatively and stylistically. The same spiritual awareness is there too I hope in our interpretations of Britten’s realisations of Bach and our chosen folksongs along with Ades and Tippet’s Purcell realisations.
I have always loved the sound of Bach on the piano. Maybe it was growing up with Richter playing his preludes and fugues on our record player at home that planted the seed. And somehow this has become another nostalgic echo, a source of great comfort.
Deborah Pritchard has taken Echo as a concept and experimented with the resonance of the piano, and Errollyn Wallen’s song conjures such peace as does the Bach. Her musical influences are boundless much like all the composers in this programme.
The Dawn of Time (with Joseph Middleton)
'Nature never did betray the heart that loved her'
To be recorded for BIS records in 2022/2023
Mischief and Melancholy in Shakespeare's England (with Lute)
Lute songs and airs of joy and Solace
Heroines of Love and Loss (with Mime Brinkmann and Jonas Nordberg)
Ruby Hughes (Soprano) | Jonas Nordberg (Theorbo/Lute) | Mime Brinkmann (Cello)
(BIS recording, released 2017)
"Ruby Hughes’s soprano has an effortless beauty: pliant, subtly expressive, never forced. She captures the chaste fervour of the sacred works…Brinkmann and Nordberg proffer aptly spontaneous continuo realisations, varying timbre and texture and adding discreet embellishments according to the poetic moment.” – BBC Music Magazine
Heroines of Love and Loss (with Jonas Nordberg)
Ruby Hughes (Soprano) | Jonas Nordberg (Theorbo/Lute)
Duo Version for Soprano and Theorbo
Voice of the Soul (with Natalie Clein and Julius Drake)
‘Tre Voci’: Ruby Hughes (soprano) | Julius Drake (piano) | Natalie Clein (cello)