Simon Keenlyside


Simon Keenlyside is one of the world's most sought after and charismatic singers, noted for his versatility and highly charged performances on stage.

Keenlyside's operatic plans this season include Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and Bilbao Opera; Count Almaviva at Teatro alla Scala Milan; and the roles of Macbeth and Golaud (Pelleas et Mélisande) at the Vienna State Opera.   On the concert platform he will perform Adès’ Totentanz with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and RTE National Symphony Orchestra under the composer’s baton.  In recital he will appear in Barcelona, Zurich and London with Malcolm Martineau; in the United States with Emanuel Ax; and in Prague and Munich with his jazz band programme - Blue skies - Songlines to American Music.

His extensive discography includes Des Knaben Wunderhorn under Rattle, the title role in Don Giovanni under Abbado, Carmina Burana under Thielemann, Marcello under Chailly, the title role in Billy Budd under Hickox, Il Conte Almaviva under Jacobs and Papageno under Mackerras.  He has recorded a disc of operetta arias and duets with Angelika Kirchschlager, a disc of Brahms Lieder and Schumann's Dichterliebe with Malcolm Martineau, a disc of solo arias for Sony BMG (Gramophone Award for Best Recital), a Songs of War disc, also with Malcolm Martineau, (2012 Solo Vocal Gramophone Award), and a disc of classic Broadway and Hollywood musical numbers – Something’s Gotta Give – with David Charles Abell and the BBC Concert Orchestra for Chandos Records. 

This is for information only. Please contact Sophie Dand for an up-to-date biography.

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Wiener Staatsoper, VIENNA

DEBUSSY 'Pelléas et Mélisande'

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu 
Director: Marco Arturo Marelli

Franz-Josef Selig | Arkel
Bernarda Fink | Geneviève
Benjamin Bruns | Pelléas
Olga Bezsmertna | Mélisande

Wiener Staatsoper, VIENNA

DEBUSSY 'Pelléas et Mélisande'

Conductor: Alain Altinoglu 
Director: Marco Arturo Marelli

Franz-Josef Selig | Arkel
Bernarda Fink | Geneviève
Benjamin Bruns | Pelléas
Olga Bezsmertna | Mélisande

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Photo Gallery

Simon Keenlyside as Eugene Onegin at the Wiener Staatsoper (March 2009).

© Wiener Staastoper GmbH / Axel Zeininger

Eugene Onegin 1

Simon Keenlyside as Papageno "Die Zauberflöte" at Covent Garden, London.
© Clive Barda

Papageno 1
Papageno 2


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Don Giovanni

Metropolitan Opera

He is now back in New York starring in a revival of Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” and he seemed in fine shape, vocally and physically. His voice rang out cleanly and clearly, and he showed good stamina in a portrayal long on physical exertion.

James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, 28 September 2016
The best news is that the much-loved British baritone Simon Keenlyside…was back, lithe and physically deft, in the title role, which he first sang with Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1993…his mercurial charm, wit and musicianship won out. Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 2 October 2016

Giuseppe Verdi

La Traviata

National Theater Munich

Simon Keenlyside has been a regular as Giorgio Germont in this production. Mr Keenlyside...has always been a strong singer and an excellent artist who gives meaning to everything he sings. He was a convincing Germont. Seen and Heard/ Jose M. Irurzun

Lionel Bart

Oliver - role of Fagin

Grange Park Opera

The big draw in terms of operatic terms was Simon Keenlyside.... his acting...was the chief pleasure.... In dialogue scenes he proved himself a versatile comic actor, with a sharp sense of timing and an excellent command of detail....  the [Simon's] portrait felt complex and rounded.

Warwick Thompson, OPERA, August 2016
...he reviewed the situation and picked a pocket or two with style, wit and crisp enunciation, as well as some nicely underplayed characterisation. Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 3 June 2016

As Fagin...he sounded in excellent form... Always a resourceful actor, Keenlyside made Fagin into a complex, at least partially sympathetic figure, making every word tell and putting each of his numbers over effectively, as well as joining skilfully in the busy ensemble routines; his was the finest performance onstage and quite properly the centerpiece of the show.

George Hall, Opera News, August 2016


'Winterreise' with Emanuel Ax

Wigmore Hall

– a poignant and powerful Winterreise
...with the baritone drawing discreetly on his great actorly abilities, occasionally pacing the platform, looking up to the heavens and, finally and most theatrically of all, stepping forward to the front of the stage for a motionless delivery of the bleakest of bleak final songs... Keenlyside was magnificently and even frighteningly authoritative, while the dramatic urgency of Numbness, On the River and The Inn was grippingly delivered...
there was a thought-out artistic purpose at each twist and turn; it is hard to recall a more numbed conclusion than the one these artists achieved as the organ-grinder’s tune died on the edge of the void.
4* Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 23 October 2014
He declaimed Wilhelm Müller’s poetry with the fluidity of speech. His German is excellent, his diction is pristine, his eye for detail acute. Armed with his dark, handsome baritone, he unveiled multiple layers of meaning in every song, every stanza and, occasionally, in a single line. 
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times, 23 October 2014
Is there such a thing as ‘the’ Winterreise? Of course not, since it is true of all masterpieces that they lend themselves to a variety of interpretations whilst still retaining their individuality; however, Simon Keenlyside and Emanuel Ax come as close as any performers today to capturing the sense of Schubert’s work as the journey of an angry, despairing soul.
Melanie Eskenazi, Music OMH, 22 October 2014



Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

The Royal Opera’s latest revival of David McVicar’s production of Rigoletto primarily forms a vehicle for Simon Keenlyside, who plays Verdi’s tragic jester in a startling performance that is as much about physicality as it is about singing. Whirling around on crutches in the opening scene, he reminds us of Antony Sher’s Richard III. His gestures are obscene, and few Rigolettos have quite so forcefully brought home the fact that the loathing with which he satirises the Mantuan court is genuine rather than assumed.
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 16 September 2014
The reason to go is Simon Keenlyside, singing the title role for the first time at the Royal Opera. Still where others flail, agile where some might stagger, Keenlyside can act anyone else off the stage. For once you sympathise with Hugo’s hunchback. Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 21 September 2014
The British baritone Simon Keenlyside is quite superb in the title role, adding a gravelly tone to his usual immaculate voice to bring an earthy grittiness to the part that fits the troubled nature of Rigoletto excellently. William Hartston, Express, 16 September 2014 Rigoletto, Simon Keenlyside...sings with great warmth and authority. Michael Church, The Independent, 15 September 2014 Simon Keenlyside, singing Rigoletto for the first time at Covent Garden following an acclaimed Welsh National Opera run in 2010, revival director Leah Hausman has a protagonist quite unlike the old-school Italians usually associated with the role. Keenlyside’s voice is in fine fettle...and his physical volatility chimes perfectly with the production’s edgy look and feel...Keenlyside gives it his all. David Gutman, The Stage, 15 September 2014



Orchestra of the English National Opera/Gardner (Chandos CD)

Simon Keenlyside explores the title role in depth, offering a huge variety of expression and fulfilling the potential of Verdi’s notes to reveal minute nuances of character and situation: his nervous usurper of the Scottish throne is an extremely powerful portrayal.
George Hall, BBC Music Magazine, June 2014



Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

...while Simon Keenlyside is a magnificent Valentin, combining anger with self-righteousness: his death scene is chilling.  George Hall, The Guardian, 7 April 2014



Barbican Centre with Malcolm Martineau, piano

Keenlyside conveys such registers with his hyper-expressive delivery — to which his perambulatory stage manner makes a contribution. Unafraid to bleach the tone of vibrato, or push away from the centre of the note to suggest anguish or irony, he brings the soul-searching mini-dramas of these songs alive in a manner that recalls Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He also has the confidence to begin with Schoenberg (the gorgeous Erwartung) and to continue with a group by Schoenberg’s pupil Hanns Eisler in sardonic, Brechtian mood. Here too Keenlyside captured the dark, bitter undertow of Eisler’s settings, just as he was true to the austere spareness of Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake...

...ending with Schubert’s ravishing Die Sterne. A starlit sky to end, after all.
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard, 19 December 2013
Keenlyside's Britten cycle…showed him to be a fiercely eloquent exponent of the poet's independent spirit as presented in these stark and probing settings.

George Hall, The Guardian, 19 December 2013
…this was also a performance of exceptional intensity: has “A Poison Tree” ever seethed with more anger, or “Endless Night” fought its way to a more anguished conclusion?
After the interval a different Keenlyside took the stage, relaxed, almost easy-going. His proud baritone, still in its prime, flowed more easily here, bringing lyrical beauty to his selection of songs by Wolf, Schubert and Brahms without losing any depth of meaning. He says he contemplated going head-to-head with Susan Boyle and giving us “Ave Maria” as an encore, but more Wolf and Schubert prevailed – a seriously rewarding evening to the last.

Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 19 December 2013



Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

At the still centre of everything is Keenlyside's Wozzeck, commanding in his fury and despair, and bringing off a final coup de theatre which demands extraordinary nerve and physical control.

4**** Michael Church, The Independent, 1 November 2013
With his bumbling, hangdog gestures and luscious voice, Keenlyside makes an ideal Wozzeck…

5***** Metro, 1 November 2013
…there is humanity in this revival, too. This comes primarily from Simon Keenlyside’s moving portrayal of the title role. A younger-looking Wozzeck than usual, he feels innocent and vulnerable (how touching is the scene when he watches Marie from outside with his head resting wistfully on the window-frame). It is as though Keenlyside’s unforgettable Papageno of 10 years ago has wandered into the wrong opera and finds himself caught in a demeaning world where every exit door is locked.

4**** Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 3 November 2013
‘Stunning’: Simon Keenlyside in the title role of Wozzeck at the Royal Opera House.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 3 November 2013
With glazed eyes and expressively modulated tone, Simon Keenlyside presents a compelling portrait of a dehumanised, indeed lobotomised victim.
5***** Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 4 November 2013
…the top of his baritone is in fine fettle, warmer and more lyrical in the antihero’s few opportunities for vocal expansiveness than most interpreters of this part.
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 11 November 2013



BBC Symphony Orchestra/Adès at the BBC Proms

It makes huge demands on the baritone and mezzo-soprano who must carry the drama and hold their own against the percussion-heavy orchestra, but in Simon Keenlyside and Christianne Stotijn Tom Ades had struck gold: both made utterly convincing sense of their daunting melodic lines, often in grotesque duet: Keenlyside’s suggesting giant inexorability... Michael Church, The Independent, 18 July 2013
Simon Keenlyside’s Death was all bluff charisma, luring his victims with lazy charm and absolute vocal ease... Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 18 July 2013
Death’s proposals - sung with seductive charm by Keenlyside... Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 19 July 2013


Eugene Onegin

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

As Tatyana and Onegin, Krassimira Stoyanova and Simon Keenlyside sang with style, grandeur, ardour and every desirable quality.

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 5 February 2013
The cast is led by two outstanding artists - British baritone Simon Keenlyside and Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova…Both artists sing with exceptional imagination and commitment. 

George Hall, The Stage, 5 February 2013
… and Keenlyside, commanding the stage in voice, presence and gesture.

Andrew Clark, The Financial Times, 5 February 2013
…the singing is world class…Simon Keenlyside (Onegin) invests every note with warmth and passion.

Warwick Thompson, Bloomberg, 6 February 2013



Avery Fisher Hall, New York

…featuring Mr. Keenlyside as a wrenching Wozzeck. Here was harrowing music drama without benefit of a production, in a lesson for all companies about what matters most in opera. And what a one-two punch for Mr. Keenlyside.

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 14 December 2012

…an inspired cast… dominated by Simon Keenlyside, who focused Wozzeck’s agonies, physical, mental and vocal, with poignant desperation.

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 22 November 2012


The Tempest

Metropolitan Opera, New York

And the charismatic baritone Simon Keenlyside was commanding in the role of Prospero, which he had created in the opera’s London premiere.


Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 14 December 2012

The baritone Simon Keenlyside, who created the role in London, reprised it at the Met, with unbroken beauty of tone and actorly attention to psychological nuance.

Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 3 December 2012

Its strongest point, as in London, is the Prospero of Simon Keenlyside, a portrayal of such magnificent completeness that it can only be compared to the greatest handful of operatic characterisations. His voice must now be at its absolute peak.

Michael Tanner, The Spectator, 17 November 2012

The cast was dominated by the Wotanesque Simon Keenlyside, who owns Prospero...

John Rockwell, Opera, December 2012

…the Met’s fantastical production, which offers a superb cast, headed by the charismatic baritone Simon Keenlyside in the role he created in London: Prospero…Mr. Keenlyside is such a grave, volatile and vocally chilling Prospero…

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 24 October 2012

The opera truly belongs to charismatic Simon Keenlyside (Prospero)…nearly every performance he gives at this stage of his artistic evolution is unforgettably complete, vocally and theatrically.

David Patrick Stearns, WQXR, 24 October 2012

Simon Keenlyside, the original Prospero in London, sang with sensitive force, awkward range extremes notwithstanding. He also loomed and brooded magnetically, even during long stretches when he was just a passive observer.

Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 24 October 2012

The role was written for Simon Keenlyside, who has distinctly colored registers, his upper range warm and generous…In a cast stocked with excellent male voices, his bearing and gestures had a practiced authority.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The Classical Review, 24 October 2012

And Keenlyside…blossomed…into a vocally authoritative presence.


Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 24 October 2012

Baritone Simon Keenlyside, who created the role of Prospero, repeats it here and anchors the performance with somber dignity and strong vocalism.

Mike Silverman, Associated Press, 24 October 2012
Den wahren Erfolg dieser Produktion machte aber der Auftritt von Simon Keenlyside aus.  Sein Spiel war detailliert, sein Gesang klangschön und ausdrucksvoll… Für jeden, der Keenlysides menschliche Intepretation erleben konnte, ehe oder nachdem Sandy über New York hereinbrach, transportierte seine Darstellung auf eindrucksvolle Weise die Beschränkungen menschlicher Fähigkeiten im Angesicht des Desasters, zeigte aber auch, dass wir, wenn wir uns nur öffnen, durch Verlust Verständnis Erlangen können.

F.Plotkin, Das Opernglas, January 2013


Don Carlo

Vienna State Opera

…nicht nur stimmlich grandiose, vielmehr auch schauspielerisch differenziert Simon Keenlyside (als Rodrigo).

Ljubisa Tosic, Der Standard, 17 June 2012

Simon Keenlyside als Posa: lyrische-subtil noch im heldischen Aufbäumen gegen das Schicksal.  Der Bariton hat Kern, Kraft gewonnen, aber nichts vom edlen Ebenmaß der Linienführung verloren.

Wilhelm Sinkovicz, Die Presse, 17 June 2012

Simon Keenlyside voll Noblesse, Weltklasse.

Ernst P. Strobl, Salzburger Nachtrichten, 17 June 2012

Bei Bariton Simon Keenlyside passten Timbre und Gefühl für diese Musik, ein ganz großer Marquis Posa.

Michael Wruss, OÖNachtrichten, 18 June 2012

Simon Keenlyside…glänzt mit der eleganten Legatokultur seines sehnigen, höhensicheren Baritons.

Ernst Naredi-Rainer, Kleine Zeitung, 17 June 2012

Simon Keenlyside besticht als Marquis von Posa mit noblem Timbre, feinen Kantilenen und einer umwerfenden Todesszene…euphorische Applaus für ihn.

Gert Korentschnig, Kurier, 17 June 2012


War Requiem

London Symphony Orchestra/Noseda (LSO Live CD)

…and Simon Keenlyside is incomparable in the arias first sung by Fischer-Diskau. Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph, 24 June 2012
Similarly, the marvellous Simon Keenlyside’s first entrance, Bugles sang, saddening the evening air, is wonderfully sung (coupled with some fine solo horn playing from Timothy Jones). Both male soloists kept me captivated at every stage, but perhaps their finest hour is their duet in the Offertorium, where Britten sets Owen’s The Parable of the Old Man and the Young, which tells of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of his son, Isaac. The moment where they sing of the angel appearing in order to prevent the sacrifice is simply ravishing, and sends a shiver up my spine every time I hear it. James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 7 May 2012
Ian Bostridge and Simon Keenlyside bring all their experience to bear on the passage where two enemy soldiers are reconciled in death, but are equally vivid when jointly recounting the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Financial Times, 28/29 April 2012
Simon Keenlyside, too, is magnificent.

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 15 April 2012


Songs of War

Recital disc with Malcolm Martineau, piano (Song BMG CD)

5 star***** - The great baritone has chosen 29 songs in some way connected with war.  Keenlyside includes all the George Butterworth Shropshire Lad songs. His singing of Vaughan Williams’s The Infinite Shining Heavens and Gurney’s In Flanders is beyond praise for its emotional restraint.  Finzi’s Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun is another tour de force of incomparable singing.  Malcolm Martineau offers supreme piano accompaniment throughout.

Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph, December 11, 2011

Top Classical album of the year, No.2 - The British baritone brings youthful vigour and vocal glamour to a moving recital, charting the lives and deaths of young men in songs by Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi and Kurt Weill.

The Sunday Times, December 11, 2011

Butterworth’s Housman setting is a marvel… it is Simon Keenlyside’s impeccable delivery that registers… A sober, intelligent CD, beautifully sung, immaculately accompanied. Keenlyside's sleeve notes are intelligent, insightful and touching.

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, November 26, 2011

CD of the week - The Sunday Times
A standout album of war songs that sees British baritone Simon Keenlyside utilize his youthful-sounding voice.

At 52, the British baritone is in peak vocal health, and certainly young-sounding enough to portray the men in their late teens and twenties who leave their homes and loves, never to return, in settings of war poetry or other music by composers such as George Butterworth (1885-1916) and Ivor Gurney (1890-1937), who both fought in the first world war. Keenlyside begins with John Ireland’s beloved Sea Fever, which, as he admits in his eloquent and heartfelt booklet note, is not strictly a war song, but evokes the same sense of a lad venturing into the unknown with the risk of losing love and life. It would be hard to imagine it being better sung: indeed, I can’t think of another baritone who can match him for beautiful tone, nuance of expression and immaculate diction. This sets the tone for a superb programme, incorporating Butterworth’s masterpiece, A Shropshire Lad, whose final song, Is My Team Ploughing? — a dialogue between a dead youth and the friend who has replaced him in his sweetheart’s bed — is movingly sung by Keenlyside, with Martineau wringing out the last drop of pathos in the tear-laden piano postlude. Riches here include Finzi’s Shakespeare setting Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun, Vaughan Williams’s The Vagabond, Gurney’s In Flanders and two Whitman settings by Kurt Weill, in which regret for the loss of young life mingles with rage. Keenlyside is incomparable here, in one of the song records of the year.

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, November 13, 2011

Despite the title, most of the songs in this admirable collection are anything but warlike. There is no place for patriotic bombast here; instead, these polished miniatures yearn for a vanished pastoral England and express nobly romantic notions of love, fidelity and the human spirit. Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Gurney, Ireland, Warlock and Somervell are all represented, but Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau do not limit themselves to England's whimsical finest, finding room for astringent examples from Ned Rorem and Kurt Weill as well. It's a beautifully judged recording, exquisitely sung; poignant but never sentimental.


Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, November 13, 2011

At the heart of the recital – beautifully vocalised and artlessly characterised by Keenlyside – is Butterworth’s cycle of songs under the title “A Shropshire Lad”. Here the war theme is both poignant and prescient: the A.E. Housman poems set by Butterworth are nostalgic depictions of rural life and young men’s early deaths, which won a huge resonance during the Boer War and later the first world war – the war in which Butterworth himself perished.

Andrew Clark, The Financial Times, November 5, 2011




The Cleveland Orchestra
Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst
Soprano: Hanna-Elisabeth Müller
Baritone: Simon Keenlyside
Wiener Singverein

Clasart Classic

Verdi: Macbeth

Simon Keenlyside - Macbeth
Brindley Sherratt - Banquo
Latonia Moore - Lady Macbeth
Edward Gardner - Conductor
English National Opera Orchestra
Chandos Records

Adès: The Tempest

Thomas Adès, Conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Prospero; Isabel Leonard, Miranda; Alan Oke, Caliban; William Burden, King of Naples; Toby Spence, Antonio; Iestyn Davies, Trinculo; Metropolitan Opera Company

Best Opera Recording (2014 Grammy Awards) 
Music DVD Recording of the Year (2014 Echo Klassik Awards)
Deutsche Grammophon

Verdi: Macbeth

Simon Keenlyside, Macbeth
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Antonio Pappano, Conductor

Recorded live at The Royal Opera House, 13 June, 2011
Opus Arte

Songs of War

This English song disc received the 2012 Solo Vocal Gramophone Award

Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Malcolm Martineau, piano
Sony Classical

Verdi: Don Carlo

Simon Keenlyside – Rodrigo 

Orchestra & Chorus of The Royal Opera House 
Antonio Pappano, conductor 
Directed by Nicholas Hytner 

EMI Classics

Adès: The Tempest

Thomas Adès - Composer
Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus - Orchestra
Kate Royal 
Ian Bostridge 
Simon Keenlyside 
Toby Spence
Philip Langridge

EMI Classics

Tales of Opera

Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

A disc of opera arias by Rossini, Massenet, Verdi, Bellini, Mozart and Wagner.
Sony BMG