Iestyn Davies

Introduction

After graduating in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge Iestyn Davies studied at the RAM. For the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden he has sung Creonte in Steffani’s Niobe; title role Rinaldo and Ottone L'incoronazione di Poppea for Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Arsace Partenope for the New York City Opera and English National Opera; Oberon A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Houston and London; Hamor Jephtha for Welsh National Opera and in Bordeaux; Apollo Death in Venice for ENO and at La Scala, Milan; Eustazio Rinaldo for the Lyric Opera of Chicago; his debuts at the Opéra Comique and the Munich and Vienna Festivals in George Benjamin's Written on Skin; and Unulfo Rodelinda in his debut at The Metropolitan Opera, New York, where he has also sung Trinculo The Tempest.

In concert he has performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan with Dudamel, the Concertgebouw and Tonhalle with Koopman and appeared at the Barbican, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées,  the Lincoln Center and at the BBC Proms.

His recordings include Handel's Messiah for Naxos, Handel's Chandos Anthems for Hyperion, Handel’s Flavio for Chandos with The Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn, his debut solo recording Live at the Wigmore Hall with his own Ensemble Guadagni, a disc of Porpora Cantatas with Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo, a disc of Guadagni arias both for Hyperion. His new CD The Art of Melancholy, a recital of songs by Dowland, was released in April 2014 by Hyperion.

He is the recipient of the 2010 Royal Philharmonic Young Artist of the Year Award, the 2012 Gramophone Recital Award, the 2013 Critics’ Circle Awards for Exceptional Young Talent (Singer) and the 2014 Gramophone Recital Award for his disc Arise, my muse on the Wigmore Live label.

 

For an up-to-date biography, please contact Henry Lindsay

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  • DOWLAND
    In darkness let me dwell

Schedule

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes

HANDEL: Saul

Saul Christopher Purves (6, 12, 15 August) Henry Waddington
David Iestyn Davies
Merab Lucy Crowe
Michal Sophie Bevan

Jonathan Paul Appleby
High Priest Benjamin Hulett
Witch of Endor John Graham-Hall

Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director Barrie Kosky
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Glyndebourne Chorus

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Press

Handel

Saul

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Iestyn Davies sang David with heroic purity, ‘O Lord, Whose Mercies Numberless’ characteristic of his sweetness of tone, graceful ornamentation and nuanced phrasing. David’s music is perhaps not only the most beautiful but most varied in the work, from fast, dramatic arias – ‘Such haughty beauties’ – to solemn recitative – ‘O Jonathan ‘ and Davies gave it all the most touching eloquence.
Melanie Eskenazi, Music OMH, 24th July 2015
'Musically this evening is well-nigh flawless. No praise too high for the singing of Davies, Appleby, and Purves'...'this is a landmark production.' Michael Church, The Independent, 24th July 2015
Iestyn Davies’s exquisite David. There’s an unearthly quality to this voice that sets it effectively apart from all around it, but grounded in a muscularity that makes a credible warrior of a figure we first encounter bloodied and bruised from the fight. Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 24th July 2015
Superb singing from Iestyn Davies Barry Millington, The Evening Standard, 24th July 2015
The star is Iestyn Davies, whose countertenor is unwaveringly lustrous as a David who is far too popular and handsome for Saul’s liking. Richard Morrison, The Times, 25th July 2015
Iestyn Davies is in glorious voice as David — rich in tone yet unaffected — and his account of “Oh Lord Whose Mercies Numberless” is almost heart-stopping. Laura Battle, The Financial Times, 26th July 2015
Iestyn Davies just gets better and better: I don’t think I have have ever heard a counter-tenor in an opera house sounding more warmly radiant or tonally secure, and his David impressively combines princely dignity with intense melancholy, quite magically so in his great lament “Mourn, Israel.” Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 24th July 2015
Iestyn Davies, his countertenor flooding the house with its agile fullness, played David with remote, Hamlet-like detachment. Peter Reed, Classical Source, 23rd July 2015
'This was counter-parted by the cool beauty of Davies' singing and his account of O King, whose mercies are numberless was one of the highlights of the evening.' 'But the beauty and intelligence of Iestyn Davies performance helped to bring the role alive in multiple ways.' Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 27th July 2015
Countertenor Iestyn Davies is an equally charismatic David, and he delivers the hit number ‘O Lord, whose mercies’ with ravishing beauty. Warwick Thompson, Blouin Artinfo, 25th July 2015
When Iestyn Davies’ David attributes his victory over Goliath to God (”O king, your favours with delight, I take, but must refuse your praise”), the strength and purity of the countertenor’s voice were heart-melting.  David Karlin, Bach Track, 27th July 2015
The marvellously rich countertenor voice of Iestyn Davies is one of the most glorious sounds to be heard on the opera stage today, and its purity fits the part of David perfectly. William Harston, The Express, 28th July 2015
The whole cast is enormously impressive but the maddened, bull-like Saul of that exemplary singing actor Christopher Purves, the stoic David of radiant counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and Lucy Crowe and Sophie Bevan as sisters Merab and Michal are outstanding. David Gillard, The Daily Mail, 31st July 2015
Amongst a strong cast of singers the other person who requires special mention is Iestyn Davies who sings the counter tenor role of David. The purity of line he produces and the beauty of his tone are ravishing. It is no surprise that Saul’s daughter Michal (Sophie Bevan) and son Jonathon (Paul Appelby) both fall in love with him. A counter tenor does not usually have the longevity of other operatic voices, but here is a singer at his peak and well worth following to future engagements. Howard Sheperdson, Limelight Magazine, 31st July 2015

Lewes Chamber Music Festival Recital

All Saints Centre, Lewes

Davies’ counter-tenor voice was famously sublime of course, and Thomas Dunford’s lute-playing was equally heavenly. As with all great artists, these two played fast and loose with the rules, laying bare the delicate and mobile structures of Dowland’s writing while letting the blues in through a little breath in music’s space/time continuum.

The quality of quietness is a rare and beautiful thing, the harmony of Iestyn Davies and Thomas Dunford rarer and more beautiful still.

Five stars
Eleanor Knight, The Argus, 15th June 2015

Muhly

Sentences (World Premiere)

The Barbican

Davies’s artistry: during the work’s course, he sings against a playback loop of his own voice, and the effect – all close Monteverdian harmony – is ravishing. Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 7th June 2015
'In this elegant performance from countertenor Iestyn Davies and the Britten Sinfonia under Muhly himself, no detail was either overcooked or overlooked.'...'showcasing the seamlessness of Davies’s tone and phrasing.' Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times, 8th June 2015
The soaring otherworldly voice of countertenor Iestyn Davies Barbara Kiser, Nature Blog, 10th June 2015

Kampen

Farinelli and the King

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The great countertenor Iestyn Davies steps in, singing with such an intense beauty that he almost manages to upstage the un-upstageable Rylance. This takes some getting used to and at first I felt sorry for Crane, an actor of keen reserve, as he stood in silence while Davies delivered another showstopper.  Ben Lawrence, The Telegraph, 21st February 2015
It was a joy to hear the arias sung with such brilliance of execution and flair in interpretation, especially those from Handel’s Rinaldo. Despite its terrifying demands, Iestyn must have found it a breeze (!) to sing Venti,Turbini standing before us in gold brocade, given that the last time some of us heard him perform this aria he was merrily cresting the clouds on a boneshaker in the Glyndebourne production..."clear articulation of divisions and quick passages..." All those qualities are found in abundance in Iestyn Davies' singing
Melanie Eskenazo, Music OMH, 22nd February 2015
Farinelli the singer is British countertenor Iestyn Davies (William Purefoy in the later shows in the run), suddenly assured and completely captivating. Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 21st February 2015
A superb countertenor, Davies captures the piercing expressiveness and introspection of this remarkable figure whose voice proved so restorative for Philip...Davies’ sound is always sophisticated and crisp — and his high notes are ethereal. Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard, 23rd February 2015
Crane is shadowed by the counter-tenor Iestyn Davies as the singing Farinelli and the moments when he renders two arias, Cara Sposa and Venti Turbini, from Handel’s Rinaldo, offer a pleasure that verges on the sublime. Michael Billington, The Guardian, 24th February 2015
Iestyn Davies sings with rapturous virtuosity and uncanny beauty those Handel arias that give the King temporary release. Paul Taylor, The Independent, 23rd February 2015
'the arias are skin-tingling and exquisite' Natasha Tripney, The Stage, 23rd February 2015
Iestyn Davies stepping forward to trill a rousing aria. Matt Trueman, Variety, 23rd February 2015
Iestyn Davies was superb as Farinelli the singer, gliding onto the stage when music was required. Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 25th February 2015
Farinelli is voiced by the brilliant countertenor Iestyn Davies punctuating the action with arias including two from Rinaldo which was the first opera written specifically for the London stage and, in a nice parallel to the plot, by the court musician Handel who was imported by George I, first of the Hanoverian kings.  You don’t have to be an opera lover to wonder at these eerie, ethereal interludes in the play. Johnny Fox, Londonist, 25th February 2015
The music (by Porpora, Hasse and Handel), and the singing of countertenor Iestyn Davies, are glorious enough on their own.  The Week, 28th February 2015
But the crowning glory is that the role is sung by the peerless counter-tenor Iestyn Davies, whose sublime rendition of several Baroque arias fully justifies Philippe’s description of him as angelic. Michael Arditti, Sunday Express, 1st March 2015

Flow My Tears

Wigmore Hall Live CD

Davies, one of the finest of his formidable generation of countertenors, lavishes his delectable artistry on a well-chosen selection of songs by the Elizabethan and Jacobean masters Robert Johnson, John Danyel, Thomas Campion and John Dowland. Nico Muhly’s Old Bones, written in recognition of the rediscovery of Richard III’s resting place, makes for a whimsical contrast. Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, 8th March 2015
Iestyn Davies is on peak form, singing with superb control and combining a sense of line with an intense feel for the words. His diction is superb and the beauty of tone stunning.  Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 23rd March 2015
Iestyn Davies is ideally suited to this repertoire, his voice ethereal, plangent and effortless, his diction and phrasing responsive to the subtlest poetic nuances...'In short, a treasurable disc.' Kate Bolton, BBC Music Magazine, May 2015
I’ve never met a Wigmore Hall recital disc that I didn’t like, and this lovely selection of songs for lute, viol and voice from the countertenor of the hour, Iestyn Davies, is one of the best so far. Amanda Holloway, Sinfini Music, 15th April 2015

BACH

B Minor Mass

The Cleveland Orchestra; Welser-Möst

 It is hard to imagine a better quartet for this performance; each was superb... Encountering Iestyn Davies in live performance for the first time was a revelation; his voice is richly powerful through a wide range, expressive in his use of tonal color and vibrato, with an unerring sense of fluid line and phrasing. Timothy Robson; Backtrack; 20th October 2014

HANDEL

Rinaldo

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

With his pinging projection, confident coloratura and sheer musical flair, Iestyn Davies is simply the nonpareil of contemporary counter-tenors, and here it helps that he looks and acts the sheepish yet valiant schoolboy to an endearing tee. Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 10th August 2014
...with that incomparable countertenor Iestyn Davies in the title role... Michael Church, The Independent, 11th August 2014
...it is thanks to the singers, in particular countertenor Iestyn Davies, whose Rinaldo marries depth of feeling with dazzling technique. Hannah Napil, Financial Times, 11th August 2014
Davies's performance was a dramatic and musical tour de force...ensuring that the drama was balanced. Davies showed himself entirely adept at coping the demands of the rather uneven libretto. When Armida kidnaps Almirena, Davies has a pair of arias almost back to back both essentially covering the same emotional ground (the entirely wonderful "Cara sposa" and the different but still lovely "Cor ingrato". But you never felt that Davies was doing so, he brought a wonderful variety of tone and emotions to them. The virtuoso act one finale was brilliantly done even though Davies spent part of the aria on a flying bike. Rinaldo's later arias are equally spectacular, and Davies acquitted himself brilliantly, being wonderfully martial in "Or la tromba". Almost as importantly, he brought light and shade to the character. In this version of the story Rinaldo is unbelievably moral, he is never tempted by Armida and this is the story's weakness (Carsen's re-invention with Armida as the evil teacher works well here). The beauty of Davies's Rinaldo was that we never really noticed this weakness, he created a complete character Robert Hugill, Opera Today, 10th August 2014
This revival benefits, dramatically and vocally, from Iestyn Davies - one of the finest countertenors around, who excels equally at anguish, tenderness, virtuosity and - rarely off stage - stamina. A first for Glyndebourne, the cast boasts no fewer than four countertenors - with Davies supreme among them...Iestyn Davies’s magnificent title role performance
Graham Rogers, The Stage, 11th August 2014
Iestyn Davies rises to the varied challenges of the title role with some aplomb... George Hall, The Guardian, 12th August 2014
Iestyn Davies, in the title role, is infinitely eloquent and indefatigable in pursuit of his beloved Almirena... Hilary Finch, The Times, 13th August 2014
Iestyn Davies’s punchy Rinaldo puts his co-stars in the shade...but Carsen’s schoolboy characterisation of Handel’s crusading hero might have been waiting for the countertenor Iestyn Davies to take up Sonia Prina’s blazer, satchel and shoes...he delivers a bravura Or la tromba in punchy, military style. And his tender singing of Cara sposa, a wrenching lament for his abducted betrothed, Almirena, really hits you in the solar plexus. It’s great news that Davies will be playing David in Barrie Kosky’s new production of Handel’s Saul next summer...Davies’s charisma and vocal lustre. Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 24th August 2014
Davies delivered impeccably musical accounts of the character's full complement of arias, in exquisitely modulated singing that was expressive of the multitude of emotions that affect him. His grieving 'Cara sposa' was outstanding. Margaret Davies, Opera, October 2014

BACH

St John Passion

Britten Sinfonia; Barbican Centre

As for the countertenor Iestyn Davies, no one better contemplates the sorrow of Christ's death as expressed in the aria Es ist vollbracht ("It is accomplished"). Fioana Maddocks, The Guardian, 27th April 2014
Iestyn Davies’s charismatic readings of Von den Stricken, to vivid playing from Daniel, his fellow oboist Emma Fielding and the bassoonist Sarah Burnett, and Es ist vollbracht...set a standard of technical and expressive perfection that few singers can match. Anna Picard, The Times, 18th April 2014

DOWLAND

The Art of Melancholy

Hyperion

Davies' singing combines weighty physical presence with rich vocal coloration and an utterly pristine delivery, so that Dowland's melancholic songs - which can so easily sound merely mopey - emerge as stylized portraits of grief. Yet there's also an expressive urgency to these performances that rescues the undertaking from archness, and Dunford's brisk, clear playing forms a perfect counterpoise to Davies' singing. The combination is ripe, affecting and utterly beautiful. Joshua Kosman, Sfgate.com, 23rd March 2014
The rarest thing in opera is a distinctive voice, and Iestyn Davies has one. It’s clear, full and plangent, with crisp diction and unassuming eloquence. (These are qualities the young lutenist Thomas Dunford has, too.) Mr. Davies saves the best for last on this disc of Dowland songs: a wrenching rendition of “Now, oh now I needs must part.” Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 2nd April 2014
As heard already in recent recordings, Davies's vocal technique is impressively secure (especially in the long-breathed, almost suspended phrases Dowland so loved)...his refined and delicately shaped performances... Another welcome feature of Davies's singing is ornamentation... Christopher Price, International Record Review, July/August 2014

US recital tour

Thomas Dunford, lute

Davies and Dunford seem born to perform these works. Their achievement was as extraordinary as the music. Davies combines power and agility with the widest imaginable range of colours; his understanding of how to sing in English is superb. Dunford plays with exquisite nonchalance, appearing to take enormous performing risks, but always delivering with precision, exactly on target. David Gordon Duke, Vancouver Sun, 31st March 2014
...Iestyn Davies’ voice stands out for its beauty and evenness throughout its range. More importantly, he is a phenomenal technician and artist, a fact demonstrated repeatedly throughout the afternoon. He was ably partnered by the young lutenist Thomas Dunford, whose artistic intelligence belies his age and matches Davies’ lyricism beautifully. Though the balance was slightly skewed towards Davies throughout the recital, the incorporation of four of Dowland’s lute solos demonstrated that Dunford is absolutely an artist to admire in his own right... The Dowland songs in the second half, however, were a different story altogether. Known for its melancholy affectations, Dowland’s music can come across as arch and self-indulgent. Davies’ straightforward delivery was refreshingly unsentimental, paradoxically allowing for a much wider range of emotions to be explored. The Dowland pieces allowed for the greatest amount of interaction between Davies and Dunford; the strophic Come again sweet love and Now, o now I needs must part were dazzling in their ornamentation – and it was a thrill to watch two great musicians respond and feed off each other’s artistry. Kevin Ng, Bachtrack.com, 1st April 2014
Davies possesses one of the most refined and lucent countertenor voices, with flawless intonation, ease and beauty across its range...With his love of text, intelligent phrasing and clean...the two musicians held the audience spellbound and still... Charles T. Downey, Washington Post, 9th April 2014

HANDEL

Rodelinda

English National Opera

Musically it's tremendous...Ultimately, however, the evening belongs to...Davies...the former infinitely noble and moving...They've rarely been bettered in their respective roles, and are both, quite simply, breathtaking. Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 1st March 2014
Now director Richard Jones and conductor Christian Curnyn are presenting it with a cast headed by the singer who is replacing Scholl as the world’s top countertenor, Iestyn Davies...When Davies, as Bertarido, launches into his opening aria of desperate loss, we immediately get the full splendour of his sound...Since this opera is all arias (apart from one duet, divinely sung by Davies and Evans), and since each da capo aria contains several repeats, Jones has developed strategies to deal with what he seems to perceive as the problem of audience-boredom. Some of these repeats are turned into slapstick comedy... he imposes his own comic denouement in which Iestyn Davies revels with his instinctive comic timing. Michael Church, The Independent, 1st March 2014
...Iestyn Davies (Bertarido) and Rebecca Evans’ (Rodelinda) ravishing farewell duet, ‘Io t’abbraccio’ (I embrace you). Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Spectator, 1st March 2014
...of superb musical quality. Rebecca Evans and Iestyn Davies are just about perfection as Rodelinda and Bertarido, and there’s a performance of terrific personality and authority by John Mark Ainsley as the loopy Grimoaldo. Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 1st March 2014
As the two rooms slowly pull apart and the lovers are separated, Rebecca Evans (Rodelinda) and the countertenor Iestyn Davies (Bertarido) sing their duet with consummate skill... Davies is on incomparable form. Hilary Finch, The Times, 3rd March 2014
...Iestyn Davies stole the show with aria after aria of heavenly purity and ardour.
Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine, 4th March 2014
The night belonged to Iestyn Davies. An ex-chorister of St John's College, Cambridge, Davies has suddenly accelerated from "promising British countertenor" to world-class artist. He can sing, whether full blast or hushed pianissimo, with a strength, steadiness of tone and musical confidence almost unknown in a voice type which has tended...to prefer ethereal frailty as a calling card. He also has an understated sense of comic timing. Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 9th March 2014
Iestyn Davies’s Bertarido, the production’s one unqualified success...there’s a maturity and poise to his performance... Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 3rd March 2014
...Iestyn Davies as Bertarido is magnificent, too, and his acting is as concentrated as his singing. Michael Tanner, The Spectator, 8th March 2014
Iestyn Davies’s Bertarido shines from his first appearance with one of Handel’s most celebrated arias... Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 9th March 2014
...his singing was clean, powerful and unfailing elegant. Erica Jeal, Opera, May 2014
Iestyn Davies, vocally ravishing and intelligent as Bertarido, was a much more complex figure... Tom Sutcliffe, Opera Now, May 2014

HANDEL

Your Tuneful Voice

Robert King; The King's Consort; Vivat

Iestyn Davies is already known and rightly feted for his contributions to recordings of baroque opera and oratorio as well as for a number of solo albums, not least his Hyperion programme of arias for the 18th-century Italian castrato Gaetano Guadagni.

Here he applies his eloquently floated, liquid, sensitively inflected countertenor voice to 13 arias from Handel’s oratorios, complemented by the King’s Consort playing the overtures to Jephtha and Samson.

Jephtha also yields the aria “Up the Dreadful Steep Ascending”, one of the especially spirited items here, in which Handel – as any composer might naturally do – clothes the opening words in a rising scale but then challenges his singer with rapid coloratura writing, to which Davies adds an exuberant final flourish high in the voice’s stratosphere.

The joy of listening to Davies in a piece such as this is that he cherishes the words while negotiating the technical hurdles with amazing fluency and consistency of timbre. He never forces the tone in the voice’s upper reaches, and seems so thoroughly attuned to the style and sense of the music that he is also able to bring brilliance of character to it as well.

Many of the arias here are of a quiet, contemplative or pastoral type that contrast with the wilder demands of “Up the Dreadful Steep Ascending” or the vividly virtuoso “Mighty Love Now Calls to Arm” from Alexander Balus and “How Can I Stay When Love Invites” from Esther.

Davies starts his programme with Daniel’s second aria, “O Sacred Oracles of Truth”, from Belshazzar, which he has also recently sung on a complete recording of the oratorio with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, reviewed on these pages last month.

Here, it heralds several arias in a similar vein, such as “Tune Your Harps to Cheerful Strains” from Esther, “Yet Can I Hear that Dulcet Lay” from The Choice of Hercules and “Thou Shalt Bring Them In” from Israel in Egypt, with a darker, consolatory strain entering Davies’s voice for the solemn “Who Calls My Parting Soul from Death”, in which he sings Assuerus to Carolyn Sampson’s Esther in a tender dialogue.

Davies’s definition of the varying moods in these arias is of an absorbing order, matched as it also is by the King’s Consort’s judicious range of colour in the orchestral accompaniments on a disc that highlights a countertenor voice in its prime.
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph, 6th February 2014
...they allow us to appreciate Davies's extraordinary evenness of tone, his immaculate breath control and the rapt subtlety of his phrasing... the handful of virtuoso arias are delivered with terrific panache and a bravura technique that is second to none. Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 13th February 2014
Davies is in his prime of vocal flexibllly, and authoritative in modes both pious ('O sacred oracles of tmth ) attd warlike (Mighty love now calls to arm'). Early Music Today, March-May 2014

BRITTEN

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Metropolitan Opera

The young cast was as good as any the Met has fielded for Britten in years, led by Iestyn Davies, calmly commanding as Oberon, king of the fairies...Mr Davies is fearsomely eloquent and velvety in the middle and low parts of his voice, and his hushed aria "I know a bank" seemed as natural as speaking, his presence ominously dandyish. Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times, 13th October 2013
On opening night, the singing throughout was everything required, and in many instances more than that. Davies's countertenor was... scene-stealing... David Finkle, Huffington Post, 13th October 2013
As the sinister fairy king Oberon, Iestyn Davies made his sleek countertenor purr like a flute in its lowest register. If sophistication made a noise, this is what it would sound like. His acting, too, in the company’s badly dated two-decade-old production, looked effortless. Enfolding the youthful Puck in a tight embrace, Mr. Davies projected neither parental care nor sexual longing but something more like aesthetic delight in a gorgeous objet d’art.

James Jorden, The Observer, 29th October 2013
Iestyn Davies made a superb Oberon, with a countertenor both alluring and insinuating. John Rockwell, Opera, December 2013

BERNSTEIN

Chichester Psalms

Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall

...which emerged with beautiful clean, clear lines, as did the performance of Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms which followed – with Iestyn Davies as the wonderful counter-tenor soloist. Ivan Hewitt, The Sunday Telegraph, 7th September 2013

BRITTEN

Cancticles

Aldeburgh/Brighton/ROH

Davies, singing Isaac in Abraham and Isaac — a part written for Kathleen Ferrier — pipes with the innocence of a young boy, and a certain eeriness. They sing together to represent an angel’s voice. It’s spine-chilling. Kieron Quirke, Evening Standard, 11th July
Canticle II is the setting of a Chester miracle-play retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac. It was written for Pears and the great contralto Kathleen Ferrier, and here Bostridge was joined by Ferrier’s nearest contemporary male equivalent, Iestyn Davies Michael Church, The Independent, 11th July 2013

BACH/MENDELSSOHN

Magnificat

New York Philharmonic

 ...the superb countertenor Iestyn Davies...Mr. Phan and Mr. Davies brought out the best in each other during the wistfully beautifully duet “Et misericordia” from the Bach Magnificat, one of the high points of the fresh, stylistically insightful performance... Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 7th March 2013
Iestyn Davies (a deft countertenor) Martin Bernheimer, Financial Times, 7th March 2013

Arise, my muse

Wigmore Live

...he negotiates the florid passage work with such supple ease... the wonderful sly spontaneity of Strike the Viol, which culminates in an alluring Restoration jam session, the languorous sensuality of Here the Deities approve, and a gently insouciant Crown the Altar - not so much sung as caressed - are irresistible. Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine, June 2014
This is a disc that reminds us why live recital programmes are such a valuable part of recorded repertoire. Rather than the monochrome focus on the solo artist permitted by the artifice of the studio, we get a fully rounded musical experience that feels more satisfying both for performers and listeners. Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone

HANDEL

Rodelinda (DVD)

The Metropolitan Opera

Another countertenor, Iestyn Davies, making his debut in the role of Unulfo, almost walks away with the show. The voice is utterly smooth, his agility remarkable and he dazzles in his Act 2 showpiece, 'Fra tempest funeste'. Robert Levine, International Record Review, January 2013

HANDEL

Belshazzar

Les Arts Florissants

...Iestyn Davies’s performance was, as usual with that amazing singer, beautiful and compelling beyond words.

Michael Church, The Independent, 14th December 2012

Opening concert

Wigmore Hall Residency

Please click below to view Laura Battle's review in the Financial Times.

Laura Battle, Financial Times, 28th November 2012

ADES

The Tempest

The Metropolitan Opera

...countertenor Iestyn Davies was a stand-out turn in the smaller part of Trinculo.

Tom Service, The Guardian, 26th October 2012

Iestyn Davies had fun with the buffa parts of... Trinculo; it’s a nice touch to make Trinculo, a clownlike outsider, a countertenor. 

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 24th October 2012

Iestyn Davies as Trinculo...amuse in their drunken exploits.

Ronni Reich, New Jersey Star Ledger, 25th October 2012

More standouts were countertenor Iestyn Davies, bright-voiced and droll as the drunken jester Trinculo...

James Jorden, New York Post, 25th October 2012

BACH

B Minor Mass

BBC Proms: Royal Albert Hall, London

Nothing, however, could match the pure, unaffected simplicity of countertenor Iestyn Davies in the Agnus Dei. It was as good as you are likely to hear, ever.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 5th August 2012

There was some superb duet work, but when counter-tenor Iestyn Davies sang his solos, his extraordinary tonal richness and imaginative phrasing combined into something truly unforgettable.

George Hall, The Guardian, 3rd August 2012

When, very near the end, that supreme young countertenor Iestyn Davies sang the "Agnus Dei" with such sublime, moving eloquence, it set the seal on an interpretation that had been conceived not only with the utmost care but with a depth of human feeling that was wholly enveloping.

Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph, 3rd August 2012.

...while counter-tenor Iestyn Davies was his usual peerless self, sending his big sound up to the gods with effortless grace. 

Michael Church, The Independent, 3rd August 2012

...while Iestyn Davies's Agnus Dei was unforgettable: a point of stillness amid the beating wings...

Anna Picard, The Independent, 5th August 2012

Arias for Guadagni

Hyperion Recording

...an imaginative, consummately sung programme from the brightest star among young British countertenors.

Richard Wigmore, Gramophone, August 2012

...Throughout his effortless line, countertenor Iestyn Davies revivifies Guadagni's Orphic powers. He is particularly breathtaking in works by Handel, Arne and John C Smith, all of which are designed to show off the castrato's pellucid timbre...

Berta Joncus, BBC Music Magazine, August 2012

Gaetano Guadagni was the 18th-century Italian castrato who came to London, learnt to sing opera from Handel and to act from Garrick, then went to Vienna where Gluck created his Orfeo for him. Iestyn Davies, the British counter-tenor, travels that journey via Hasse, John Christopher Smith and Thomas Arne. By all account Guadagni put tonal beauty and dramatic insight before vocal display and Davies's unforced timbre, exemplary intonation and sense of style brings out the nobility of the music he inspired. Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen's ensemble, also rises to C.P.E. Bach's stunning Symphony in D.

Richard Morrison, The Times, 7th July 2012

...this fine, beautifully sung programme by the countertenor Iestyn Davies. If Guadagni was noted for the delicacy of his phrasing and the richness of character in his voice, Davies fully emulates him in these performances of arais by Handel, Hasse and Arne, with defining interpretations of extracts from Gluck's Orfeo and an eloquently poised aria by Guadagni himself. Arcangelo lends exquisite instrumental support.

Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph, 23rd June 2012

Davies gives us the latter’s lovely “The raptur’d soul”, but cheats by including David’s ravishing “O Lord, whose mercies numberless”, from Saul, and Cyrus’s bravura show stopper, Destructive War, from Belshazzar, written for others, but sung by Guadagni in revivals. Davies sings them superlatively well.

Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 27 May 2012

Guadagni's early distrust of virtuosity was a matter of aesthetics rather than technique, and Davies includes some of the showstoppers written for him by Handel and Arne, delivering them with wonderful finesse and flawless tone.  

Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 7th June 2012

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Recordings

The Art of Melancholy

Iestyn Davies, countertenor
Thomas Dunford, lute

Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Adrian Peacock
Engineered by David Hinitt
DISCID: 1E11EF14
Hyperion

Arise my muse

Famed for the crystalline beauty of his voice and the breath-taking daring of his artistry, British countertenor Iestyn Davies returned to Wigmore Hall with a programme reaching back to the Restoration Court to reveal the wealth of musical riches of the late 17th-century London.

For this recital, Iestyn Davies and the ensemble stepped beyond the bounds of convention to explore the works with fresh insight, delivering an invigorating yet refined and delicate performance.
Wigmore Live