Jennifer Johnston

Introduction

 

The dramatic mezzo-soprano was named by both BBC Music Magazine and the Observer as "a rising star", and the Financial Times as the "Face to Watch in Opera". A former BBC New Generation Artist, she is a graduate of Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music, and is the recipient of numerous awards including Second Prize in the Montserrat Caballé International Singing Competition, two Susan Chilcott Scholarships and a Wingate Scholarship. 

Jennifer's engagements in the 2013-4 Season include Hedwige/Guillaume Tell in a new production at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Lady de Hautdesert/Gawain with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Brabbins for Birtwistle's 80th Birthday, Mrs Sedley/Peter Grimes in Beijing, Mrs Noye/Noye's Fludde with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Brabbins, Bruckner's Mass No.1 with the Bayerische Rundfunks/Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bach's St Matthew Passion with the Hong Kong Philharmonic/Van Zweden, the world premiere of Payne's orchestration of Vaughan Williams' Four Last Songs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Vänskä at the BBC Proms 2013, Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the ORR/Sir John Eliot Gardiner in Lucerne, Missa Solemnis with the CBSO/Ex Cathedra, Copland's In the Beginning with the BBC Singers/Hill, Mahler 3 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Mandeal at the Enescu Festival, Mahler's Second Symphony with both the Philharmonia at the Three Choirs Festival and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with both the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Bach Choir, Mozart's Requiem with both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, Handel's Messiah with the English Concert/Bicket, Haydn's Paukenmesse with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Durufle's Requiem with the Britten Sinfonia/Cleobury, Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen at the London Song Festival, and recitals at the Wigmore Hall with the Prince Consort.

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News & Features

Repertoire

OPERA 

BARTOK
Judith (Bluebeard's Castle)

BELLINI
Adalgisa (Norma)

BERLIOZ
Didon/Cassandre (Les Troyens),
Marguerite (La Damnation de Faust)
[UNDER PREPARATION]

BIRTWISTLE
Lady de Hautdesert (Gawain and the Green Knight)

BRITTEN
Mrs Herring (Albert Herring), 
Lucretia (The Rape of Lucretia)

DVORAK
Jezibaba (Rusalka)

HANDEL
Title Role (Agrippina)

HUMPERDINCK
Witch / Mother (Hansel und Gretel)

JANACEK
Kostelnicka (Jenufa) [UNDER PREPARATION]
Kabanicha (Katya Kabanova)
[UNDER PREPARATION]

KORNGOLD
Brigitta (Die Tote Stadt) [UNDER PREPARATION]

MASSENET
Herodiade (Title Role) [UNDER PREPARATION]

NICOLAI
Meg Page (Merry Wives of Windsor)

POULENC
Mother Marie of the Incarnation (Dialogues des carmélites ) [UNDER PREPARATION]

PUCCINI
Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), 
La Principessa (Suor Angelica)

PURCELL
Dido/Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas)

ROSSINI
Hedwige (William Tell)

SAINT-SAENS
Dalila (Samson et Dalila)

STRAUSS
Herodias (Salome) [UNDER PREPARATION]

STRAVINSKY
Jocasta (Oedipus Rex), 
Baba the Turk (The Rake's Progress)

WAGNER
Fricka (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure), 
Wellgunde (Das Rheingold, Gotterdammerung), 
Waltraute (Die Walkure, Gotterdammerung), 
Second Norn (Gotterdammerung), 
Brangaene (Tristan und Isolde), 
Magdalena (Die Meistersinger)

VERDI
Mistress Quickly (Falstaff) [UNDER PREPARATION]


CONCERT

Bach
St Matthew Passion, St John Passion,
B Minor Mass, Christmas Oratorio

Berg
Seven Early Songs

Beethoven
Symphony No 9, Missa Solemnis

Berlioz
L'Enfance du Christ, Le Mort de Cleopatre, Les Nuits d'ete

Brahms
Alto Rhapsody

Britten
Phaedra, Spring Symphony, 
A Charm of Lullabies

Durufle
Requiem

Dvorak
Stabat Mater, Requiem

Elgar
The Dream of Gerontius, Sea Pictures, The Kingdom, The Apostles, 
Coronation Ode

Handel
Messiah

Haydn
Arianna a Naxos, Nelson Mass, Paukenmesse

Mahler
Symphonies 2, 3 and 8, 
Das Lied von der Erde, 
Ruckert Lieder

Mendelssohn
Elijah

Mozart
Requiem, Solemn Vespers, 
Coronation Mass

Respighi
Il Tramonto

Rossini
Petite Messe Sollenelle, Stabat Mater

Stravinsky
Pulcinella, Oedipus Rex

Vaughan Williams
Four Last Songs

Verdi
Messa di Requiem

Wagner
Wesendonck Lieder

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Schedule

Philharmonie am Gasteig, Munich

HAYDN  Insanae et vanae curae 
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 5 ("Reformation")
BRUCKNER Mass in D minor

John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Lucy Crowe, Soprano
Jennifer Johnston, Mezzosoprano 
Toby Spence, Tenor
Günther Groissböck, Bass

Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Philharmonie am Gasteig, Munich

HAYDN  Insanae et vanae curae 
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 5 ("Reformation")
BRUCKNER Mass in D minor

John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Lucy Crowe, Soprano
Jennifer Johnston, Mezzosoprano 
Toby Spence, Tenor
Günther Groissböck, Bass

Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Frauenkirche, Dresden

HAYDN  Insanae et vanae curae 
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No 5 ("Reformation")
BRUCKNER Mass in D minor

John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Lucy Crowe, Soprano
Jennifer Johnston, Mezzosoprano 
Toby Spence, Tenor
Günther Groissböck, Bass

Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks

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Press

Bach

St Matthew's Passion

Hong Kong Philharmonic

"Alto aria Erbarme Dich ("have mercy") was the highlight of the night for me. Jennifer Johnston, alto, sang eloquently..." South China Morning Post

Stravinsky

Oedipus Rex

LSO Live label

"Jennifer Johnston's lush-toned Jocasta and the men of Gardiner's Monteverdians excel" Hugh Canning for the Sunday Times

Ludwig Thuille:

Songs

Champs Hill

"Impeccably sung, with great warmth of tone, by Jennifer Johnston" Tim Ashley for The Guardian

Vaughan Williams

Four Last Songs

Royal Albert Hall

"Jennifer Johnston, the mezzo soloist in Anthony Payne’s delicate Vaughan Williams orchestration, also sang from the heart – but had taken the trouble to learn the words, projecting them with a quiet radiance that commanded attention. With a noble timbre reminiscent of Janet Baker, she found an unexpected kinship between these modest songs and Elgar’s Sea Pictures." The Financial Times
"Between all these sorrowful songs, some autumnal ones. Anthony Payne has newly orchestrated Four Last Songs by Vaughan Williams, beautifully evoking RVW’s own mellow colours. The songs, to poems by Vaughan Williams’s wife Ursula, aren’t vintage, but appealing enough as delivered by the plangent young mezzo Jennifer Johnston." The Times
"Jennifer Johnston, another fine New Generation Artist, let the songs soar with a radiance associated with another set of Four Last Songs. Her voice combines ecstatic range with an affecting contralto weight, and her stage presence, like Ruby Hughes’s, was compelling." Classical Source
"Between the two symphonies, Jennifer Johnston gave a powerful reading of Vaughan Williams’s Four Last Songs." London Evening Standard
"The mezzo Jennifer Johnston sang them with an authentic sense of potent wonder that was even more striking when revisited on the iPlayer afterwards." The Guardian
"I do hope that this arrangement is recorded in the future with Jennifer Johnston at the forefront: she sang the set both beautifully and with refinement." Bachtrack

Beethoven

Prom 38: Ninth Symphony

Royal Albert Hall

"and a fine solo quartet (Ailish Tynan, Jennifer Johnston, Toby Spence and Gerald Finley). The result was thrilling."

Hugo Shirley for The Telegraph
"The massed choirs more than matched the world-class quartet of soloists"


Nick Kimberley for the Evening Standard
"The soloists, ranked behind the orchestra, were excellent, with Jennifer Johnston and Ailish Tynan in fine voice, and Gerald Finley and Toby Spence both clear and light-toned but still able to penetrate. "

Guy Dammann for the Guardian

Birtwistle

Gawain

Salzburger Festspiele

"Jennifer Johnston beeindruckte als Lady de Hautdesert." OÖN Nachrichten
"no praise for the cast can be too high. Christopher Maltman is a powerfully questing Gawain, and John Tomlinson's Green Knight is hardly less vivid than when he created the role. Laura Aikin's Morgan Le Fay, Jennifer Johnston's Lady de Hautdesert, Andrew Watts's Bishop Baldwin and Jeffrey Lloyd-Robert's wheelchair-bound Arthur are all outstanding." John Allison for the Telegraph
"Erstklassig auch die Sänger, an der Spitze Christopher Maltman (Gawain), Laura Aikin, John Tomlinson, Jennifer Johnston, ..." Ursula Strohal for Tiroler Tageszeitung
"Jennifer Johnston als Lady Hautedesert beeindruckte ebenso wie das Sängerensemble um König Arthur" Gerald Heidegger for ORF
"The brilliant cast, convened at short notice when Gawain replaced an unfinished opera by György Kurtág, was led by Christopher Maltman in the title role, with John Tomlinson reprising the part of the mythical Green Knight. Both baritone and bass, each on peak form, are masters in the art of acting as well as singing. In the event this was more of a godsend than usual. The same was true for Lady de Hautdesert, sung with vivid lyricism by the rising-star British mezzo Jennifer Johnston." Fiona Maddocks for The Guardian
"Ihm sekundieren die Mezzosopranistin Jennifer Johnston als kundryhafte Verführerin Lady de Hautdesert" Christian Wildhagen for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Auf der Sängerseite besonders hervorzuheben: Christopher Maltman als Gawain, Laura Aikin als Morgan und Jennifer Johnston als Lady de Hautdesert." Robert Jungwirth for BR Klassik
"Lady Hautdesert, eine Art Kundry (Jennifer Johnston)" Elisabeth Schwind for Osnabrücker Zeitung
"mit klarem, schlichten Mezzo: Jennifer Johnston" Badische Zeitung
"Absolut ebenbürtig ist ihr in Letzterem Jennifer Johnston als dunkel lodernde Lady de Hautdesert, deren Verführungsversuche beim standhaften Gawain dennoch nicht fruchten." OVB Online
"Laura Aikin and Jennifer Johnston were excellent Morgan le Fay and Lady Hautdesert. The eroticism of the former’s performance grew as she and Johnston’s character grew apart, indeed transformed themselves from commentators into participants." Mark Berry for Seen and Heard International
"This is the best line-up of the Salzburg Festival so far [...] Jennifer Johnston, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts and Andrew Watts are luxury choices for the parts of Lady de Hautdesert, King Arthur and Bishop Baldwin; vocally, the evening leaves nothing to be desired." Shirley Apthorp for Financial Times
"Gawain emerges as a modern Parsifal, the Green Knight (John Tomlinson, as potent as ever in the role he created 22 years ago) his Gurnemanz, and Morgan Le Fay (the dazzling Laura Aikin) and Lady de Hautdesert (the lush-voiced Jennifer Johnston) seem more than ever like Birtwistle's schizophrenic Kundry, literally split into two characters" Hugh Canning for The Sunday Times
"Lady de Hautdesert wird von Jennifer Johnston mit gefühlvollem Mezzo gesungen"
Friedeon Rosén for Der Neue Merker

Stravinsky

Oedipus Rex

Barbican Centre, LSO, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Mezzo Jennifer Johnston was a powerful, graceful Jocasta with gorgeous tone and marvelous diction. Paul Kilbey for Bachtrack
...and Jennifer Johnston (Jocasta) made superb, larger-than-life protagonists Michael Church for The Independent
At its best the result was electrifying, though of the  soloists only Jennifer Johnston as Jocasta sounded convincing. Barry Millington for London Evening Standard
Jennifer Johnston was a formidable Jocasta, venomously spitting out her dismissal of the oracles while Gardiner thrillingly energised the cascading wind instruments beneath her Andrew Clements for The Guardian
Jennifer Johnston was a formidable Jocasta Hilary Finch for The Times

Beethoven

Missa Solemnis

ORR/Sir John Eliot Gardiner

"Some of the most moving solo singing came from Jennifer Johnston, whose mezzo glows with unforced feeling and whose pure style fits well into the period-instrument world." New York Times
"Mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston has a uniquely rich, low voice that was warm and pliant" Bachtrack
"Johnston's mezzo contributed both warmth and sombre darkness to the ensemble" The Times

Bach

St. Matthew Passion

Dallas Symphony Orchestra / Jaap Van Zweden

"Alto Jennifer Johnston's serene majestic sound and fine taste were in evidence all evening" Bachtrack
"The standout soloist was alto Jennifer Johnston, with a hot-coals tone and elegantly expressive manner" Dallas Morning News

Mahler

Second Symphony

OSESP / Alondra de la Parra

"The English contralto Jennifer Johnston gave an excellent vocal performance of the song 'Urlicht', unforgettable and beautiful from an interpretive point of view" Movimento
"Jennifer Johnston was flawless and demonstrated admirable vocal power"  Estadao

Britten

Songs recording

Onyx records

"Female voices are thinner on the ground, but the dusky beauty of mezzo Jennifer Johnston’s A Charm of Lullabies leaves one wishing for more"
Sarah Noble for Limelight Magazine

"Mezzo Jennifer Johnston brings maternal warmth to A Charm of Lullabies, which Britten wrote for Nancy Evans, the first Nancy in Albert Herring. Even the steeliness Johnston demonstrates when delivering the menacing imagery of "Charm" seems to stem from a place of love and protection, as if she knew that only extreme images of furies, fire and brimstone would scare her young charge into submitting to sleep."

Joanne Sydney Lessner for Opera News
"finely turned contributions from [...] and mezzo Jennifer Johnston."
Rupert Christiansen for the Telegraph

Britten

Spring Symphony

St David's Hall, Cardiff

"while mezzo Jennifer Johnston brought a golden glow to the lines originally written for Kathleen Ferrier." Rian Evans for the Guardian

Wagner

Götterdämmerung

Bayerische Staatsoper Munich

"...captured our attention as the Third Norn, exceptionally well-matched with Jennifer Johnston (an assured Second Norn)" James Sohre for Opera Today

Das Rheingold, 24th June 2011

Birmingham Symphony Hall (Opera North)

“Jeni Bern, Sarah Castle and especially Jennifer Johnston were as fine a trio of Rhinemaidens as you could expect to hear anywhere.” Intermezzo, 24/06/2011

Das Rheingold, 18th June 2011

Leeds Town Hall (Opera North)

"...this was one of the most enthralling Wagner performances of recent years"
 

The Guardian
"three characterful Rhinemaidens (Jeni Bern, Jennifer Johnston, Sarah Castle) are revelations." The Times
“An enchanting trio of Rhinemaidens got things off to a sparkling start. ” The Daily Paragraph

Recordings

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123
Recorded live at the Barbican Hall, London, October 2012

Lucy Crowe (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), James Gilchrist (tenor), Matthew Rose (bass)

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique & Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Presto Classical

Britten Songs - Vol.2

Malcolm Martineau accompanies Allan Clayton, Jennifer Johnston, Nicky Spence, Benjamin Hulett, Benedict Nelson, Elizabeth Atherton and Robin Tritschler
Onyx records

La Betulia liberata

Music by WA Mozart

Jeremy Ovenden, Marijana Mijanovic, Julia Kleiter, Franz-Josef Selig, Irena Bespalovaite & Jennifer Johnston

Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor & Münchener Kammerorchester, Christoph Poppen

Deutsche Grammophon

Everyman

Music by Sir Henry Walford Davies

Elena Ferrari, Jennifer Johnston, Andrew Staples, Pauls Putnins

London Oriana Choir; Kensington Symphony Orchestra
David Drummond (conductor)

Dutton Digital