John Mark Ainsley

Introduction

John Mark Ainsley, one of Britain’s most prolific tenors, was born in Cheshire, began his musical training in Oxford and continues to study with Diane Forlano. His extensive international concert work includes the Boston Symphony under Ozawa, Vienna Philharmonic under Norrington, Pinnock and Welser-Möst, London Symphony under Sir Colin Davis and Andre Previn, Berlin Philharmonic under Haitink and Rattle and the New York Philharmonic under Masur.
 
His discography is extensive and covers the baroque and classical repertoire, the German Lied and English song, and his recording of ‘On Wenlock Edge’ on Hyperion was nominated for a Gramophone award. Most recently he has recorded a recital disc, ‘Remember your lovers’ with Iain Burnside - a co-production between Signum Classics and BBC Radio 3’s “Voices” programme.
 
A highly gifted performer on the opera stage, he was awarded the Munich Festival Prize for his performance as Orfeo, a role that he has reprised at English National Opera to great acclaim. He created the role of ‘Der Daemon’ in the world premiere of Hans Werner Henze's ‘L'Upupa’ for the Salzburg Festival and also sang the world premiere of Henze's 'Phaedra' in Berlin and Brussels. He recently made his role debut as Captain Vere in ‘Billy Budd' in Frankfurt and his UK debut in the role at Glyndebourne. John Mark won the 2007 Royal Philharmonic Society Singer Award and is a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
 
This is for information only and should not be reproduced. Please contact Kate Baylis for a full biography.

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HANDEL

Rodelinda

English National Opera

...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
...John Mark Ainsley sings that role with the refined grace we expect of him... Michael Church, The Independent, 1st March 2014
Grimoaldo, as he evolves in wisdom, is sung with huge intelligence and immaculate style by John Mark Ainsley. Hilary Finch, The Times, 3rd March 2014
...John-Mark Ainsley created a brilliantly seedy Grimoaldo... Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine, 4th March 2014
...his singing was eloquent and sure, and his portrayal of Grimoaldo as an oily thug was consummately done. Erica Jeal, Opera, May 2014

The complete songs of Poulenc: Vol.4

Signum

To the tenor John Mark Ainsley falls the five Eluard settings, which he interprets tellingly with a mix of mesmerising restraint and fierce projection in the opening song, 'Peut-il se reposer celui qui dort', and throughout finds the nub of the diverse sentiments that the set conveys. Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone, February 2014

CONTI

L'issipile

Wigmore Hall, La nuova musica

...John Mark Ainsley’s soaringly beautiful tenor... Michael Church, The Independent, 23rd January 2014
...there are some wonderful arias, all of them terrifically done...John Mark Ainsley, meanwhile, was the bewildered Thoas... Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 23rd January 2014

MONTEVERDI

Orfeo

Barbican Centre, London

...this prince of English tenors…singing with robust vocal health a role in which he has long been peerless.
When I interviewed him in 2008, Ainsley told me he thought he had done everything he could with Monteverdi’s Orfeo and wouldn’t be undertaking it again. How delighted I am that he has recanted, because this performance by the Academy of Ancient Music showed that he has enriched and deepened his interpretation further, both in his rendering of the music’s rhythmic subtleties and his perception of the character’s tragic journey.
Without resorting to any extraneous histrionics or exaggerated portamento, he makes the lines almost shockingly modern and vivid: this Orfeo is not a figure sculpted from classical marble, but a desperate everyman, anxious, remorseful and bereft, for whom love is ultimately more important than art. I found his breakdown in the final scenes painfully moving.
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 29 September 2013
Ainsley has the role under his skin, and delivered a performance of angry pathos. His dark tenor has an almost baritone-like depth and heft, a fine foil...In Ainsley's great centre piece aria "Possente spirito£ his ornate melismas were seductively controlled; in the next he gave way to broken sprechstimme. The role has never felt so raw and contemporary. Helen Wallace, Financial Times, 1st October 2013
And with John Mark Ainsley bringing consummate artistry and exceptional beauty of tone to the title role, this "Orfeo" rent the heart. Michael Church, The Independent, 30th September 2013

TAVENER

The Play of Krishna, Love Duet

Manchester International Festival

Tenor John Mark Ainsley was magisterial... Paul Vallely, The Independent, 10th July 2013

BRITTEN

Serenade for tenor, horn and strings

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

The impressive centrepiece was Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, with a fine pair of soloists in tenor John Mark Ainsley and the SCO's own principal horn Alec Frank-Gemmill, a player of rare composure and subtlety. Together they brought agile muscularity to the songs: the transition from Frank-Gemmill's bold and spacious Prologue to Ainsley's breezy Pastoral was a thrill, the Elegy was nicely laced with irony, and the spectral Dirge was hushed and macabre in Ainsley's plangent high register. Kate Molleson, The Guardian, 29th April 2013
Having been left on a high by Suckling’s questing final peroration, we were kept there by a performance of Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings that had something quite magical about it...the artlessly nuanced singing of John Mark Ainsley, sounding as fresh as he has done for years. Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 29th April 2013

Chamber concert

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

...it was to the enormous credit of the trio of musicians - the SCO's principal horn, Alec Frank-Gemmill, pianist Tom Poster and respected tenor John Mark Ainsley - that their performances were so magnificently life-affirming, glowing with vivid colours and alive with crackling energy... Poster was the only performer onstage throughout, and his two solo Schubert impromptus sang with a ringing clarity. Ainsley refused to bow to Auf dem Strom's death-obsessed mood, giving instead a reading that was airy and somewhat wide-eyed - and all the more poignant for that. But it was his scorching, unforgiving performance of Britten's Still Falls the Rain, breathtakingly intense, that made the concert's high point - although he dismissed the audience on a lighter note with a sparkling quintet of Britten's witty folksong settings. David Kettle, The Scotsman, 23rd April 2013

William Lyne Birthday Concert

Wigmore Hall

And Ainsley’s airy and supple tenor was movingly caught in Vaughan Williams’s Orpheus with his Lute...
Neil Fisher, The Times, 30th November 2012

BRITTEN

War Requiem

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

...no other tenor of today is better able to locate the plangent centre of Britten’s vocal lines. Although grounded in the English tradition, there is a keening Italianate edge to Ainsley’s tone that rent the heart during ‘Move him into the sun’ and ‘One ever hangs where shelled roads part’.
Mark Valencia, Classical Source, November 2012

JANACEK

From the House of the Dead

Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin

The “featuring” roles — John Mark Ainsley’s Skuratov... — could hardly be better done today.
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 9th October 2011

BRITTEN

Billy Budd

Glyndebourne Festival Opera, DVD

John Mark Ainsley's plangent, dark-toned tenor and intense diction show us a more neurotic Vere than usual, ridden with doubts and anxieties behind the urbane front he presents to his officers, in his old age reliving the traumatic execution.
Michael Scott Rohan, BBC Music Magazine, July 2011

BRITTEN

Spring Symphony

Bridgewater Hall, Hallé Orchestra

John Mark Ainsley, Rebecca Evans and Sarah Connolly twittered and cooed tonight with impressively straight faces. But the highlight was Connolly's plangent rendering of WH Auden's Out On the Lawn I Lie in Bed, a stark indication that Britten's hymn to spring is equally a thanksgiving for Europe's deliverance from war. Mark Elder conducted with absolute conviction; the Hallé Children's Choir sang (and, when called for, whistled) with gusto; even the man on the cow horn lowed magnificently.
Alfred Hickling, The Guardian, 15 May 2011

Recordings