Iestyn Davies Is First British Countertenor to Sing at Met, with House Debut in Rodelinda Nov 14

On November 14, Iestyn Davies – named 2010’s Royal Philharmonic Young Artist of the Year – makes his house and role debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Unulfo in Handel’s Rodelinda. This is an important milestone, not only for the singer but also for the company: the occasion marks the first time in the Met’s 131-year history that a British countertenor will have graced its stage.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Britain is the home of the countertenor. As the New York Times explains, the “countertenor movement was born in England, where historically castrati were a high-priced import and [Baroque] composers like Handel were obliged to be fairly flexible.” In more recent decades, a massive resurgence of interest also originated in Britain, with 20th-century legends like Alfred Deller and James Bowman bringing the male falsetto voice back from church choir obscurity and once more onto the concert platform. In 1988, the American Jeffrey Gall became the first countertenor to sing a major role at the Met, understudying for Marilyn Horne in Handel’s Orlando. Subsequent productions have featured other exponents of the countertenor’s art, yet to date the nation that founded the tradition still remains unrepresented at the Met. How fitting, then, that the balance should be redressed by Davies, who has proved himself not only “today’s most exciting British countertenor” (Observer, UK) but also possessor of “one of the most glorious countertenor voices in the world” (Independent, UK).

The upcoming Rodelinda production is a revival of the 2005 staging with which director Stephen Wadsworth made his own Met debut, one that Variety found “memorable for its simplicity and for the emotional truth that simplicity carried,” and that the New Yorker deemed “essentially perfect.” Star soprano Renée Fleming returns in the title role as the Queen of Lombardy; Stephanie Blythe reprises Eduige; and German countertenor Andreas Scholl undertakes the part of the usurped King Bertarido, with Davies’s Unulfo as his loyal counselor. Conducted – as in 2005 – by Harry Bicket, who “drew uncannily stylish period sounds from the Met orchestra” (New Yorker), the production will be transmitted Live in HD to movie theaters worldwide on December 3.

This landmark Met debut is just one of Davies’s current season highlights. October saw the U.S. release of his most recent recording, Porpora Cantatas, a solo album on the Hyperion label that is already a sensation in Europe, and over the coming months the singer makes two more major U.S. debuts. On December 15, with pianist Kevin Murphy, he sings his first Carnegie Hall recital, presenting the world premiere of folksong arrangements by Nico Muhly alongside works by Britten, Purcell, and Bach. Then, for his first Lyric Opera of Chicago appearance, Davies makes another Handel role debut, portraying Eustanzio in Rinaldo. Directed by Francisco Negrin and co-starring David Daniels, the production opens on February 29.

Iestyn Davis: 2011-12 engagements

Nov 14, 19, 23, 26, 30; Dec 3* & 10

New York, NY

Metropolitan Opera

Handel: Rodelinda (Unulfo)

(*Live in HD broadcast)

Dec 4

Washington, DC

Phillips Collection

Britten, Purcell, Bach

Recital with Kevin Murphy, piano

Dec 15

New York, NY

Carnegie Hall

Britten, Purcell, Bach, and Nico Muhly (world premiere)

Recital with Kevin Murphy, piano

Dec 18

Norwich, England

Theatre Royal

Handel: Messiah

Britten Sinfonia

Dec 20

Amsterdam, Netherlands


Handel: Messiah

Britten Sinfonia

Dec 22

London, England

St. John’s, Smith Square

Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Dec 23

London, England

St. John’s, Smith Square

Handel: Messiah

Dec 31; Jan 2, 2012

Zurich, Switzerland


Handel: Messiah

Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich / Timothy Brown

Jan 7

Liverpool, England

Handel: Messiah

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Feb 29; Mar 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 & 24

Chicago, IL

Handel, Rinaldo (Eustazio)

Lyric Opera of Chicago

March 9

Chicago, IL

Hyde Park Union Church

Recital: “The White Rabbit”

Baroque Band / Harry Bicket

March 10

Chicago, IL

Music Institute of Chicago

Recital: “The White Rabbit”

Baroque Band / Harry Bicket

March 14

Chicago, IL

Symphony Center / Grainger Ballroom

Recital: “The White Rabbit”

Baroque Band / Harry Bicket

April 3

Austria, Vienna

Bach: St John Passion

Theater an der Wien

April 6

London, England

St John’s, Smith Square

Bach: St. John Passion

May 4

Santa Cruz, Spain

Auditorium Adán Martín

Vivaldi: Cessate, omai cessate, RV684; Stabat Mater, RV621

Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife

May 7

London, England

Wigmore Hall

Britten, Purcell, and Bach

Recital with Malcolm Martineau, piano

May 17

Göttingen, Germany

Handel: Esther

Göttingen International Handel Festival / Laurence Cummings

June 17

Leipzig, Germany

Bach: Mass in B minor

Leipzig Bachfest / Harry Bicket

Aug 4


A Caldara: Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo (Amor Terreno)

Accademia Bizantina / Ottavio Dantone

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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