Hilary Summers Contralto

A true contralto with a wide vocal range, Hilary has excited the attention of many contemporary composers.  In 1999 she created the role of Stella in Elliot Carter’s opera What Next? for the Staatsoper unter den Linden conducted by Daniel Barenboim, with further performances at Carnegie Hall and in Chicago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  She has subsequently performed this work under Peter Eötvös, Oliver Knussen and Kent Nagano.  She created the role of Irma in Eötvös’s opera Le Balcon at the 2002 Aix en Provence Festival and toured with the production in Europe in 2003/4.  Since 2002 she has performed Boulez Le Marteau sans Maître throughout Europe with the Ensemble Intercontemporain under the direction of Boulez himself as well as with several other ensembles and conductors, most recently at the 2012 BBC Proms under Franz-Xavier Roth and members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.  She recorded the work with Boulez on Deutsche Grammophon to much critical acclaim. The recording won a Grammy Award. As part of the celebrations of the composer’s 80th birthday she performed Le visage nuptial under his direction with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Chicago.

In Britain she has forged a special relationship with the composer Michael Nyman, recorded several of his film scores and toured the world with the Michael Nyman Band.  She also works frequently with the composer Joby Talbot and sings on his soundtrack to the film Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the television series The League of Gentlemen.  

Hilary has made a considerable name for herself as a fine interpreter of the Baroque repertoire and sings regularly with many of Europe’s leading early instrument orchestras. These have included Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques, Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble and The English Concert directed by Andrew Manze.  A warm association with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants led to a recording of Handel’s Orlando with Erato, in the role of Medoro, and as the Sorceress in Deborah Warner’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in Vienna followed by performances throughout the world. She works often with The King’s Consort and has recorded two CDs with them in the Hyperion Series of Vivaldi’s sacred musicShe performs regularly with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company and has recorded the role of Rosmira in Handel’s Partenope and Juno/Ino in Semele for Chandos.  Hilary took part in the first performance in Russia on period instruments of Handel’s Messiah.

Operatically, Hilary is destined to play statuesque Handelian heroes such as Giulio Cesare or the god Mars (Legrenzi’s Il divisione del mondo ) but occasionally has fun with such roles as the dominatrix Mescalina (Ligeti’s Le grande macabre) or the amazon Hippolyta (Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or even the bearded Baba the Turk (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress).  More mature females include the earth mother Gaea in Strauss’ Daphne and Mrs Sedley in Britten’s Peter Grimes for Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

She sang Hippolyta for the Teatro Real, Madrid where she also sang Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande and the role of the Bartender in Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.   In 2006 she sang in the first performances of George Benjamin’s opera Into the Little Hill in Paris and has since performed it in New York and throughout Europe.  Hilary created the role of Miss Prism/The Importance of Being Earnest in concert performances of Gerald Barry’s new work which she performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and at the Linbury Studio in London.  This will be revived in the 15/16 season at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Rose Theatre New York.

Other recent engagements have included the role of Juno/Semele for Canadian Opera Company at the Brooklyn Academy in New York; concerts at the Aldeburgh and Holland Festivals, performances at the Liceu Barcelona and Frankfurt Opera, Tisbe in La Cenerentola with Cecilia Bartoli at both the Salzburg Whitsun and Summer Festivals in June and August and two appearances at the 2014 BBC Proms. She also recently sang the role of Mrs. Darling / Tiger Lily in Welsh National Opera’s new production of Richard Ayres’ Peter Pan and the role of Buttercup/HMS Pinafore for Scottish opera at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Hilary’s many recordings include Handel’s Messiah with King’s College Cambridge, Handel’s Lotario (Idelberto) with Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hippolyta) with the LSO and Sir Colin Davis, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle with TKC and Six Celan Songs by Michael Nyman.

This biography is for website use only. For a full and updated biography, please email info@ingpen.co.uk

Worldwide management

David Sigall

Nicki Wenham

Rebeccah Considine

Artist News

Gramophone Awards 2015 nominations shortlist announced

Read More »

BBC Proms 2015

Read More »

Gramophone Awards 2013

Read More »