Iain Bell’s love affair with the voice is evidenced by his prolific output of vocal works, earning him the attention of many of the greatest singers of our generation who have performed his music at venues including Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Munich Opera Festival.
His first opera 'A Harlot's Progress' received its world premiere in 2013 at Vienna's Theater an der Wien. Based on Hogarth's etchings to a libretto by British author Peter Ackroyd, it was performed by a stellar cast headed by German soprano Diana Damrau and US-baritone Nathan Gunn in a production by Jens-Daniel Herzog, conducted by Mikko Franck. It received tremendous critical acclaim with the New York Times praising the strength of Bell's orchestral and vocal writing. It was described in Der Standard as a 'A soul devouring juggernaut' and labelled as 'Cinematic, dramatic and thrilling' in Kurier.
Given 5-stars and described by the Financial Times as 'a brilliant new opera' Bell’s second, based on Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ received its world premiere at Houston Grand Opera in December 2014. An adaptation of Dickens’ own one-man version of the story, scored for chamber orchestra & tenor, it was performed by US-heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris in a production by Simon Callow under the baton of Warren Jones. The piece has since been nominated for the World Premiere award at the International Opera Awards 2015 and in December 2015 was staged in a new production at Welsh National Opera, followed by a subsequent new staging at the Teatro Sociale in Trento in 2017.
Bell’s critically-acclaimed third opera 'In Parenthesis', based on David Jones’ eponymous World War One epic poem (directed by David Pountney/conducted by Carlo Rizzi) received its world premiere at Welsh National Opera with further performances at the Royal Opera House in Summer 2016. The Independent’s 5-star review described the work as a ‘powerful act of remembrance’, with The Stage calling Bell’s score ‘technically exceptional’ and The Telegraph describing the opera as ‘gripping and moving’. It was streamed globally on Opera Platform and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
2019 saw the premiere of two new operas. The first, 'The Women of Whitechapel' opened in March at English National Opera with a cast including Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock, Lesley Garrett, Marie McLaughlin, Natalya Romaniw, Janis Kelly and Alan Opie. This was followed in June by 'Stonewall' at New York City Opera, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
In the concert hall, Bell has worked with pianists including Helmut Deutsch, Roger Vignoles, Iain Burnside, Simon Lepper and Julius Drake. Recent highlights include the world premieres of his song cycle 'of you' at Carnegie Hall by American mezzo soprano Jamie Barton and Concert Ayre 'A Litany in Time of Plague' at the Munich Opera Festival. 'Moll’s a’cold' - the excerpted mad-scene from his opera 'A Harlot’s Progress' was first heard at the Enescu Festival performed by soprano Adela Zaharia in Summer 2017. In 2018, Zaharia gave the world premiere Bell's 'Aurora' - a Concerto for Coloratura Soprano at the BBC Proms with the RLPO. Bell returned to the Enescu Festival in 2019 with his orchestral song cycle 'The Hidden Place' performed by the LSO and led by Maestro Gianandrea Noseda, with Diana Damrau as soprano soloist.
Highlights in 2020 include the first performances in the UK of 'Much To Be Done' (the choral finale from 'Stonewall') by The Pink Singers at Cadogan Hall, and his second Concert Ayre 'Tom O'Bedlam' with baritone James Cleverton. Later in the year will see the first revival of 'The Women of Whitechapel' along with the world premieres of two new song cycles, details of which will follow in the Spring.
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