Ades, Thomas


Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971. His compositions include two operas, Powder Her Face (Cheltenham Festival/ Almeida Theatre, London, 1995), and The Tempest (Royal Opera, Covent Garden, 2004). Orchestral works include Asyla (CBSO, 1997), Tevot (Berlin Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, 2007), Polaris (New World Symphony, Miami 2011), violin concerto Concentric Paths (Berliner Festspiele and London Proms, 2005), In Seven Days (piano concerto with moving image - LA Philharmonic and RFH London 2008), and Totentanz for mezzo-soprano, baritone and orchestra (London Proms, 2013).

Chamber works include the string quartets Arcadiana (1993) and The Four Quarters (2011), Piano Quintet (2001), and Lieux retrouvés for cello and piano (2010). Solo piano works include Darknesse Visible (1992), Traced Overhead (1996), and Three Mazurkas (2010). Choral works include The Fayrfax Carol (King's College, Cambridge 1997), America: a Prophecy (New York Philharmonic, 1999) and January Writ (Temple Church, London 2000).

From 1999 to 2008 he was Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival.

As a conductor he appears regularly with, among others, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw, Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies, BBC Symphony, and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. As an opera conductor he has conducted The Rake's Progress at the Royal Opera, London and the Zürich Opera, and last Autumn made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York conducting The Tempest. He will conduct this production at the Vienna Staatsoper in 2015 with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Prizes include: Grawemeyer Award for Asyla (1999); Royal Philharmonic Society large-scale composition awards for Asyla, The Tempest and Tevot; Ernst von Siemens Composers' prize for Arcadiana; British Composer Award for The Four Quarters; and Best Opera Grammy and Diapason d'or de l'année (Paris) for The Tempest. He coaches Piano and Chamber Music annually at the International Musicians Seminar, Prussia Cove.

Image Credit: 
Brian Voce

Hannigan, Barbara


A frequent guest of the Berlin Philharmonic, Barbara Hannigan has also appeared with most of the other leading orchestras worldwide, with such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Reinbert de Leeuw, Vladimir Jurowski, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Alan Gilbert, and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

Hannigan made her own conducting debut in 2010 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with Stravinsky’s Renard, and recently conducted the Gothenburg Symphony in a programme including Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre.

Image Credit: 
Elmer de Haas

Karolyi, Katalin


Born in Hungary, Katalin Károlyi studied singing with Noëlle Barker and Julia Hamari. She went on to set up Studio Versailles Opéra with Rachel Yakar and René Jacobs. Other conductors she has worked with include Yehudi Menuhin, William Christie, Phillip Herreweghe and David Robertson.

Opera productions include performances at the Opéra National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Wiener Festwochen, Almeida Opera and the Festival d’Aix en Provence. She has also appeared at Ravinia Festival Chicago, Salzburg Festival, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Barbican Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, BBC Proms and Cité de la Musique. She frequently appears with ensembles including Ictus, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Amadinda, Asko-Schoenberg, Musikfabrik, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group and Seoul Philharmonic.

She has had numerous works composed for her including Ligeti’s Sippal, Dobbal, Nádihegedüvel, which she has performed frequently.

Image Credit: 
Csati Foto

Tantsits, Peter


Peter Tantsits, 'a tenor both skillful and brave' (New York Times), first attracted international attention in his debut at Teatro alla Scala under Lorin Maazel. His keen musicianship and strong characterizations as well as his ability to securely tackle even the most daunting modern scores make him ideal in roles such as Andres in Wozzeck, Maler in Lulu, Piet vom Fass in Le Grand Macabre, Steuermann in Der fliegende Holländer, Steva in Jenufa, Caliban in Ades's The Tempest, and Beauty in Gerald Barry's The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, as well as Peter Quint, Tom Rakewell, Prunier, Platée, Pedrillo and Idamante.

In 2014, Peter Tantsits made his debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich as the First Young Officer in the new production of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten. Other recent engagements have included Bernstein’s Candide with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, the role of John Worthing in Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest in an Irish tour, and the central role in Du Yun’s Angel’s Bone for the NY Prototype Festival, in addition to works by Wolfgang Rihm and Hans Werner Henze.

Future plans include his Concertgebouw Amsterdam debut as Andres in Wozzeck, as well as debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Fort Worth Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra with conductors including Susanna Mälkki, Baldur Brönnimann, and Markus Stenz, and return engagements at the Bayerische Staatsoper and the Barbican.

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Bloom, Joshua


Joshua Bloom was born in Australia to musician parents and studied cello and double-bass as well as being a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. He went on to study History at the University of Melbourne and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1996. His professional debut in opera was in an OzOpera touring production of The Barber of Seville, after which he joined the Young Artist Programme of Opera Australia in Sydney, and later the Merola and Adler Fellowship Programmes at the San Francisco Opera.

He has sung principal roles with Opera Australia, San Francisco Opera, LA Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, Badisches Staatstheater, New York's Metropolitan Opera, and Garsington Opera, among others. He has also appeared on the concert stage with the Melbourne, Queensland, Adelaide and Western Australian Symphonies, as well as the New York Philharmonic, the LA Philharmonic and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Recent engagements include Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Perth, The Rake's Progress with The Auckland Philharmonia, Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest with Opera Northern Ireland, La Bohème at the Royal Albert Hall, London and Fidelio and The Cunning Little Vixen for Garsington Opera. Upcoming plans include debuts with English National Opera and Washington National Opera.

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Ewing, Alan


Alan Ewing began his working life much in demand by the world of Renaissance and Baroque Music with concerts for Sir Roger Norrington, Philip Pickett, Andrew Parrott, Paul McCreesh, Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, and William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.

He has sung with the companies of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, ENO, WNO, Netherlands Opera, Berlin Staatsoper, Zurich, Karlsruhe, Strasbourg, Nancy, Lille, Opera Colorado and at the Festivals of Salzburg, Lucerne, Aldeburgh and Maggio Musicale among others in a wide repertoire including Osmin, Sarastro, Ochs, Bluebeard, Sparafucile, Kutuzov and Fafner. Further engagements include Sarastro for Steuart Bedford, Seneca for Christian Curnyn, Baron Ochs at the New Zealand Festival, Bartok’s Bluebeard in a production for John Fulljames, Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, roles in Peter Grimes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Billy Budd for Richard Hickox, and the title role of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd for Opera Colorado.

Recent engagements include Lady Bracknell in The Importance of being Earnest for Opéra National de Lorraine and also at the Linbury Studio, Covent Garden. Future performances include Acis and Galatea for Mid Wales Opera, Powder Her Face for ENO, King Roger at the Royal Opera House and Eugene Onegin for Grange Park Opera.

Summers, Hilary


A true contralto with a wide vocal range, she 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;  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.  Since 2002 she has performed Boulez's 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;  she recorded the work with Boulez on Deutsche Grammophon to much critical acclaim and 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, recording several of his film scores and touring the world with the Michael Nyman Band.  She also works frequently with the composer Joby Talbot and sings on his soundtrack to the film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and television series The League of Gentlemen. Hilary has also 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, and The English Concert directed by Andrew Manze.  

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), the Amazon Hippolyta (Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or the bearded Baba the Turk (Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress).  Other roles include the earth mother Gaea in Strauss’ Daphne and Mrs Sedley in Britten’s Peter Grimes (for Glyndebourne Festival Opera). She has played the role of the Washerwoman in Rob Zuidham’s Rages d’amour at the Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam and sang Hippolyta for the Teatro Real, Madrid.   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. She created the role of Miss Prism in Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest, in concert performances and at the ROH Linbury Studio in 2013.

Image Credit: 
Claire Newman-Williams

Bevan, Benjamin


Benjamin Bevan won a scholarship to study at the Guildhall School, London and made his international début at Lausanne Opera in La Cenerentola.

He made his UK début at Scottish Opera as Marcello in La Bohème, followed by return invitations to sing Fleville and Fouquier-Tinville in Andrea Chenier under Sir Richard Armstrong and Riccardo I Puritani, Lescaut in Massenet’s Manon and Marcello in the revival of La Bohème under Francesco Corti.

He recently made his debut at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden singing Henry Cuffe in Britten's Gloriana; followed by his Welsh National Opera debut in two new productions: singing Lescaut in Boulevard Solitude by Henze, and Roderick Usher in Getty's Usher House.

Current engagements include performing the St Matthew Passion with the Bach Collegium Japan under Masaaki Suzuki.

Image Credit: 
Jason Dodd


BCMG was formed in 1987 from within the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and is established as one of Europe’s leading ensembles.   Sir Simon Rattle is the Group’s Founding Patron and has conducted BCMG in the UK, on tour in Europe and America, and on several EMI recordings. The Group has strong relationships with its two Artists-in-Association Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich, and also with Thomas Adès who conducts the Group during 2006/07 in Birmingham, London, Cologne and Paris, and with whom BCMG is invited to Carnegie Hall, New York in 2008. BCMG was awarded The Arts Ball 2002 Outstanding Achievement Award and has also won prestigious Prudential, Royal Philharmonic Society, Gramophone and PRS Millennial awards. In May 2005, BCMG was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audience Development for its popular Rural Tours programme.
The core of BCMG's work is the performance of new music, and the Group has premiered over 100 new works by leading UK and overseas composers. Most have been commissioned with the help of a large number of individuals through BCMG’s ground-breaking Sound Investmentscheme. The Group regularly tours nationally and internationally. Recent UK engagements have included appearances at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and at the BBC Proms with Birmingham Opera Company for Benjamin Britten’s CurlewRiver.  In April 2006, the Group toured the UK with New York-based jazz trumpeter, Dave Douglas, performing Blue Latitudes, a piece commissioned through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme. Previous projects have included a European tour with Sir Simon Rattle in 2000, a tour of India in 2002 with Judith Weir and Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu and visits to the Berlin, Radio France Présences and Vienna’s Wien Modern Festivals, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal.   
BCMG is committed to engaging the widest possible range of people with its work, and runs extensive learning and audience-building programmes in pursuit of this aim. Projects with young people in and out of school and with adults in a range of community settings are complemented by free performance projects such as the Group’s popular ‘Rural Tours’, Late-Night performances and Meet-the-Composer days. BCMG broadcasts often on BBC Radio, has made TV programmes for BBC and Independent Television, and numerous CD recordings.  The relationship with NMC is particularly strong, with the recent launch of a new CD of Britten’s film music and several more discs planned.


Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest

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Barbara Hannigan soprano   Cecily Cardew
Peter Tantsits tenor             Jack Worthing
Joshua Bloom baritone         Algernon Moncrieff
Katalin Károlyi mezzo-soprano      Gwendolen Fairfax
Hilary Summers contralto         Miss Prism
Alan Ewing bass             Lady Bracknell
Benjamin Bevan bass         Lane/Merriman
Joshua Hart speaker             Dr Chasuble

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Thomas Adès conductor

Gerald Barry's riotous opera brings out the savagery beneath the genteel Edwardian manners of Wilde's play: its score includes gunshots, whistling and speaking from the orchestral players, marching boots, and the smashing of 40 dinner plates, while its characters - among them Lady Bracknell sung by bass Alan Ewing - shout through gales, quote Schiller's Ode to Joy (in German) and make polite conversation through megaphones.



Podcast: Stephen Fry, Fiona Shaw, Gerald Barry and Thomas Adès talk about Oscar Wilde's enduringly popular play The Importance of Being Earnest and how it has been transformed by composer Gerald Barry from the stage and cinema screen into a fantastic new opera. (courtesy of Barbican, 2012)









‘Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest seems to have achieved the status of a contemporary classic. This riotous recording by BCMG under Thomas Adès is sure to help its fame and popularity spread’ Opera Now *****

‘The pyrotechnics of soprano Barbara Hannigan as Cecily are pretty unbeatable’ Opera Now *****

Barry's operatic take on Oscar Wilde's most famous play emerges as vividly on disc as it has subsequently done in the opera house ... the expert performances [are to be] marvelled at' Guardian

‘Gerald Barry magnifies the fizzy quality into a relentless high-wire act that has the audience relishing the stamina of the performers, here under the needle-sharp control of ringmaster-in-chief Thomas Adès. Laughter and applause – as when a large number of dinner plates (they must be white) are smashed – do not seriously disrupt a performance remarkable for its energy and accuracy, atmospherically recorded. […] a CD makes crystal –clear chat a dedicated musical maverick can do with a treasured literary antique usually thought to be beyond parody.’ Gramophone

‘The eccentricity is so carefully controlled by both composer and conductor – I started off completely perplexed but soon found myself laughing out loud.’ Martin Cullingford – Gramophone Editor

'One of the wittiest, most pungently scored works since Shostakovich's The Nose' BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'

'... had me laughing out loud at the sheer brilliance of the writing and infectious energy of the performance' BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'

‘Soprano Barbara Hannigan is simply astonishing as Cecily Cardew, sometimes singing on the nosebleed end of the scale’ The Bay Area Reporter

‘Surely this is not only the best operatic treatment of Oscar Wilde since Strauss’s Salome, but also one of the few absolutely essential operas of the last 20 years’ BBC Music Magazine (Opera Choice of the Month)

‘This is a superb live recording – edgy, brilliantly sung and boasting electrifying playing from Thomas Adès’ Birmingham Contemporary Music Group...It’s bonkers, in a good way...Highly recommended’ The Art Desk

‘Gerald has become a touchstone in my creative life. He is like a new drug: addictive, probably untested and probably illegal…but I know he will make me better.’ Barbara Hannigan, BBC Music Magazine

‘If there was ever a text to which the music should be fitted, this is it, but Barry does just the opposite. He writes scintillating music, much of it very fast, and then shoehorns the words into it, regardless of where the accented syllables, a joke’s timing, or an exchange of repartee falls. The result is a dramatic chaos which projects its own manic charm.’ American Record Guide – March 2015

“It’s impossible to resist Gerald Barry’s riotous adaption of Wilde’s comic play, especially with these performers. By throwing everything in the air, with a dizzyingly sequence of musical styles, borrowings and invention, Barry captures and enhances the essence of this perfect farce to create an inspired opera” – BBC Music Magazine



Thanks to the trusts and foundations that have supported this release as part of NMC’s Anniversary Opera Series:

The John S Cohen Foundation
The Finzi Trust
The Nicholas John Trust
The Monument Trust
The N Smith Charitable Settlement
Surrey Square Trust

and to the donors who contributed through NMC’s 25th anniversary Opera Appeal including:

Jonathan Goldstein
Paul Henderson
Martyn Leighton
Robert McFarland
John Summerscales
Moya & John Tomlinson

Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


Recorded by BBC Radio 3 live at the Barbican Hall, London, 26 April 2012

Recording Producer     LINDSAY KEMP for BBC Radio 3
Recording Engineers    MARVIN WARE, VICTORIA OSWALD & TANYA BHOOLA for BBC Radio 3
Executive Producer for NMC    COLIN MATTHEWS

Booklet design by FRANCOIS HALL

Photos © Opéra national de Lorraine
from the production by Opéra national de Lorraine, Nancy, France in March 2013, directed by Sam Brown and designed by Annemarie Woods.

(P) 2014 BBC
© 2014 NMC Recordings Ltd

Schott Music
Catalogue number:
NMC D197
Release Date:
22 September 2014