Elizabeth Byrne - Mother
HANSEL AND GRETEL ACCLAIM (The Mother/Witch)
“Elizabeth Byrne’s portrayal of the Witch was delightful. The British-born, Chicago based dramatic soprano took an earthy, alluring approach - - as a dotty, old eccentric, not a scary specter.”
- INDIANAPOLIS STAR 2008
“Ms Byrne has a voice of flame and accuracy, the voice of a young person keenly in tune with herself, quick and 100 percent in her soft emotional responses. She also had vitality in her stage presence.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES 2001
“...but the instrumental beauty of Elizabeth Byrne’s well-sung Aïda...From the second act duet between Byrne and Irina Mishura , the production hit its stride. The English-born Byrne proves a powerful singer in her debut with the Portland Opera, a sterling soprano with a big voice.”
-Bill Smith WILLAMETTE WEEKLY
“Elizabeth Byrne singing her first complete Aïda, has a strong, sinewy soprano...Byrne is an expressive physical actress whose intense, neurotic Aïda is more anguished slave than proud princess.”
-Patricia Cornell THE OREGONIAN 1999
Established as one of the most exciting dramatic sopranos of her generation, the success of ELIZABETH BYRNE’s first integral performances of the role of Brünnhilde in the new Tim Albery production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Scottish Opera and conducted by Music Director Sir Richard Armstrong was recognized by a Herald Angel Award for outstanding performance of the 2003 Edinburgh Festival and also by a Royal Philharmonic Society Award Nomination. Writing of her performances, The Scotsman reported “This epic cycle has made a star out of soprano Elizabeth Byrne who has grown both vocally and dramatically into the role of Brünnhilde withelectrifying results. She never fails to create a frisson of excitement whenever she appears on stage - a wily tense heroine whose power is understated but never in doubt.” And of her appearance in Die Walküre at the Edinburgh Festival, Paul Griffiths of The New York Times wrote that “Ms. Byrne has a voice of flame and accuracy, the voice of a young person keenly in tune with herself, quick and 100 percent in her emotional responses. She also had vitality in her stage presence.” The Ring Cycle was the cornerstone of the 2003 Edinburgh Festival with additional performances in Glasgow and throughout the United Kingdom. Performances of Siegfried were filmed by BBC-TV and shown on BBC 4 as well as the recording of a documentary on the making of Götterdämmrung which was aired on BBC Scotland.
Building on her Scottish Opera Ring Cycle performances, Miss Byrne made her debut at the Stuttgart Staatstheater in performances of Brünnhilde in Jossi Wieler’s production of Siegfried conducted by Lothar von Zagrosek. She returned to Stuttgart for their Ring Cycle in fall 2005. She also covered the role of Brünnhilde in Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera. Prior to the Scottish Opera Ring Cycle, Miss Byrne had performed Sieglinde in concert with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra with Kirk Trevor and Brünnhilde in Joseph Maclain’s production of Die Walküre which was conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan at the Austin Lyric Opera. Early Ring performances include appearances as Gutrune and Gerhilde in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ring Cycle directed by August Everding and conducted by Zubin Mehta and Ortlinde in Die Walkûre at The Metropolitan Opera conducted by James Levine. Covering Isolde in the David Hockney production of Tristan und Isolde at the San Francisco Opera provided her first exposure to the role. The San Francisco experience led to her engagement for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Tristan Project” conceived by Peter Sellars, in performances conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in both California’s Disney Hall and at the New York’s Lincoln Center. She added the role of Senta in Der Fliegende Höllander in performances at Opéra de Massy directed by Didier Kersten and also performed the role at Austin Lyric Opera in Garnett Bruce’s production of the opera conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan She was engaged by Joel Revzen at Arizona Opera as Senta and repeated this role at Portland Opera in Christopher Alden’s production conducted by David Parry. On 24 hrs. notice she stepped in for Deborah Voigt in acclaimed concert performances with James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
One of Miss Byrne’s first leading roles in the German repertoire was as the title role of Salome at Glimmerglass Opera. In a production staged by Leon Major and conducted by Stewart Robertson, Miss Byrne’s success was noted by The Ithaca Times “Any singer who ever attempts this role has to come equipped with the charm of Lolita, the will of Xena and the voice of Brünnhilde: plus she has to dance. Elizabeth Byrne did as good a job of covering all the bases as one can expect to see in the theater. She has a voice that can soar above the tumult of Straussian orchestration and still sound lyrical. She can act sexy...” She returned to Glimmerglass Opera in summer 2006 adding the role of Kostelniçka in Janáçek’s Jenufa, marking her first foray in the Czech repertoire. The production was directed by Jonathan Miller and conducted by Music Director Stewart Robertson.
Miss Byrne appeared in Richard Strauss’s opera Ariadne auf Naxos at the Dallas Opera making her debut with the company as The Composer. in a production directed by John Lloyd Davies and conducted by Music Director Graham Jenkins. In 2005 she added the role of Leonore in Fidelio at Scottish Opera in Tim Albery’s production conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong which led to her covering the role at The Metropolitan Opera the following season. Also at The Metropolitan Opera, Philippe Augin conducted her performance of The Duchess of Parma in Peter Mussbach’s production of Doktor Faust by the German-Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni. Additionally she performed the Fourth Maid in Elektra under the baton of James Levine. At the Lyric Opera of Chicago she performed the role of The Overseer in Götz Friedrich’s production of Elektra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. She also covered the role of Chrysothemis. Miss Byrne made her debut in The Netherlands as Agave in a concert performance of Egon Wellesz’s Die Bachkantinnen conducted by Edo de Waart at the Concertgebouw and broadcast throughout Europe. Her first appearance in Hansel and Gretel (role of The Mother) was with The Phoenix Symphony. She then performed both roles of The Mother and The Witch in the Frank Corsaro/Maurice Sendak production in her debut in the 2008-09 season at Indianapolis Opera with Jim Caraher conducting. She was invited back later that season to sing the role of Fricka in Das Rheingold in the first ever performances of a Ring Opera in a joint semi-staged production between The Indianapolis Symphony and The Indianapolis Opera. The performances were conducted by the Symphony’s Music Director, Mario Venzago.
Elizabeth Byrne is also internationally recognized for her portrayal of the Italian heroines. As Tosca she has appeared with The Lyric Opera of Chicago in a Frank Galati production which was conducted by Bruno Bartoletti and also with The Israel Philharmonic with performances in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, all conducted by Antonio Pappano. Miss Byrne was also invited to sing Tosca at Scottish Opera in a revival of his own production by Anthony Besch and conducted by Guido Ajmone-Marsan. Her many American appearances as Tosca include productions at Opera Festival of New Jersey (Director: Dejan Miladinoviç. Conductor: Louis Salemno), Opera Omaha (Director: David Gately. Conductor: Hal France), Minnesota Opera ( Director: David Roth. Conductor: John Keenan), Baltimore Opera (Director: John Lehmayer. Conductor: Andrea Licata and Cleveland Opera (Director: David Bamberger. Conductor: Imre Pallo). In Canada she has appeared as Tosca at Calgary Opera. Edmonton Opera and Manitoba Opera. Writing of her performance in Calgary. the critic for The Calgary Herald reviewed her performance: “A true spinto in tone, character and weight of voice. Byrne is clearly a natural for the role and delivers the big moments in the famous second act with gripping intensity and power. The famous “Vissi d’arte” was geniunely moving and the emotional highlight it was meant to be.” She performed both Elena and Margarita in Boito’s Mefistofele in the Robert Carsen production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She made her debut in Italy as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth at Il Teatro di Giuseppe Verdi in Pisa in a production directed by Patrizia Grazis and conducted by Claudio Desderi which was also performed in Mantua and Livorno. Her fIrst performance of the title-role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut were seen at Baltimore Opera in a production directed by James de Blasis and conducted by Joseph Rescigno and were followed by performances of the Bruce Donnell production at the Canadian Opera Company conducted by Maurizio Arena. Arizona Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances as Maddalena di Coigny in Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, Austin Lyric Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West and Welsh National Opera audiences enjoyed her first performances of the title-role of Aïda. The soprano has since performed Aïda with the Portland Opera (OR) in a production directed by General Director, Robert Bailey and conducted by Music Director, Louis Salemno.
An excellent musician, Elizabeth Byrne is noted for her performances of contemporary operas as well. In addition to Doktor Faust at The Metropolitan, Miss Byrne gave the world premiere performances of the role of Blanca in James Macmillan’s opera Inés de Castro at The Edinburgh Festival. The work was also performed in Glasgow and Oporto, Portugal. Jonathan Moore directed The Scottish Opera production which was conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong and broadcast on BBC-TV. The Sunday Express described her performance: ‘In her tour de force aria, Elizabeth Byrne (Blanca, Pedro’s spurned wife) had the audience captivated and horrified by her magnificently sung, terrifying account of marital rape, torture and miscarriage. Undoubtedly the highlight each night”. Her American debut was performing and recording the leading role of the Stepdaughter in Hugo Weisgall’s Six Characters in Search of an Author with the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists. It was followed by her appearance as The Pale Lady in Prokofieff’s The Gambler which was conducted by Bruno Bartoletti. Miss Byrne also made her Tulsa Opera debut singing the role of Abigail Williams in Robert Ward’s The Crucible in performances conducted by Music Director Carol Crawford and attended by the Composer.
In concert, the soprano has performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 at The Royal Albert Hall and Shostakovitch’s Symphony No. 14 at Canada’s National Arts Center conducted by Pinchas Zuckerman. Elizabeth Byrne made her Avery Fisher Hall debut performing Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Leon Botstein and The American Symphony Orchestra. She has performed The Verdi Requiem with The Alabama Symphony with Sam Wong and The Greensboro Symphony (NC) with Stewart Molina. She has performed Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with the Symphony Orchestras of Utah (with Joseph Silverstein), Seattle (with Gerard Schwarz), Richmond (with George Manahan) and South Bend Symphony (IN) (with Tsung-Yeh). She has appeared in Opera Highlights concerts at The Buxton Festival and at The Prague Festival , with the New Seoul Symphony in Korea, The Rochester Philharmonic (with Sir Mark Elder), the Fort Wayne Symphony (with Edvard Tchivel) and with the Northwest Indiana Symphony. Miss Byrne also sang The Final Scene from Capriccio with Canadian Opera Music Director Richard Bradshaw in a concert featuring the final works of Richard Strauss. Her first performances of The Liebestod by Richard Wagner were with The Valdosta Symphony.
Future engagements in 2010 include the new role of Herodias in Salome with The Minnesota Opera and The Mother in Hansel and Gretel with The Portland Opera. She returns to The Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2011 to cover the role of Ortrud in Lohengrin and also in 2012 to sing The Overseer and cover the title role in their new David McVicar production of Elektra. Both these productions will be conducted by The Music Director, Sir Andrew Davis. Starting in September, 2010 Miss Byrne will join the Vocal Faculty as an adjunct teacher at DePaul University.
Elizabeth Byrne was born in Lancashire, England and is a permanent resident of The United States of America. She lives in Chicago with her husband, James.