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.
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 cycles ‘of you’ at Carnegie Hall by American mezzo soprano Jamie Barton and ‘These Motley Fools’ at Wigmore Hall by countertenor Lawrence Zazzo. Bell’s Concert Ayre ‘A Litany in Time of Plague’, a commission from the Munich Opera Festival for chamber orchestra and mezzo soprano, received its first performance in July 2015. ‘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.
World Premieres in the 2018/19 season include ‘Aurora: Concerto for Coloratura Soprano’ at the BBC Proms with Zaharia and the RLPO, the orchestral song cycle ‘The Hidden Place’ with Damrau and the LSO conducted by Maestro Gianandrea Noseda at the Barbican and Enescu Festival and his fourth opera ‘Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel’ at ENO with a cast including Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock, Lesley Garrett, Marie McLaughlin, Natalya Romaniw, Janis Kelly and Alan Opie, conducted by Martyn Brabbins. Summer 2019 will see the world premiere of his fifth opera ‘Stonewall’ at New York City Opera, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
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