About page of British Soprano, Sarah Leonard
Sarah Leonard is one of Britain's most respected and versatile sopranos. She was born in Winchester and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. She has a wide repertoire with a particular interest in contemporary music and has appeared throughout the world in major concert halls, opera houses and festivals. She has worked closely with many leading composers including Birtwistle, Boulez, Dusapin, Ferneyhough, Harle, Harvey, Huber, Lachenmann, Ligeti, Nyman and Sciarrino and premiered numerous works. Her 30-plus recordings include a recital series of English Song with Malcolm Martineau, works by Varèse with Chailly and the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Ligeti’s Aventures, Nouvelle Aventures with the Schoenberg Ensemble. She recently recorded a new song cycle by Joe Cutler, In Praise of Dreams, with Stephen Gutman, piano, for NMC, and Throat by John Purser, for voice carnyx and percussion, on his new Bannockburn CD.
She has worked with many leading conductors including Pierre Boulez in Webern’s Cantatas 1 & 2 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and his Improvisations sur Mallarmé, with the Ensemble Intercontemporain. With Michael Tilson Thomas she has performed Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien, San Francisco Symphony, and Krenek’s Die Nachtigall, London Symphony Orchestra, and with Peter Eötvös Ligeti’s Requiem in Holland and London.
In the field of opera her appearances include Dr. Faustus by Giacomo Manzoni at La Scala Milan, Al Gran sole Carico d’Amore Luigi Nono at Hamburg State Opera, Berio’s Laborintus II at the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova, What Next? by Elliott Carter, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, To Be Sung by Pascal Dusapin, Théàtre des Amandiers, Paris, Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern by Helmut Lachenmann in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Paris and Vienna. Contemporary Music Theatre appearances include Dirty Tricks by Paul Barker, London, Down By the Greenwood Side, Harrison Birtwistle, London, Angel Magick by John Harle at the Salisbury Festival and the BBC Proms and Krazy Kat by Joanna Lee at the Tête a Tête Opera Festival.
Sarah has sung with many chamber ensembles including The Ensemble Modern, The Ensemble Recherche, The London Sinfonietta, Endymion Ensemble and Gemini. She has a duo with the cellist Robin Michael, and several new works have been written for them. Sarah has toured extensively with The Hilliard Ensemble, singing and recording the music of Arvo Pärt. She sang with The Michael Nyman Band for over fifteen years, and was featured on Peter Greenaway films The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Prospero’s Books and sings on several Nyman CD’s.
Recent concerts include the UK premiere of Got Lost a major new song cycle written for her and the pianist Rolf Hind, by Helmut Lachenmann, at the Aldeburgh Festival, Elliott Carter’s A mirror on which to dwell with the Northern Sinfonia at The Sage, Gateshead, Edward Lear settings by Alistair Borthwick with the Hull Sinfonia, and The Tyburn Tree tour with John Harle and Marc Almond.
Sarah has given many song recitals throughout the UK, including several in the BMIC’s Cutting Edge series, many at the Poole Lighthouse Centre for the Arts, and at Benslow Music’s Summer Festival. In October 2012 she gave a contemporary American Song recital at The Clothworkers Centenary Hall, Leeds and in 2013 took part in The London Song Festival with Stephen Varcoe accompanied by Nigel Foster.
Recent oratorio performances include Britten’s Cantata Academica, Rossini’s Petitte Messe Solennelle and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, Beethoven Mass in C and Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony.
In 2013 Hull University awarded Sarah Leonard a Degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa for her services to music.
In 2015 Sarah was elected the Chairman of the Association of English Singers and Speakers