Felicity Palmer is renowned for her incisive and powerful interpretations across a remarkably varied repertoire, ranging from Monteverdi to Messiaen. Equally at home on the operatic stage, concert platform and in the recital hall, she brings a musical and dramatic fidelity to every performance, which has earned her a reputation as one of the outstanding British singers of her generation.
Current highlights include critically acclaimed returns to Opéra National de Bordeaux to perform Klytemnestra in Strauss Elektra with Paul Daniel, and to the role of Countess in Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Antonio Pappano. She has also appeared in concert with The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for Tippet's A Child of our Time, at the Concertgebouw, conducted by Christian Curnyn as Sorceress and Spirit in Purcell Dido and Aeneas, and with The Halle under the baton of Edward Gardner in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.
Felicity’s pioneering emphasis on text, and its capacity to transform music, has defined her success as an artist throughout her career. In recent years she has been working to bring this approach to the opera rehearsal process, and her work has contributed to award winning productions at English National Opera (Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, Jenufa, Force of Destiny, Magic Flute, Lulu) and Glyndebourne (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet).
As an operatic mezzo-soprano, her extensive credits includes regular appearances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Elektra, Katya Kabanova, Sweeney Todd), The Metropolitan Opera, New York (The Ring Cycle, Dialogues des Carmélites, Pelléas et Mélisande, The Queen of Spades), Bayerische Staatsoper (Das Rheingold and Die Walküre) as well as work with Zurich, Toulouse, Amsterdam, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris and English National Opera. She has collaborated with many conductors, including James Levine, Sir Simon Rattle, Antonio Papanno, Ricardo Mutti and Zubin Mehta. She has been a regular guest at the BBC Proms and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philharmonia, London Symphony and London Philharmonic.
She started her career as a concert soprano, and during these years she toured Australia for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and collaborated with many artists, including Sir Colin Davis, Rozhdestvensky (Shostakovich Symphony No.14 and The Trojans), Raymond Leppard (with a recording of The Messiah), Sir Charles Mackerras (including a recording of Judas Maccabaeus for DGG) as well as concerts with many of the major orchestras across Europe and North America.
Highlights of her considerable catalogue of recordings include Elektra with the WDR Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov, and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, as well as Dialogues des Carmélites with English National Opera and Paul Daniel. She recorded three celebrated disks of French song for Argo Records with John Constable and the Nash Ensemble, directed by Sir Simon Rattle, and recorded and toured Messiaen’s Poemes pour Mi with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez, in collaboration with the composer.
She was made a CBE in 1993 and a Dame of the British Empire in 2011.
Geneviève Pelléas et Mélisande
Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen
Countess The Queen of Spades (new production)
English National Opera
In a league of her own, the magnificent Palmer was unbelievably believable.
Towering over the whole cast was Dame Felicity Palmer’s Countess. Her mere presence was enough to electrify the Coliseum and her haughty demeanour and powerful voice immediately established her character. The long scene in her bedroom was riveting, mesmerising the auditorium in her delivery of the aria Je crains de lui parler la nuit.
The ‘Oscar’ performance was given by Dame Felicity Palmer… Her Klytemnestra was a marvel of pained, paranoid malevolence.