Carolyn Sampson (21 October)
Born in Bedford, the soprano Carolyn Sampson read music at the University of Birmingham, where she performed as a member of Jeffrey Skidmore’s choir Ex Cathedra and won the Arnold Goldsbrough Prize for Baroque performance. This led to an operatic debut with English National Opera, in which she sang Amore in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. Highlights which followed included appearances in Montpellier as Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Adina in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, and the title role in the Boston Early Music Festival production of Lully’s Psyché – a role which she subsequently recorded with the same forces.
Her discography, which is extensive, shows her to be in demand by some of the most illustrious orchestras and conductors among today’s Baroque and Classical practitioners including: the King’s Consort/Robert King (Zelenka sacred music), Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki (Bach cantatas and Mass in B minor, and Mozart’s Mass in C minor), the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly (Bach’s Christmas Oratorio) and the Dunedin Consort/John Butt (Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day). Other colleagues include the conductors Philippe Herreweghe, Trevor Pinnock, Paul McCreesh and Harry Christophers.
Not one to be record-industry type-cast, however, Carolyn Sampson has more recently recorded several recital albums with the pianist Joseph Middleton of early-Romantic and 20th-Century song: Fleurs, a collection of settings by Britten, Richard Strauss, Chabrier and Gounod, A Soprano’s Schubertiade (a collection of Schubert lieder demonstrating that composer’s empathy with women), A Verlaine Songbook (settings of Verlaine by Debussy, Ravel and Fauré) and, with the counter tenor Iestyn Davies, whose visit to Putney Music was one of the highlights of the 2018-19 season, duets by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Quilter. One suspects her potential range is broader still. In an 2015 interview for The Guardian, she named a Boney M. CD as the first recording she bought as a youngster, The Starlight Express as one of her favourite musicals, and declared an ambition to sing duets with George Michael (‘he has a beautiful voice and is a great musician’). Alas, with the singer’s death the following year, that was not to be...but what an enticing prospect it might have been!
Life outside singing includes a determination, if she has a free half-hour in the evening, to play the piano, ‘instead of getting swallowed up by social media’. Reading is also a pleasure. At the time of writing, she is absorbed by Jessica Duchen’s Ghost Variations, a novel surrounding the story of Schumann’s Violin Concerto.