Iain Bell

b. 1980

British

Summary

Born in London, Iain Bell is best known for his vocal music (opera and song) and has developed a close artistic relationship with Diana Damrau, for whom he has written various works including the opera A Harlot’s Progress (2013, Theater an der Wien). 

Other notable works include his second opera A Christmas Carol (2014, Houston Grand Opera, starring Jay Hunter Morris and directed by Simon Callow), the orchestral song cycle A Litany in Time of Plague and the chamber song cycles Day Turned into Night, The Undying Splendour and These Motley Fools. His concert works have been performed at venues including Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Munich Opera Festival. 

Recent highlights include a new production of A Christmas Carol, the world premiere of his third opera In Parenthesis (with performances at the Royal Opera House) and the Carnegie Hall commissioned song cycle of you, a setting of e.e. cummings' poetry written for US mezzo Jamie Barton. 

Recent premieres 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 Gianandrea Noseda at the Enescu Festival, his fourth opera Jack the Ripper:The Women of Whitechapel at ENO which included a cast with Dame Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock, Lesley Garrett and Alan Opie, and his fifth opera, Stonewall, at New York City Opera, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
Critical Acclaim
Bell remains true to his modernistic leanings in music that dovetails beautifully with the story’s ghostly format as it creates tension and an evocative aura in an unbroken flow. Yet there is much more to the music than simply atmospheric effect, not least recognisable motifs that recur to create unity. And part of the work’s allure comes from perceiving the gentle shift in musical mood to reflect Scrooge’s new-found humanity without turning saccharine.
***** Financial Times (A Christmas Carol)

A soul-devouring juggernaut, a decomposing, dirty battlefield. Bell shows he can create gentle, lyrical moments, tumultuous structures that build in atmosphere and action scenes which stimulate."
Der Standard (A Harlot's Progress)

Bell writes so fluently and lyrically for the voice and has a fine ear for orchestral sonorities​ - The Telegraph

Bell is writing with thorough knowledge of each of his divas vocal strengths, something you rarely get in opera now. - The Arts Desk

Biography

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 Adela Zaharia in Summer 2017.

Recent premieres 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 Gianandrea Noseda at the Enescu Festival, his fourth opera Jack the Ripper:The Women of Whitechapel at ENO which included a cast with Dame Josephine Barstow, Susan Bullock, Lesley Garrett and Alan Opie, and his fifth opera, Stonewall, at New York City Opera, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

Iain Bell is exclusively published by Chester music, part of Wise Music Group.

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