England: Ben Johnson

Tenor - born 1983

Audience Prize winner

Ben Johnson studied with Neil Mackie and Tim Evans-Jones at the Royal College of Music and now continues as a student of Jeffrey Talbot. He won the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 2008, was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist 2010 – 2012 and is currently an ENO Harewood Artist and a Wigmore Hall Emerging Talent.

Recent opera engagements include: Nemorino The Elixir of Love for English National Opera, Bénédict Béatrice et Bénédict for Chelsea Opera Group, Novice Billy Budd at Glyndebourne and Copland’s The Tender Land at Opéra de Lyon. Ben has sung Samson with the English Concert at the BBC Proms, Mozart Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Rückert Lieder with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Haydn Paukenmesse in Rotterdam.

In recital Ben has worked with Graham Johnson at the Wigmore Hall. In 2011/12, he sang Britten Canticles at deSingel, Antwerp, with Roger Vignoles and he has recorded them with James Baillieu.

Highlights in 2012/13 season include Don Ottavio and Alfredo La traviata at ENO and Tippett A Child of Our Time with the LPO.

Ben is the Co-Artistic Director of the Southrepps Classical Music Festival in Norfolk.

  • Song Prize finalist
  • Audience Prize winner

Song Prize Final repertoire

Sonetto XVI (7 sonnets of Michelangelo) - Britten

Britten set these sonnets, by the Renaissance artist, Michelangelo, for Peter Pears in 1940. This is the first in the set and describes three styles in art – high, medium and low – according to how the piece is fashioned. Similarly, there are three conditions for love - and these are pride, sorrow and grief.

O might these sighes and teares (Holy sonnets of John Donne) – Britten

The narrator laments the time and effort he devoted to mourning his loss which he has come to realises was a waste of time. Now he is caught in a vicious circle because he feels that his foolishness is a subject for mourning.

Sonett I (D628) – Schubert

This is a setting of a Petrarch sonnet, translated into German by Schlegel. It is a prayer to the god Apollo, that he should restore health to his beloved.

No longer mourn for me when I am dead (Shakespeare Sonnets) – Parry

The narrator loves his sweetheart so much that he does not want her to be unhappy when he dies. He would rather she forgot him completely than suffer grief at his passing. As his body decays, her love should die too, so that her mourning should not be mocked.

I vidi terra angelici costumi (3 sonetti di Petrarca) – Liszt

‘I see on earth angelic grace’ he tells his beloved. Her heavenly beauty is unmatched and he rejoices in her happiness and suffers when she is in pain; Her eyes outshine the sun and her sorrow moves mountains and halts flowing rivers; Everything about her combines in total harmony and sweetness fills the air.

 

Song prize recital four repertoire

An die Leier (Op 56 No 2) – Schubert

Orpheus with his lute - Vaughan Williams

Le dromadaire (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

La chèvre du Thibet (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

La sauterelle (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

Le dauphin (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

L'écrevisse (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

La carpe (Le bestiaire, Cortège d'Orphée) – Poulenc

Anakreons Grab (Goethe-Lieder) – Wolf

To Gratiana dancing and singing - W. Denis Browne

Concert four repertoire

Innosservato, penetrava...Angelo casto e bel (Il duca d'Alba) – Donizetti

Donizetti died before completing ‘The Duke of Alba’, which was finished by his pupil, Matteo Salvi. This aria is in fact by Salvi, not Donizetti, and was first performed in 1882. Marcello, the long-lost son of the Duke of Alba, is in love with Amelia, daughter of Egmont, leader of the Flemish rebellion against Spain. Egmont has been killed by the Duke and, in a tragic bid to avenge her father's death she fatally stabs her lover. As he lies dying, he sings of his love for her.

Ah! Je vais l'aimer (Béatrice et Bénédict) – Berlioz

Bénédict has overheard a conversation which seems to indicate that Béatrice has fallen in love with him. He decides to return her love: as he says in Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, “Love me! Why, it must be requited … I will be horribly in love with her.”

Adoration (Orchestral song) – Bridge

Bridge first set Keats’s poem Asleep! in 1905, revising it in 1918, when he orchestrated the accompaniment and changed the song’s name. The poem formed part of a group called ‘Extracts from an opera’ and the poet sings of his adoration for his lost love.

Avete torto…Firenze è come un albero fiorito (Gianni Schicchi) – Puccini

Rinuccio is in love with Lauretta, Gianni Schicchi's daughter. His relatives berate him for contemplating marriage to the daughter of an ignorant upstart peasant, but Rinuccio says they are wrong, that Schicchi is clever and knows the law and can help them with the problem of a relative's will. He sings that Florence is like a tree in flower, drawing its strength from far-flung roots.

Clips