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Christopher Robson (Counter-tenor)

Born: December 19, 1953 - Falkirk, Scotland

The Scottish singer, Christopher Robson, is today widely regarded as one of the foremost exponents of the counter-tenor voice, with a repertoire ranging from Medieval monody to the Avant-Garde. He studied briefly at the Trinity College of Music in London in 1972-1973. He also studied with 4 Nigel Wickens, James Gaddarn, Paul Esswood and Helga Mott. He took part in master-classes with Peter Pears, Laura Sarti and Geoffrey Parsons. He was winner of the GLAA Competition in 1979 and finalist in Kathleen Ferrier Competition in 1978.

Since his debut in David Freeman’s groundbreaking production of Monteverdi’s L’orfeo with the English National Opera in 1981, Christopher Robson has made a unique contribution to the world of Opera and Music-Theatre, being highly respected for the energy and commitment of his performances as well as his skill as an actor. Over a period of 17 years he won critical acclaim for his performances with the English National Opera, notably in a series of George Frideric Handel operas (including the title role Giulio Cesare, Arsamenes in Xerxes and Polinesso in Ariodante), Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon), and the UK Premieres of Reimann’s Lear (Edgar/Mad Tom) and Philip Glass’s Akhnaten (title role). He has also sung with the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Scottish Opera, Opera North, Glyndebourne Festival and Touring Opera, and the Opera Factory in the UK. In the USA he appeared with the Houston Grand Opera (American premiere Akhnaten), Chicago Lyric Opera and the New York City Opera. Further obligations led him to Sao Paulo Opera in Brazil, to Kiev and Moscow (Bolshoi Theatre), as well as many to numerous European stages.

Christopher Robson has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors (including Claudio Abbado, Gary Bertini, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Roger Norrington, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, Zubin Mehta, Mark Elder, Ivor Bolton, Harry Bicket, Nicholas McGegan, René Jacobs) and stage directors (Richard Jones, Nicholas Hytner, David Freeman, Robert Lehmeier, Willy Decker, Eicke Gramms, Robert Carsen, Leander Hausmann, David Alden, Francisco Negrin, Martin Duncan and David McVicar). He has also appeared in recent years with such orchestras as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, The Academy of Ancient Music, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Münchener Rundfunk, and Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields; in Vienna, Munich, London, Madrid, Berlin and Athens. He made music with the Bach-Kantorei under the baton of Wilfried Schnetzler for the first time in 1992 in the Johannes-Passion (BWV 245) and again in 1994 as David in G.F. Handel’s Saul.

Christopher Robson has performed a good deal of Baroque opera and sacred music. He sang the lead role on Hyperion's critically-acclaimed Artaxerxes (Arne). At home with Handelian opera, he has sung in Athalia with St. James Baroque Players and the Clare College Choir and in a 1996 version of Xerxes, which NPR broadcast from Lyric Opera of Chicago (a role that he reprised with Ivor Bolton). His repertoire also extends to works by contemporary composers who prize his experience and versatility. World Premieres have included the creation of the Angel in John Tavener’s Apocalypse, Claire in John Lunn’s The Maids (an adaptation of Genet’s play of the same name written specially for Christopher and his brother, the tenor Nigel Robson), Ometh in John Casken’s Golem, and the Refugee in Jonathan Dove’s Flight. In concert he has premiered new works by Xavier Dayer, Rene Clemencic, John Tavener, Hans-Jurgen von Bose and Hans Ulrich Lehmann.

Since 1994 Christopher Robson has been a regular Guest Artist with the Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper) in Munich, taking part in productions of G.F. Handel’s Rinaldo (Mago Christiano), Giulio Cesare (title role & Tolomeo), Xerses (Arsamenes), Ariodante (Polinesso), Rodelinda (Unulfo), Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione Di Poppea (Arnalta), Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas (Sorceress) and Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (Orlofsky). In 2002 he played Baba the Turk in a new production of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, and also created a plethora of roles in the World Premiere of Hans-Jürgen von Bose’s Kafka Projekt 12/14 (an adaptation of “Metamorphoses” and letters by Kafka), a “One-Man” opera especially commissioned for him by the Bayerische Staatsoper for the 2002 Opernfestspiele.

Christopher Robson has participated in numerous festivals world-wide. In 1999, with the Swiss pianist Petra Ronner, he instigated a series of annual recitals at the Munich Opera Festival exploring the relationships between Old and New music, bringing to many listeners ears the riches of Medieval dramatic monody for the first time, as well as music of the Baroque, Romantic and Modern eras and new commissions. In 2004 he premiered a new music/theatre piece, Corporalita, in collaboration with the director Martina Veh and the Buhto dancer Yvonne Pouget, further strengthening his artistic ties with Munich.

In 1997 and 2002 Christopher Robson was awarded the Opernfestspiel Preis (the only person ever to have received the award twice in the history of the Munich Opera Festival), and in 2003 was honoured by the Bavarian Minister for Culture with the title of “Bayerische Kammersänger” (KS) in recognition of his work and his contribution to cultural life in Munich.

Christopher Robson has broadcast on radio and television extensively. His discography is extensive and contains both the most important works of the concert as well as the opera literature. He has recorded for Decca, Virgin, Chandos, Farao, EMI, Meridian, Harmonia Mundi etc. include performances of G.F. Handel’s Messiah, Belshazzar, Ezio, Ariodante & Serse, J.S. Bach’s Magnificat (BWV 243), Casken’s Golem, Peter Maxwell Davies Resurrection, Antonio Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus & Gloria, and Monteverdi’s L’orfeo. On DVD he has recorded G.F. Handel’s Xerxes, Ariodante & Rodelinda, Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Purcell’s St. Cecilia Ode 1692, and a compilation of G.F. Handel arias, A Night With Handel. Apart from his commercial recordings of J.S. Bach's vocal works listed below, he did a lot for BBC Radio3 and abroad in 1980's & 1990's.

Source: Bach-Kantorei Website (September, 2000), English translation by Aryeh Oron (August 2001); The (Un)official Countertenor Homepage; The Artist (August 2006)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2001); Christopher Robson (August 2006)

Recordings of Bach & Other Vocal Works




John Eliot Gardiner


Member of Monteverdi Choir:
E-2 (1980):
BWV 4 [1st], BWV 131 [1st]
BWV 245 [1st, 1986]

Philip Pickett


BWV 63, BWV 238, BWV 243a

Philip Pickett


Member of New London Consort:
C-1 (1995):
BWV 63, BWV 238, BWV 243a

Wilfried Schnetzler


BWV 35, BWV 78, BWV 137, BWV 243, BWV 245

Links to other Sites

Christopher Robson (Official Website)
Christopher Robson, Counter-tenor (Bach-Kantorei) [German]

The (Un)official Countertenor Homepage

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Last update: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 01:37