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Canadian soprano and pianist Rachel Fenlon is redefining what it means to curate one's own recital.
Canadian soprano and pianist Rachel Fenlon proves that innovation and tradition do not have to be in conflict. In her project Fenlon & Fenlon, she draws on the Romantic-era tradition of accompanying oneself on the piano in domestic contexts such as the salon. The trained pianist and opera singer has developed programmes that stand out from the traditional song canon while at the same time referring back to it.
Her interpretations of composers such as George Crumb, Benjamin Britten, Arnold Schönberg, and Philip Glass, as well as the repertoire of Franz Schubert and Alma Mahler, have a particular radiance. The project has been received enthusiastically at Vancouver Opera as well as festivals such as Oxford Lieder, Toronto Summer Music, and the Settimane Musicali di Ascona.
Valued for her dazzling, flexible soprano, her curiosity and courage to experiment, Rachel Fenlon is an ideal interpreter of works by contemporary composers such as Sofia Gubaidulina, Unsuk Chin, Samy Moussa, and Marco Stroppa. Works written specially for her form an increasing part of her repertoire, including pieces by Matthias McIntire or Danika Loren.
|B. BRITTEN/ H. PURCELL||Music for a while|
|F. SCHUBERT||An die Nachtigall|
|Des Fischers Liebesglück|
|Gretchen am Spinnrade|
|J. CAGE||The wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs|
|B. BRITTEN||The Last Rose of Summer (Folk Songs)|
|I. The Night in Silence under Many A Star|
|Vocalise 1: Summer Sounds|
|II. When Lilacs In The Dooryard Bloomd|
|III. Dark Mother Always Gliding Near With Soft Feet|
|Vocalise 2: Invocation|
|IV. Approach Strong Deliveress!|
|Vocalise 3: Death Carol (Song of the Nightbird)|
|V. Come Lovely and Soothing Death|
|VI. The Night in Silence under Many a Star|
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|A. MAHLER||1910 Songs:|
|Die Stille Stadt|
|In Meines Vaters Garten|
|Bei dir ist es Traut|
|Ich wandle unter Blumen|
|J. CAGE||A Flower|
|O. MESSIAEN||Trois Mélodies:|
|La Fiancée Perdue|
|A. SCHOENBERG||Cabaret Songs:|
|Der genügsame Liebhaber|
|Jedem das Seine|
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|a dream: the path in the field|
|roses in the mountains|
|a field in the winter|
|and the roses are dying|
|G. LIGETI||Der Sommer|
|P. GLASS||Songs from Liquid Days:|
|Open the Kingdom|
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Raised on the west coast of Canada, Berlin-based soprano and pianist Rachel Fenlon is dedicated to performing song recitals, chamber music, and opera, in addition to creating and commissioning new music. Accompanying herself on piano and performing under the name Fenlon & Fenlon, she gives frequent song recitals featuring repertoire ranging from George Crumb to Franz Schubert, Benjamin Britten, Arnold Schoenberg, and Philip Glass alongside world premieres.
Rachel Fenlon began her professional career at Vancouver Opera as a young artist and went on to perform numerous leading roles with the company: Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), and most recently, Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro). Rachel Fenlon has also performed leading roles with Pacific Opera Victoria as Nannetta (Falstaff) and Queen Guinevere (Camelot); Ensemble Nylandia as Galatea (Acis and Galatea); the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as Lisa (Das Land des Lächelns), and with the Bard on the Beach Festival as Mimi (La Boheme). An avid chamber musician and recitalist, she has performed at the Toronto Summer Music Festival, the Oxford Lieder Festival, the Canadian Broadcasting Company Studios, Bristol Song Recitals, Klassik @ Stone Berlin, and the Vancouver International Song Institute, amongst others. Additionally, Rachel Fenlon has been a three-time resident at the Lunenburg Academy in Nova Scotia as a singer, and, in 2018/19, as the guest soprano performing world premieres commissioned especially for its acclaimed contemporary music festival, at which she has also participated as a composer.
Last year, she made her debut at Oper Leipzig, in a solo recital with pianist Ugo D'Orazio, and returned to Vancouver Opera as a guest artist in two self-accompanied solo recitals, which catapulted a series of highly successful solo performances of George Crumb's Apparition as well as a solo show featuring Alma Mahler, Benjamin Britten's On This Island, Franz Schubert, and John Cage within Canada and the UK. Rachel’s 2019/20 season highlights include self-accompanied performances at the National SAW Gallery in Ottawa, at several venues in the US, and at PODIUM Festival Matadapera/Catalonia, as well as a self-accompanied performance at the Viennese series Late Night Liederabend Vienna, performing in an all-Schubert programme to celebrate the composer's birthday. She also performed a recital with pianist Leslie Dala at the Canadian Music Centre, featuring Messiaen's Poèmes Pour Mi and Samy Moussa's Ahania's Lament, and performed Susanne Stelzenbach's Licht at the GEDOK Festival Berlin. In October 2020, she sings a self-accompanied recital at Settimane Musicali di Ascona.
Rachel Fenlon has an ongoing collaboration with the composer Matthias McIntire, with whom she is co-creating a song cycle for voice, piano and electronics; she will perform the world premiere in autumn 2020. This season sees the duo taking part in several residencies: at the New Music for Strings Festival, run by the Emerson String Quartet in Reykjavik, Iceland, at Avaloch Farms Music Residency in New Hampshire, and at the Lunenburg Academy, where the two have been invited as guest performers in the New Music Festival in June 2020.
Rachel Fenlon began playing the piano from age five, and singing at age 17; she brought her long-time dream of singing and accompanying herself in classical songs together in 2017, performing her first liederabend from the piano in an all-Schubert recital debut in Toronto and subsequently performing this show in Europe, while beginning to curate varying programmes in which she could accompany herself -- from Schubert to Schumann, Alma Mahler to Britten, Ravel, George Crumb, and John Cage. She attended Malcolm Martineau's Programme for Song at Crear in Scotland as a singer and pianist, as well as the Oxford Lieder Festival Mastercourse, performing as a self-accompanied singer at both festivals.
Rachel Fenlon holds bachelor´s and master´s degrees in Opera Performance from the University of British Columbia. She has studied singing under Nancy Hermiston, Judith Forst, and Neil Semer; piano with May Ling Kwok at the Victoria Conservatory of Music; and composition with Stephen Brown, alongside short periods of study with Dinuk Wijerhatne and Marco Stroppa as a composition resident. In 2017, Rachel Fenlon co-founded a chamber-music series, the Ricasoli Recitals in Milan.
This biography is to be reproduced without any changes, omissions or additions, unless expressly authorised by the artist management.
It’s a fun way to experience the music. Rachel is a very decent singer and a really good pianist and above all a thoughtful and creative musician.
Operaramblings.blog, 1 August 2020
Fenlon doesn’t merely sing and play the piano during Crumb’s contemporary piece, which is fused with Walt Whitman’s poem When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d — she immerses herself fully in to the performance, losing herself for stretches at a time.
Times Colonist, Mike Devlin, 9 January 2020
A delicately portrayed Pamina (…) This young artist's vocal skills should take her anywhere she wants to go.
Opera Canada 2017