The Liverpool-born mezzo Jennifer Johnston studied Law at Cambridge and worked as a barrister before taking postgraduate vocal studies at the Royal College of Music , where her roles included Mrs Herring (directed by Sir Thomas Allen). Shortly after graduation she became a BBC New Generation Artist and made her professional debut with Scottish Opera in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, as well as co-founding The Prince Consort (with whom she has recorded songs by Brahms, Stephen Hough, and Ned Rorem) with pianist Alisdair Hogarth. Johnston’s regular collaborators include Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the pianist Joseph Middleton, and she has a particularly close relationship with the Bayerische Staatsoper, where she debuted in 2013; her roles there have included Hedwige Guillaume Tell, Flosshilde, Rossweise and Zweite Norn Der Ring des Nibelungen, and La Ciesca Gianni Schicchi.
Johnston is also renowned for her work in contemporary music, with recordings and engagements including Lady Hautdesert in Birtwistle’s Gawain, Pasqualita on John Adams’s Grammy-nominated Doctor Atomic, and the world premiere recordings of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Beowulf and One Life Stand. Her discography also includes Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with Sir John Eliot Gardiner (shortlisted for a Gramophone Award in 2014), Jocaste in Stravinsky’s Oedip[us Rex (also with Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra), and the first recording of Anthony Payne’s arrangement of Vaughan Williams’s Four Last Songs with Martyn Brabbins
Further Reading: Jennifer Johnston
The mezzo talks to Katherine about her eclectic tribute to her home city, released last month on Rubicon and featuring music by Ives, Bantock, The Beatles, The Spinners, and seven young Liverpool composers.