SYLVIA O'BRIEN SOPRANO
This Dublin-born soprano possesses a voice of great quality and has established herself as a performer of renown in many genres of vocal repertoire. Ms O’Brien began her musical journey at the age of six in the College of Music Chatham Row, as it was known, studying piano and theory. Later, during her time at Trinity College Dublin where she read music, Sylvia continued her piano studies while singing at where she became Choral Scholar of the Trinity Chapel Choir. She later became scholar at Christ Church Cathedral. It wasn't until she began deputising with the National Chamber Choir in 1996 (full-time 1998-2003) that she thought to make a career in singing and began studying voice with Irene Sandford at the Royal Irish Academy of Music Dublin. During which time she was recipient of many awards, bursaries and scholarships. After reaching the semi-final of the Belvedere International Singing Competition in 2003, Sylvia moved to Vienna for a period of two years and studied with Mimi Freissler and Peter Woss. After her successful debut performance of the Governess in The Turn of the Screw in 2004 with Opera Theatre Company, she was asked to perform the same role in England at the Buxton Festival. She subsequently began working with English Touring Opera in 2006 for two years, performing various roles. Ms O’Brien has attributed her solid technical foundation to her father Frank O’Brien (baritone) who has continually coached her over the years.
OPERA: Ms O’Brien made her operatic debut as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw with Opera Theatre Company in 2004. The same year she took part in the Buxton Festival with English Touring Opera in The Turn of the Screw as well as performing with Opera Ireland as Barena in Janacek’s Jenufa. In 2005 she premiered and recorded the role of Gabriel in the concert première of Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant with The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (conductor Gerhard Markson) and in 2006 performed Morton Feldman’s Neither (conductor Stefan Ashbury). She has also sung Konstanze (Die Entführung) and Grafin (Der Wiener Bluthe) with English Touring Opera, Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro) with Opera Theatre Company), Zerlina Don Giovanni (Opera2005), Aspasia/Mitridate (Opera in the Open), Despina (Cosi Fan Tutte) under Kenneth Montgomery in Dublin and Mabel (Pirates of Penzance) with the Rathmines & Rathgar Musical Society. She has recorded the title role for Wexford Opera Festival’s production of Martinu’s Mirandolina. In 2012 Ms O’Brien made her debut concert performance in the title role of Turandot which she revisited in 2020. Sylvia premiered the dynamic POP-UP OPERA performances of The Things We Throw Away (2015) and The Oldest Woman in Limerick (2016) both composed by Brian Irvine. More recently, Sylvia has performed has added the roles of Anne Truelove (A Rake's Progress) 2018, Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) 2019, Lucia (Lucia di Lammermor) (2019), Turandot (2020) and Fiordiligi (Cosi Fan Tutte) 2021 and Tosca 2022.
CONTEMPORARY: Sylvia O’Brien’s specialist vocal and interpretative skills have established her as a leading interpreter of contemporary music having performed numerous prestigious international premieres as well as works by many composers who have written specifically for her voice. She has collaborated with many composers most notably the Irish composer's Seóirse Bodley, Raymond Deane, Siobhán Cleary and Benjamin Dwyer, with whom she has performed on many occasions. She is a founding membe of the Irish Sinfonietta Evlana which was founded by Irish composer Siobhan Cleary. Selected works by Morton Feldman, Luigi Nono, Tristan Keuris, Gerald Barry, Louis Andriessen, Brian Irvine, Manos Tsangaris, Seóirse Bodley, Ian Wilson, Kevin O’Connell, Raymond Deane, Siobhain Cleary and Benjamin Dwyer. She was a resident performer at the Malkovich International Composers Competition in 2002 and since has performed with many leading contemporary ensembles. She sang the Irish premiere of Here (in circles) by Michel van der Aa with the Crash Ensemble conducted by Alan Pierson and Porat songs with the Nieuw European Ensemble in the Netherlands. In 2014, she performed the Irish premiere of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Nicolas Cleobury.
She has performed Irish and Finnish premiere of the one act opera Neither by Morton Feldman with the Helsinki Philhamonic (conducted by Dmitry Slobodeniuk) and the National Symphony of Ireland premiere under conductor Stefan Asbury. In September 2008 she premiered a new work by Joseph Phibbs Silence at the Song’s End for soprano and string quartet, at the Jubilee Hall Aldeburgh. Also the premiere of Gerard Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Gabriel). She will perform the work Apparition at the New Music Dublin festival with the Evlana ensemble.
Recent performances include Brian Irvine's Things We Throw Away* (Wide Open Opera 2014), Siobhán Cleary's Ondine and Her kind* (Evlana Ensemble 2015), Raymond Deane's Siberia* (2017), Saariaho's Changing Light** (Evlana Ensemble 2018), Kevin O'Connell's Aves de Paso (Hard Rain Ensemble/New Music Dublin/2020), Raymond Deane's Tristia (Evlana Ensemble/New Music Dublin/2021), Cleary's Dole of the Kings's Daughter and Liandáin (Carducci Quartet/Great Irsh Houses/2022), Lament for the Poets (Doherty/Sonoro String Quartet/2022), Cleary/Perry/Saariaho (Evlana Ensemble Tour 2022)
RECITAL: As a regular recitalist, chamber collaborations include the Solstice Quartet, Vogler Ensemble, the Clara Schumaan Trio and the Grieg Piano Trio, Triocca . She has performed at the West Cork Music Festival (Bantry House), St. Barrahane’s Music Festival Castletownsend, the Vogler Festival with the Grieg Piano Trio and the Vogler Ensemble and at the White Crow Music Festival Leiden, The Netherlands with the Nieuw European Ensemble. She toured John Tavener’s To a dancing child in the Wind with the Triocca ensemble and Shostakovich's Seven Romances on Verses by A. Blok with the Syrius Trio at Carnegie Hall, New York. She has performed a number of times with composer and pianist Seóirse Bodley, most recently in a new work written for her by Seóirse Bodley for voice and piano, text by Séamus Heaney, at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. She performs regularly in recital with Russian pianist Hanna Shybayeva (www.hannashybayeva.com) and performed Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death at the Russian Embassy in the Hague, April 2012.
CONCERT: Concerts include Mozart’s Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gobots with the NDR Radio Philharmonie, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle conducted by Celso Antunes, Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the Orchestra of St.Cecilia conducted by David Agler, Bach's St John Passion on tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Stephen Layton, Mozart’s C minor Mass and Requiem in the Mozart Festival with the Orchestra of St.Cecilia conducted by Kenneth Montgomery, Verdi’s Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by David Milne, Britten’s Les Illuminations with the Evlana Chamber Ensemble and Les Nuits d’Ete by Berlioz with the Goois Symfonie Orkest and Zuid Hollands Symfonie Orkest and Poemes de l’Amour et de la Mer with the Goois Symfonie Orkest in Hilversum. In 2013, she performed her Concertgebouw Amsterdam debut, singing Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 and the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. She performed Symphony No 14 by Shostakovich with the Magogo Kamerorkest, Tilburg, Nono’s Il Canto Sospeso with the Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi conducted by Francesco Maria Colombo.