Born in South Wales, contralto HILARY SUMMERS studied at Reading University, the Royal Academy of Music, and the National Opera studio. She has recorded over 40 CDs, spanning works from the early Baroque period to the present day and has sung in most of the major concert halls and opera houses of the world.
Her three-octave range has excited the attention of many composers. She has sung in numerous world premieres, including George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at the Bastille in Paris, Elliott Carter’s What Next at the Staatsoper in Berlin, Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Péter Eötvös’ Le Balcon at the Aix Festival, and Facing Goya and War Work by Michael Nyman.
Summers worked closely with the iconic composer and conductor Pierre Boulez from 2004. With the Ensemble Intercontemporain, they recorded his masterwork Le marteau sans maître, for which she won a Grammy, and performed the piece worldwide. She also performed Le visage nuptial, Stravinsky’s Les noces, and Ligeti’s Aventures and Aventures nouvelles under his inspirational baton.
A regular soloist with leading European period instrument ensembles, she has a close rapport with Christian Curnyn and the Early Opera Company, with whom she has recorded Handel’s Semele, Partenope, Flavio, Serse, and Il trionfo del tempo. Other past Baroque highlights include Handel’s Orlando (Medoro in Robert Carson’s production with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants), Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Sorceress in Deborah Warner’s production with Les Arts Florissants), and Handel’s Admeto (Trasimede with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques at the Sydney Opera House).
Hilary sings internationally on the concert platform in a variety of repertoire from Bach to Birtwistle and has given over one hundred performances of Handel’s Messiah. Other favorite concert works include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, and Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3.
Operatic roles include Sorceress; Juno; Cornelia; Polinesso; Amadigi; Tisbe (La Cenerentola); Gaea (Daphne); Geneviève (Pelléas); Baba the Turk/Mother Goose; Hippolyta; Mrs. Sedley; Bianca; Mescalina (Le Grand Macabre); Tiger Lily/Mrs. Darling (Peter Pan); and Miss Prism.
Soundtracks include The Claim and The Libertine by Michael Nyman, The Fellowship of the Ring by Howard Shore, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Son of Rambo, and the BBC TV series The League of Gentlemen by Joby Talbot.
Highlights and future engagements include the roles of Dormouse, White Queen, and Cook in the world premiere of Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group under Thomas Adès; Diana Orsini in Ginastera’s Bomarzo at the Teatro Real, Madrid; and Boulez’ Le visage nuptial with the ORF Radiosymphonie Orchestra at the Wiener Konzerthaus.