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“Show stealing force”

— Washington Post

Bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams enjoys a vibrant career on both the opera and concert stage, and possesses vocal versatility that allows him to present repertoire ranging from the classics of Bach, Gluck, Handel and Mozart through to more recent masters such as Britten, Debussy, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Wagner.

Andrew Foster-Williams’ career, initially built on his strong Baroque credentials, has in recent seasons found a new dramatic direction with successes as Pizarro (Fidelio) at Theater an der Wien and Philharmonie de Paris, and an unanimously praised debut as Telramund in Wagner’s Lohengrin under esteemed conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the Festival de Lanaudière. A subsequent portrayal of Captain Balstrode in Christoph Loy’s divisive production of Peter Grimes at Theater an der Wien, alongside acclaimed performances as Nick Shadow (The Rake’s Progress), Donner (Das Rheingold) and Gunther (Götterdämmerung) have further enhanced an already highly regarded operatic profile. Recent role debuts as Lysiart in Christof Loy’s new staging of Euryanthe at Theater an der Wien under Constantin Trinks and as Kurnewal in Tristan und Isolde at La Monnaie under Alain Altinoglu highlight a dramatic capacity that has earned the respect of many stage directors as he “holds the attention of the audience with the energy of someone who has great experience, and with sensational vocal ability, which he uses with total freedom…” (Opéra).

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Highly praised for his facility in the French operatic repertoire, recent roles include Golaud (Pelléas et Mélisande), Nilakantha (Lakmé) for Münchner Rundfunkorchester, as well as specially curated performances at Opéra National de Bordeaux to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes and featuring music from Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée and Massenet’s Don Quichotte. During the 2020/21 season he appeared as the Four Villains in a new production of Les contes d’Hoffmann in his house debut at Opernhaus Zürich, conducted by Antonino Fogliani. As a regular guest on the Opéra français series of the Palazzetto Bru Zane label, recent CD releases include Joncières’ Dimitri, Gounod’s Cinq-Mars, Saint-Saëns’ Proserpine, winner of Best Opera 2018 at the International Classical Music Awards and, most recently, Gounod’s Faust, winner of the Opera of the 19th Century category at the Opus Klassik 2020 awards.

An impressive line-up of concert invitations has taken Andrew Foster-Williams to the most celebrated orchestras and conductors of our day. These include The Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst, Salzburg Mozarteum with Ivor Bolton, San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Richard Egarr, Hong Kong Philharmonic under Edo de Waart and the Gulbenkian Orchestra with Lorenzo Viotti. Foster-Williams offers a concert repertoire as diverse as it is broad which includes Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, Britten’s War Requiem, Schönberg’s Gurrelieder, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and Mahler’s Symphony No.8. “Foster-Williams opened the bass-baritone line not like a pompous oratorio singer but like a character in an opera – speaking to the audience, drawing us in, making the words mean something” (The Washington Post).

Opera highlights of the 2021/22 season include his debut as Jochanaan in Christoph Loy’s staging of Salome at Finnish National Opera under Hannu Lintu. There will also be performances of The Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann in Barrie Kosky’s staging at the Komische Oper Berlin, conducted by Alevtina Ioffe, and he returns to Theater an der Wien for Peter Grimes, under the baton of Thomas Guggeis. Concerts include Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Jun Märkl and also with Richard Egarr and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Handel L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato with Les Arts Florissants under William Christie at Philharmonie de Paris, and Dvorak Stabat mater with the Lahti Symphony under Anja Bihlmaier and Sibelius’ In the Stream of Life under Dalia Stasevska.

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BEGINNINGS

It’s not only in film scripts that chance encounters change lives, for it was one such life-changing twist of fate that first set me on the road to becoming a Classical musician.

As with many people, my first experience of music performance was at school. It was Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, and, at the tender age of 15, I must have been the youngest ever Grand Inquisitor!

In the audience that night was Roy Dillon, a highly respected local music teacher. After the show Roy came backstage to congratulate me and insisted that I should immediately begin music lessons. My parents were incredibly emotionally supportive of whatever I wanted to achieve, but not in a million years could they have financially afforded such lessons, and at the time I had my mind set on becoming a doctor or a mathematician. When I explained this to Roy, he told me that he believed so much in my talent and potential, that he would teach me himself and that the lessons would be totally free of charge.

My curiosity took over, and that's how it all started. For half of each lesson we concentrated on singing practice and for the other half Roy taught me how to read music. Gradually mathematics was set aside, and music became my great passion.

One man's insight, and generosity of time and spirit, changed my entire life. Without it, I might never have known the complex beauty of singing a Bach Passion or a contemporary opera or the joyous excitement of playing such wonderful characters as the Villains in Les contes d'Hoffmann, Jochanaan in Salome, or Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande. To be involved in the process of making such exquisite music is an immense pleasure and a great honour.

Shortly before I found out that I'd gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London - where I went on to spend six happy years - Roy died, at the ridiculously early age of 39, after an all too brief battle with cancer. He never got to know how his simple act of kindness so profoundly changed my life, but I’d like to think that his legacy is somewhere there in every single note I've sung since.