“Show stealing force”
— Washington Post
Bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams enjoys a vibrant career on both the concert and opera stage, and possesses the vocal versatility and dramatic skill that allows him to present repertoire ranging from the classics of Bach, Gluck, Handel and Mozart through to more recent masters such as Britten, Janáček, Debussy, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Wagner.
Andrew Foster-Williams’ career, initially built on his strong Baroque credentials, has in recent seasons enjoyed debut successes as The Villains in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann in Zürich, Gothenburg, Moscow and Berlin, Don Pizarro in Fidelio at Philharmonie de Paris and Theater an der Wien, and a highly acclaimed portrayal of Captain Balstrode in Christof Loy’s divisive production of Peter Grimes in Vienna, all of which have further enhanced an already highly regarded operatic profile. Recent role debuts as Lysiart in a new staging of Weber's 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).
Highly praised for his facility in the French operatic repertoire, roles have include Golaud Pelléas et Mélisande for Opera Basel, Capulet in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with the Orquestra Gulbenkian under Lorenzo Viotti, concerts at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and an award-winning recording of Gounod's Faust conducted by Christophe Rousset, and Nilakantha Lakmé for Münchner Rundfunkorchester and Laurent Campellone. 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, directed by Andreas Homoki and conducted by Antonino Fogliani. His CD releases of French opera repertoire include Gounod’s Cinq-Mars, Joncières’ Dimitri, Saint-Saëns’ Proserpine (Winner of Best Opera recording 2018 at the International Classical Music Awards) and 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, the Gulbenkian Orchestra with Lorenzo Viotti, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Richard Egarr, Brussels Philharmonic with Kazushi Ono, Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Salzburg Mozarteum with Ivor Bolton, San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, Mostly Mozart Festival New York with Louis Langrée, Hong Kong Philharmonic under Edo de Waart and New York Philharmonic with Jaap van Zweden. Foster-Williams offers a concert repertoire as diverse as it is broad which includes Mendelssohn Elijah (Elias), Britten War Requiem, Haydn The Seasons (Die Jahreszeiten) and The Creation (Die Schöpfung), Elgar The Dream of Gerontius, Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem, Dvořák Stabat Mater, Handel Messiah, Mozart Requiem, Bach St Matthew Passion (Matthäus-Passion) and St John Passion (Johannes-Passion), Beethoven Symphony No.9, Schönberg Gurrelieder, Janáček Glagolitic Mass, Walton Belshazzar's Feast and Mahler 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).
Some opera highlights of this season and next include performances of one of Andrew's signature roles, The Four Villains in Offenbach's Les contes d’Hoffmann in productions in Berlin, Gothenburg, Budapest and Zürich, a role debut as Don Alfono in Mozart's Così fan tutte for Opera New Zealand, a role debut as Mr Flint in Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd conducted by Hannu Lintu, a return to Captain Balstrode in Britten's Peter Grimes, and a return to the roles of Donner in Das Rheingold and Gunther in Götterdämmerung in a new production of Wagner's Ring Cycle at La Monnaie beginning in October 2023 to be conducted by Alain Altinoglu and directed by Romeo Castellucci.
Concerts this season and next include Dvořák Stabat Mater with Kazushi Ono and the Brussels Philharmonic, Bach St Matthew Passion with Nederlands Kamerorkest conducted by Ivor Bolton, Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and Juraj Valčuha, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Dalia Stasevska and Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Handel Alexander's Feast with Riccardo Minasi and Orchestra La Scintilla in Zurich, Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Szczecin Philharmonic under Rune Bergmann, Sibelius’ In the Stream of Life with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Dalia Stasevska, Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Elias) conducted by Richard Egarr, and concerts and a new recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius to be conducted by Paul McCreesh.
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 singer.
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 always 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 mathematician. When I explained this to Roy, he told me that he believed so much in my talent and potential, 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, Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande, or Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress. 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 tragically 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.