Bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams enjoys a vibrant career on both the opera and concert stage. He is graced with a vocal versatility that allows him to present a repertoire ranging from the classics of Bach, Gluck, Handel, and Mozart through to more recent masters such as Britten, Debussy, Stravinsky, and Wagner with equal confidence.
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 a unanimously praised debut as Telramund in Wagner’s Lohengrin under esteemed conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the Festival de Lanaudière, a role that he repeated at La Monnaie under Alain Altinoglu last season. A subsequent portrayal of Captain Balstrode in Christoph Loy’s divisive new 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 also further enhanced a highly regarded operatic profile. Foster-Williams’ dramatic capacity has earned the respect of many of the most acclaimed 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, recent roles include Golaud (Pelléas et Mélisande), his debut as Escamillo in Kasper Holten’s spectacular staging of Carmen on the floating stage in Bregenz, 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 under the baton of Music Director Marc Minkowski. As a regular guest on the Opéra français series on the Palazzetto Bru Zane label, recent CD releases include Joncières’ Dimitri, Gounod’s Cinq-Mars and Saint-Saën’s Proserpine, winner of Best Opera 2018 at the International Classical Music Awards.
Boasting an extensive discography, commercial releases include Beethoven’s Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II with the San Francisco Symphony (Tilson Thomas) released on SFSMedia, and most recently The Seasons with the Gabrieli Consort and Players (McCreesh) released on Signum which was shortlisted for the 2017 Grammophone Awards. Performances captured on DVD include the Gramophone Award winning The Fairy Queen with Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Christie).
An impressive line-up of concert invitations has taken Andrew Foster-Williams to major stages with 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 London Symphony Orchestra with the late Sir Colin Davis. Foster-Williams offers a concert repertoire as diverse as it is broad which includes Bach’s Matthäus-Passion and Johannes-Passion, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, Britten’s War Requiem, Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Mahler’s Symphony No.8, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.
In the current season Andrew Foster-Williams makes two role debuts, as Lysiart in Christoph Loy’s new production of Euryanthe at Theater an der Wien conducted by Constantin Trinks, and as Kurnewal in a new production of Tristan und Isolde at La Monnaie under Altingolu. He also returns to the role of Golaud, this time at Theater Basel under Erik Nielsen. On the concert platform he can be heard in Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko, in The Seasons with London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski and in semi-staged performances of Roméo et Juliette with Orquestra Gulbenkian under Lorenzo Viotti.
Highlights of the 2018-19 season include a new production by Christoph Loy of Weber’s Euryanthe at Theater an der Wien (Lysiart) conducted by Constantin Trinks, a new production by Barbora Horáková Joly of Pelléas et Mélisande (Golaud) at Theater Basel led by Erik Nielsen, and a new production of Tristan und Isolde (Kurwenal) at La Monnaie directed by Ralf Pleger under the baton of Alain Altinoglu. On the concert stage, Andrew Foster-Williams joins Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic for Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra for Haydn’s The Seasons, and Lorenzo Viotti and the Gulbenkian Orchestra for semi-staged performances of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.
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 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 Schubert Winterreise or the joyous excitement of playing such wonderful characters as Telramund in Lohengrin, Méphistophélès in La damnation de Faust, 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.