“Born in Tasmania, Bell is globally acclaimed, and for good reason”
Award winning Soprano Allison Bell is a leading performer of 20th and 21st century operatic, orchestral and chamber vocal music, internationally, with a reputation as one of the most exciting vocalists of her generation. An advocate for commissioning and performing new, interdisciplinary works from those under-represented in classical music, Allison champions innovative contemporary music programming and community-based initiatives focussed on democratised access to classical music making. She works closely with many of today’s leading composers, having given world premieres of works by Peter Eötvös, Unsuk Chin, Richard Ayres, Sir John Tavener, Gerald Barry and Brett Dean, amongst others. Noted for her cutting-edge, inter-disciplinary performances, Allison has collaborated with a diverse array of leading artists, including Agnes Varda, Pina Bausch, The Quay Brothers, David Hockney, Michael Haneke, Simon Callow, Anna Chancellor, Dominic West, Chulpan Khamatova, Rufus Norris, Silvio Pucarete, Meow Meow and Zenaida Yanowsky.
Born in Tasmania, Allison studied Music and History at the University of Sydney together with acting at The Australian Theatre for Young People. Continuing her studies in Europe she received many awards including the La Scala Prize and scholarship to study with Virginia Zeani at the Fransisco Viñas Competition in Barcelona. She has participated in masterclasses with Joan Sutherland, Magda Olivero, Ghena Dimitrova, Ileana Cortrubas, Gundula Janowitz, Dalton Baldwin and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
Allison was universally praised for her performance creating the role of Sierva Maria in the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’ opera, Love and Other Demons, at Glyndebourne under Vladimir Jurowski, a role she repeated at the National Opera of Lithuania and Opéra National du Rhin, under Eötvös. She was also widely acclaimed for her performance on the Glyndebourne label CD of the opera – “To the character of Sierva Maria, Allison Bell brings a soprano of great agility and lustre; the coloratura writing is delightfully outrageous, but her virtuosity is every bit its match” (OPERA). She continued her close collaboration with the composer, and Ensemble Linea under Jean Philippe Würtz, as vocal soloist for concerts throughout Europe, and for the CD, ‘Ensemble Linea Play Eötvös’, which won a Hungarian FONOGRAM award and the Orphée d’Or at the Académie Internationale du Disque Lyrique in Paris.
A frequent guest with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and collaborator with Vladimir Jurowski, she was soloist for the UK premieres of Alfred Schnittke’s Three Scenes, Three Madrigals, and Der Gelbe Klang, an acclaimed debut performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire at the Wigmore Hall, Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil and Polly Peachum in Die Dreigroschenoper in Paris and London. With the LPO under Michal Dworzynski she performed Gorecki’s Symphony no 3, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”, to great acclaim.
Other notable performances include the roles of Le Feu, La Princesse and Le Rossignol in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges with the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow, Luciano Berio’s Chamber Music with the London Sinfonietta/Thomas Ades at the QEH London, Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied in Berlin and Munich, Pierrot Lunaire with the Northern Sinfonia, Hebrides Ensemble, BBC Concert Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and with Scottish Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival and at Moscow’s Mossovet Theatre. Also Lutoslawski’s Chantefleurs et Chantefables and the Australian premiere of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the world premiere staging of Gerald Barry’s opera La Plus Forte at the inaugural London Contemporary Music Festival, and Fausto Romitelli’s Lost at the Strasbourg Musica Festival. With Ilan Volkov she performed the UK premieres of John Zorn’s La Machine de l’Être with the BBCSSO, Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi with the CBSO and Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.
Further collaborations have included concerts at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid featuring the music of Fabian Panisello, Louis Andriessen’s Dances at the Barbican in London and a European Tour featuring Allison’s Concertgebouw debut, performing the world premiere of Brett Dean’s Second String Quartet “And once I played Ophelia”, together with Schoenberg’s String Quartet no 2, all with the Britten Sinfonia. She was praised for her performances of Berg’s Lulu Suite, Fauré’s Prométhée and Saint-Saëns Les noces de Prométhée in concerts with Vladimir Jurowski and the Russian Symphony Orchestra (Svetlanov) at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow and the world premiere of Sir John Tavener’s epic final work –written for Allison as soprano soloist – Flood of Beauty, at the Barbican and Esplanade Singapore. Also notably, Grisey’s Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil with Vladimir Jurowski in Berlin, the Australian premieres of Vivier’s Trois airs pour un opera imaginaire and Unsuk Chin’s Akrostichon Wortspiel with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Kwame Ryan, recitals at the International Santander Festival featuring works by Eötvös, and an Australian tour with the Australian String Quartet performing the Australian premiere of his Second String Quartet.
Her recording of Brett Dean’s Second String Quartet “And once I played Ophelia”, with the Doric String Quartet, received wide critical acclaim. Further highlights of recent seasons include works by Vivier, Donatoni and Shakespearean Opera Galas with the London Philharmonic and Vladimir Jurowski, concerts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, including Richard Rodney Bennett’s Spells with Rumon Gamba, a new world premiere by Brett Dean, Hamlet Diffraction, and Edgard Varèse’s Nocturnal with Sakari Oramo. Allison also gave the Chinese premiere of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre with the Shanghai Opera Orchestra/Shinik Hahm as part of Shanghai New Music Week 2017.
In 2018 Allison joined Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin to sing Shostakovich’s Hamlet, Berg’s Lulu Suite and the German premiere of Brett Dean’s Hamlet Diffraction at the Berlin Philharmonie, to great acclaim. She joined Ensemble United Berlin/Jurowski for Claude Vivier’s Bouchara, The Auckland Philharmonia and BBC Symphony Orchestras for the World and UK Premieres of Ross Harris’ Face and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the Australian Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Puzzles and Games. Further 2018-19 highlights included her WDR Sinfonieorchester debut at the Cologne Philharmonie under Emilio Pomerico singing the role of Marie in Zimmerman’s Soldaten-Sinfonie and concerts featuring the music of Verdi, Puccini and Ligeti in Seoul with Shinik Hahm and Symphony SONG.
As Artist in Residence with the Detached Cultural Organisation from 2019-2021, Allison curated and performed in concerts featuring Australian Premieres of international chamber music. As part of this residency, Allison gave the world and Australian premieres of vocal chamber music by Unsuk Chin, Alfred Schnittke, Claude Vivier, Jherek Bischoff., Gerald Barry, György Kurtág, Giacinto Scelsi and Georges Aperghis.
An alumna of University of California San Diego’s cutting-edge mPEAK mindfulness based peak performance training program, Allison is a celebrated voice teacher and peak performance coach, working both privately and within young artist programs and universities. Allison is a mentor and coach to the next generation of singing stars – from professional opera and classical singers to actors and cross-over performers such as Kate Miller-Heidke, Allison’s students are leaders in their genres, internationally. In 2020, Allison began a program delivering free online singing lessons to people working on pandemic frontlines, internationally – those working in healthcare and education, together with those working as part of essential supply chains – as well as those struggling with lockdown protocols. She also founded and continues to lead a mentoring program for emerging and early-career Tasmanian Singer-Songwriters, working closely with those from low SES and culturally diverse backgrounds.
An emerging composer, Allison is currently writing a one-woman, autobiographical opera, Hunter Street Serenade, and developing a site-specific joint composition-performance piece, Screaming Trees – in and for takayna/Tarkine – with composer Cat Hope, with support from Arts Tasmania, Detached Cultural Organisation and the Bob Brown Foundation. Future performances also include the world premiere of The Incandescent Tongue, written for – and dedicated to – Allison, by Liza Lim.
Allison is a Member of the Royal Society of Musicians (London), a 2021 Australia Council for the Arts Peer and acknowledges the generous support of The Carne Trust, Help Musicians UK, Comme des Garçons, Arts Tasmania, The Bob Brown Foundation and the Australia Council for the Arts.