Jurowski beat the toughest symphonic battle last Sunday with his Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Berlin Philharmonic. And, on top of that, provided the sharpest contrast of visual and acoustic appeal: the tall, slender man hurried down to the podium with almost dance-like ease to command the most brutal masses of sound – the brilliantly grimacing “Hamlet” – drama of young Dmitri Shostakovich and his radical satirical interludes from the opera “Lady Macbeth”, then the flashy Ophelia Hamlet music “From Melodious Lay” by Brett Dean and, to say the least, Alban Berg’s expressive “Lulu” suite. All this with the phenomenal soprano Allison Bell. A concert to fear and enjoy.
Wolfgang Schreiber, Süddeutsche Zeitung, March 6, 2018 – Hamlet, Shostakovich; Lulu Suite, Berg; Hamlet Diffraction, Brett Dean; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Vladimir Jurowski; Berlin Philharmonie
And just as Allison Bell is a wonderfully agile, powerful Lulu, so Vladimir Jurowski seems the perfect Berg conductor: because it sounds Viennese and modern. (Often it is either Viennese or modern.)
Albrecht Selger, Hundert 11 – Konzertgänger in Berlin, March 5, 2018 –Hamlet, Shostakovich; Lulu Suite, Berg; Hamlet Diffraction, Brett Dean; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Vladimir Jurowski; Berlin Philharmonie
Allison Bell was the superb soloist in Nocturnal, a 1961 setting of Anaïs Nin that hovers between monodrama and ritual incantation.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, May 7, 2017 – Nocturnal, Edgard Varèse, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo, Barbican, London
Even more impressive was Spells, a setting of poems by Kathleen Raine in which the orchestra was joined by the (brilliant) BBC Symphony Chorus. In its clangorous percussion and sinuous soprano line – beautifully sung by Allison Bell – the young man who’d sat the feet of Pierre Boulez suddenly re-appeared.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, Nov 28, 2016 – Spells, Richard Rodney Bennett, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Rumon Gamba, Barbican, London
Exquisitely sung by Allan Clayton and Allison Bell, and beautifully played by the BBCSO, this was a remarkable trailer for Dean’s Hamlet.
Anna Picard, The Times, Nov 3, 2016 – From Melodious Lay (A Hamlet Diffraction), Brett Dean, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Weilerstein, Barbican, London
The troubled and oppressive desires of Hamlet and Ophelia are expressed in the slip and slide of eerily erotic harmonies. Allan Clayton, next summer’s Hamlet, commanded the appropriate princely urgency; but Allison Bell’s fragile Ophelia was the musical and dramatic focus.
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, Nov 2, 2016 – From Melodious Lay (A Hamlet Diffraction), Brett Dean, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Weilerstein, Barbican, London
The music starts out hauntingly, gathering in vigour until in the sixth of the interconnected movements, “There is a willow”, it conjures up nature in rich onomatopoeia. Balancing Clayton’s well-projected tenor was the ethereal soprano of Allison Bell.
John Allison, The Telegraph, Nov 2, 2016 – From Melodious Lay (A Hamlet Diffraction), Brett Dean, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Joshua Weilerstein, Barbican, London
Iestyn Davies in commanding voice as Oberon, matched by a wonderful Tytania from Allison Bell.
Bell negotiated Adès’ treacherously high vocal writing as Ariel splendidly
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, April 23, 2016 – Shakespeare 400 Opera Gala, scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Britten and The Tempest/Adès, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London
Premiere performers Keenlyside and Spence followed by Bell’s perfectly stratospheric Ariel made much of the awkward vocal writing.
David Nice, The Arts Desk, April 24, 2016 – Shakespeare 400 Opera Gala, scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Britten and The Tempest/Adès, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London
From Adès’s The Tempest (Act One/scene five) Ariel’s ‘Full Fathom Five’ drew from Allison Bell a highly musical response in spite of its cruel demands.
David Truslove, The Classical Source, April 23 2016 – Shakespeare 400 Opera Gala, scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Britten and The Tempest/Adès, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London
The cast is wonderful…. 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.
Christopher Ballantine, Opera Magazine, CD Review Glyndebourne Label Live Recording of Love and Other Demons, Peter Eötvös
Allison Bell – a worldclass Lulu.
Julia Bederova, Kommersant, Lulu Suite, Berg, Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow
In the nature of things, the word “electrifying”, with its connotations of exalted excellence, is only very sparingly used by critics. But in this instance, it seems barely adequate in relation to Bell’s vocal offering.
Neville Cohn, The West Australian, And once I played Ophelia, Brett Dean, Australian String Quartet, Perth, Australia
The ASQ was joined on stage by guest soprano Allison Bell, who was electrifying as Ophelia. Bell’s magnificent high range, coupled with a tremendous vocal agility, made this a dramatic performance.
Diana Carroll, In Daily, And once I played Ophelia, Brett Dean, Australian String Quartet, Adelaide, Australia
The amazingly agile soprano soloist Allison Bell’s madcap quasi scatting, aspirated syllables, and astounding leaps into the vocal stratosphere work hand in glove with Dean’s looser, more uninhibited string writing….Given the composer’s supervising presence and, in the quintet, his actual participation as second violist, one assumes that the Doric String Quartet’s extremely accomplished and polished world-premiere recorded performances are as authoritative as you’ll get. Yet what ultimately closes the deal is Allison Bell’s phenomenal vocal artistry.
Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com, And once I played Ophelia, Brett Dean CD, Doric String Quartet, Chandos
Following in the footsteps of Arnold Schoenberg, Dean’s String Quartet No. 2 enlists a solo soprano for this 2014 composition. It was premiered in Norwich the same year by members of the Britten Sinfonia and soprano Allison Bell, who features on this recording. It was tailor-made for her voice, harnessing her outstanding technical prowess and vocal agility. She delivers a visceral reading of compelling potency, energy, verve and rhythmic audacity. She employs guttural groans, quarter-tone cries and whispers.
Stephen Greenbank, MusicWeb International, And once I played Ophelia, Brett Dean CD, Doric String Quartet, Chandos
Die Sopranistin Allison Bell folgt Deans kompositorischen Vorgaben mit beeindruckendem stimmlichen Können und tastet dabei die Extrembereiche bis hin zu Sprechen, Schreien oder fast verlöschendem Stimmklang aus. Dies hat zur Folge, dass ihre Stimme oftmals wie ein fünftes Instrument in den manchmal rhythmisch agilen, manchmal durchsichtigen und luftigen, von den Musikern erfindungsreich und vor allem sehr differenziert abgetönten Streichersatz eingelagert erscheint.
Stefan Drees, Klassik.com, And once I played Ophelia, Brett Dean CD, Doric String Quartet, Chandos
Allison Bell was superb, floating her lines far above the cacophony.
Caroline Crampton, New Statesman, World Premiere of John Tavener’s Flood of Beauty, Britten Sinfonia, Barbican
Allison Bell dominated proceedings with her confident, powerful voice; she seemed totally at ease with the text and her prominent part in reciting it.
David Fay, Bachtrack, World Premiere of John Tavener’s Flood of Beauty, Britten Sinfonia, Barbican
In the pivotal role of Sierva Maria, soprano Allison Bell invests the stratosphere-defying coloratura with heart-stopping defiance and pathos.
Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine, CD Review Glyndebourne Label Live Recording of Love and Other Demons, Peter Eötvös
At one extreme, Sierva Maria, sung with tremendous impact by Allison Bell, indulges in the stratospheric coloratura of operatic mad scenes down the ages. At the other extreme, her music tends to folk-like simplicity, and at the end she sings a melancholy Liebestod, recalling the words of the renegade priest Delaura who tries to save her.
Arnold Whittall, Gramophone Magazine, CD Review Glyndebourne Label Live Recording of Love and Other Demons, Peter Eötvös
The ethereal but gritty soprano Allison Bell, together with Jacqueline Shave and Miranda Dale (violins), Caroline Dearnley (cello) and the composer on viola, made a micro-drama of their own. As Dean writes, Shakespeare’s “ministering angel” casts a beguiling spell over us. If this was his aim with this taut, refined work, he has succeeded.
Fiona Maddocks, Observer, World Premiere of Brett Dean’s And Once I played Ophelia, Schoenberg String Quartet No 2, Britten Sinfonia, Wigmore Hall
Allison Bell was in her element, and the acoustic of Wigmore Hall clearly suited her voice, enabling her to bring depth and warmth to her clear coloratura. [Brett Dean world premiere] …
Such an extraordinary work deserves an extraordinary performance, and this was exactly what it got…. It felt as if Schoenberg had transplanted himself into Gerstl’s soul at the moment of his suicide during the third movement, with the quartet and Bell displaying such depth of agony that they might collapse under the weight of it. The text and music of the final movement seem designed to confuse, and the performers dove into the confusion. It closed with a soaring anguish, leaving us with a sense of imperfect rapture.
Penny Homer, Bachtrack, World Premiere of Brett Dean’s And Once I played Ophelia, Schoenberg String Quartet No 2, Britten Sinfonia, Wigmore Hall
An added enhancement was Allison Bell’s luminous singing – redolent of the great Stefania Woytowicz for whom it was conceived.
Richard Whitehouse, Classical Source, Gorecki Symphony No 3, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Dworzynski, Royal Festival Hall
A singer without Allison Bell’s power and projection might have been overwhelmed by so much orchestral posturing, but this remarkable soprano coped with everything thrown at her, grabbing every opportunity for expressive display and, notably in the Alleluias of the first song, rejoicing in the sheer voluptuousness of the music.
David Hart, Birmingham Post, Poèmes pour Mi/Messiaen, CBSO Youth Orchestra/Volkov, Birmingham Symphony Hall
That extraordinary singer Allison Bell began by honing the syllables of “The death of the angel”, a setting of the mystic poet Christian Guez Ricord, pulling her intense expressiveness out of the bag with the full phrase “comme un ange” finally assembled at the end…. Bell’s powers of projection as well as pitch – the quarter tone intervals required seemed compellingly precise – are remarkable. She could probably make poised sense of Ariel’s yapping in Ades’s The Tempest, and she was born to play Berg’s Lulu
David Nice, The Arts Desk, Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil/Grisey, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall
With every performance Quatre Chants seems more and more like the last masterpiece of the 20th century… Jurowski’s account of the score, with Allison Bell as the superbly controlled and lucid soprano soloist, has a natural, expressive fluency about it. The audience seemed bewitched and beguiled.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil/Grisey, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall
Bell’s performance across these movements was precise and intelligent: combined with Jurowski’s eloquent direction this made for an exquisite rendition of a modern masterpiece … This was a world-class performance full of imagination and experimentation.
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Bachtrack, Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil/Grisey, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall
La Machine de l’Être is an expressionist monodrama, orchestra shimmering, soprano soloist Allison Bell on stunning form, swooping with lyrical, quixotic dexterity.
Kate Molleson, The Guardian, John Zorn 60th Birthday Concert, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Volkov, Glasgow City Halls
In La Machine de l’Être, the vocal line – sung with spell-binding athleticism by Allison Bell – was woven between pert little flourishes on harpsichord and gestures.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, John Zorn 60th Birthday Concert, BBCSSO/Volkov, Glasgow City Halls
The star of the show, though, was the versatile Allison Bell as Polly, the faux-naïf teenager who falls for a bit of rough. We got two versions of “Pirate Jenny”, since this soon devolved in the late Twenties to Lotte Lenya’s chief whore. Anarchist cabarettista Meow Meow vampish to the point of self-parody, delivered it with a smoky slink that lacked the very lowest notes needed at that pitch. Her version wasn’t a patch on Bell’s perfect mix of speech-song with light-soprano sweetness. After all, Bell knows her Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire – and she turned herself out as imaginatively as ever, like Louise Brooks as Lulu. That’s style for you. On the wish-list, then: a Seven Deadly Sins with Bell as opportunist Anna and Jurowski conducting, maybe with a less familiar Brecht-Weill one-acter to keep it company.
David Nice, The Arts Desk, Threepenny Opera, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall
… Allison Bell a delightfully fresh Woodbird.
George Hall, The Stage, Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO Orchestra/Anthony Negus, Longborough
Crucial to the endeavour is the dedicated Wagnerian Anthony Negus who in Siegfried again conducted with masterly authority, encouraging magnificent work from players and singers. I hardly dare expect ever again to hear, for instance, the pastoral beauties of Siegfried’s encounter with the Woodbird (Allison Bell) conveyed so touchingly.
The Oxford Times, Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO Orchestra/Anthony Negus, Longborough
Allison Bell is a lusty Waldvogel.
Hilary Finch, The Times, Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO Orchestra/Anthony Negus, Longborough
The gruesomeness of the 16th poem “Gemeinheit!” was written all over her face, and her high pitched screams at the end of “Madonna” were terrifying. She relished the big consonant clusters of the German text, and was equally convincing in the mockery and girlishness of the early poems, the fevered horrors of the middle section and the tender nostalgia of the ending.
Jane Shuttleworth, Bachtrack, Pierrot Lunaire, Northern Sinfonia/Rundell, The Sage Gateshead
Gerald Barry’s La Plus Forte sets a Strindberg monologue and, like all Barry’s operas, functions beyond the edge of delirium. Two women sit in a cafe, one silent, the other (Madame X) anything but. As X realises that she is talking to her husband’s mistress, Barry pushes her ever closer to hysteria. Allison Bell charts her emotional trajectory with uncanny precision, riding easliy over the large, wind heavy orchestra.
Nick Kimberley, The Evening Standard, La Plus Forte/Barry, London Contemporary Music Festival, Bold Tendencies Peckham
Pierrot Lunaire… was brilliantly performed by soprano Allison Bell: there was nothing mannered about her delivery, as – supported by exquisitely delicate accompaniment – the imagery was allowed to follow its own crazy momentum.
Michael Church, The Independent, Pierrot Lunaire, BBC Concert Orchestra, Queen Elizabeth Hall
The soloist was Allison Bell who made such an impression in Peter Eötvös’ opera at Glyndebourne two years ago; her performance was superbly judged, achieving a much more equal balance between speech and song in Schoenberg’s sprechgesang than is usual.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian, Pierrot Lunaire, London Philharmonic Orchestra Soloists/Jurowski, Wigmore Hall
Luciano Berio’s immensely attractive Chamber Music, for clarinet, cello, soprano and a motoric harp, opened the evening, with its evocative and distinct settings of three James Joyce poems, sung with great magic by Allison Bell.
Igor Toronyi-Lalic, The Arts Desk, London Sinfonietta/Adès, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Allison Bell als Sierva Maria kann wohl als Traumbesetzung bezeichnet werden. Nicht nur stimmlich ein Genuss, ist es vor allem ihre jugendliche Ausstrahlung, die in dieser Rolle besticht.
Allison Bell dans le rôle de Sierva Maria peut être considérée comme une distribution de rêve. Non seulement sa voix était un véritable délice, mais c’était surtout son charisme juvénile qui était irrésistible dans ce rôle.
European Cultural News, Love and Other Demons/Peter Eötvös, Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg
Im Zentrum der Geschichte steht das Mädchen Sierva María, das von der großartigen Sopranistin Allison Bell in allen Facetten charakterisiert wird. Ihr hoher Schrei, den sie in Bedrängnis ausstößt, geht durch Mark und Bein, ihre virtuosen Koloraturen sind die Klänge einer zu Tode Gehetzten. Aber auch wenn sie in ihrem exponierten Solopart ruhigere Linien entfalten darf wie bei der Liebesszene mit Pater Cayetano Delaura, berührt Allison Bell mit ihrer außergewöhnlich dichten Charakterisierung.
Badische Zeitung, Love and Other Demons/Peter Eötvös, Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg
Le compositeur a trouvé en Allison Bell, jeune soprano australienne, une interprète idéale pour le rôle. Physiquement et vocalement, elle traduit à la perfection ce mélange de grâce innocente et d’égarement.
Concertclassic.com, Love and Other Demons/Peter Eötvös, Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg
Vladimir Jurowski made a rare appearance as harpsichordist with the violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violist Alexander Zemtsov and members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Three Madrigals (1981) – settings of three poems by Francisco Tanzer in French, German and English that find Schnittke’s polystylism at its most rarefied – enticingly sung by soprano Allison Bell…. The music-theatre piece The Yellow Sound (1974) finds [Schnittke] at his most esoteric….A work to surprise all those who think they know Schnittke, it was treated to a superb staging by Annabel Arden – with Allison Bell excellent as the often-hidden protagonist. Such a presentation deserves to be made commercially available.
Richard Whitehouse, Classical Source, Between Two Worlds Schnittke Festival, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, QEH
How to deal, too, with the plot’s tricky core, the obsessive love of an 18th-century bishop’s librarian for a 12-year-old girl, the Marquis’s daughter, bitten by a dog, who acts as if she’s possessed? Eötvös, a magpie and maverick figure, avoids the tut-tuts by giving the girl a vocal line so testing that only an adult could attempt the role. No matter how stratospheric the pitch or angular the leap, Allison Bell displays dizzying power as Sierva MarÍa, the little copper-haired heroine.
Geoff Brown, The Times, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Allison Bell sings Sierva’s high-lying coloratura with great aplomb.
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, Love and Other Demons/ Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Sierva is a coloratura role of fearsome difficulty, but strident expressionism is privileged over vocal display. The Australian Allison Bell’s way with the part was, however, a great strength of the evening.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
You remember the haunting juxtaposition of religious chant and Sierva Maria’s birdlike pyrotechnics, wonderfully handled by a fearless Allison Bell.”
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Following her performance as Pretty Polly in Music Theatre Wales’ recent revival of Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy, Allison Bell hits the coloratura heights again as the 12 year old Sierva Maria. With a flow of flaming hair barely covering her nakedness, Bell’s is a lovely performance of great fragility, as well as vocal dexterity.
Simon Thomas, MUSIC OHM, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Tasmanian soprano Allison Bell, making her Glyndebourne debut, was remarkable as Sierva Maria, possessing a voice of beauty over a greatrange.
Keith Clark, Musical America, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Und da ist dieser Gesang; er steht im Zentrum von Eötvös’ Werk, ihm, seiner Vielfalt, seiner betörenden Schönheit dient das Libretto. Erstklassig, was in Glyndebourne zu hören war. Die Koloratursopranistin Allison Bell ist eine echte Entdeckung: Ihre Sierva hatte Wildheit und Zerbrechlichkeit, Gequältheit und Magie. Grandios, wie sie die horrend schwierige Partie meisterte.
Alfred Zimmerlin, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Im Grunde ist die Oper ein anhaltendes magisches Klangritual, in dem sich schemenhafte Erinnerungen an die Welt des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, stampfende Tanzrhythmen der Sklaven, unwirkliche Chöre und phantastische Soprankoloraturen des gequälten Mädchens (wie nicht mehr auf dieser Welt: Allison Bell).
Wolfgang Sandner, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Love and Other Demons/Eötvös, LPO/Jurowski, Glyndebourne
Pretty Polly is Allison Bell, whose squeals of delight and irritation are like Mozart’s Queen of the Night on helium.
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, Punch and Judy/Birtwistle, Music Theatre Wales, Royal Opera House
From the cock-crows of Gwion Thomas’ superb Punch to the stratospheric coloratura swoops of Allison Bell’s Loloita-like Polly, they aren’t afraid to use their voices in the way that Birtwistle uses instruments:with no limits.
Richard Morrison, The Times, Punch and Judy/Birtwistle, Music Theatre Wales, Royal Opera House
It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to warm to the character of Pretty Polly, but Allison Bell brought a marvellous technique to the role, which needs just that to fulfil its sometimes stratospheric demands.
Mark Berry, Seen and Heard, Punch and Judy/Birtwistle, Music Theatre Wales, Royal Opera House
Allison Bell was obviously ordained to sing the title role from birth.
Francis Muzzu, Opera Now, Lakmé, Opera Holland Park
Opera Holland Park’s production of Delibes’ delightful opera boasts a star performance from Allison Bell in the title role… (she) joins a growing line of young singers who have made their mark with this company…. Bell is perfectly cast as Lakme, slim and petite and sweet of voice, tackling the tricky coloratura of the almost equally famous “Bell Song” with impressive ease.
Simon Thomas, MUSIC OMH, Lakmé, Opera Holland Park