Barbara Hannigan: Four works composed and dedicated to the soprano and conductor

Barbara Hannigan is renowned as both a soprano and conductor, and many composers have written works with her in mind as an advocate for new music

Published: September 7, 2020 at 8:10 am

Gerald Barry
La plus forte (2007)

Based on Strindberg’s play The Stronger, Barry’s 20-minute opera has a cast of one. ‘Hannigan rattles off the machine-gun word-setting with aplomb,’ enthused The Guardian about her mastery of Barry’s hugely testing monologue.

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George Benjamin
Written on skin (2012)

Benjamin’s darkly disturbing opera won the BBC Music Magazine Premiere Award back in 2014. Reviewing the work’s UK premiere, our critic Helen Wallace described Hannigan, playing Agnès, as ‘mesmerising’, adding that the soprano ‘generates, controls and luxuriates in her own eroticism’.

Hans Abrahamsen
Let me tell you (2013)

The Danish composer made full use of Hannigan’s extraordinary range in writing this song cycle, which tells the story of Shakespeare’s Ophelia from the character’s own perspective. ‘Hannigan embodies Ophelia with unconditional claim and leads her soprano effortlessly from deep depths to the highest heights,’ wrote the Neue Zürcher Zeitung of a performance last year.

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Unsuk Chin
Le Silence de Sirènes (2014)

‘She could easily wreck a fleet of ships if she so desired,’ wrote the Financial Times about Hannigan’s alluring performance in this Homer/Joyce-inspired work for soprano and orchestra. ‘Her theatrical energy, her effortless heights and unearthly precision all become part of a seductive whole.’

Authors

Jeremy PoundDeputy Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Jeremy Pound is currently BBC Music Magazine’s Deputy Editor, a role he has held since 2004. Before that, he was the features editor of Classic CD magazine, and has written for a colourful array of publications ranging from Music Teacher to History Revealed, Total Football and Environment Action; in 2018, he edited and co-wrote The King’s Singers: Gold 50th anniversary book.

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