Dame Felicity Palmer's remarkable career spans five decades. Her early work included a wide variety of repertoire, from baroque music (with Sir Roger Norrington, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and concerts and recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt), to contemporary works with the London Sinfonietta and David Atherton and work with Pierre Boulez, with whom she recorded and toured Messiaen's Poemes pour Mi with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Future highlights include Meropa in Oedipe with the London Philharmonic and Vladmir Jurowski at the Enescu Festival in Romania and at the Royal Festival Hall. She returns to Opéra National de Bordeaux to perform Klytemnestra in Elektra with Paul Daniel, and she reprises the role of Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. She will be returning to a major signature role for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden during her 18/19 season.
Dame Felicity is a pioneer of character diction coaching, and her work in this capacity has contributed to award winning productions at English National Opera (Jenufa, Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Lulu) and Glyndebourne (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet).
Her recent engagements include Geneviève Pelléas et Mélisande with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Klytemnestra Elektra with Seymon Bychkov at the BBC Proms, a return to English National Opera for The Countess The Queen of Spades, Mrs Sedley Peter Grimes for Zurich Opera, English National Opera and with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Antonio Pappano, Madame de Croissy Dialogues of the Carmélites at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Bayerische Staatsoper and Mrs Peachum The Threepenny Opera with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski.
During her soprano years she made a tour of Australia for the ABC and worked, among others, with Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis, Rozhdestvensky (Shostakovich Symphony No.14 and The Trojans at the BBC Proms), Raymond Leppard (recording of Messiah), Sir Charles Mackerras (recording of Judas Maccabaeus for DGG, concert performances and the BBC Proms) as well as concerts with all the major London orchestras, the New York Philharmonic and the LA Philharmonic.
Recital work formed a key part of those years: with Geoffrey Parsons, Graham Johnson and the Songmaker's Almanac, Roger Vignoles, Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake and a great deal with John Constable, who, after a Queen Elizabeth Hall concert early on, played for three French song records for Argo Records and two Victorian ballads.
Becoming a mezzo-soprano led to operatic engagements, which soon included regular appearances at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House (including Sweeney Todd and Elektra), her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in Wagner's Ring Cycle with James Levine and many subsequent appearances; Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in Munich with Zubin Mehta, Dialogues des Carmélites with Riccardo Muti at La Scala and with Michel Plasson in Zurich and Toulouse, as well as work in Amsterdam, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris and English National Opera in London.
Dame Felicity has recorded Elektra with the WDR Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov and recently, two concerts of the same opera were recorded for the London Symphony Orchestra label with Valery Gergiev at the helm. There is also a recording of Dialogues des Carmélites with ENO and Paul Daniel.
She was made a CBE in 1993 and a Dame of the British Empire in 2011.
Geneviève Pelléas et Mélisande
Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen
Countess The Queen of Spades (new production)
English National Opera
In a league of her own, the magnificent Palmer was unbelievably believable.
Towering over the whole cast was Dame Felicity Palmer’s Countess. Her mere presence was enough to electrify the Coliseum and her haughty demeanour and powerful voice immediately established her character. The long scene in her bedroom was riveting, mesmerising the auditorium in her delivery of the aria Je crains de lui parler la nuit.
The ‘Oscar’ performance was given by Dame Felicity Palmer… Her Klytemnestra was a marvel of pained, paranoid malevolence.