Leigh Melrose has carved out a formidable reputation for the performance of new works. A wonderfully dynamic artist on both the concert and opera platform, Melrose is also in demand for core repertoire by composers such as Brahms, Mozart, Berg and Mahler.
A graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge, and the Royal Academy of Music, Melrose’s opera engagements have taken him to companies all over the world. He has sung the title role in Wozzeck for Salzburg; Papageno Die Zauberflöte for Seattle Opera, Demetrius A Midsummer Night’s Dream for La Monnaie; Escamillo Carmen at the Royal Albert Hall and with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo; Figaro Il Barbiere di Siviglia for New York City Opera; Silvio I Pagliacci for Welsh National Opera; Britten’s Death in Venice at the Liceu, Barcelona; Papageno and Marcello La Bohème for Opera Zuid; Sid Albert Herring for the Salzburger Landestheater, Opéra Comique and Opéra de Rouen; Ned Keene Peter Grimes for Vlaamse Opera and Opera Oviedo; the title role in Eugene Onegin, Longborough Festival Opera; and Tadeusz The Passenger, Ned Keene, Papageno, Bormenthal A Dog’s Heart, Count The Marriage of Figaro, Rodolfo in Leoncavallo’s La Bohème and Junius The Rape of Lucretia all for English National Opera.
Leigh Melrose has given many world premieres including Cholawicki in Johannes Kalitzke’s Die Besessenen at Theater an der Wien, Elliot Carter’s On Conversing with Paradise at the Aldeburgh Festival under Oliver Knussen, and Evan in James MacMillan’s new opera The Sacrifice at Welsh National Opera, all to critical acclaim. On Conversing with Paradise was recorded and released on the Bridge label, and subsequently nominated for a Gramophone Award for ‘Best Contemporary Album’.
Other performances of contemporary repertoire include his debut at the prestigious Maggio Musicale festival in Florence singing Rihm’s Der maler träumt; Matthias Pintscher’s Solomon’s Garden with the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris conducted by the composer; Rambo in the Channel 4 television film of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer; Michael Collins in Jonathan Dove’s TV Opera Man on the Moon for Channel 4; Punch in Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy in Porto; Xenakis Ais with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms and Berlin Festival; Peter Maxwell Davies The Martyrdom of St Magnus at the composer’s St Magnus Festival, Orkney, in Edinburgh and Inverness; Maxwell-Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King with the Orquesta de Cadaqués in Madrid and the London Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall; Michael Finnissy’s Maldon with the London Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the world premiere of Martin Suckling’s Candlebird also with the London Sinfonietta under Nicholas Collon.
Melrose has also performed Walton Belshazzar’s Feast, Berlioz Symphony No.3 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Britten Canticles at the Liceu Barcelona and with Roger Vignoles at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Wigmore Hall in London; Carmina Burana at the Royal Festival Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Usher Hall and with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland; Beethoven Symphony No.9 under Sir Neville Marriner with the Orquesta de Cadaqués, and concerts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vassily Petrenko, the Hebrides Ensemble, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen in London and Paris, the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis, the Northern Sinfonia and Thierry Fischer, and the City of London Sinfonia with Richard Hickox. At the BBC Proms he has performed Britten Cantata Misericodium at with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, De Falla’s La Vida Breve and Sir Richard Cholmondeley in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard.
Last season Leigh Melrose performed to great acclaim the title role of Wozzeck in a new production by Carrie Cracknell for English National Opera. Other engagements included Escamillo Carmen at ENO and several new works at Frankfurt Alte Oper, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival together with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He was also featured as artist in residency at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival.
In 2013/2014 he can be heard at the Royal Opera House in the UK premiere of Luca Francesconi's Quartett and in the title role of Birtwistle's Gawain with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He makes his debut at the Venice Biennale and Auditorio Nacional in Madrid premiering a new work by Fabian Panisello and sings Noah's Fludde with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Zimmerman's Requiem fuer einen jungen Dichter with HR Sinfonie at Frankfurt Alte Oper. Other engagements include the world premiere of Raymond Deane’s The Alma Fetish for Wide Open Opera, a concert appearance with the Oslo Filharmonien and Baldur Brönniman, Eight Songs for a Mad King with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, and a return to the role of Ned Keene Peter Grimes in ENO’s revival of David Alden’s acclaimed production.
Leigh Melrose is represented worldwide by Intermusica.
September 2013 / 781 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Junius The Rape of Lucretia / DVD: Opus ArteNed Keene Peter Grimes / English National Opera
Cond. Paul Daniel Dir. David McVicar
“Leigh Melrose as Junius brilliantly brings out the weakness of character, vulnerability and petulance that lead him to be a key player in the drama.”
William Hedley, International Record Review, February 2014
Cond. Edward Gardner Dir. David Alden
“Ned Keene [is] a gloriously self-satisfied Leigh Melrose”
David Benedict, The Arts Desk
, January 2014
“The surrounding cast is also very strong indeed. Michael Colvin (the bible-bashing Bob Boles) and Leigh Melrose (the apothecary Ned Keene) were the two that stood out most for me.”
David Karlin, Bachtrack, January 2014
“Among the malign denizens of the Borough, Leigh Melrose's pill-popping Ned Keene [is] particularly outstanding.”
Tim Ashley, Guardian, January 2014
Oskar The Alma Fetish / National Concert Hall Dublin
Cond. Fergus Sheil
“Leigh Melrose (Oskar) imbued [the] music with vivid drama.”
Ian Fox, Opera magazine, January 2014
Title role in Berg Wozzeck / ENO
cond. Edward Gardner / dir. Carrie Cracknell
“Musically, it's astonishing. Melrose, giving the performance of a lifetime, charts Wozzeck's disintegration with unflinching veracity and an extraordinary expressive range that veers from lyrical intensity to snarl or eerie falsetto.”
Tim Ashley, Guardian, May 2013
“It’s hard watching Leigh Melrose as Wozzeck, a broken man shuffling from one abuse to another, fixated only on providing for Marie and his son in troubled times. That’s the other thing this opera is about - poverty and what it does to people. And the way Melrose conveys the hopelessness of uncontrollable torment through the huge dynamic range of his vocal performance is both thrilling and deeply upsetting. It may be the performance of his life.”
Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk, May 2013
“Leigh Melrose has done nothing better than this Wozzeck, never overplaying his doltishness and singing throughout with clarity and musicality.”
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, May 2013
“…with the baritone Leigh Melrose superb at the head of an internationally distinguished cast.”
Paul Driver, Sunday Times, May 2013
“Lost in the phantasmagoric visions that over-take his reality, Melrose finds – and more impressively sustains – an edgy place for Berg’s demanding vocal writing that chafes thrillingly against the orchestral richness from Ed Gardner’s pit.”
Alexandra Coghlan, New Statesman
, May 2013
“Leigh Melrose brings an ideal balance of authority and anguish to the title role”
Barry Millington, Evening Standard, May 2013
“As Wozzeck, Leigh Melrose is phenomenal.”
Kate Kellaway, Observer, May 2013
Escamillo in Bizet Carmen / London Coliseum
English National Opera / cond. Ryan Wigglesworth / dir. Calixto Bieito
“[Leigh Melrose] was confidently and beautifully voiced. I wish he had been allowed the full version of the duel duet”.
Sebastian Petit, Opera Britannia, November 2012
“Leigh Melrose delivered a wonderfully spivvy, darkly sung Escamillo, and the sight of him at the end of the ‘March of the Toreadors’, alone in his bullfighter’s lights, was an unforgettable bit of direction”.
Peter Reed, Classical Source, November 2012
“Leigh Melrose [acted his heart out] as Escamillo, the toreador. [T]his is a "Carmen" that reminds you how superb the familiar music is.”
Paul Levy, The Wall Street Journal, November 2012
“As Escamillo, Leigh Melrose absolutely stole the show! His voice has a solid, syrupy core that he uses ruthlessly to communicate and pull heartstrings (his looks don't hurt either). His acting is natural and he plays the cocky bullfighter expertly”.
Michael Migliore, Musical Criticism, December 2012
“Leigh Melrose, at first resembling Ol' Blue Eyes in suit and hat then transforming into a macho bullfighter, was secure as Escamillo”.
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, November 2012
Ned Keene in Britten Peter Grimes
BBC Proms 2012/ cond. Edward Gardner
“Leigh Melrose’s Ned Keene was fittingly dark and sinister”.
Claire Seymour, Opera Today, September 2012
Papageno in Mozart Die Zauberflöte / San Sebastian
cond. Jaime Martín
“Baritone Leigh Melrose impressed with his strong and secure voice...”
"barítono Leigh Melrose por su firme y segura voz.”
Nino Dentici, El Correo, August 2012
“Leigh Melrose, fulfilled the demands of the role superbly as an actor and singer...”
“Leigh Melrose, en la línea de lo que Papageno requiere, fue un gran actor y un cantante correcto…”
Mikel Chamizo, Gara.net, August 2012
Title role in Berg Wozzeck / Landestheater Salzburg / dir. Leo Hussain
“Leigh Melrose is, with the metallic baritone energy and the increasingly hard-wearing vocal core, an excellent Wozzeck.”
Karl Harb, Salzburger Nachrichten, May 2012
“Vocally, Leigh Melrose goes effortlessly into the deepest, dissonant twelve-tone abyss.”
Jörn Florian Fuchs, DeutschlandRundfunk, May 2012
“Wozzeck himself seems the most clear-sighted, the British baritone Leigh Melrose gives this gearing a precise acting form and vocal incisiveness”
Florian Oberhumme, Oe24.at, May 2012
Patrick Hadley Fen and Flood
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / cond. Paul Daniel / Albion Records / ALBCD012
“Performances by soprano Mary Bevan and baritone Leigh Melrose in Fen and Flood are excellent”
Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice, September 2011
Tadeusz in Weinburg The Passenger / English National Opera
cond. Richard Armstrong / dir. David Pountney
“The climax, musically and emotionally, comes when Marta’s proud violinist fiancé, Tadeusz, sung with compelling anger by Leigh Melrose, is ordered to play the camp commandant’s favourite tacky waltz, but instead strikes up Bach’s magnificent Chaconne.”
Richard Morrison, The Times, September 2011
“Leigh Melrose’s Tadeusz is a figure of heroic defiance”
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, September, 2011
“Tadeusz was superbly sung by Leigh Melrose.”
Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, September 2011
“Kim Begley and Leigh Melrose are strong as Walter and Tadeusz”
John Alison, The Telegraph, September 2011
(Quoting Michael Church - The Independent newspaper’s music critic)
“He’s a superb singer and performer and I expect him to give his very best in the opera…”
Peter Gruner, Islington Tribune, August 2011
Britten Cantata misericordium / BBC Proms 2011 BBC Symphony Orchestra / cond. Mark Wigglesworth
“Leigh Melrose …was at the forefront in Cantata misericordium …this was a faultless performance…
Leigh Melrose… gave an impassioned performance as the beleaguered traveller.”
Adrian Horsewood, MusicoOMH
, August 2011
‘Leigh Melrose...put eloquent effort into making the vocal lines fly.’
Geoff Brown, The Times
, August 2011
Maxwell Davies Eight Songs for a Mad King / London Sinfonietta / cond. Baldur Brönnimann
"Leigh Melrose (modern dress) gave a tour de force of a performance, every wail and word from memory, and when required to sing, did so with typical mellifluousness."Classical Source
, June 2011
“He despatched the extended technique brilliantly. He screeched. He squealed. He howled. He rasped. And he made sure that no one sound was ever alone. This is not a simple madman, and his is not a simple voice. There was screechy howling, squeally screeching and howly whispering. There was much detail in the pungency. And there was emotion too. As the songs become increasingly knowing, Melrose became increasingly haunted. He flirts with a flute. He smashes a violin (gulp - a stomach-in-throat moment for those who didn't know it was a fake). And he's chased off stage by a big bass drum. It was moving…”The Arts Desk
, June 2011
Martin Suckling Candlebird (World Premiere) / London Sinfonietta Queen Elizabeth Hall / cond. Nicholas Collon
“Leigh Melrose’s enthusiastic baritone made every note and phrase expressive.”
The Times Review, May 2011
“In the title song, sliding, indistinct string melodies sound like a Brahms sextet melting in extreme heat. Baritone Leigh Melrose rose superbly to the music's demands.”
The Guardian, May 2011
Papageno in Mozart Die Zauberflöte / Seattle Opera
cond. Gary Thor Wedow / dir. Chris Alexander
“As Tamino’s sidekick Papageno, the infuriating bird-catcher whose only wish is to eat good food and find a wife, Leigh Melrose inhabited the part like his own birds: chatty, skittish and comical with a one-legged stork pose for frightening moments. His aria, 'Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen', had real sorrow.”
The News Tribune, May 2011
“Leigh Melrose played Papageno from just the right angle, and proved himself the most rounded artist of the whole production; both vocally sound and dramatically effective. “
Resmusica, May 2011
Paris Entre Graal et Paradis / dir. Ludovic Morlot
“'On conversing with paradise' fut chantée ce soir par le baryton Leigh Melrose qui l’a crée en 2009 (Festival d’Aldeburg) et gravée dans la foulée pour le label Bridge Records. (...) Leigh Melrose prêtait sa voix ample et flexible à ce long poème dont Carter restitue très fidèlement la valeur expressive et incantatoire.”
“'On conversing with paradise' was sung by baritone Leigh Melrose, who premiered the piece in 2009 at Aldeburgh Festival, and recorded it shortly after on the Bridge Records label. (...) Leigh Melrose lent his full and flexible voice to Ezra Pound's long poem, set to music by Elliott Carter, who remained faithful to the poem's expressive and incantatory nature.”
Resmusica, 15th February 2011
Bormenthal in Sasha Raskatov A Dog’s Heart
cond. Garry Walker/ dir. Simon McBurney
“Leigh Melrose’s impressively sung, alternately solid and near-collapsed Bormenthal, the professor’s assistant, was in many ways the main foil to Peter Hoare’s thoroughly crazed and creepy Sharikov”
Adrian Horsewood, MusicOMH, November 2010
London Sinfonietta at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
“Leigh Melrose produced astounding volume and colour in his account of Byrhtnoth’s battle”
Andrew Morris, www.classicalsource.com, October 2010
“Then came Michael Finnissy’s Maldon, an Anglo-Saxon commentary on war superbly declaimed by the baritone Leigh Melrose.”
Hilary Finch, The Times, October 2010
Rosenblatt Recital at St John’s Smith Square, London
“The third Rosenblatt recital deserved a medal for gallantry. The scheduled singer succumbed to a cold in the morning, and the young baritone Leigh Melrose answered the call. He sang a full programme of operatic arias, with well-placed confidence in a sturdy voice and a communicative personality.”
John Steane, Opera Now, January 2010
Brahms & Glanert Four Preludes and Serious Songs
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / cond. Vasily Petrenko
“Hamburg-born Glanert has woven a sinuous orchestration around the quartet of songs, brought to life here by soloist Leigh Melrose on his Hope Street debut. The baritone produced crisp and precise German diction and some pleasing phrasing in what was a thoughtful reading of the piece by both singer and Phil.”
Liverpool Echo, November 2009
Xenakis Aïs / BBC Proms 2009
BBC Symphony Orchestra / cond. David Robertson
“This was a spectacular performance by baritone Leigh Melrose, who handled the extremes of register (much of the baritone part lies within the soprano range) and the complex demands of Xenakis’s writing with impressive vocal dexterity and a convincingly theatrical delivery.”
Carla Rees, MusicWeb International, September 2009
“Although written for baritone, the settings of texts by Homer and Sappho make such demands on the voice that Leigh Melrose was frequently soaring above the orchestra in am amplified falsetto, deplying a range of techniques designed to keep his voice on the edge of expressive tension. Whether growling, barking, or sighing, this wa a performance putting into incisive context Xenakis’s vivid description of a journey into Hades.”
Ben Hogwood, Classical Source, September 2009
“Leigh Melrose delivered the disjointed Greek text in virtuoso falsetto swoops and cries that all too briefly relaxed into an almost lyrical, keening line in his normal register.”
Erica Jeal, The Guardian, September 2009
“The Xenakis death piece was Aïs, 18 savagely eloquent minutes of Homer and Sappho quotations, flung across the Albert Hall’s dome by an ululating baritone (Leigh Melrose, brave), a furious solo percussionist (Colin Currie, indefatigable) and an irruptive orchestra fond of sulphurous brass laments.”
Geoff Brown, The Times, September 2009
Carter On Conversing with Paradise / Aldeburgh Festival
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group / cond. Oliver Knussen
“Leigh Melrose sang impressively, supplying euphony as well as fierceness. His indignant repetitions of “vanity” (as in “Pull down thy vanity”) cut through the texture with admonitory stoutness.”
Paul Driver, The Times, June 2009
“The baritone (Leigh Melrose, excellent)”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, June 2009
“…baritone Leigh Melrose and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group evoked a timelessly simple and savage world which made the Maltings rafters ring.”
Michael Church, The Independent, five stars, June 2009
Bartley in Vaughan Williams Riders to the Sea
English National Opera / cond. Ed Gardner / dir. Fiona Shaw
“But the cast does well, notably...Leigh Melrose's devil-may-care Bartley.”
George Hall, Independent on Sunday, November 2008
“Around her (Pat Bardon) is an outstanding young cast: Leigh Melrose as the angry remaining son, resolved to follow in his brothers’ wake.”
Richard Morrison, The Times, November 2008
Britten Death in Venice
Teatro Liceu, Barcelona / cond. Sebastian Weigle / dir. Willy Decker
"Aschenbach was tailed by a group of six camp cabaret figures led by Leigh Melrose who made a clearly projected cameo as the English Clerk"
Eric Jeal, Opera Magazine, July 2008
Tempter in Peter Maxwell Davies The Martyrdom of St. Magnus
cond. William Conway / Hebrides Ensemble
“The real character role(s)... baritone Leigh Melrose's sleazily extrovert turn as the Tempter...”
Rowena Smith, The Guardian, June 2008
Philip Whilby Bronte Mass
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / cond. David Hill
"…the outstanding baritone Leigh Melrose evokes the mournful whine of an Aeolian harp by floating up to a ghostly falsetto…"
Alfred Hickling, The Guardian, November 2007
Evan in MacMillan The Sacrifice
Welsh National Opera / cond. James Macmillan / dir. Katie Mitchell
"Leigh Melrose makes a convincing political thug…"
Andrew Clark, The Financial Times , September 2007
"Leigh Melrose is suitably volatile as a hothead whose jealousy fuels his tribal hatred."
Richard Morrison, The Times , September 2007
"Leigh Melrose was spot on as the enemy Evan."
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph , September 2007
"…the love duet in the second act between Sian and Evan, powerfully sung by Lisa Milne and Leigh Melrose, is charming…"
Mike Smith, The Herald , September 2007
"The passionate Act II…finely sung by Leigh Melrose."
Stephen Walsh, The Independent , September 2007
"…splendidly sung by Melrose"
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, October 2007
Sid in Britten Albert Herring
Salzburg Landetheater / cond. Ivor Bolton / dir. Stephen Medcalf
"The singing was magnificent without exception, played with lashings of clichés. Yvonne Kenny (Lady Billows), Susan Gorton (housekeeper), James Edwards (Albert), Della Jones (his mother), the young lovers Sid (Leigh Melrose) and Nancy (Astrid Hofer) were all perfectly suited to this "very British" performance. The applause was most enthusiastic. "
Salzburger Nachrichten, April 2007
Lubano in Mozart Der Stein der Weisen / Garsington Opera
cond. Steuart Bedford / dir. John Cox
"Leigh Melrose acts and sings everyone else off stage as Lubano."
Hilary Finch, The Times, June 2006
"The jolly gamekeeper Lubano is energetically and engagingly played here by Leigh Melrose."
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, June 2006
Achille in Offenbach La Belle Hélène
English National Opera / cond. Emmanuel Joel / dir. Laurent Pelly
"The kings duly dominate, with David Kempster and Leigh Melrose giving stand-out performances as Agamemnon and Achilles."
Edward Seckerson, The Independent, April 2006