British mezzo-soprano Julia Riley was born in York and is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and London’s National Opera Studio. She is winner of the Mozart Singing Competition and made her professional debut as Cherubino Le nozze di Figaro for Glyndebourne Touring Opera.
Recent highlights have included Verdi’s Requiem with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, role debuts as Sesto La Clemenza di Tito and Xerxes (English Touring Opera), and Dorabella Così fan tutte for Opera Holland Park, for which she received great critical acclaim:
“This Dorabella, really rather a nasty piece of work, is sung with great flair and rhythmic rigour by the glowing mezzo of Julia Riley.” The Times.
Riley made her French debut as Nancy Albert Herring at both the Opéra Comique, Paris and the Rouen Opera House. Other recent roles include Nancy Albert Herring and Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte (Glyndebourne on Tour); Donna Elvira Don Giovanni and Giovanna Seymour Anna Bolena (English Touring Opera); Flora La Traviata (Opera Holland Park); Alessandro Eliogabalo (Grange Park Opera); and roles in both I Puritani and L’Italiana in Algeri (Scottish Opera).
On the concert platform, Riley has performed at the BBC Proms under Sir Andrew Davis; the Leeds Lieder Festival; the BBC Welsh Proms; the London Bach Festival; the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon; and the Glyndebourne Festival in a staging of Jonathan Dove's mezzo song cycle All you who sleep tonight. She has also sung with the Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr in concerts at the Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid and the Cadogan Hall, and Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra and Mozart Festival Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.
Highlights of the 2012-13 season include Riley’s Zurich Opera House debut as Dinah in Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Birmingham Symphony Hall and at London’s Barbican. Riley is currently a member of the Zurich Opera House Ensemble.
Julia Riley is represented by Intermusica.
November 2012 / 334 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Giovanna in Verdi Rigoletto / Zurich Opera
cond. Fabio Luisi / dir. Tatjana Gürbaca
“Prize for best actress goes to Brit Julia Riley as the bubble gum-chewing cleaning lady (maid) Giovanna”.
John Rhodes, Seen and Heard International, February 2013
Royal Choral Society / London Philharmonic Orchestra / cond. Richard Cooke
“The four soloists bore witness to the consistently high quality of British singers... You could instantly hear what all the fuss is about Riley – she anchored everything she sang with singular authority, and the quality of her lovely voice and the immediacy of her presence defined her deeply sympathetic musicianship.”
Peter Reed, classicalsource.com, June 2012
Dorabella in Mozart Così fan tutte
Opera Holland Park / cond. Thomas Kemp / dir. Harry Fehr
“This Dorabella, really rather a nasty piece of work, is sung with great flair and rhythmic rigour by the glowing mezzo of Julia Riley. Her antics as a drama queen...”
Hilary Finch, The Times, June 2012
“Così has some terrific young singers ... Julia Riley a perfect foil as Dorabella...”
Hugh Canning, The Times, June 2012
“The plush mezzo of ... Julia Riley blended perfectly with [Elizabeth Llewellyn] – this is another voice that’s developing nicely, and she is a lively presence on stage.”
Hugh Canning, Opera, August 2012
“The lovers are all rising stars - or stars already ... Julia Riley’s open, ardent mezzo makes a positive impression as Dorabella.”
David Gutman, The Stage, June 2012
“As Dorabella, Julia Riley's mezzo-soprano is strong, sumptuous and lively and her performance of 'Smanie implacabili' sees her hunched sideways on a bench as she wears her heart upon her sleeve.”
Sam Smith, musicOMH.com, June 2012
Title role in Handel Xerxes / English Touring Opera
cond. Jonathan Kenny / dir. James Conway
“Julia Riley in the title role was clear, bright and possessed of good diction.”
Gareth Jones, Evening Star, November 2011
“Julia Riley turns in a performance of star potential as the temperamental protagonist…”
Hugh Canning, The Times, October 2011
“No praise can be too high for mezzo Julia Riley in the title role.”
Michael Church, The Independent, October 2011
“Particularly good are Julia Riley – a powerful mezzo who impressed in last season's Clemenza di Tito”Guy Dammann, The Guardian, October 2011
“Riley camps a splendidly masculine Xerxes, pipe firmly clamped in lantern jaw, upper body lurching with testosterone-fuelled swagger, and disbelief is suspended throughout her fraternal confrontations with Arsamenes (…)”
Mark Valencia, Whats on stage, October 2011
Sesto in Mozart La Clemenza di Tito
English Touring Opera
“The finest performance comes from the Sextus of Julia Riley. A mezzo of considerable presence, she projects Andrew Porter’s English translation well and relishes her character’s opportunities with the best music in Mozart’s still undervalued masterpiece.”
John Allison, The Telegraph, March 2011
“Against Riley, no-one else stands much of a chance.”
Catriona Graham, The Opera Critic, May 2011
“There was some impressively passionate characterisation in the show, especially from a scorching Julia Riley’s fiercely-ardent Sextus.”
Michael Tumelty, The Herald, May 2011
“Sesto is played by the mezzo-soprano, Julia Riley whose acting was so convincing that it took me a few minutes to realise I was looking at a young woman, so successfully had she captured the stance and the mannerisms of a young officer. But it was her vocal ability which stole the show. I thought this was a superb performance from a young singer and promises so much for the future. She has a lovely warm, focused mezzo voice without too much vibrato. In the circle of the Hackney Empire I could not only hear every note but every word; combine this with poignancy and conviction of her acting and for me her performance was the tour de force of this production. How heartening that we as a nation are producing young singers of this international quality from the National Opera Studio.”
Miranda Jackson, Opera Britannia, March 2011
Alessandro in Cavalli Eliogabalo
Grange Park Opera
“That leaves me with the stand-out performance of the evening, the trouser role of Alessandro beautifully taken by Julia Riley. The part lay perfectly for her interesting voice, a mezzo-soprano that can clearly encompass higher lying roles as well. What Riley exuded was calm assurance: as she sang, I found myself relaxing into the Cavalli idiom and relishing the expressiveness of the musical line. She is clearly an Octavian in the making: I found her performance simply glorious.”
Mark Reynolds, MusicCriticism, June 2009
Jane Seymour in Donizetti Anna Bolena
English Touring Opera
“Julia Riley is outstanding - powerful, passionate and intelligent - as a conscience-stricken Jane Seymour.”
Richard Morrison, The Times, March 2008