Tenor Ben Johnson studied with Neil Mackie and Tim Evans-Jones at the Royal College of Music and at the Benjamin Britten International Opera School. He won the 2008 Kathleen Ferrier Award, a prize at the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition and the Singer’s Prize at the Gerald Moore Awards. In September 2010, he joined the prestigious Radio 3 New Generation Artists Scheme. Ben studies currently with Jeffrey Talbot.
Ben’s recent engagements include Orbin in Elgar’s Caractacus with the Philharmonia under Sir Andrew Davis at the Three Choirs Festival, music by Frank Bridge at the BBC Proms with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Mozart concert arias under Jiří Bělohlávek, Britten’s Serenade with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Strauss Lieder with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Haydn’s Paukenmesse and Britten’s Nicolas Cantata at De Doelen in Rotterdam, Mozart’s Requiem with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and his debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the Brighton Festival.
Past engagements include Wozzeck with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Britten’s Les Illuminations under Francesco Corti, Evangelist in Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra in Norway, Haydn Harmoniemesse at the Aldeburgh Festival, Handel’s Messiah with the English Chamber Orchestra, Bach’s B minor Mass at the Three Choirs Festival and Handel’s Samson in his BBC Proms debut in 2009.
In recital Ben works regularly with Graham Johnson. They have performed together recently at the Wigmore Hall, the Klavier Festival in the Ruhr in Germany and at Aldeburgh. Most recently, Ben recorded songs by Poulenc with Graham Johnson for Hyperion records, due for release later this year. Other accompanists with whom Ben has worked include Malcolm Martineau at Aldeburgh, with whom he has recorded works by Britten for a commercial album and Roger Vignoles at the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam. Future recitals include the Wigmore Hall in October 2011 with James Baillieu and in February 2012.
On the operatic stage, Ben sang a critically acclaimed Novice Billy Budd in 2010 in a new production for Glyndebourne conducted by Sir Mark Elder. Other appearances include performances for Opéra de Lyon and Scottish Opera, and as Aceste in Ascanio in Alba at Kings’ Place with the Classical Opera Company. Operatic engagements in 2011-12 include Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore for English National Opera, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte for Opera Oveido and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni for Opéra National de Bordeaux, whilst future concert engagements include Handel’s Messiah in Palermo, Antwerp and London with the Academy of Ancient Music, the roles of Melot and Shepherd in concert performances of Tristan und Isolde with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and concerts with the BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras. Beyond this season, engagements include further roles with ENO and debuts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Residentie Orkest. From the 2011/12 Season, Ben will also be an ENO Young Singer.
Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura shot to prominence when she stepped in to replace Anna Netrebko at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for a performance of Giulietta in I Capuleti e i Montecchi conducted by Sir Mark Elder, to critical and public acclaim. She then reached the finals of both the Song and Orchestra Prizes at the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2009.
Eri Nakamura studied at the Osaka College of Music before joining the Opera Studio at the New National Theatre Tokyo, and then the Opera Studio Nederland, Amsterdam. Performances at the New National Theatre included Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro directed by Andreas Homoki, Ilia in Idomeneo under Dan Ettinger, Marzelline in Fidelio under Cornelius Meister and Nannetta in Jonathan Miller’s production of Falstaff.
From September 2008-2010, Eri was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House. Her roles included Musetta in La bohème, Voice of Heaven in Don Carlo, Frasquita in Carmen, 5th Maid in Elektra and Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. In summer 2010, she sang Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro under Sir Colin Davis for which she received excellent reviews. Eri returned to the Royal Opera House in the 2010-11 season singing Sophie in Werther under Antonio Pappano.
In September 2010 Eri Nakamura joined the ensemble of the Bayerische Staatsoper. Roles in her first season included Susanna, Pamina, Zerlina and Giulietta in a new production under Yves Abel, for which she received sensational reviews. Other roles included Arbate in Mitridate rei di Ponto, also a new production under Ivor Bolton, and Naiad in Ariadne auf Naxos.
Recent concert engagements include performances with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, and her debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra singing Mahler's Symphony No.4.
In the 2011-12 season Eri’s engagements include Bruckner Te Deum at the Vatican in Rome and a tour to Japan with the Bayerische Staatsoper. Her roles in Munich include Woglinde in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Flowermaiden in Parsifal, L’enfant et les sortilèges under Kent Nagano and Liù in Turandot. Further ahead, Eri sings her first Juliette in Roméo et Juliette at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, returns to the Royal Opera House, and makes her debut at Washington National Opera and Opéra de Toulouse.
Born in South Africa, James Baillieu graduated from the University of Cape Town with distinction in 2004. Also in 2004 he participated in the International Russian Music Piano Competition in California at which, as a laureate, he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Vienna International Pianists Academy, where he won the prestigious Rosario Marciano Prize. He went on to win a full scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied with Michael Dussek, Malcolm Martineau and Kathryn Stott. In 2007 he graduated with a Dip.RAM and received the Christian Carpenter Award in recognition of his outstanding achievements. He was appointed a Hodgson Junior Fellow during the 2007/08 season and in 2011 was appointed a Professor of Piano Accompaniment.
During his studies James won numerous prizes and awards including the Royal Over-Seas League Competition Prize. He was the prize-winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition in both 2009 and 2011, Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions, and was selected for representation by the Young Classical Artists Trust in 2010.
Over the last year he has recorded for BBC Radio 3 with the Elias Quartet, Allan Clayton and Ben Johnson. He has given solo and chamber recitals throughout Europe and further afield, collaborating with singers Jared Holt, Gerard Collett, Sir Thomas Allen, Mark Padmore, Pumeza Matshikiza, Katherine Broderick, Marcus Farnsworth, Martene Grimson, Jacques Imbrailo, Sarah-Jane Brandon and Kishani Jayasinghe. Festivals and venues have included the Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, National Concert Hall Dublin, Festspillene i Bergen, the City of London, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Aix-en-Provence, Derry and Norfolk & Norwich Festivals.
During 2011, James gave several performances of Brahms’s Piano Quintet with the Heath Quartet including Spitalfields and Music in Paxton Festivals, and attended the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove working with Gerhard Schulz. Engagements this season include a concert with Annette Dasch at the Berlin Konzerthaus, recitals at Wigmore Hall including Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Ben Johnson broadcast by BBC Radio 3, collaborations with flautist Adam Walker, cellist Timothy Lowe, mezzos Kathryn Rudge and Helen Sherman, and solo recitals in the Nottingham International and Leeds International Series. In 2012 James records with Adam Walker for Sonimage.
He has taken part in master classes with Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Julius Drake, Thomas Quasthoff, Kiri Te Kanawa, Philip Langridge, Jan Philip Schulze, Sherrill Milnes, Richard Stokes, Helmut Deutsch, Pavel Vernikov, Rudolf Jansen and Maxim Vengerov.
An experienced coach, James works regularly at the George Solti Accademia di Bel Canto in Italy, working with Mirella Freni and Leo Nucci, is a repertory professor for the Encuentro de musica y Academia de Santander in Spain, and a music coach for the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He is an alumnus of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, a scholar for the Samling Foundation, working with Sir Thomas Allen and Yvonne Kenny, and has participated in the European Liedforum in Berlin.