About us

About us2019-03-01T12:13:59+00:00

Early Opera Company

Founded by its Music Director Christian Curnyn, Early Opera Company’s vision is to celebrate baroque music in ways that stir, delight and inspire audiences.

Promoters: please contact info@earlyopera.com for an up to date biography before going to print.

Founded by its Artistic Director Christian Curnyn, Early Opera Company’s vision is to celebrate baroque music in ways that delight and inspire audiences. We collaborate with world-class partners, inspire audiences with outstanding productions, recordings and broadcasts of baroque opera and early music, and invest in the professional development of the next generation of baroque-specialist musicians.

Early Opera Company is proud to work closely with The Royal Opera. We received an Olivier Award nomination (Outstanding Achievement in Opera) with them for Monteverdi Orfeo at the Roundhouse and Cavalli L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. This association continued with 5-star reviews for Rossi Orpheus at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses at the Roundhouse.

We have a strong reputation for our performances of Handel, including performances of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Acis and Galatea, Serse, Alceste and La Resurrezione at Wigmore Hall and St John’s Smith Square, London. The Company also regularly features the music of the French baroque, including Charpentier Actéon and Rameau Platée and Castor et Pollux. Forthcoming concerts include Handel Solomon at Royal Opera House with the ROH Chorus, and a double-bill of Blow Venus and Adonis + Purcell Dido and Aeneas at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw for NTR ZaterdagMatinee series.

Partnerships with festivals and venues have led us to create numerous operas with Iford Arts, explore Monteverdi’s music with 0-4 year olds in Spitalfields Music’s Musical Rumpus, stage JS Bach’s witty Coffee Cantata in a Hoxton art gallery, perform Alasdair Nicolson’s Reimagining King Arthur for young audiences with Wigmore Learning, and duet with East London Dance and their choreographers.

Frequently broadcast on BBC, EOC featured on #OperaPassion day on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune from the V&A Museum, BBC4’s TV series Rule Britannia: Music, Mischief and Morals in the 18th century, BBC Radio 3’s Opera on 3 (Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses) and at BBC Proms.  Recordings on Chandos include the recent Acis and Galatea, Serse, Alceste, Partenope, Semele and Flavio, with awards including BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone Editor’s Choice.

Christian Curnyn

Christian Curnyn founded Early Opera Company in 1994 and the last twenty-four years have seen notable performances throughout the UK, along with award-winning recordings.

Promoters: please contact us for an up to date biography before printing this version in programmes. 

For English National Opera, he has conducted Handel’s Partenope, Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda, After Dido, Katie Mitchell’s realization of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Rameau’s Castor and Pollux and Charpentier’s Medée.

Other appearances include Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Aldeburgh, Partenope for Opera Australia, Vivaldi’s Farnace and Handel’s Ariodante at Salzburg’s Landestheater, Rameau’s Platée for Oper Stuttgart, Handel’s Semele for Scottish Opera, Handel’s Saul for Opera North, Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera, Cavalli’s L’Ormindo and Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses at The Royal Opera, Le nozze di Figaro, Semele and Cavalli’s Eliogabalo for Grange Park Opera, Handel’s Jephtha at the Halle Handel Festival, Partenope and Cosi fan tutte for New York City Opera, Cavalli’s Giasone and Charpentier’s Medee for Chicago Opera Theater, Cavalli’s La Calisto and Gluck’s Ezio for Oper Frankfurt and Mozart Idomeneo in Kilkenny and Lisbon.

On the concert platform, engagements have included concerts with Academy of Ancient Music, The English Concert, Hallé, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra. Alongside recordings for Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn has recorded Britten’s realisation of The Beggars Opera with the City of London Sinfonia and a disc of Italian repertoire with Nicola Benedetti for Decca.

Recently, he has conducted the Hallé and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras, at Karlsruhe Handel Festival, Oper Stuttgart’s performances of Handel’s Alcina and Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, at Komische Oper for Rameau’s Zoroastre, and ENO’s revival of Partenope and Rodelinda. Future plans include Mozart Die Zauberflote for Garsington Opera and projects in Australia, Lisbon and Bern.


Early Opera Company players

We are privileged to work with some outstanding players from the UK and beyond. Recently, our team has included:

Catherine Martin (leader), Emilia Benjamin, Ellen Bundy, George Clifford, Iona Davis, Dominika Feher, Persephone Gibbs, Andrea Jones, Nia Lewis, Liz MacCarthy, Tuomo Suni, Ellen O’Dell, Alida Schat, Miki Takehashi, Hannah Tibell, Kinga Ujszaszi, Oliver Webber.

Emilia Benjamin, Jordan Bowran, John Crockatt, Louise Hogan, Liz MacCarthy, Jane Rogers.

Jonathan Byers, Joseph Crouch, Jonathan Rees, Andrew Skidmore, Vladimir Waltham.

Kate Aldridge, Elizabeth Bradley, Carina Cosgrove, Judith Evans, Christine Sticher.

Elizabeth Kenny, David Miller, Alex McCartney, Eligio Luis Quinteiro.

Siobhan Armstrong, Frances Kelly.

Katy Bircher, Georgia Browne, Jane Mitchell, Brinley Yare.

Leo Duarte, Sarah Humphrys, Hannah McLaughlin, Katharina Spreckelsen.

Sally Jackson, Rhoda Patrick, Zoe Shevlin.

David Hendry, David Carstairs.

“…the cream of today’s young Handelians. The Early Opera Company has a style all its own, characterized by vibrant, fervently committed execution… this is the band you want to hear in this music.” Music OMH

Trustees of Early Opera Company

We have an active and involved Board of Trustees who support the work of Early Opera Company in many ways. They are:

Jo was Director of Bristol Zoo Gardens and CEO of its parent charity, The Bristol Zoological Society, where he worked from 2001 to 2010. Previously, he was Director of London Zoo and Zoological Director of the Zoological Society of London for nine years, having been appointed as Curator of Mammals in 1988. He graduated in Zoology from Imperial College, London, in 1973, completed his PhD in 1977, held a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 1977-1979, and spent the next nine years conducting research and lecturing on mammalian population ecology and social behaviour at Royal Holloway (London) and Bath Universities.

He was awarded an OBE in 2000. He has Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Kingston (1993) and Bristol (2011). Jo chaired the Conservation Committee of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) from 2002 to 2010, and is currently Chair of the Advisory and Finance Committees of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

He has wide experience in running, chairing, and being a trustee of charitable organisations, in finance and risk management, and in fundraising and marketing.

Jo has a long-standing love of baroque music, and Christian helped him organise the music for his 60th birthday party, at which Lucy Crowe and David Bates sang. He joined the EOC Board in 2011, and became Chair in 2013.

Christian read music at Guildhall School of Music & Drama and at the University of York. He founded the Early Opera Company in 1994 and the last 22 years have seen notable performances throughout the UK, along with award-winning recordings.

For English National Opera, Christian has conducted Handel Partenope, After Dido, Katie Mitchell’s realization of Purcell Dido and Aeneas, Rameau Castor and Pollux, Handel Giulio Cesare, Charpentier Medée and Handel Rodelinda.

Other appearances include Purcell Dido and Aeneas in Aldeburgh, Partenope (Opera Australia), Vivaldi Farnace and Handel Ariodante (Salzburg Landestheater), Rameau Platée (Oper Stuttgart), Handel Semele (Scottish Opera), Handel Saul (Opera North), Britten The Beggar’s Opera, Cavalli L’Ormindo (The Royal Opera, Covent Garden), Le nozze di Figaro, Semele and Cavalli’s Eliogabalo (Grange Park Opera), as well as Handel Jephtha (Halle Handel Festival), Partenope and Cosi fan tutte (New York City Opera), Cavalli Giasone and Charpentier Medee (Chicago Opera Theater) and Cavalli La Calisto and Gluck Ezio (Oper Frankfurt).

On the concert platform engagements have included concerts with the English Concert, The Hallé, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra. Alongside recordings for EOC, Christian has recorded Britten’s realisation of The Beggars Opera with the City of London Sinfonia and a disc of Italian repertoire with Nicola Benedetti for Decca.

Future plans, alongside those for Early Opera Company, include Purcell The Fairy Queen and Handel Alcina (Stuttgart Oper) and Rameau Castor et Pollux (Komische Oper Berlin).

Charlie is a Project Manager by profession, running his own company within the construction sector, advising clients on sustainable building and the management of construction projects and building costs.

He says that his musical intelligence (grade 2 Piano) was rescued by Christian whilst they were at York University together; he attended many of Christian’s performances in the University Music Department and at York Early Music Festival. They have stayed in touch ever since, and Charlie became a Trustee of EOC in 2003.

He claims that his knowledge of early opera is still sketchy, but his experience and background in Project Management makes him good at defining tasks and getting things done. He also has general experience in the NGO sector and is a trustee of two grant-making organisations.

A barrister by profession, Nicky had a wide and varied career in the Civil Service, moving out of her legal specialism to combine her legal background with a personnel focus. For six and a half years she was Head of Corporate Resources and Services, first in the former Lord Chancellor’s Department, and latterly in the Cabinet Office. During this time she became involved with musical charities as a trustee and voluntary fundraiser.

In 2001 she left the civil service and became a Partner at executive search firm, Odgers Berndtson. Nicky developed the government and arts and heritage practices in the business and has led many of the most senior arts and heritage appointments in the UK and beyond.

Nicky is a lover of baroque music and has been a board member of musical organisations over the past 20 years. She is Chair of the Orchid Music Charitable Trust and a Trustee of the English Concert, Spitalfields Music, Early Opera Company and Tenebrae.

Howard Shields grew up in India and South Africa before becoming a biochemist by training, from Cambridge. He then changed tack and spent his working life in the oil business with Shell, mostly overseas, in the Far East, Holland, Turkey and Italy.

Upon retiring, he joined the EOC board, including 5 years as Chair; his other main voluntary commitment is Chair of the Blackheath Society. He is also a keen choral singer, among his many leisure activities.

Perform with us?

We do not hold formal auditions for singers or players on a regular basis, but if you are interested in performing with Early Opera Company, please send a CV and link to a recording of relevant repertoire to info@earlyopera.com  Thank you.

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