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

In 1994 Christian Curnyn founded the Early Opera Company with whom he appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall and St John’s Smith Square, and has performed with in concert at the Cheltenham Festival, Spitalfields Festival, York Early Music Festival, London Festival of Baroque Music, Kilkenny Arts Festival, and at the BBC Proms.

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

Much in demand on the operatic scene, in the UK Christian has conducted for Scottish Opera (Handel Semele), Opera North (Handel’s Saul), Grange Park Opera (Semele, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, and Cavalli’s Eliogabalo). He is a regular at English National Opera where successes have included Olivier Award winning productions of Handel’s Partenope and Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (dir. Barrie Kosky), After Dido (Katie Mitchell’s realisation of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas), Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Charpentier’s Medée, and Handel’s Rodelinda.

For The Royal Opera, Covent Garden he has conducted Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera, Cavalli’s L’Ormindo to inaugurate their series at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s The Globe, where he returned for Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo(nominated for an Olivier Award), and Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse at The Roundhouse.

Further afield he has worked with Opera Australia (Partenope), Landestheater Salzburg (Vivaldi’s Farnace and Handel’s Ariodante) Frankfurt Opera (Cavalli’s La Calisto and Gluck’s Ezio), Komische Oper Berlin (Rameau’s Castor et Pollux and Zoroastre) and Stuttgart Opera (Rameau’s Platée, Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Handel’s Alcina).  In the USA Christian Curnyn has conducted Partenope and Mozart’s Cosi fan Tuttefor New York City Opera, Handel’s Tolomeo for Glimmerglass Opera, and Cavalli’s Giasone and Charpentier’s Medée for Chicago Opera Theater.

Specialist early music ensembles Christian has worked with include Academy of Ancient Music, AKAMUS, English Concert, Irish and Wroclaw Baroque orchestras. Alongside this work he takes a particular interest in performing Baroque and Classical repertoire with modern forces, including collaborations with Bournemouth Symphony, Ulster, Hallé, Scottish Chamber (including a recording on the Decca label with Nicola Benedetti), Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Stavanger Symphony, and Philharmonie Essen.

Recent and future highlights include debuts with Garsington Opera (Die Zauberflöte) and Opéra national du Rhin (Don Giovanni), Idomeneo for Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos, Blow Venus & Adonis and Dido & Aeneas with the Early Opera Company (Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut), Handel Solomon for the Royal Opera Covent Garden, and other forthcoming productions for Opera North, Theatre Basel, Komische Oper Berlin, and The Royal Opera. Concerts include performances with the Academy of Ancient Music, Philharmonie Essen, and a Messiah tour with Tasmania, West Australia, and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras.

His extensive discography with the Early Opera Company for the Chandos label includes their 2005 recording of Partenope which won widespread critical acclaim, and their recording of Semele was chosen as a Best Recording of 2008 by The Sunday Times, Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine and awarded the 2008 Stanley Sadie Handel Prize. Further releases on the Chandos label include Eccles’ The Judgement of Paris, (awarded a Diapason D’or), Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera, and Handel’s Flavio, Alceste (winner of the Opera award in the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2013), Serse and most recently Acis & Galetea, as well as Il Trionfo del Tempo for Wigmore Live.


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 Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) 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 and provide the (small) orchestra and singers for both his 60th and 70th birthday parties; at the former, Lucy Crowe and David Bates sang; at the latter, Augusta Hebbert, James Laing and Joseph Kennedy.

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 PartenopeAfter Dido, Katie Mitchell’s realization of Purcell Dido and Aeneas, Rameau Castor and Pollux, Handel Giulio Cesare, Charpentier Medéeand 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 FigaroSemele 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 Operawith 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).

Born in 1945, John read Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.  He attended the College of Law and was admitted as a solicitor in 1974, which career he pursued until 2006.

He specialised in clinical negligence, in personal Injury, particularly claims involving head injury, and in professional negligence (solicitors, accountants, surveyors etc).

He was a senior litigation partner from 1984 and a member of management board of his firm from 1986-2006.

He served as a member of AvMA (the UK charity for patient safety & justice) referral panel for solicitors specialising in medical negligence claims, and of the Law Society’s specialist panels for professional negligence, personal injury and clinical negligence work.

John was a trustee of Headway South East London and North West Kent, a day centre for victims of head injury, until 2008, performing a wide variety of strategic, legal, secretarial and treasurer roles.

John has been an enthusiastic amateur musician for most of his life. He joined the Board of EOC in 2016.

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.

Vivienne has a professional background in psychology and occupational health and over fifteen years’ experience as a senior manager in both healthcare, higher biomedical education and clinical research.  She has lived and worked in Australia, the United States, Asia and the United Kingdom.

Her business experience includes general management within the private and public sectors, in occupational and organisational psychology and she has been a regional consultant for two American multi-national companies. Vivienne has more than 5 years’ experience as a trustee of other period instrument orchestras. Vivienne is also currently a trustee of the English Concert. Her personal interests in music, as a supporter and a regular concert-goer, include opera, early and baroque music; as an amateur musician, she plays renaissance and baroque lutes and is learning to play the clavichord.

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 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 voluntary commitments include Chair of TalkAboutArt, a charity devoted to promoting art education in South London, and trustee (former Chair) of the Blackheath Society.

He is also a keen choral singer, among his many leisure activities.

Stephen Sobey is a consultant who specialises in communications and marketing strategies for global clients; he has 10 years’ experience working with blue chip firms. In 2015 he founded his own company which provides communication guidance to clients, on both a strategic and reactive basis.

Stephen began his career working for the Conservative prior to the 2010 General Election.

Stephen has served as a judge on the Opera Panel of the Olivier Awards and holds a degree in History from Royal Holloway College, University of London he has also served on the Committee of the Young Patrons of the Royal Academy of Art.

Tom is a QC, practising in Media, Public and Commercial law.

As a Media lawyer, he deals particularly with copyright disputes and has a particular interest in music-related cases; he has wide experience of copyright law and has practised as a music lawyer for over 20 years. As a Public lawyer, he deals with a wide range of Human Rights issues.  And as a Commercial lawyer, he has to deal with a wide range of complex issues and problems, assisting both individuals and businesses.

He has acted in a wide variety of volunteer and charitable roles, including being an active member of the “Lawyers in Schools” project; volunteering for a programme organised by the National Centre for Citizenship and Law that involves assisting school children to prepare for a debate in the Supreme Court; involvement with the Guy Fox History Project, an educational charity in London which brings history and cartoon drawing to London primary schools; acting as a trustee of the Alexander Maxwell Law Trust, which was established to provide funding for legal practitioners when writing books; being a member of the Independent Monitoring Board (then called the Board of Visitors) of HMP Wormwood Scrubs; and many others.

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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