Christopher Purves

Photo of Christopher Purves

International Professor of Vocal Studies

Christopher Purves has received much praise for his acclaimed interpretations of a diverse and eclectic range of roles and repertoire. A choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, Purves went on to become a member of experimental rock group Harvey and the Wallbangers. He has since developed a highly successful career on both the operatic and concert stages, in great demand with leading opera houses and orchestras around the world.

Highlights in 2014/15 include The Perfect American with Opera Queensland at the Brisbane Festival; Handel’s Messiah in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and with Washington Symphony Orchestra; title role Gianni Schicci at Opera North; Written on Skin with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; St John Passion at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam; St Matthew Passionwith the Academy of Ancient Music; and Golaud Pelleas et Melisande at Welsh National Opera. Purves ends the season with a return to Glyndebourne Festival Opera for the title role in Handel’s Saul.

In 2013/14, Purves made his role début as Alberich Das Rheingold at Houston Grand Opera; sang Sharpless Madama Butterfly in his house debut at Chicago Lyric Opera and with Scottish Opera; Protector in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin with L’Opera Comique de Paris; Sam in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place at the Konzerthaus, Berlin; Elgar’s The Kingdom at the First Night of the BBC Proms with Sir Andrew Davies and the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Haydn’s Die Schöpfung with Masaaki Suzuki and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; a European tour of Handel’s Messiah with Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d’Astree; and Berlioz’s L’Enfant du Christ with BBC Symphony.

Further operatic appearances includethe title role in Verdi’s Falstaff at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Marco Gianni Schicchi at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; BalstrodePeter Grimes at Teatro alla Scala, Houston Grand Opera and Opera North; title role Wozzeckand Beckmesser Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Welsh National Opera; Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore at the Salzburger Festspiele and Staatsoper Berlin; Alcina at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Lescaut Manon Lescaut at Opera North; Redburn Billy Budd at Netherlands Opera; and Sharpless, Tonio Pagliacci and Méphistophélès in Terry Gilliam’s outstanding production of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust at English National Opera, the latter of which won the Southbank Sky Arts 2012 opera award.

Purves has a great affinity for contemporary repertoire and has originated roles in a number of notable premieres, most recently singing Walt Disney in the world première of Phillip Glass The Perfect American at Teatro Real Madrid and ENO. He also premiered George Benjamin’sWritten on Skin to widespread critical acclaim at the Festival d’Aix en Provence in July 2012, reprising his role of Protector in subsequent productions at the Royal Opera House, Bayerische Staatsoper, Netherlands Opera and Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse. For composer James Macmillan, Purves has created roles in The Sacrifice at Welsh National Opera, Ines de Castro at Scottish Opera and Parthenogenesis in Cambridge, later performing the work at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Previous appearances on the concert platform include Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; both Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo and Acis and Galatea with the Gabrieli Consort and Paul McCreesh at Wigmore Hall; Handel’s Alexander’s Feast and Haydn’s Nelson Mass with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; and Mahler Symphony No 8 at the Casa da Musica in Porto. A keen recitalist, Purves works regularly with pianist Simon Lepper, and has appeared at the Aldeburgh Festival, Opera North and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.

Christopher Purves’ extensive discography includes the title rolein Le nozze di Figaro for Chandos, Handel Messiah and Saul with Harry Christophers and The Sixteen; Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan and Ricci’s La Prigione di Edimburgo for Opera Rara; Written on Skin with George Benjamin and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; and Mozart’s Requiem with Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. In 2012 Purves’ début solo CD, Handel’s Finest Arias for Base Voice, was released on Hyperion with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen, to critical acclaim.