Hilary Summers

Photo of Hilary Summers

Professor of Singing

Born in South Wales, contralto Hilary Summers gained a BA in music from Reading University and continued her vocal studies at the Royal Academy of Music and the National Opera studio. She enjoys a busy international career and has recorded over forty CDs spanning works from the early baroque period to the present day.

Her three octave range has excited the attention of many composers. She has sung in numerous world premieres including George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at the Bastille, Paris; Elliot Carter’s What Next at the Staatsoper Berlin, conducted by Daniel Barenboim; Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Alice’s Adventures Underground with the LA Philharmonic in Los Angeles; Peter Eotvos’ Le Balcon at the Aix Festival and Facing Goya and War Work by Michael Nyman.

Hilary worked closely with the iconic composer and conductor Pierre Boulez from 2004. With the ensemble intercontemporain, they recorded his masterwork Le marteau sans maître, for which she won a Grammy, and performed the piece worldwide. She also performed Le visage nuptial, Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Ligeti’s Aventures and Aventures nouvelles under his inspirational baton.

A regular soloist with leading European period instrument ensembles, she has a close rapport with Christian Curnyn and the early opera company with whom she has recorded Handel’s Semele, Partenope, Flavio, Serse, and Il trionfo del tempo. Other baroque highlights include Handel’s Orlando and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.

Hilary sings internationally on the concert platform in a variety of repertoire from Bach to Birtwistle and has given over one hundred performances of Handel’s Messiah. Other concert works include Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Mahler’s Symphonies 2 and 3.

Operatic roles include Sorceress; Juno; Jocasta, Cornelia; Polinesso; Amadigi; Tisbe (La Cenerentola); Gaea (Daphne); Geneviève (Pelléas); Baba the Turk/Mother Goose; Hippolyta; Mrs Sedley; Bianca; Mescalina (Le Grand Macabre); Diana Orsini (Bomarzo); Miss Prism.

Film soundtracks include Michael Nyman’s The Claim and The Libertine , Howard Shore’s The Fellowship of the Ring and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, andthe BBC tv series The League of Gentlemen by Joby Talbot.

Hilary regularly gives masterclasses and has run courses specialising in contemporary vocal techniques at Yale University and the Festival Aix-en Provence.  Since 2017 she has taught singing at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

This autumn she makes her debut at La Scala, Milan in the World Premiere of Georgy Kurtag’s opera Fin de Partie. Other forthcoming engagements include Brescianello’s Tisbe at the Buxton Festival, Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten in Helsinki, a European tour of Handel’s Messiah and Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Underground at the Royal Opera House.