- Katherine Watson
Georg Friedrich Händel: Apollo e Dafne HWV 122 - Dramatische Kantate
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Just over three decades ago, a group of inquisitive London musicians took a long hard look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra, and decided to start again from scratch. They began by throwing out the rulebook. Put a single conductor in charge? No...
Just over three decades ago, a group of inquisitive London musicians took a long hard look at that curious institution we call the Orchestra, and decided to start again from scratch. They began by throwing out the rulebook. Put a single conductor in charge? No way. Specialise in repertoire of a particular era? Too restricting. Perfect a work and then move on? Too lazy. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was born.
And as this distinctive ensemble playing on period-specific instruments began to get a foothold, it made a promise to itself. It vowed to keep questioning, adapting and inventing as long as it lived. Those original instruments became just one element of its quest for authenticity. Baroque and Classical music became just one strand of its repertoire. Every time the musical establishment thought it had a handle on what the OAE was all about, the ensemble pulled out another shocker: a Symphonie Fantastique here, some conductor-less Bach there. All the while, the Orchestra’s players called the shots.
At first it felt like a minor miracle. Ideas and talent were plentiful; money wasn’t. Somehow, the OAE survived to a year. Then to two. Then to five. It began to make benchmark recordings and attract the finest conductors. It became the toast of the European touring circuit. It bagged distinguished residencies at the Southbank Centre and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. It began, before long, to thrive.
And then came the real challenge. The ensemble’s musicians were branded eccentric idealists, and that they were determined to remain. In the face of the music industry’s big guns, the OAE kept its head. It got organised but remained experimentalist. It sustained its founding drive but welcomed new talent. It kept on exploring performance formats, rehearsal approaches and musical techniques. It searched for the right repertoire, instruments and approaches with even greater resolve. It kept true to its founding vow.
In some small way, the OAE changed the classical music world too. It challenged those distinguished partner organisations and brought the very best from them, too. Symphony and opera orchestras began to ask it for advice. Existing period instrument groups started to vary their conductors and repertoire. New ones popped up all over Europe and America.
And so the story continues, with ever more momentum and vision. The OAE’s series of nocturnal Night Shift performance have redefined concert parameters. Its new home at London’s Kings Place has fostered further diversity of planning and music-making. Great performances now become recordings on the Orchestra’s in-house CD label. The ensemble has formed the bedrock for some of Glyndebourne’s most ground-breaking recent productions. It travels as much abroad as to the UK regions: New York and Amsterdam court it, Birmingham and Bristol cherish it.
Remarkable people are behind it. Simon Rattle, the young conductor in whom the OAE placed so much of its initial trust, still cleaves to the ensemble. Iván Fischer, the visionary who punted some of his most individual musical ideas on the young orchestra, continues to challenge it. Mark Elder still mines for luminosity, shade and line. Vladimir Jurowski, the podium technician with an insatiable appetite for creative renewal, has drawn from it some of the most revelatory noises of recent years. And, most recently, it’s been a laboratory for John Butt’s most exciting Bach experiments.” All five of them share the title Principal Artist.
Of the instrumentalists, many remain from those brave first days; many have come since. All seem as eager and hungry as ever. They’re offered ever greater respect, but continue only to question themselves. Because still, they pride themselves on sitting ever so slightly outside the box. They wouldn’t want it any other way.
Katherine Watson, Soprano
Katherine Watson studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Trinity College, Cambridge where she was a choral scholar. She was awarded a place on the young artist programme of William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants and has since performed regularly with...
Katherine Watson studied Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Trinity College, Cambridge where she was a choral scholar. She was awarded a place on the young artist programme of William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants and has since performed regularly with Christie and Les Arts Florissants throughout Europe and further afield. She has worked with a number of eminent conductors including Paul Agnew, Harry Bickett, Harry Christophers, Stephen Cleobury, Jonathan Cohen, Emmanuelle Haïm, Nicholas Kraemer, Stephen Layton, Sir Roger Norrington and Christophe Rousset.
Katherine made her operatic debut at Glyndebourne as Fairy/Nymph The Fairy Queen (Cummings) and returned as Diana Hippolyte et Aricie (Christie). Other operatic roles have included Italienne/Phantome Médée (Haïm), Virtù/Damigella L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Teatro Real, Madrid, Cassandra La Didone in Caen, Luxembourg and Paris (Christie), Phani Les Incas du Pérou, Dardanus with Ensemble Pygmalion at Opera National de Bordeaux and at the Chapelle Royale, Château de Versailles and Iphis Jephta at the Beaune Festival.
Concert highlights include Iphis Jephtha in Paris, Moscow and Vienna, Diana Actéon and 2nd Woman Dido and Aeneas in New York (Christie), a programme of Cleopatra's arias from Giulio Cesare in Lille, a programme of Rameau arias in Frankfurt and a Monteverdi Gala at the Festspielhaus, Baden Baden (Haïm). Further notable concert engagements include Bach's Jauchzet Gott and Handel arias with the English Concert and trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth at the Cheltenham Festival, as well as a concert performance of Handel's Apollo e Dafne with J. Cohen at Carnegie Hall, New York and more recently with Arcangelo at Zanker Hall, New York. Katherine’s oratorio work includes Messiah in Seville with the Hallé Orchestra, and with Polyphony at St John’s Smith Square, Christmas Oratorio with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music for BBC Radio 3, St John Passion, Nelson Mass and Mozart’s Requiem (Layton), B Minor Mass in Winchester Cathedral, Dixit Dominus in Lincoln Cathedral, and Mozart Exsultate Jubilate in Westminster Abbey. Katherine has also performed Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata (Norrington), Solomon (McCreesh), Nelson Mass with the Britten Sinfonia at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and Samson with the Irish Baroque Orchestra at the National Concert Hall, Dublin.
In addition to her work in baroque repertoire, Katherine has performed Mahler’s 4th Symphony, Lutosławsky’s Chantesfleurs et Chantesfables and Barber’s Knoxville – Summer of 1915 at St John's Smith Square with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Symphonia Antarctica (Layton) with the City of London Sinfonia and Britten Les Illuminations. As a keen recitalist, Katherine’s lieder/chanson repertoire includes songs by Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, Strauss, Poulenc and Messiaen.
Her discography includes Bach Christmas Oratorio (Layton/OAE/Trinity College Choir), Caterina Oratorio di Santa Caterina (Headley), and a Hyperion recording in 2014 of Monteverdi madrigals with Cohen and Arcangelo. DVD recordings include Cassandra La Didone (Opus Arte), Virtù/Damigella Poppea (EMI) and Un Songe/l'Amour/une Phrygienne Dardanus (Harmonia Mundi).
Recent highlights include the title role Theodora in Paris, New York, and Amsterdam (Christie), Telaire Castor et Pollux (Wigmore Hall, Curnyn), performances of Messiah with Le Concert Spirituel, Polyphony, and La Risonanza throughout Europe, the title role Isbé at the Palace of Arts, Budapest (CD to be released), Mérope Persée (Metz and Paris), Cleopatra Alexander Balus at the London Handel Festival with Laurence Cummings, three appearances at the Beaune Festival as Nitocris Belshazzar, Armelite Zoroastre, and Galatea Acis and Galatea, a tour of B Minor Mass (Barcelona, Leipzig and London) with Les Arts Florissants, and two appearances at the BBC Proms with Arcangelo and Les Arts Florissants.
In the 2016/2017 season, Katherine returns to Bordeaux to sing extracts from Massenet’s Don Quichotte (Minkowski), and also returns to Théâtre des Champs Elysées as Giunone in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Haïm). Other engagements include Belinda Dido and Aeneas with Opéra de Rouen (also performed in Vichy and Versailles), recitals at Lille Opera with Simon Lepper and at the Oxford Lieder Festival with Sholto Kynoch, a Purcell recording with Alexis Kossenko and his ensemble Les Ambassadeurs, Le Temple de la Gloire with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in San Francisco, and her début with Komische Oper Berlin to sing Armélite Zoroastre with Christian Curnyn.