IN THE PRESS
MAHLER'S SECOND SYMPHONY
Conductor: Santu-Mattias Rouvali / Philharmonia Orchestra
BBC Radio 3
"The standard of orchestral playing was mostly exemplary up until the end of the third movement, but from the moment mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston began singing 'Urlicht' with achingly beautiful tone, and scrupulous attention to the text, vocal colours, and dynamics, the entire performance shifted up a gear, and remained on an exalted level until its shattering close. Too much of a stranger in her own land - scandalously she's yet be invited to sing in either of London's opera houses - this hugely talented mezzo from Liverpool possesses a voice of rare quality - richly bronzed, and even throughout its range. Her finely poised, pitch-perfect interpretation of 'Urlicht' held the packed audience in thrall."
Keith McDonnell, MusicOMH
" 'Urlicht' can sometimes - possibly more often than not - leave me rather cold in many live performances. Not here. The mezzo Jennifer Johnston was spellbinding - again almost stereophonic in that way in which a halo of rich sound seemed to surround her, most of it her own magnificent voice like a crown wrapped in gold and velvet."
Marc Brindle, Opera Today
MAHLER'S THIRD SYMPHONY
Conductor: Klaus Makela / Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
"Jennifer Johnston, breathtaking, made Nietzsche's text sparkle with a perfectly controlled voice and a diction that would make the most finicky linguists blush."
Aurore Tillac, Forum Opera
"In the fourth movement, Jennifer Johnston, placed in the middle of the first violins, lives up to the preceding pages. Her dark timbre, without the show being closed, is perfect, the noble vocals, the power and the legato serve the text best. Magnificent."
RESPIGHI'S IL TRAMONTO
Conductor: Vasily Petrenko / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
BBC Radio 3
"Jennifer Johnston shines in a Respighi rarity...she proved to be an ideal interpreter...she gave us soaring melodic lines and lyrical outpourings. Throughout, she enunciated the text clearly but never at the expense of beauty of sound. By the time we reached the closing lines, I was utterly enthralled."
Peter Connors, Bachtrack
MAHLER'S SECOND SYMPHONY
Conductor: Jakub Hrusa / Philharmonia Orchestra
BBC Radio 3
"Usually the first extended vision of heaven we get is in the 4th movement song based on a folk poem, 'Urlicht', as good as any I've heard here - Jennifer Johnston producing the authentic frisson with her pitch-altering first entry after the pell-mell human comedy of the Scherzo, fuller voiced than usual in the upper register, the true contralto."
David Nice, The Arts Desk *****
"And so the true journey to hell and back began. Jennifer Johnston delivered the text mesmerically."
Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard
"Mezzo Jennifer Johnston delivered a stunning rendition of her solo fourth movement Urlicht, with a lieder singer's fervent commitment to the text."
David Karlin, Bachtrack *****
FIRST NIGHT OF THE PROMS - JANACEK - GLAGOLITIC MASS
Conductor: Karina Canellakis / BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Royal Albert Hall
BBC Two, BBC Four, BBC Radio 3
“The soloists are variously challenged in the piece...Jennifer Johnston was wonderfully expressive and trenchant.” Robert Hugill, Opera Today
“Best of all was the singing: the soloists (Jennifer Johnston, Asmik Grigorian, Ladislav Elgr and Jan Martinik) all made distinctive contributions.” Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk
“Part Two was devoted to Janacek’s elemental Glagolitic Mass - one of the greatest 20th Century choral works. Soloists including tenor Ladislav Elgr and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston were crisp and clear.” Mark Savage, BBC News
A LOVE LETTER TO LIVERPOOL - DEBUT SOLO ALBUM
Alisdair Hogarth - piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company
"A fierce, big-hearted and atmospheric tribute to Johnston's home city, celebrated in rewardingly unsoupy arrangements of popular, romantic, traditional and Beatles songs - Johnston handles them all with rich colours, elegance and feeling...I have no claims on Liverpool, this disc made me wish I had." Fiona Maddocks, Observer
"A seamless musical panorama, exquisitely sung throughout. A beauty." Hugh Canning, Sunday Times
MAHLER - LIEDER EINES FAHRENDEN GESELLEN / DU YUN - WHERE WE LOST OUR SHADOWS (WORLD PREMIERE)
Conductor: Nicholas Collon / Aurora Orchestra
“The Pakistani singer Ali Sethi embroidered exquisite raga material around the colours of western orchestral sounds, eventually joined to ethereal effect, by the British mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston (who also sang, terrifically, Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen).” Fiona Maddocks, Observer
“It is typically eerie and disturbing fare for an ancient folk song, and its transformative journey began with a lyrical arrangement by Iain Farrington, full of blissful harp and Jennifer Johnston’s sensitive, delicate mezzo-soprano...Johnston and the orchestra then moved into a rendition of Mahler’s Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen, full of tension and grace, an interlude of surety and warmth...The main musical joys were twofold: raga singer Ali Sethi, whose beautiful vocal lines eventually interlaced with those of Johnston’s western tradition, leading us toward a deeply affecting conclusion.” Gus Mitchell, Bachtrack
“Amid all this, Johnston movingly performed Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, forged from ‘love and sorrow and world and dream’.” Rebecca Franks, The Times
MAHLER - SECOND SYMPHONY
Conductor: Robert Trevino / RTE Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
National Concert Hall, Dublin
“English mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston captured the mood precisely for one of Mahler’s most poignant passages, one that ends, however, on a note of hope rather than despair, which she pulled off perfectly.” Michael Roddy, Bachtrack
“The RTE NSO played Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony under Robert Trevino with the RTE Philharmonic Choir on glorious form and a particularly touching contribution from mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston in this most stirring of late 19th Century symphonies.” Michael Dervan, The Irish Times
SECOND NORN / FLOSSHILDE - GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko / Bayerische Staatsoper
“The Rhinemaidens and Norns were, without exception, excellent. I especially loved the contrasting colours - Jennifer Johnston’s contralto-like mezzo in particular - and blend from the latter in the opening scene.” Mark Berry, Opera Today
PASQUALITA - JOHN ADAMS - DOCTOR ATOMIC
Conductor: John Adams / BBC Symphony Orchestra / BBC Singers
25/04/17 - 02/07/18
“All else is compelling on every level, with superb British support from Brindley Sherratt as doubtful fellow physicist Edward Teller, and three younger generation singers, tenor Andrew Staples, baritone Marcus Farnsworth and contralto Jennifer Johnston, mesmeric in maid Pasqualita’s lullabies.” BBC Music Magazine
“Dialogue is urgent and complex, offset by the expansive, impassioned outpourings of Kitty Oppenheimer and her Tewa Indian maid Pasqualita, sung in both instances with heartfelt grace by the soprano Julia Bullock and the mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston.” Fiona Maddocks, Observer
“In Act Two, the human response to the impending catastrophe has a numinous twisty in the contralto range of Tewa Indian Pasqualita, a very specific role. The always impressive Jennifer Johnston had exactly the right timbre.” David Nice, The Arts Desk
BEETHOVEN - NINTH SYMPHONY
Conductor: Frank Welser-Most / Cleveland Orchestra
Severance Hall, Cleveland OH
“Erin Wall, Jennifer Johnston, Norbert Ernst and Dashon Burton were an unusually well-matched quartet of soloists.” Timothy Robson, Bachtrack
“The four guest vocalists, soprano Erin Wall, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston, tenor Norbert Ernst and bass-baritone Dashon Burton deployed themselves with individual and collective elan.” Zachary Lewis, Cleveland
“Jennifer Johnston brought warmth to the alto parts.” Mark Jordan, Seen & Heard International
MAHLER - DAS LIED VON DER ERDE
Conductor: Ion Marin / Hamburg Symphony Orchestra
“Was dort fehlte, machte die Mezzosopranistin Jennifer Johnston in ihren drei Lieder wieder wett. Sie bekam und nahm sich mehr und mehr die notigen Freiraume, um zu gestalten und nicht lediglich mitzuhalten. Mit den ins Verklingen gesungenen ‘Ewig...ewig...’ - Worten im Finale von ‘Der Abscheid’, umspielt vom Sternenstaub Australia Celesta, Harfe und Streichern, loste dieser Abschluss ein, was dem Ende des Symphonie-Adagios nicht gelungen war.” Joachim Mischke, Abendblatt
MAHLER - RÜCKERTLIEDER
Conductor: Thomas Sondergard / Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Usher Hall, Edinburgh
“Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder brought a real discovery (for me) in the shape of mezzo Jennifer Johnston. Hers is an extraordinary voice, with a chest of arresting power that is reminiscent of a contralto. That strong centre to the voice gave her an almost declaratory air in ‘Um Mitternacht’, like an ancient prophetess, before a transcendent, triumphant ending as the singer places her trust in God.” Simon Thompson, Seen & Heard International
'GO AND DO SOMETHING USEFUL'
14 OCT 2020 - THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS
'When lockdown began, live music stopped and my career as an opera singer ground to a halt. I've tried to hold on to a nugget of hope that the arts won't be allowed to fall over the edge of a cliff into a bottomless abyss. But that hope has been steadily chipped away..."
'A NEW LOW? WOMEN IN OPERA NEED CHANGE, BUT SINGING TENOR ROLES ISN'T IT.'
06 MAR 2018 - THE GUARDIAN
'The suggestion that women can take on traditionally male roles at pitch ignores the nature and limits of our voices. A new campaign offers a better route to greater industry inclusion'
'YES, CLASSICAL MUSIC HAS A HARASSMENT PROBLEM– AND NOW'S THE TIME FOR CHANGE.'
08 DEC 2017 - THE GUARDIAN
'The cult of the maestro has both nurtured great performances and led to abuses of power. The industry needs a code of conduct – and a change of culture – or its future is at stake, writes mezzo Jennifer Johnston'
'ARE OPERA SINGERS NOW TO BE JUDGED ON THEIR LOOKS NOT THEIR VOICE?'
19 MAY 2014 - THE GUARDIAN
'A storm of protest has erupted over critics’ disparaging comments about a Glyndebourne singer’s size and shape. If there is a line over which opera critics should not step, then it is into the realms of a singers’ personal appearance, writes mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston '
'We must not let Music Education become extinct'
27 MAY 2018 - SWAP'RA BLOG
'Music education in the UK has hit crisis point. An open letter published in the Guardian, signed by over 100 leading artists, expresses grave concerns about the exclusion of arts and creative subjects from the new English baccalaureate (Ebacc) for secondary school children, which they believe will seriously damage the future of many young people in this country'