Victoria’s the queen of mezzo sopranos

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SUNDAY sees Kelso Music Society welcome one of the UK’s leading mezzo sopranos on the back of its most successful concert to date.

A total of 134 people attended last month’s performance by the Idomeneo Quartet in the high school, up 24 on the previous best.

And this weekend the society will hope to break that record when Victoria Simmonds is joined by accompanist Anna Tilbrook, who is “outstanding”, according to music society president Peter Podmore.

Victoria said: “My grandfather was Thomas Morton from Galashiels, but I have never been up to the Borders.

“I have worked with Anna many times and it is nice to work with someone who is a friend as well as being a very experienced accompanist.”

Victoria started her career at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she collected numerous awards.

By 2000, she made her English National Opera debut as Nancy T’ang in Adam’s Nixon in China.

She went on to become a company principal, singing such roles as Cherubino/Figaro, Mercedes/Carmen and Zaida/The Turk in Italy.

Five years ago she sang the title role in Carmen in the Royal Albert Hall and made her debut at the Netherlands Opera.

Festival engagements include the title role in La Perichole and Ines/Maria Padilla, both for Buxton Festival, Isolier/Le Comte Ory for Garsington, and Olga/Eugene Onegin for Opera Holland Park.

In 2006/7 she sang Wellgunde/Das Rheingold for Aix en Provence/Salzburg with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, Meg Page/Falstaff for Grange Park, and Varvara/Katya Kabanova on Chandos’ critically-acclaimed recording.

Concert performances have included the Philharmonia in the Royal Festival Hall and Ascanius/Les Troyens with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis at the 2003 BBC Proms.

She made her Salzburg Festival debut in 2006 and her first appearance at the Edinburgh Festival a year later.

Victoria also enjoyed great success in the title role in Jonathan Dove’s The Adventures of Pinocchio for Opera North.

In 2012/13 she will be taking part in the world premiere of a new opera by George Benjamin at the Aix Festival in 2012.

The opera will also be performed in some of Europe’s most prestigious venues, such as Opera Comique in Paris, Covent Garden Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.

Victoria said: “It is really nice to sing music which is specifically written for you, such as being asked what notes you like and dislike. It is nice to be part of the creative process.

“It will be my debut at the Opera House which is very exciting, as will be performing in the other venues.”

Peter said: “Victoria and Anna are going to perform two songs by Bizet and then the beautiful set of early songs by Mahler – The Songs of a Wayfarer – usually heard with orchestral accompaniment but originally written for piano and voice.

“The second half is given to Schubert’s last and some of his greatest songs, ‘Schwanengesang’ (Swan Song), which Kelso is very privileged to have had specially prepared for this concert by Victoria and Anna.

“Moreover, the music society is extremely privileged to be able to entertain two such wonderful performers.

Victoria added: “It is a really good programme and it will be great to share it with people.”

Tickets for the concert – at 2.30pm – are priced at £12 (£10 concessions; £3 students) on the door. Under-14s get in free, with an accompanying adult charged £6.

More information available at www.kelsomusicsociety.com