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From Monteverdi to Zarzuela: Our soprano soloists relish the wide range of music they sing

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Ana Beard Fernández says she "absolutely loves the Monteverdi Vespers, having sung it as a young chorister at Manchester Cathedral and then again in Durham Cathedral, while doing my degree at York, and at Ampleforth Abbey." Being a cathedral chorister was wonderful: "I was very privileged to sing most of the great sacred choral works by the time I was 12."

She has since enjoyed singing the full gamut of the oratorio repertoire, from Dvořák, to Handel, to Unsuk Chin, at venues including the Tower of London, Winchester Cathedral, London Handel Festival, Snape Maltings, and Stour Music Festival. "I have spent a lot of time performing wacky contemporary works, and premiered works by several established and up-and-coming composers. I love singing oratorio, particularly Dvorak's Stabat Mater, which I will be singing at York Minster with the University Choir and Orchestra in June, along with Song to the Moon from Rusalka." To round off the range of singing styles, she also sings Zarzuela, a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular songs, as well as dance. "It's pure bel canto repertoire and so dramatic!"

Ana adores singing in Russian and is currently preparing the part of Liza – Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades). She also loves consort singing and has performed with i Fagiolini and the Marian consort.

Ana graduated with a Distinction in her Master of Performance from the Royal College of Music in 2020, and in the same year was a Kathleen Ferrier Awards semi-finalist.

Like Ana, Sofia Kirwan-Baez considers herself very lucky to fall into quite a diverse range of styles. Heroperatic roles have included Elle (La Voix Humaine), Adina (Elisir d’amore), Venus (La Dafne), Juno (The Fairy Queen), Cis (Albert Herring), Patience (Patience) and creations by Marco Galvani and Toby Young. Other solo work has included Mahler’s 4th Symphony, Handel’s Messiah, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. "I'm particularly excited to be doing the Monteverdi Vespers. I adore Renaissance/Baroque music and its attention to texture, musical gestures and fun ornamentation."

In Autumn 2021, Sofia was the launch Piano Lounge artist at Barnes's OSO Arts Centre, playing song requests – everything from pop to opera. Having established a reputation for versatility, talent and humorous charm, she returned there from January to March 2022. Meanwhile, during March, she will also be playing the Sandman in the RCM's upcoming production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.

Sofia is excited to sing with the Thames Philharmonic Choir again. "Harry Bradford is a wonderful musician and conductor so I look forward to working with him on bringing Monteverdi's colourful music to life."

Sofia holds a Music Bachelors (St John’s College, Oxford) and a Masters from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. She is currently a Huffner Scholar in the Opera Course at the Royal College of Music.

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