WORLD renowned artists, exciting discoveries and promising young newcomers illuminated the 11th Leeds Lieder Festival in Opera North’s resplendent Howard Assembly Room. Devotees of classical song enjoyed a veritable banquet of thirteen recitals, four masterclasses, Leeds Lieder young artist showcases, pre-recital talks by distinguished experts and a community ‘Bring and Sing’ event, led by choral director Anna Lapwood.

The stellar opening recital from soprano Dorothea Röschmann and pianist Joseph Middleton offered a richly contrasting programme: Robert Schumann’s bleak Maria Stuart- Lieder, a selection from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Wolf’s Songs of Mignon, and Wagner’s evocative Wesendonck-Lieder. Röschmann’s exquisitely shaded warm and lustrous timbre coloured every nuance in the texts. The distinguished soprano was flawlessly partnered by Joseph Middleton, director of Leeds Lieder.

Friday’s meditative late evening recital by soprano Ruby Hughes and Middleton included the first performance of ‘The World’, Deborah Pritchard’s intensely personal new song cycle. Leeds Lieder’s fervent commitment to the extension of the song repertory into the 21st century is to the organisation’s lasting credit.

Nikola Hillebrand has been described as “divine” and “a new goddess of opera”. The attractive German lyric soprano is a principal at the Semperoper in Dresden. Her roles in that esteemed house include Musetta in La Boheme, both the Queen of the Night and Pamina in The Magic Flute, Zdenka in Richard Strauss’s Arabella and Adele in Die Fledermaus. Sunday evening’s sensational Leeds Lieder Festival closing concert, received with stamping of feet and yelps of delight, marked Hillebrand’s UK recital debut. Hillebrand and Middleton’s programme of Schubert, Brahms and Richard Strauss was impeccably projected. The young soprano’s musicality and natural ease shone through. Her voice has a luminous and gleaming quality, equally at home in Schubert and Brahms Lieder as in the long phrases and highwire coloratura passages of R Strauss. Middleton’s stunning pianism and his gift for inhabiting the character of each song again defied superlatives.

This wonderful recital and all Festival events are now available free at

by Geoffrey Mogridge