Rachel Fenlon is a soprano and pianist who is finding a unique voice on the classical music stages of the world. Drawing from a singer-songwriter approach, Rachel performs song recitals as both singer and pianist accompanying herself. Praised for her “unusually shaped recitals in keeping with her extraordinary talent” (Places des Arts/Festival de Lanaudière), Rachel Fenlon performs internationally as a recitalist, as solo pianist and singer, and on the opera stage. Rachel was born in the UK, raised on the west coast of Canada, and is now based in Berlin.
In the 2023/24 season, Rachel performs self-accompanied recitals at Fundación Juan March, Pianosalon Christophori, Barokki Kuopo Festival, Klangwerk LIED, Lunenburg Academy of Music, Scotia Festival of Music and St. James’s Piccadilly, London, in varying programmes including Alban Berg’s Sieben Fruhe Lieder, Beethoven An die Ferne Geliebte, her own transcriptions of Dowland/Purcell, Bach/Busoni chorales, Claude Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées and George Crumb’s Apparition and Makrokosmos. On stage, Rachel performs Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with Vancouver Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Ne.Sans Dance Company.
Performing and commissioning new music is a core part of Rachel’s artistic practice. Her most recent new creation is a song cycle, titled Sing Nature Alive From My Insides, which world-premiered at Ottawa Chamberfest in 2022. It is a 40-minute song cycle for self-accompanied soprano, piano and live electronics for Rachel as performer, composed and co-created by Matthias McIntire, and set to poetry by Rachel. After its world premiere in August 2022 at Ottawa Chamberfest, the team went on to a collaboration with director Jamie McMillan to record a full-length art music film for Sing Nature Alive From My Insides, which will be released in early 2024.Read more
Further collaborations this season include the recording a new composition for self-accompanied soprano and orchestra by Stewart Goodyear with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jessica Cottis and, releasing new compositions by Daniel Janke on Circle Records and her own self-accompanied version of Die Winterreise in 2024.
Rachel has collaborated with composers such as Samy Moussa, Sarah Sleane, Nicole Lizée, Chaya Czernowin, Susanne Stelzenbach, Helmut Zapf, and Danika Loren. Her recent collaborative highlights include dance projects at Teatro Dello Scompiglio with Freies Tanz Ensemble and at Teatro del Giglio with Tanzfabrik Berlin.
Previous highlights include self-accompanied recitals at prestigious festivals and venues such as the Oxford Lieder Festival, Festival de Lanaudière, Ottawa Chamberfest, National Arts Centre Canada, Settimane Musicali di Ascona, Vancouver Opera Festival, Martha Argerich Festival Hamburg, Festival International Povoa de Varzim, Toronto Summer Music Festival, Oper Leipzig, PODIUM Festival Matadepera, the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Kammermusik Festival Ahrenshoop, Bristol Song Recitals, the Canadian Broadcasting Company Studios, GEDOK Festival Berlin, and at venues such as the National SAW Gallery, Kuhlhaus Berlin, the Fox Cabaret Vancouver, Late Night Liederabend Vienna, Orpheum Annex Vancouver, Oper Leipzig, Gallery 345 Toronto, Neue Schloss Tettnang, Vancouver Opera, the Baumann Centre at Pacific Opera Victoria, and the Theater am Delphi Berlin.
Rachel began her career as an opera singer and continues to perform as an opera singer and concert soloist. On the opera stage, Rachel most recently performed as soloist in the world premiere of Chaya Czernowin’s Heart Chamber at Deutsche Oper Berlin. In April 2022, Rachel jumped in to cover the role of Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Pacific Opera Victoria. Rachel debuted as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance at Vancouver Opera, when she was a member of the Vancouver Opera young artist programme. Rachel has since returned as a guest to sing leading roles with Vancouver Opera, such as Pamina in The Magic Flute, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro.
Rachel has appeared in leading roles with Pacific Opera Victoria: as Nannetta in Falstaff, and Queen Guinevere in Camelot; Ensemble Nylandia as Galatea in Acis and Galatea; the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as Lisa in Das Land des Lächelns, and with the Bard on the Beach Festival as Mimi in La bohème and appeared as a young artist at the Rossini Opera Festival, leading to performances as soprano soloist with Alberto Zedda in Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.
Having performed as soprano soloist with orchestras such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony, the Northern Czech Philharmonic, Finnish Baroque Ensemble Nylandia, and the Vancouver Bach Choir, Rachel’s concert work includes soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Brahms’ Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s B Minor Mass, and Magnificat, Handel’s Messiah, Arvo Pärt’s Stabat Mater, Haydn’s Nelson Mass.
In addition to her work as a performer, Rachel writes poetry – she has been awarded writing grants from the Canada Council and Ontario Arts Councils for her poetry and will release her debut collection in the coming year. Rachel is the co-founder of the Berlin artist collective CROWN THE MUSE – a production, and commissioning body for musical projects, which has collaborations with stage director Bruno Ravella, and the dance company Ne.Sans under the direction of choreographer Idan Cohen. Rachel is a founding member of the Canadian Artist Collective New ART New MEDIA. Rachel has attended artist residencies at Avaloch Farms Music Institute in New Hampshire as poet/singer/pianist, has been a 4-time artist resident at the Lunenburg Academy, which she has attended as singer/pianist/composer, and has been invited to the Banff Centre for the Arts for an artist residency.
Curious about the recording world and innovation, Rachel was the founding host of a series titled “Classical (R)evolution” on IDAGIO, which ran for two years beginning in March 2020. It was a weekly series, with over 90 episodes, in which she interviewed weekly guests and discusses what rule breaking and pushing boundaries means for musicians today. She interviewed guests such as Marc-André Hamelin, Barbara Hannigan, Vikingur Olafsson, Nico Muhly, Avi Avital, Magdalena Kožená, James Gaffigan, Timo Andres, Heloise Werner, Anna Lapwood, Sean Shibe, Alexander Neef, Francesco Piemontesi, Gerald Finley, amongst many others.
Rachel’s formal training was at the University of British Columbia, where she holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Opera Performance, and studied voice with Nancy Hermiston. As a pianist, Rachel completed her ARCT Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) and studied piano with May Ling Kwok. Rachel also studied composition at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, with Stephen Brown, Robert Aitken, and did summer composition residencies with Dinuk Wijerhatne and Marco Stroppa. As a young artist, Rachel was a member of the Vancouver Opera Young Artist Programme, and a young singer/pianist at the Oxford Lieder Mastercourse and at Crear Programme for Song in Scotland with Sir Malcolm Martineau.
“Canadian soprano and pianist Rachel Fenlon is redefining what it means to curate one’s own recital.”
“Rachel Fenlon is an unusual talent. She’s equally skilled as a soprano and as a pianist and she has combined those talents to create an evolving show called Fenlon and Fenlon where she sings (mostly) art song while accompanying herself on piano. Rachel is a very decent singer and a really good pianist and above all a thoughtful and creative musician. Last night was full of little “I thought I might just try this” moments that were great fun and very valid ways of exploring the songs… I like my traditional Liederabend as much as most folks but if someone is going to try to be different I’m much more attracted to what Rachel does than to slipping in some Rodgers and Hammerstein or Leonard Cohen.”