Ed Ballard, baritone – a profile

Ed will be singing in Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria at this year’s Festival, backed by local choral societies. Paul Spicer and Stephen Scotchmer will conduct the singers alongside the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra on 25th March at 7.30pm at Petersfield Festival Hall.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at the Petersfield Musical Festival this year?

The Stanford songs are beautiful and not often performed. Paul Spicer is an expert in this repertoire so it is a particular privilege to work with him on this music. My wife’s parents also live in Liss so there will be family in the audience, which will make the occasion particularly special.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

I feel fortunate to have experienced the rich church music tradition, and sang (initially as a treble) in church choirs for many years. This included Temple Church under Stephen Layton of Polyphony fame. Stephen took the choir on many exciting overseas tours and we also made some recordings. My parents aren’t particularly musical but they have always been supportive, and encouraged me to go for a choral scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge.

Since then I have been fortunate to have a series of inspirational teachers who have helped me move into the operatic repertoire and develop as a soloist, unlocking new colours and textures in my voice and digging deeper into character and text. My time at the Royal Academy of Music was immensely formative. Since then, my work with my current teacher, the renowned Bass Matthew Rose, has been particularly transformative. I owe him a great deal.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

All musicians have been affected by the triple whammy of austerity, Brexit and the pandemic. David Butt Philip recently wrote an article in The Times advising young opera singers to seek work outside the UK and sadly many are either leaving the UK or leaving the profession. For those who value the arts, it is more important than ever to support local arts organisations to keep Britain’s magnificent musical traditions alive.

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

There is so much I could say about the joys of making music with others, especially on the empathy which it both fosters and upon which it relies. Perhaps the following could serve as a useful metaphor; according to a study conducted a few years ago, when humans sing together for any length of time, their heartbeats will synchronise. Which says it all really.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

There are many, but I have always adored the music of Benjamin Britten. Britten has an extraordinary ability to marry music and text, exemplified in many of his operas. He always seems to understand the way that different vowels sit in particular registers of a singer’s voice, the colours these produce in the sound and the sensation this evokes in the singer as they do so. As a result his ability to convey the emotions of his characters is always so vividly and precisely realised. I think all the best operatic composers have something of this ability, so Britten is not alone in this regard. I suppose his music has always just really spoken to me.

Which works do you think you perform best? Which performances are you most proud of?

I particularly enjoy performing contemporary opera and working on new compositions. There is something exciting about works that originate in our own contemporary culture and come out of the zeitgeist of the present time. It’s always exciting to create a role for the first time. I made my professional debut creating the title role in Luke Styles’ Macbeth for Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s Jerwood Opera.

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

One memorable concert was performing in the West Bank in 2016 as part of a series of concerts with young Palestinian musicians. The juxtaposition of turbulence of the political situation there with what music can achieve in bringing people together felt particularly poignant.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be prepared to be versatile and make things happen for yourself. It is an incredible job, but it is not a linear career and you need to be flexible and draw upon all the skills you have in order to build a portfolio of work that can sustain you through good times and bad. There are multiple paths in music and all of them are valid. Provided that you keep the love of the music itself at the heart of what you do, it is an incredible way to spend your career.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

More of the same really. I love the variety of my work whilst at the same time that it allows me to be with my young family.

About Ed

Ed studied at the Royal Academy of Music and with the Royal Academy Opera, where he won the Marjorie Thomas Art Song Prize, the Elena Gerhardt Lieder Prize and was supported by the Sybil Tutton and International Opera Awards Foundations. He is a Britten-Pears and ENOA Young Artist.

Ed made his professional debut creating the title role in Luke Styles Macbeth for Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s Jerwood Opera and at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In the romantic repertoire he has performed the title role in the Massenet’s Werther (1901 baritone version) for English Touring Opera, Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon for Theater Freiburg and Marcello in Puccini’s La Boheme for Vivo d’Arte. A specialist in modern opera, his recent and forthcoming engagements include Algernon Montcrief in Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest for Nouvel Opera Fribourg and at Theatre l’Equilibre in Paris, Avenant in Philip Glass’ La Belle et Le Bête for Theater Koblenz, Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Opera Zuid in Holland, cover Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and cover Judge of the Dead in Harrison Birtwistle The Mask of Orpheus for English National Opera.

A Finalist in the London Handel Singing Competition, Ed also has a particular affinity with the baroque repertoire with recent and forthcoming performances recitals of Handel’s Italian Cantatas with Julian Perkins and Sounds Baroque and in the London Handel Festival, Messiah in St Paul’s Cathedral and in the Royal Albert Hall and Israel in Egypt in the Herrenhausen Palace in Hanover. During his time at the Royal Academy of Music he was also a Kohn Foundation Bach Scholar, performing Cantatas BWV 8, 32, 61, 62, 100, 157 and 201 in the acclaimed Kohn Foundation/Royal Academy of Music Bach Cantata Series.