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Elizabeth Atherton is a British lyric soprano. Born and brought up in London, she is the daughter of the conductor David Atherton. She studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with Patricia MacMahon. She is winner of the Maggie Teyte Prize and the Handel Singing Competition.
Atherton is known for her versatility across a broad spectrum of music and her natural presence on stage. She first came to press attention whilst still at college with a Park Lane Group recital at the Purcell Room in 2002: "her voice is already formidable. Each note is hit dead in the centre; the tone is warm, the projection vast... there’s a dramatic actress in chrysalis here”.
On leaving college, she made her professional debut with English Touring Opera as Helena in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream and was then immediately contracted to Welsh National Opera, where her roles included Mozart's Pamina, Donna Elvira and Countess: “Elizabeth Atherton’s Countess is radiantly sung, especially her gorgeously poised Porgi amor".
Operatic appearances since have included many roles with Opera North, including Fiordiligi, Michaela, Governess, Donna Elvira and Helena, appearances at the Aldeburgh, Southbank, Holland, Bregenz, Grange Park and Buxton Festivals and her return to WNO for Moses und Aron.
Atherton has a close relationship with Sir Harrison Birtwistle who has written two chamber operas for her and the British tenor Mark Padmore. The first of these, The Corridor, was premiered in 2009 at the Aldeburgh Festival to considerable critical acclaim: “Startling, inventive and compelling, the soprano Elizabeth Atherton inhabits the role of Eurydice with an assuredness that suggests a deep understanding of the part”; “In a performance of blazing intensity Elizabeth Atherton triumphed as Woman. Her sense of vocal attack was unfailing, her spoken passages outstanding, with every spoken word resounding through the packed Britten Studio. Her voice is warm, her vowel sounds well rounded… What a performance".