Artist of the Week: Christopher Lowrey

American Countertenor Makes his Grange Festival Debut

By Francisco Salazar

This week, the Grange Festival opens its 2024 summer season with Monteverdi’s “L’Incoronazione di Poppea.” The production will feature several established singers as well as rising stars. Among them is Christopher Lowrey, who will perform the role of Ottone in his Grange Festival debut.

Over the years the countertenor has performed with several important companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Carnegie Hall, Glyndebourne Festival, BBC Proms, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Teatro Real, Teatro La Fenice, Aix-en-Provence Festival, and English National Opera, among others. His repertoire has become associated with baroque music including the works of Händel, Vivaldi, Bach and Legrenzi, among others. In anticipation for his debut at Grange Festival Lower spoke to OperaWire.

OperaWire: What excites you about performing at the Grange Festival?

Christopher Lowrey: Though this is my debut at The Grange Festival, I’ve always loved the English summer festival atmosphere at other places I’ve worked like Glyndebourne and Iford. There is something irresistible about the coming together of what director Michael Chance identifies as “idiosyncracy and flamboyance” with breathtaking English countryside. Also, it’s a great privilege to have a career that takes me all around the world, but I relish the rare chance to sleep in my own bed in Hammersmith for an opera contract.

OW: Tell me about your role as Ottone and the major challenges of the role.

CL: Although this is my first crack at Ottone, my sense from other productions is that he’s usually a bit of a wet rag, so I’ve really enjoyed sinking my teeth into other facets of his character, namely his determination and swagger. After all, there must be something appealing enough in his character to have drawn all the women at court to his light.

OW: What excites you about Monetverdi’s music and how does he compare to the composers you perform?

CL: Musically, right from the very start, Monteverdi’s score has everything you need as a musician and a listener, bursting at the seems with so many colors and moods. I adore the flexibility of seventeenth-century music, and being allowed by our wonderful music director, David Bates, to suffuse the music with so many of my own ideas about text, phrasing, dynamics, and ornamentation.

OW: What do you think this opera says about today and why do you think it’s still relevant?

CL: One barely has to scratch the surface of Busenello’s libretto to uncover a banquet of themes that resonate down to us. The half-cocked things we do for love, or out of jealousy, or spite, or a venal need to be at the center of events. As spectators of this story, we exult in the sheer pettiness of our political superiors just as they would have done in the time of Nero, or the Venetian Doge. The poison that leeches into us from a sense of righteousness is on display, but also the hard-won wisdom of experience, disappointment, and compromise. It’s all there, depicted with a rawness belied by its total lightness of touch.

For those not in the UK for “Poppea,” Lowrey is set to perform in Brett Dean’s “Hamlet” at Opera Australia in July.


For those who want to get more familiar with the countertenor’s voice, Lowrey has several recordings including Händel’s “Rodelinda” on Accent label, Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” with Les Talens Lyriques on Alpha Label, Händel’s “Arminio” on Accent label, Dean’s “Hamlet” from the Glyndebourne Festival and Vivaldi’s “Bajazet” on ABC Classics.

Here he is performing the music of Händel and Vivaldi.