Elizabeth Llewellyn: A New Star to Watch
by Mel Cooper
I originally went along to the ENO’s recent revival of La Bohème because it was Jonathan Miller’s production. I came out in a state of bliss not just because it was terrific and intelligent and because of the way it had been rethought; not just because of the wonderful ensemble work from the whole cast and all the musicians in the pit; but because I had heard a voice that astonished me and spoke to me in the same way it must have been for audiences who were hearing Callas or Leontyne Price for the first time, decades ago.
The Mimi for this revival was an amazing soprano, Elizabeth Llewellyn, and it was literally her first time in a major role on a professional opera stage. The moment she walked onto that stage I was captivated by her sheer presence; when she began to sing she revealed a voice with all the richness and layers of musical interpretation and dramatic intensity that you could ever wish for, a voice of polished bronze with miraculous colours and glints, a voice that simply made me want to go on and on listening to her. Gwyn Hugh Jones was a strong partner for her, and conductor Stephen Lord shaped what was just a very fine evening in every way–the friend I was with, a tough man who had never seen La Bohème before, was actually crying at the end. But for me the deal-maker was Elizabeth Llewellyn. I just cannot get enough of her. I want to hear her do more Puccini. I want to hear her in Strauss. I want to hear her in major Verdi.
She seems to me to be a true star in the ascendant – a beautiful, totally committed and convincing actress with a strong stage presence and, of course, above all wih a unique and compelling voice of astonishing musicality and richness.
I discovered afterwards that Llewellyn has had a tough time in her life; an illness made her give up singing for several years and she had to find a career in the business world. It is now, only three years since joining an amateur music society, that she has begun to sing again. People have taken notice and encouraged her to return to professional musicianship. See our conversation: Llewellyn interview
You may have gathered by now that I was simply overwhelmed by the same kind of discovery I experienced the first time I heard Marilyn Horne or Jessye Norman or Kiri Te Kanawa or Pavarotti or Domingo live. Whatever it is that makes an outstanding actress, singer and performer, Elizabeth Llewellyn has it. And how! Llewellyn will be giving her first London recital, at 7:30 pm on April 9 at St. John’s Smith Square in London. Come, hear her in a program of operatic jewels, and discover her for yourself (scroll down for program details).Llewellyn recital