Jonathan Sells is an international concert and opera singer, artistic director and conductor, based in Bern, Switzerland. The British-Swiss bass-baritone has performed in some of the world’s most renowned venues, such as Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, with conductors including William Christie, John Eliot Gardiner, Ton Koopman, Roger Norrington, and Frieder Bernius. His appearances on the opera stage include the Teatro Real in Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the Zurich Opera.
After studying Music and Musicology at the University of Cambridge, and Singing and Opera at the Guildhall School (GSMD) in London, Jonathan Sells attended the International Opera Studio in Zurich, where he had the chance to appear on stage with and learn from great artists such as Nina Stemme, Vittorio Grigolo, and Anja Harteros.
Whilst in Zurich, he was awarded the bronze Gottlob Frick Medal, which followed winning the Rose Bowl at the prestigious Gold Medal competition and the Wigmore Hall Recital Price at GSMD. Jonathan also won the Prix Thierry Mermod at the Verbier Festival Academy, where he sang Leporello and studied with Kiri Te Kanawa, Thomas Quasthoff, Claudio Desderi, and Tim Carroll, who became a major influence.
Les Arts Florissants
At the age of 24, Jonathan was selected by William Christie to take part in ‘Le Jardin des Voix’, which led to a close relationship with Les Arts Florissants and concert performances across Europe and in New York, as well as productions of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo at the Teatro Real in Madrid, Handel’s L’Allegro at the Palais Garnier in Paris, and Purcell’s Fairy Queen at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.
John Eliot Gardiner
Jonathan has had the privilege to sing for Sir John Eliot Gardiner since 2009, performing everything from Bach to Stravinsky with the English Baroque Soloists, London Symphony Orchestra, and Tonhalle Orchestra in the Berlin Philharmonie, Chapelle Royale de Versailles, Thomaskirche Leipzig, and many more. He features on Sir John Eliot’s recording of Bach’s Mätthaus-Passion from 2016.
Further inspirational collaborators include John Butt and the Dunedin Consort, I Fagiolini (Monteverdi recordings for Chandos and Decca), the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under Aapo Häkkinen (Schumann’s Vom Pagen und der Königstochter for Ondine records), the Zürcher Kammerorchester, and the composer/pianist Edward Rushton. He has had a close relationship to Aldeburgh Music/Snape Maltings since 2006.
Together with pianist Edward Rushton, Jonathan Sells had performed at the Tonhalle Zürich, Berner Liederstunden, Theater Stok and Theater Rigiblick (Zurich), and potentially in your living room as members of ‘Besuch der Lieder: music and poetry at home’. He jumps at the chance to perform art song, having given a full recital at Wigmore Hall in 2010, as well as Leeds Lieder, Barbican Hall, Richard Wagner’s house in Tribschen by Luzern, and the Zurich Opera.
Sells, who sang his first role – the Judge in Sweeney Todd - at the age of 17, loves to immerse himself in the magic of the opera stage. Roles performed include Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Switzerland and Germany, Leporello in Bahrain, Papageno (Oper Schloss Hallwyl), Der Lautsprecher Der Kaiser von Atlantis (Opéra de Dijon), Bartolo and Figaro Il barbiere di Siviglia (IOS Zurich, Oper Schloss Hallwyl), Bottom A Midsummer Night’s Dream (IOS Zurich), Don Alfonso Così fan tutte (cover, Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Zar Zar und Zimmermann, Georgio Germont La Traviata (Wexford Festival Opera short works), and der König Die Kluge (IOS Zurich).
His deep love for music of the 17th and 18th centuries led Jonathan Sells to found what is now Solomon’s Knot, a group that transforms the performance of this music in a way that connects more powerfully with modern audiences. As joint artistic director of the collective, together with James Halliday, he has taken their memorised, conductorless performances of Bach, Gesualdo, Charpentier, Handel, Purcell, Lacorcia, and others to the Aldeburgh Festival, Spitalfields Music, Bachfest Leipzig, Halle Händel Festspiele, Regensburger Tage Alter Musik, Thüringer Bachwochen and Monteverdi Tuscany. Open, flexible and collaborative, they have worked with Spira mirabilis, Mira Calix, Sven Werner and many more, and are grateful to have been Aldeburgh Music/Snape Maltings Open Space residents.
As conductor of the Solomon Choir and Orchestra from 2008 to 2010, Jonathan Sells directed performances of Handel's oratorios Messiah and Solomon, as well as numerous other 18th-century works. He had conducted Beethoven, Prokoffiev, Varèse, Nielsen, and was musical director of Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia Limited at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall.
He works as a visiting conductor, vocal and language coach for a number of choirs in Switzerland.
vocal pedagogy and masterclasses
As well as teaching privately at his studio in Bern, Jonathan gives vocal technique and repertoire masterclasses, most recently at the Hochschule für katholische Kirchenmusik und Musikpädagogik in Regensburg.
He himself studies with Michelle Wegwart and Elisabeth Glauser.