The Irish soprano, Sylvia O'Brien, was a choral scholar at Trinity College Dublin and sang in the choirs of both the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral and the Roman Catholic St. Theresa's Church in Dublin, before making her operatic debut in 2004 as the Governess in Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw with Opera Theatre Company, Ireland's national touring company. She studied for a Master's degree in contemporary vocal techniques at the Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Equally at home in the classical and contemporary repertoire, Sylvia O'Brien has impressed audiences in opera, oratorio and chamber music. She is a regular guest with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, RTE Concert Orchestra and the Orchestra of St Cecilia and has performed with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the German NDR and the Dutch Magogo Chamber Orchestra. Collaborations include the Solstice Quartet, Triocca and the Syrius Trio and the Grieg Piano Trio.
Recent highlights include Michel van der Aa’s Here (in Cirlces) with the Crash Ensemble De Staat by Louis Andriessen with the RTE Concert Orchestra Dublin, Les Nuits d’Ete with Zuid-Hollands Symfonie Orkest and Goois Symfonie Orkest, Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 with the Sweelinck Orkest at Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Seóirse Bodley’s Mignon and the Harper, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 14 with the Magogo Chamber Orchestra in Tilburg, The Netherlands, St John Passion (BWV 245) by J.S. Bach on tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Stephen Layton (2008), Morton Feldman’s Neither with both RTE Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stefan Asbury (2006) and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dmitry Slobodenyuk, Nono’s Il Canto Sospeso with the Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi conducted by Francesco Maria Colombo, De Staat with the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw, and the Verdi Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by David Milne. She performs regularly with pianist Hanna Shybayeva. Opera roles include Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Konstanze in Die Entfuhrung, Jenufa in Jenufa, Governess in The Turn of the Screw.
Her vocal and musical skills make her an important singer of contemporary repertoire, having performed works by Tristan Keuris, Gerald Barry, Louis Andriessen, Brian Irvine, Morton Feldman, Manos Tsangaris, Seóirse Bodley, Ian Wilson, Kevin O’Connell, Reymond Deane and Luigi Nono. She was a resident performer at the Malkovich International Composers Competition and since has performed with many leading contemporary ensembles. She sang the Irish premiere of Here (in circles) by Michel van der Aa with the Crash Ensemble conducted by Alan Pierson and Porat songs with the Nieuw European Ensemble in the Netherlands. In 2014 as part of the New Music Dublin Festival she sang Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland conducted by Nicolas Cleobury. She has performed the one act opera Neither by Morton Feldman with the Helsinki Philhamonic (conducted by Dmitry Slobodeniuk and the National Symphony of Ireland premiere under conductor Stefan Asbury. In September 2008 she premiered a new work by Joseph Phibbs Silence at the Song’s End for soprano and string quartet, at the Jubilee Hall Aldeburgh. Also the premiere of Gerard Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Gabriel), She has collaborated with many composers most notably the Irish composer Seóirse Bodley, with whom she has performed on many occasions.
As a regular recitalist, Sylvia O'Brien has performed at the West Cork Music Festival (Bantry House), with the Grieg Piano Trio, Vogler Festival, in 2006 she toured Ireland singing Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok in an all D. Shostakovich programme with the Syrius Trio ending in a performance at the Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York and performed at the White Crow Music Festival Leiden, The Netherlands with the Nieuw European Ensemble. She has performed a number of times with Seoirse Bodley, most recently in a new work written for her by Seóirse Bodley (voice and piano) text by Seamus Heaney at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. She toured John Tavener’s To a dancing child in the Wind with the Triocca ensemble. She performs regularly in recital with Russian pianist Hanna Shybayeva and performed Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death at the Russian Embassy in the Hague in April 2012.
Concerts include W.A. Mozart’s Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gobots with the NDR Radio Philharmonie, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle conducted by Celso Antunes, W.A. Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the Orchestra of St Cecilia conducted by David Agler, guest soloist for RTE Proms with National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and W.A. Mozart’s C minor Mass and Requiem in the Mozart Festival with the Orchestra of St Cecilia conducted by Kenneth Montgomery. Verdi’s Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by David Milne, Benjamin Britten’s Les Illuminations with the Deventer Kamer Orkest and Chausson’s Poemes de l’Amour et de la Mer in Hilversum both conducted by Pedro Lopez Lopez. In 2013 Sylvia O'Brien performed Les Nuits d’Ete by Berlioz both with the Goois Symfonie Orkest and Zuid Hollands Symfonie Orkest and was soloist with Sweelinck Orkest at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam performing the Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 and the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde.
Sylvia O'Brien made her operatic debut as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw with Opera Theatre Company in 2004. The same year she took part in the Buxton Festival with English Touring Opera in The Turn of the Screw as well as performing with Opera Ireland as Barena in Janacek’s Jenufa. In 2005 she premiered the role of Gabriel in the concert premiére of Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant with The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland (conductor Gerhard Markson) and in 2006 performed Morton Feldman’s Neither (conductor Stefan Ashbury). She has also sung Konstanze in Die Entführung and Gabiella (Countess Zedlau) in Strauss' Der Wiener Bluthe with English Touring Opera, Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro with Opera Theatre Company, Zerlina wityh Opera2005, Aspasia/Mitridate with Opera in the Open, Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte under Kenneth Montgomery in Dublin and Mabel in Pirates of Penzance with the Rathmines & Rathgar Musical Society. She has recorded the title role for Wexford Opera Festival’s production of Martinu’s Mirandolina. In 2012 Ms O’Brien made her debut concert performance in the title role of Turandot. In June 2014 Sylvia premiered the dynamic POP-UP OPERA performances of Things We Throw Away composed by Brian Irvine.
Recent performances include Vivier’s Lonely Child with the NSO (New Music Festival) Raymond Deane’s Passage Work with the Crash Ensemble of Ireland, Siete Canciones Populares by De Falla as part of the White Crow Music Festival, The Netherlands, Things We Throw Away-Brian Irvine September 2014.
Upcoming engagements for 2014.2015 include lunchtime concert with the NSO, Pierrot Lunaire (May 2015), Siberia, String quartet No 5 for soprano and strings by Raymond Deane (September 2015) D. Shostakovich's Blok Songs Westport Festival of Chamber
Music (September 2015), Ancient Voices by George Crumb (August 2015) and performances with High Tinney and Christopher Marwood.