Raised on the west coast of Canada, Rachel Fenlon is a soprano and pianist who performs song recitals accompanying herself on the piano, drawing from a singer-songwriter approach. Rachel performs across Europe, Canada, and the US with solo recitals, in repertoire from Franz Schubert, Schumann, Debussy, Britten, to Messiaen, George Crumb and world premieres. Dedicated to creating and commissioning new music, Rachel has several collaborations with composers to create new songs and song cycles for her to perform as self-accompanied singer.
Rachel has performed recitals as both singer and pianist accompanying herself at festivals such as Festival de Lanaudière, the Oxford Lieder Festival, PODIUM Festival Matadepera, the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Kammermusik Festival Ahrenshoop, Bristol Song Recitals, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC Studios), GEDOK Festival Berlin, and solo concerts at venues such as the National SAW Gallery, the Late Night Liederabend Vienna, the Fox Cabaret, Oper Leipzig, the National Arts Centre Canada, Vancouver Opera, the Baumann Centre at Pacific Opera Victoria, and the Theater am Delphi Berlin. Her interpretations of composers such as George Crumb, Benjamin Britten, Olivier Messiaen, and Philip Glass, as well as the repertoire of Franz Schubert, Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Alma Mahler, have a particular radiance. Valued for her dazzling, flexible soprano, her curiosity and courage to experiment, Rachel is an ideal interpreter of works by contemporary composers such as Sofia Gubaidulina, Unsuk Chin, Samy Moussa, and Nicole Lizée. Works written specially for her form an increasing part of her repertoire, including songs and cycles by Matthias McIntire, Susanne Stelzenbach, Gavin Franser, and Danika Loren.
Rachel begins the 2021-22 season at the Festival de Lanaudière, with a solo (self-accompanied) recital titled Poésies d'Été - a programme of Debussy, Schubert, Messiaen songs and Grieg's Lyric Pieces for solo piano. She will perform her first Winterreise, singing and playing from the piano, beginning at Christophori Piano Salon Berlin in Winter 2022, to the Ottawa Chamberfest in the summer of 2022. In March, Rachel performs her Poésies d'Été programme in Neue Schloss Tettnang in Bodensee, and a recital of Nicole Lizée, Sarah Nemsov, and Lera Auerbach songs in Berlin at Gallery Nemsov&Nemsov. In April, Fenlon performs Kurtag 4 hands with pianist Leslie Dala, Messiaen's Poèmes Pour Mi, and Moussa's Ahania's Lament in Vancouver. In the summer of 2022 Rachel will world premiere the song cycle Sing Nature Alive From My Insides - a song cycle written for her by Matthias McIntire, which will premiere in Toronto, Canada, produced and commissioned by the Canadian Collective New ART New MEDIA, and fully funded by the Canadian, Ontario, and Toronto Arts Councils. Her season ends with a solo recital at Ottawa Chamberfest.
In addition to her recital work, Rachel is an opera and concert soloist, and during this 2021-22 season she sings Bach Cantata's BWV 106, BWV 151, BWV 61 as soprano soloist at the Sophienkirche Berlin, where she is a regular soloist in the Bach ensemble. She sings as soprano soloist in Haydn's Nelson Messe at Apostel Paulus Kirche Berlin. In the spring, Rachel is the soprano soloist in Bach's B Minor Mass with the Vancouver Bach Choir and VSO at the Orpheum.
Rachel has been selected for an artist residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2021/22.
In 2020-21, Rachel performed livestream self-accompanied recitals with the National Arts Centre Canada, GEDOK Berlin, Virtuosi Festival Brazil, Pocket Concerts Toronto, Against the Grain Theatre, Pacific Opera Victoria, and the Lunenburg Academy. She was music director and performer in Schubert's Schwanengesang with PinDrop Entertainment and United We Stream, which was a multi performer, multi-genre live production at the Delphi Filmpalast Berlin. In the summer of 2021, she performed 4 live self-accompanied recitals of George Crumb's Apparition at the PODIUM Festival Barcelona, as well as works by Schubert and Hindemith.
In 2019/20 Rachel debuted as a guest soloist with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world premiere of Heart Chamber by Chaya Czernowin, directed by Claus Guth, and performed self accompanied recitals at Vancouver Opera Festival, Bristol Song Recitals, Oper Leipzig, SAW Gallery, the CBC Studios Vancouver and the Canadian Music Centre.
Beginning her career on the opera staged, Rachel debuted as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance at Vancouver Opera, when she was a member of the young artist programme. Rachel has since returned as a guest and has sung many leading roles with Vancouver Opera, including Pamina in The Magic Flute, Mabel inThe Pirates of Penzance, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and most recently, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Rachel has also performed leading roles with Pacific Opera Victoria as Nannetta in Falstaff, and Queen Guinevere in Camelot; Ensemble Nylandia as Galatea in Acis and Galatea; the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as Lisa in Das Land des Lächelns, and with the Bard on the Beach Festival as Mimi in La Boheme, and appeared as a young artist at the Rossini Opera Festival, leading to performances as soprano soloist with Alberto Zedda in Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle. In concert, she has performed as a soloist with the Victoria Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the Northern Czech Philharmonic.
In addition to her work as a performer, Rachel writes poetry - she has been awarded a grant from the Canada Council and Ontario Arts Councils for poetry set to song. She is the co-founder of the Berlin artist collective CROWN THE MUSE - a production, and commissioning body for musical projects, as well as a member of the Canadian Artist Collective New ART New MEDIA. She has attended artist residencies at Avaloch Farms Music Institute in New Hampshire as poet/singer/pianist, and has been a 4-time artist resident at the Lunenburg Academy, which she has attended as singer/pianist/composer. Rachel was also a singer/pianist at the Oxford Lieder Mastercourse and at Crear Programme for Song in Scotland with Sir Malcolm Martineau.
Passionate about music and innovation, Rachel is the founding host of a series titled "Classical (R)evolution" on IDAGIO, in which she interviews weekly guests and discusses what rule breaking and pushing boundaries means for musicians today. She has interviewed guests such as Marc-André Hamelin, Barbara Hannigan, Alexander Neef, Avi Avital, Francesco Piemontesi, Gerald Finley, Magdalena Kožená, and Nico Muhly, amongst many others. To date, she has interviewed over 70 artists, and the series in now in its second season.
Rachel's formal training has been at the University of British Columbia, where she holds Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Opera Performance, and studied voice with Nancy Hermiston. As a pianist, Rachel completed her ARCT Diploma in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada), and studied piano with May Ling Kwok. Rachel also studied composition at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, with Stephen Brown, Robert Aitken, and at summer residencies with Dinuk Wijerhatne and Marco Stroppa.
Rachel lives in Berlin with her cactus Allen Ginsburg.