Paul Agnew is in continuous demand as an outstanding interpreter of the baroque and pre-classical repertoire. His long association with the world’s leading conductors in the field of early music includes a discography of over one hundred recordings. Born in Glasgow, he was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford before embarking on an acclaimed vocal career that has taken him throughout the world.
His transition to a conducting career began following a highly successful debut with Les Arts Florissants in Paris in 2007, when William Christie appointed him Joint Musical Director of the orchestra; he has since gone on to lead the orchestra on tour to major venues such as the Wiener Konzerthaus; throughout France; and to Salzburg, China, and Lincoln Center in New York City. He made his London debut as conductor with the same ensemble at the Barbican as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations.
In the U.S., Agnew makes frequent appearances with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, most recently leading the group in a concert of Handel, Vivaldi, and Pergolesi. He is also a regular at The Juilliard School, and has made guest appearances with the Houston, Seattle, and North Carolina Symphonies, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Portland Baroque Orchestra.
He has conducted performances of Messiah for Le Concert d’Astrée and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Handel’s La Resurrezione at the Atelier of the Opéra National de Paris. He made his opera conducting debut with Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor at the Opéra de Rennes and in 2014, replaced William Christie to conduct the new Robert Carsen production of Rameau’s Platée at the Theatre an der Wien in Vienna, at the Opera Comique in Paris, and at St. John’s Smith Square with Early Opera Company in London (“Performances like these must make the genre’s die hard enthusiasts feel as though they’ve died and gone to heaven.” — Fringe Opera). Other recent engagements of note include a scenic production of Rameau’s Indes Galantes at the Staatstheater Nürnbergthose and performanes with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Chamber Orchestra in Helsinki.
As Joint Musical Director of Les Arts Florissants, he continues to present the complete cycle of Monteverdi Madrigals in concert, spread over nearly 100 performances. The first recording to have come from the project, entitled “Mantova” (released on the Les Arts Florissants label) received high critical acclaim. The Guardian gave 4 stars to the second recording “Cremona”, and Gramophone magazine selected it for the “Editor’s choice” of its July 2016 issue. The CD has been also awarded the “Choc du mois” by the specialized music magazine Classica. Volume three, “Venezia”, was released in February 2017 and represents the completion of the project.
At the forefront of the revival of the French baroque repertoire, Paul Agnew made his critically acclaimed debut singing the title-role in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie at the Palais Garnier in Paris conducted by William Christie. He has since returned to Opéra National de Paris for new productions of Rameau’s Platée, Les Boréades and Les Indes galantes. He continues to perform the demanding haute-contre roles worldwide including at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Opernhaus Zürich. In recent seasons he extended his repertoire to include Mozart’s Idomeneo under William Christie; Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw at Opéra National de Bordeaux under Jane Glover and at the Opéra de Rennes; Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo with Kammerorchesterbasel in Vienna and Eisenstadt, Handel’s Jephtha at Det Kongelige Theater, Copenhagen in a new production by Katie Mitchell (conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen) and Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at Opéra de Nice. Agnew made his debut with The Royal Opera, Covent Garden in their production of Acis and Galatea to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.
Agnew’s comprehensive discography includes “Lamentazione” – on which he conducts Les Arts Florissants choir in works by Scarlatti and Caldara for Virgin, “The Food of Love – songs by Purcell” for Ambroisie, Sally Beamish’s In Dreaming for Virgin Classics, Rameau’s Dardanus for ABC, and Dowland songs for Metronome. On DVD, his performances include Les Boréades and Les Indes galantes on Opus Arte, Lully’s Armide, the Bach B Minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, and his celebrated performance as Platée on TDK.
In 2009, Agnew succeeded Christophe Rousset as Music Director of the Orchestre Français des Jeunes Baroque. He is actively engaged in the training and preparation of the next generation of specialist instrumentalists as the co-director of the academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix.