Reviews

Below is a sample of reviews by arts critics.

 

Review in Opera News by Joshua Rosenblum - March 2017

JESSE OWENS (1913–1980), the legendary African–American track-and-field athlete, grew up in poverty in Alabama but went on to win four gold medals—an unprecedented achievement—at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. (This reportedly displeased Hitler, who expected the Games to be a display of Aryan athletic superiority.) British composer Michael Stimpson's opera about Owens is represented here by five tracks of incidental music for full orchestra, and eight songs in reductions for soprano, baritone, and piano. The songs provide a good overview of both Jesse's triumphs and his struggles. Stimpson's expressive, immediately accessible music reveals hints of the blues and period popular music, but mostly it has a firm classical grounding, evoking the dignity and historical importance of Owens's life and achievements. The haunting and mournful "Home" starts with a slow, steady bass ostinato as the middle-aged Jesse (baritone Johnny Herford) and his wife Minnie (soprano Abigail Kelly) pay tribute to Jesse's hardworking father, who could barely make ends meet as a sharecropper. Both Herford and Kelly sing with stirring dramatic depth, and they blend well. Next comes a bouncy, breathlessly flirty number as young Jesse and Minnie meet in junior high school; Herford and Kelly do a nice job of lightening their voices to play the kids. The third number, "Minnie's Song," is a standout, set in the wistful mode of G harmonic minor, as she contemplates what exactly she loves in Jesse. Kelly gives an arresting, well-controlled performance of this gentle but emotionally probing number, all the way up to a very expressive high C. She also has a strong turn as the ghost of Luz Long, a German athlete who helped Jesse prepare for his long jump event. "Jim Crowe" (with Kelly singing the part of Jesse's coach) features some affecting duet singing about "them poplar trees" that make no judgments about a person's skin color. "Four world records" begins as an excited family scene just after Jesse's historic showing at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships in 1935. It ends, however, much more fraught, as Jesse reflects, "It all counts for nothing / If the battle over myself ain't the battle I win." "Money lies" covers some of the indignities Jesse suffered upon returning home after his Olympic wins. Disappointment and domestic strife are treated with encroaching dissonance and starker textures. Despite unusual passages like this, all the deliberately paced, tonally similar laments run together after a while; as a result, the closing duet, "The empty stadium," doesn't have the impact it should. The five tracks of incidental music, however—sumptuously played by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Stuart Stratford—indicate that the complete work contains plenty of variety. This collection thus proves to be a good argument for a complete recording of the full opera. The five Preludes In Our Time, performed nimbly by the skilled and sensitive pianist Megumi Fujita (who is also the pianist for the vocal selections), offer further evidence of Stimpson's versatility, and some welcome forays into rhythmically and harmonically spikier territory. —Joshua Rosenblum

Lead role for Abigail in 'The Girl Behind the Glass' - March 2017 - Click here to read article

The presentation was as stark as it was effective, with two singers occupying centre-stage and a cellist at the rear of stage-left. Abigail Kelly took the role of the main protagonist, . . ."

Abigail stars as Nanny to audience in Jamaica - September 2016 - Click here to read article

Untraditionally, the opera was written for only one singer (with some narration) and it was Kelly who sang. "

Abigail performs at House of Commons for launch of Maxie Hayles' autobiography - October 2016 - Click here to read article

Opera singer Abigail Kelly sang Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen and the uplifting gospel song Ride on King Jesus. "

Abigail performs in 'Sacred Mountain' - Incidents in the life of Queen Nanny and the Maroons at Vera Moody Concert Hall, Jamaica - September 2016 - Click here to read article

 . . . (Abigail) Kelly, one of the UK's top sopranos, portraying Queen Nanny."

Abigail performs at Martin Luther King Tribute Concert at Birmingham Town Hall - January 2016 - Click here to read article

An impressive roll call of performers included award-winning soprano Abigail Kelly . . . "

 

A review of 'Tete a Tete: The Opera Festival 2015' featuring Abigail Kelly - Opera Magazine, October 2015, by Nick Kimberley - Click here to read article

 

The Thieving Magpie, Midland Opera at the Crescent Theatre - Birmingham Post , July 2015

As Ninetta, the falsely-accused servant-girl, Abigail Kelly was simply brilliant. Still young, she can boast an upper register into estremis which is mature, bright and clear, and she projects both musically and dramatically with cultured poise. Yes, she has a vibrato to her tone, but it's never intrusive.

Click here to read the full review

 

A review of 'The Marriage of Figaro' in London featuring Abigail Kelly - Opera Magazine, Jan 2015 - Click here to read article

 

Birmingham Soprano Abigail Kelly talks to Christopher Morley about her busy schedule with the English Touring Opera - Click here to read article

 

The Magic Flute (ETO) - English Touring Opera's popular production of Mozart's late Singspiel embarks on a lengthy Spring tour. Mark Valencia in 'Whats On Stage', 9 March 2014, London, Hackney Theatre.

The lampshade-wearing trio of boys who guide our heroes' steps here resemble the Knave of Hearts, though of course they're a lot more reliable and, as sung by Abigail Kelly, Emily-Jane Thomas and Laura Kelly, delightfully scene-stealing.

Nick Kimberley in The Opera Magazine, March 2014. Paul Bunyan's operatta, Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House.

In fact, the stars of this production turn out to be two cats, Poppet (Emma Watkinson) and Moppet (Amy J. Payne), and a dog, Fido (Abigail Kelly).

 

Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan reviews at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House.
Hugo Shirley, The Spectator magazine, 1 March 2014.

The orchestra (under Philip Sunderland) mastered the work’s multiple accents, as did the cast….There was a notably fine, passionate performance from Abigail Kelly as Fido….

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 23 February 2014.

Directed by Liam Steel and conducted by Philip Sunderland, it is joyously and enthusiastically sung, with several of the countless small roles taken expertly, among them Johnny Inkslinger (Mark Wilde), Hel Helson (Wyn Pencarreg), Tiny (Caryl Hughes) and Fido (Abigail Kelly). 

Mark Valencia, What's On Stage, 20 February 2014.

For much of its duration Paul Bunyan is a choral work without a chorus, just English Touring Opera's 23-strong team of solo singers giving it their all….On the musical side, however, ETO has hit the jackpot with the best-sung rendition of the work I've yet encountered. In a company show with no weak links every singer deserves praise, though if pressed I'd have to single out Mark Wilde's Johnny Inkslinger, Abigail Kelly's dog Fido and Caryl Hughes….......

Robert Hugill, www.planethugill.com, 19 February 2014.

English Touring Opera's new production was a welcome chance to hear maturer voices, in Liam Steel's engaging production…. Abigail Kelly brought a surprising amount of emotional depth to the much put upon Fido.

 

Review of English Touring Opera's Laika the Spacedog in Village Hall, South Kilworth, by Roderic Dunnett.

" . . . although when Kelly started singing, her soprano voice proved delightful.

. . . and the miraculous, mesmerising sound of the theremin (a device consisting of two antennae and oscillators, its subtle manipulation by hand visible to the children, and artfully and adroitly controlled by Abigail Kelly)."

English Touring Opera's Laika the Spacedog at Ashby Willesly Primary School, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett.

Abigail Kelly, the vocal quartet's soprano, created awed amazement in her audience by her skilful manipulation of the theremin, by means of beguiling hand movements."

Glowing tribute from Ann Marie Dewar, Principal of St. Augustine School, Montserrat.

Dear Mr Kelly,

 

Words can hardly express our thanks to you for your assistance in enabling Miss Abigail Kelly to come to Montserrat to perform a fundraising concert to benefit the St. Augustine School. We have been waiting in high anticipation for the final accounting to be done, so we could apprise you of the financial outcome.

 

We have received the news that the concert has raised the sum of EC (amount deleted) for our school. We are ecstatic. This is a very significant contribution to meeting our fundraising target for the academic year. To have achieved this through one event would have been very difficult without the kind of support, advice and assistance we received. We are so appreciative of your help.

 

We have received so many expressions of thanks and appreciation from members of the public who attended the concert, and it is clear that the quality of the music together with Miss Kelly's engaging style and personality, provided a wonderful experience for all those who attended. Miss Kelly's intervention with the National Primary School Choir was also very deeply appreciated. Montserrat fell in love with her, and we are so glad that we had the opportunity to hear music of such an outstanding quality performed live on our island.

 

The special surprise touch of her donning our national dress to sing one of our most beloved songs was absolutely tremendous, and the sheer joy on the faces of the audience said it all.

 

Once again, thanks for all your assistance.

 

With best regards.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ann Marie Dewar (Miss)
Principal

 

A review by Sir Howard Fergus regarding Abigail's performance at the St. Augustine School benefit concert which took place at the Lookout Roman Catholic Church, Montserrat, 16 December 2012.

''The resounding ovation and liberal acclamation which professional soprano Abigail Kelly received at the end of her performance were amply justified by the quality of the renditions and the judicious choice of pieces...She sang with heart and spirit from her wide repertoire of classical, folk and spirituals with her audience ever in mind...The term "engaging performer" applies to Miss Kelly in a powerful way in that she interacts with and involves her audience intellectually, emotionally and in a physical sense, while thrilling them with her art. ..On the whole this was a stellar performance which left the audience thirsty for more...

Rebecca Chalmers, an accomplished musician accompanied her at the piano...'' - Howard Fergus, 16 January 2013.

David Burke on the website www.rock-n-reel.co.uk of R2 magazine, July 2012 reviewed, The Symphony Hall, Birmingham event which played host to Jamaica's 50th Independence Cultural Extravaganza and Salute to the Athletes.

Benjamin Zephaniah, Skibu, Musical Youth (still passing the dutchie 30 years on), Jaki Graham and Beverley Knight were rather good, but the real surprise was soprano Abigail Kelly - her homage to Jamaican folk songs justified a place further up the billing.

  • Miranda Jackson, Opera Britannia's website 13/03/11 English Touring OperaFantastic Mr. Fox  at Hackney Empire,

The fox cubs had two young adult leaders, sung by Martha Jones and Abigail Kelly. Both worked extremely well with the children and have attractive and distinctive voices. Ms Kelly also has a charismatic stage presence."

  • Roger Swann's websiteMozart Mass in C  Minor  (K427) with Leicester University Singers and Proteus Chamber Orchestra

''Soprano Abigail Kelly impressed with her clear sound and very good intonation.''

  • Hairy McMango, Opera Blog, Primi Divi  14/04/2010,  Le Nozze Di Figaro , English Touring Opera at Sadlers Wells.

There were also some lovely performances from Emily Rowley-Jones and Abigail Kelly as the two solo bridesmaids.'' 

  • David Hart,  Birmingham Post,  20/06/05,  Purcell, The Fairy Queen

With a cast of 37, including many principal singers/actors. selecting individuals for special praise is an invidious task. If first-night honours are to be awarded they should go to Abigail Kelly, whose sparky Helena acted everyone else into the wings''.

  • Richard Bratby,  Birmingham Post, 27/06/05,  Luca Francesconi's  Lips, Eyes.......Bang  with the Thallein Ensemble.

From the moment the focus shifted to soprano Abigail Kelly's bravura performance, with her every facial expression magnified and modified on the screen above, she delivered this predominantly spoken part with operatic intensity and presence. It was her piece......'

  • CJP's review on Ross-On-Wye Choral Society's website, Mozart Mass in C minor (K427)

The high spot of the mass was Abigail Kelly's performance of the Et Incarnatus Est. This is a most exacting piece with long runs which need firm restraint and demand superb  breath control. It was a fine interpretation and a very pleasing performance.''

  • Mike Reynolds,  MusicalCriticism.com,  Dvorak, Rusalka, English Touring Opera

And then in Act Three one of the forest girls, Abigail Kelly, took to the walkway and showed in her delightful mini aria how natural and pleasing unforced singing can be. No vibrato at all, just pure tone, articulating her 'jet black' refrain naturally and simply - she gave me a few moments of light soprano singing that I had been waiting for all evening.''

  • Vivien Window, Halifax Courier, 6/04/06, Handel Messiah with Market Harborough Choral Society and Lutterworth Choral Society   

The four guest soloists from Birmingham Conservatoire were soprano Abigail Kelly (what virtuosity!)...............We were fortunate to hear such fine voices.''

  • Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, 11/03/06,  English Eccentrics

What does remain constant, though, is the use of a solo quartet acting as a commentating chorus, with soprano Abigail Kelly particularly deserving of some worthier music.''

  • Peter  Swingler,  Birmingham Evening Mail 19/02/02,  King, The Musical

Abigail Kelly (King's wife) and Cassie Rowe both sing well.''

  • Karl Williams, New Black Magazine, 7/11/07  Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807

......with Mary Prince, played with passion by Abigail Kelly''.

  • Mike Hobart, Financial Times, 29/11/07   Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807

Abigail Kelly's stroppy Mary Prince also well delivered.''

  • Rachael Forsyth, Jazz Reloaded website, 25/10/07  Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807

..........when he, Cleveland Watkiss, sang a duet with Abigail Kelly you could almost feel the electricity and chemistry between the characters.'' 

  • Steven Jackson, Jamaica Observer, 12/08/08  A classical concert accompanied by Dr. Richard Beckford and the Jamaica Defence Force Military Band.

She bellowed a rapid-fire intervallic passage, the equivalent of musical notes travelling from mountains to valleys in Mozart  S'altro che Lagrime.........In Negro Speaks of Rivers by Margaret Bonds, Abigail ended the piece with a high to low cadenza bending the last note blues style. It searched for your soul.''

 

Abigail's Tweets

AbigailKellySop RT @operaupclose: Dying to know what we've been getting up to in the rehearsal room? Well here's a peak: #OUCMagicFlute @sohotheatre https…
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AbigailKellySop RT @chinnaminna: Our information is going international. Leaflets are being taken back to barbados 🇧🇧 @DiabetesUK #communitychampions https…
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AbigailKellySop RT @WPOpera: #itheopera "once upon a time in a faraway land!" @SuziePurkis https://t.co/YvmrzWwuiX
AbigailKellySop RT @operaupclose: #OUCMagicFlute cast & creatives being introduced to Emma Bailey's set design for @sohotheatre & tour! 30 days to go. http…
AbigailKellySop Happy #JamaicanIndependenceDay 🎉🇯🇲It's been an epic one #Jamaicainthesquare #havefunbesafe #onelove Back to work tomorrow #freepaperburn
AbigailKellySop RT @VirtuousUk: @AbigailKellySop 70plus runners and counting! 4 official sponsors, community stalls! Still time to register to run/walk!…