A versatile and experienced performer, Elena Xanthoudakis was born in Mt Beauty, Victoria to an Australian mother and a Greek father. Her first stage performance was at the age of four, singing and dancing as part of her early callisthenics training.
Following an extended holiday around Greece as a child, the family moved to Melbourne where Elena began training as a competitive Gymnast, at Cheltenham Gym Club (part of the Victorian Institute of Sport).
Elena was fortunate to attend a primary school (Coatesville P.S) with a well developed Music Program, where she was regularly involved in music making from classroom music, choirs, recorder and instrumental ensembles. Elena was also a keen sportswoman, competitively playing softball and netball, was captain of the Crossball team and enthusiastic on the track and field, particularly in the relay and hurdle events.
Elena was a member of the Australian Girls Choir throughout her high school years, quickly working her way to the highest levels of the choir where she would alternately sing first and second soprano in the Performing and Bel Canto choirs. Elena was awarded the 1996 June Bronhill Encouragement Scholarship for Vocal Potential, the highest award.
Attending a music specialist high school, McKinnon Secondary College, enabled Elena to learn the Flute and have singing lessons from year 7 to year 12. Here, she could also sing in Choirs, play in the Woodwind ensemble and many Concert Bands, as well as attend theory and music history lessons throughout her high school education. She was a keen participant in the schools annual ‘Winter Concert’ and the ‘Friends of Music’s’ ‘Musical Smorgasboard’ nights and would performed in numerous items, one particular year performing in 7 items, from singing solo, playing Mozart flute trio, conducting the ‘Gilmore Choir’ and playing in her African-Drumming group!
Academically, Elena studied a program of Mathematics and Physics in addition to Music ”Performance” and “History and Styles.” Elena received the highest mark for Music Performance in her year and was chosen to sing in the VCE showcase concerts called “CAT’s Shows” at the ABC Southbank’s ‘Iwaki auditorium’ and was also awarded the 1996 Ron Hunt Memorial Award for excellence and services to the Music Program at McKinnon Secondary College.
Elena commenced study in Physics at the University of Melbourne in 1997, but due to her passion for music, she commenced her Bachelor of Music Performance at the VCA in 1998 studying with Natalia Afeyan (Voice lecturer and director) under Brian Hansford (Head of Vocal department). Elena continued studying both degrees concurrently for two years and completed her undergraduate music degree in 2000. Following this degree, she undertook an Honours year, completing her thesis on comparative settings of Goethe’s Kennst du das Land? by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf and Berg.
Throughout her studies, Elena worked as a Venue Manager and Tutor for the Australian Girls Choir at various Melbourne venues. Being fortunate to attend state primary and secondary schools with well-developed music programs, Elena believes strongly in the importance of music education for a child’s musical, personal and social development and to help encourage a fertile cultural community.
Throughout her degree at the Victorian College of the Arts, Elena endeavoured to perform a wide variety of styles, however gained a great feel for the genres of Lieder and Oratorio. This is an area she continued to refine in her Masters of Music Performance (University of Melbourne) with singing teacher Merlyn Quaife (Head of Vocal Studies), other coaching and lecturers included Dr Ian Holtham, William Hennessey, Dr Kerry Murphy and Prof. John Hopkins (conducting). As Elena believes a performer should be versatile, she has undertaken the VCA’s Graduate Diploma of Opera, in order to develop a wider range of skills including movement and stage-craft, required of an Operatic performer. Elena completed this diploma at the end of 2003.
Regularly performing in various concerts and recitals around Melbourne, Elena’s Operatic performances include the role of Barbarina for Eastern Metropolitan Opera’s “Marriage of Figaro” with Maestro Vladimir Vais, and Sybilla in “Miles to Furphy” (a double bill contemporary operatic piece commissioned as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations) with Seduction Opera. She has performed the role of Citrue Corsette (based on Countess de Folleville) in a remake of Rossini’s ‘Il Viaggio a Rhiems’ entitled ‘Hotel Charles’ for VCA Opera.
Operatic roles Elena performed in 2003 include Anne Truelove from Stravinski’s The Rake’s Progress in August with Oz-Opera and VCA Opera School (in concert), following this with performing Leila (in English) from ‘The Pearl Fishers’ with Opera Melbourne in September and Pamina (in English) in ‘The Magic Flute’ in November.
With help from the Cheltenham Rotary, Elena was fortunate to be able to study 3-4 months in Italy in 2004, where she gained a valuable insight into the culture, improved her Italian and partook in studies at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino where she auditioned and gained a role in their production of Rossini’s ‘Il Viaggio a Rheims.’ This award is now called the ‘Acclaim Awards’
While at University, Elena’s Oratorio performances include the Soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the University of Melbourne with the esteemed Italian conductor Piero Gamba, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Rossini’s Stabat Mater. With a real passion for singing Bach, Elena considered herself fortunate to have performed solo soprano in Bach’s Cantatas BWV43, BWV 82a, Mass in B minor, Missa Brevis in A Major.
See more information – see Elena’s Biography – HERE
ABOUT ELENA – From Jewels of the Bel Canto CD Booklet:
From a tiny town in the Victorian Alps, music has always been an important companion throughout Elena’s life. An excellent sportswoman who trained at the Victorian Institute of Sport as an elite gymnast, Elena was fortunate to attend primary and high schools with highly developed music programs, taking both flute and singing lessons. Academically inquisitive, she studied physics at University before her passion for singing could no longer be ignored. Elena then studied at the prestigious Victorian College of the Arts, completing her Bachelor of Music with Honours and Diploma of Opera before graduating from Melbourne University with a Masters of Music Performance. Elena has won numerous competitions including winning the Maria Callas Grand Prix (Oratorio- Lied) – Athens, Australian National Liederfest, Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition – Poland, is a multi-laureate in Jeunesse Musicales Voix, Montreal, and received prizes in the Herald Sun Aria, Gerda Lissner NY, Operalia and scholarships such as a Solti Foundation award. Elena is a Borletti-Buitoni Trust artist.
Having received an ‘Acclaim Award’ to study at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence), she undertook part of a young artist programme and performed ‘La Contessa di Folleville’ in Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims. However, it was an exciting opportunity offered by The Australian Singing Competition, the Marten Bequest travelling scholarship and an Australian Arts Council grant, which enabled Elena to travel to London to undertake a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she was awarded her second Masters of Music with Distinction.
Now in London, Elena could take up an offer of an open audition from Maria Callas Jury member and Royal Opera House casting director, Mr Peter Katona. Within 2 months of arriving in London and whilst still studying at the Guildhall, Elena was offered her first engagement for the Royal Opera, understudy in Mitridate, re di Ponto, and the further opportunity to audition for other roles. Mr Katona’s instincts for Elena’s suitability for Mozart were proven when she won the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg 2006. In that same year Elena made her Covent Garden debut under Maestro Antonio Pappano as ‘Frasquita’ in Zambello’s production of Carmen. The critics loved her performance writing – “[Michaela]…is comprehensively outclassed by Elena Xanthoudakis’s brilliant Frasquita” (Independent on Sunday). Elena returned the following year to sing ‘Clorinda’ in La Cenerentola – “…Cinderella is outshone by the ugly sisters” (The Observer), and returned to perform Frasquita that season and appeared in subsequent seasons.
The English National Opera were also very supportive of her talents and she debuted as ‘Krista’ in The Makropulos Case with Sir Charles Mackerras. She also performed with chief conductor Edward Gardner in Carmen and created the role of ‘Miss Schlesen’ in their acclaimed production of Satyagraha. Elena also studied as part of the ENO Young Artist Program and has sung ‘Pamina’ in the Nicholas Hytner’s production of Mozart’s Magic Flute with resounding acclaim. “Especially memorable is Elena Xanthoudakis’s Pamina, voiced with shining tone and a fine appreciation of the music’s lyrical contours” (The Guardian). Elena has sung for many British companies including, ‘Blonde’ in The Abduction from the Seraglio for Opera North – “Robustly comic, Elena Xanthoudakis has the athletic style to conquer the dizzying heights required of Blonde.” (The Independent), and L’elisir d’amore for Scottish Opera “Soprano Elena Xanthoudakis is a sheer delight as Adina, colouring every sung moment with refreshing clarity and agility or, where called for, plaintive reflection.” (The Scotsman).
Elena’s operatic repertoire ranges from Mozart and Rossini to Janacek and Glass. She has performed with many celebrated opera companies. Operatic roles include: Amina and Lisa La Sonnambula; Marzelline, Fidelio; Leila, Les pe?cheurs de perles; Frasquita and Micaela, Carmen; Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor; Adina, L’elisir d’amore; Miss Schlesen, Satyagraha; Amor, Orfeo ed Euridice; Iris, Semele; Dalinda, Ariodante; Euridice and Genio, L’anima del Filosofo; Krista, Ve?c Makropulos; Blonde, Die Enftu?hrung aus dem Serail; Pamina, Die Zauberflo?te; Xenia, Boris Godunoff; Sister Constance, Dialogues des Carme?lites; Dido, Dido and Aeneas; Matilde, Matilde di Shabran; Jemmy, Guillaume Tell; La Contessa di Folleville, Il viaggio a Reims; Clorinda, La Cenerentola; Comtesse Adele, Le Comte Ory; Ann Truelove, The Rake’s Progress and Gilda, Rigoletto.
Elena has sung in concert with such orchestras as Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, St Petersburg Camerata, Orchestra de Quebec, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Krakow and Poznan Filharmonia Orchestras, Mozarteum Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment and Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma. In concert and recital, Elena has performed in Japan, Hong-Kong, St Petersburg, Montreal, and Quebec-City, in Germany, the U.S and throughout Australia, the UK, Ireland, and Italy in repertoire ranging from Bach’s B Minor Mass to Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder.
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