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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 calisthenics 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), and was selected to train for the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
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. She 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.
Throughout her high school years, Elena was a member of the Australian Girls Choir, 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 and was awarded the 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, all 6 years of high school, from year 7 to year 12. Here, she could also sing in Choirs, play in the Woodwind Ensemble, many Concert Bands, as well as attend theory and music history lessons throughout her high school education. She was a keen participant in the school’s annual ‘Winter Concert’ and the ‘Friends of Music’s’ ‘Musical Smorgasbord’ nights and would perform in numerous items, one particular year performing in 7 items, from singing solo, playing in a Mozart flute trio, conducting the ‘Gilmore House 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 at the ABC Southbank’s ‘Iwaki Auditorium’ and was also awarded the ‘Ron Hunt Memorial Award’ for excellence and services to the Music Program at McKinnon Secondary College.
Elena then commenced a Bachelor of Science in Physics at the University of Melbourne, but due to her passion for music, she commenced her Bachelor of Music Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts the following year 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. 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.
|During her degree at the VCA, Elena performed a wide variety of styles. Having gained a great love for the genres of Lieder and Oratorio. These genres she continued to refine in her Masters of Music Performance (University of Melbourne) with singing teacher Merlyn Quaife (Head of Vocal Studies). Other coaches and lecturers included Dr Ian Holtham, William Hennessey, Dr Kerry Murphy and Prof. John Hopkins (conducting). As Elena believes a performer should be truly versatile, she undertook the VCA’s Graduate Diploma of Opera concurrently, in order to develop a wider range of skills including movement, drama and stage-craft, required of an Operatic performer, studying with Dr David Kram ( Head of Department) amongst many other departmental staff and visiting guest masterclasses, offering a valuable opportunity to perform costumed scenes and Operas.|
|Academically curious, Elena also undertook private studies in Classical and Baroque gesture with renowned Early Music specialist Helga Hill and took Helgas elective ‘Renaissance Dance’ as an elective subject in her Master’s degree. The influence of the Classical arts of Rhetoric on the development of Classical forms is a key component in her considered interpretations alongside the intensive Dramatic training provided through her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the VCA.
Whilst studying at university Elena was regularly performing in various concerts and recitals around Melbourne. Elena’s early Operatic performances include the role of Barbarina for Eastern Metropolitan Opera’s Marriage of Figaro with Russian Bolshoi conductor Maestro Vladimir Vais, and Sybilla in Miles to Furphy (a contemporary double bill commissioned as part of the Centenary of Federation of Australia celebrations) with Seduction Opera. She performed the role of Citrue Corsette (based on Countess de Folleville) in a remake of Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Rheims entitled Hotel Charles for VCA Opera.
In her final year at Opera School she performed Anne Truelove from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress for Oz-Opera and VCA Opera School (in concert), Leila (in English) from The Pearl Fishers and Pamina (in English) in The Magic Flute with Melbourne Opera.
Also, while at University, Elena expanded her Oratorio repertoire including singing 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 at Melbourne University and St Johns, Southgate. Elena enjoys performing Oratorio and Bach is a particular favourite.
Elena has won 80 first prizes in singing competitions & Eisteddfodau, 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.
|As a prize-winner in The Australian Singing Competition ‘The Mathy’s’ Elena was offered a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. With the assistance from the Marten Bequest travelling scholarship, Lady Elisabeth Murdoch and an Australian Arts Council grant, Elena was able to travel to London to undertake a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She completed her second Masters of Music with Distinction with David Pollard under department head, Robin Bowman.
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 two 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 ‘Frasquita’ with chief conductor Edward Gardner in Carmen and created the role of ‘Miss Schlesen’ in their acclaimed production of Philip Glass’ 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.
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 has enjoyed performing numerous roles for the Royal Opera House, English National Opera & festival Operas in the UK, performances in the US and keeps a connection to her native Australia, performing regularly there as well as singing & teaching in Asia.
She has developed an extensive range of interesting and rare Bel Canto roles and was a recipient of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust award in 2011. She recorded a CD titled ‘Jewels of the Bel Canto’ with Maestro Richard Bonynge, released in 2014 to great acclaim: From the first aria on this disc Elena makes it obvious she is a singer to watch – 4 Stars (Courier Mail)
…an outstanding debut album – 4.5 Stars
|Elena has a love of chamber music, particularly with clarinet and this has led to many years researching and discovering rare and forgotten works in order to extend the available repertoire for TrioKROMA which was formed with Elena’s brother clarinettist, Jason Xanthoudakis, and concert pianist Clemens Leske. To bring these rare pieces to life TrioKROMA has released a highly acclaimed CD ‘The Shepherd & the Mermaid’ on Move Records, with an aim of popularising this genre. It is a delightful example of Art song meeting the Salon music of the German Romantic tradition.
Their playing is filled with a properly Romantic yearning, warmth, clarity, a fine musical understanding and considerable intimacy…An unexpected pleasure’
‘The plangent tones of the Clarinet are in gorgeous contrast to the warmth and tenderness of the soprano..’ ****4 Stars
|An unexpected pleasure! *****5 Stars
(ABC Limelight Magazine)This is the premiere recording of these rediscovered works: ‘The Shepherd and the Mermaid’, ‘The Captive Nightingale’ and ‘Er, der Herrlichste von allen’.
This CD was re-released for global distribution on Signum in 2016. Listen to the BBC Radio 3 review here.After discovering so much charming forgotten Chamber music written for Piano, Voice and Clarinet, Elena created Kroma Editions Music Publishing to popularise Chamber music for piano, voice and obbligato instruments including violin, cello and clarinet. www.kromaeditions.com
Elena is looking forward to continuing to expand her Bel Canto repertoire, as well as her love of Mozart roles. She is currently working on the lighter Puccini and heavier Bel Canto as well.
See more information – see Elena’s Biography – HERE
To learn more about: Competitions, Eisteddfodau, Scholarships and Awards click here