Sylvia O'Brien
soprano
reviews
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland Various Arias

“THIS WAS meant to have been a gala concert debut with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (of another soprano)…..Owing to illness, however, her place was taken at what seemed short notice by Irish soprano Sylvia O’Brien, who exceeded requirements by tackling all four scheduled solos: Mozart’s E Susanna non vien . . . Dove sono (from The Marriage of Figaro ) and Exsultate jubilate, Dvorák’s Song to the Moon (from Rusalka ) and Massenet’s Mirror Scene from Thaïs.  What should have been Brandon’s evening thus solidly turned out to be O’Brien’s. Her voice has undergone quite a ripening in recent years, putting a keen edge on her characteristic determination to deliver the goods. The top-note culminations may have been ever so slightly guarded, but they were bull’s-eyes. “ 

Andrew Johnston/ The Irish Times  July 2011

O'Brien/Bodley Hugh Lane Gallery Dublin

“Seamus Heaney was in the audience for this first performance of a new, substantial cycle of settings of his poems – The Hiding Places of Love – by the Irish composer Seóirse Bodley. The cycle was commissioned, with funds from the Arts Council, by soprano Sylvia O’Brien who then gave the premiere, partnered on the piano by the composer. Bodley chose nine poems from two collections, The Spirit Level (1996) and District and Circle (2006)
“..the strength of her (Sylvia O’Brien) range at both ends and her habitual knack for softening the edges and leaps of this style, gave Heaney’s poems and Bodley’s settings a credible and often very persuasive debut.”

Michael Dungan/The Irish Times  May 2011

Poulenc/Moussorgsky Recital Leiden Holland


„De lyrische, maar ook dramatische sopraan van de Ierse Sylvia O'Brien komt het meest tot haar recht in Moussorgski's 'Liederen en dansen van de dood'. Haar stem gebruikt ze op flamboyante wijze, van gigantisch groot (en een tíkkeltje schel) tot soepel zacht satijn, opgewarmd door een licht vibrato. Ze speelt met kleur en emotie, wolkig wiegend in 'Slaapliedje' met wrange wrede uithalen die de onbarmhartige dood suggereren. 'Trepak' trekt de Ierse O'Brien in Russische sferen. In de dood als 'Veldmaarschalk' schittert haar stem als geslepen staal, raakt in 'religieuze' vervoering, wordt functioneel brallerig, indrukwekkend mooi begeleid door Shybayeva.“

Lidy van der Spek/Leidsch Dagblad  April 2010

Gilbert and Sullivan National Concert Hall Dublin

"That format depends on personalities, and on the whole it worked, thanks to five singers who were naturals for this music. ....Poor Wand’ring One , from The Pirates of Penzance  was one of the highlights from soprano Sylvia O’Brien. "

The Irish Times  January 2010

Seven Deadly Sins of Opera

"The Seven Deadly Sins of Opera is a mind-catching title. On this second concert in a four-venue tour, funded by the Music Network Touring and Performing Award, it lived up to the promise.
Soprano Sylvia O’Brien and pianist Hanna Shybayeva presented a sequence of arias that covered the gamut, though one sin had to be bent a bit. After all, foody gluttony is the preserve less of svelte sopranos than of pot-bellied basses. So the concert ended with a delicious rant about jewels, Glitter and be Gay , from Bernstein’s Candide .

The nine excerpts ranged from Handel’s Giulio Cesare to the aforementioned Bernstein. Sylvia O’Brien sang with unfailing authority, even though she over projected for the pleasantly intimate yet resonant room in Airfield House. Her most consistent strengths lay in her sense for the way music serves words, and words serve drama, and in an impeccable sense of timing.

Sylvia O’Brien’s effective stage presence and subtle acting-out of each aria, made this an engaging experience. It was a concert that I approached wondering what it might be like, and left thinking “That was great!”

Martin Adams/The Irish Times  February 2009

Seóirse Bodley Song Cycles on the Poems of Michael O'Siadhail

Soprano Sylvia O'Brien was at ease with difficult vocal lines and deployed a wide dynamic and expressive range to match the big spectrum of declamation called for in the poems….
...this recital - for which rapture would not be too strong a word to associate with the way the audience reacted - was a near-perfect confluence of beautiful, moving poetry, the response to it by a composer, and the conduit of fine performance.

Michael Dungan/The Irish Times  May 2008

St.John Passion/Bach/Irish Chamber Orchestra/Stephen Layton

Some of the gems of this jewel-laden performacne were.....the heartbreaking quality of O'Brien's lament on Christ's death..."

The Irish Examiner  March 2008

St.John Passion/Bach/Irish Chamber Orchestra/Stephen Layton

In Bach's reflective arias, soprano Sylvia O'Brien is quietly radiant.  

Irish Independent  March 2008

The New Sound Worlds (Saariaho/Tavener), Printing House, TCD November 07


"The performance (Kaija Saariaho Lonh with Kate Ellis, cello) was strong and characterful, partly because of Sylvia O'Brien's ability to make her voice cover a wide range of colours and volume"  

Martin Adams/The Irish Times  November 2007

Shostakovich Symphony No.14, Magogo Kamer Orkest, Arjan Tien, Tilberg Concertzaal

"At moments soprano Sylvia O'Brien  playfully matched her sound with a single cello but also performed an equally elegant and intense "dance of death".

Rene van Peer/Brabants Dagblad  November 2007

Shostakovich: Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok National Gallery of Ireland 2006

The small scale of the undertaking (Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok) has no bearing on the intensity of expression.  Sylvia O'Brien made the most of opportunities, sounding happiest when at full volume, though also comfortable in the strange contentment she brought to the fourth song, "The City is Asleep".

Michael Dervan The Irish Times  October 2006

Gliere’s Concerto for Soprano and Orchestra Op 82 RTE Concert Orchestra

“If the title of Russian composer Reinhold Gliére’s Concerto for Colorature Soprano and Orchestra implies formality and etude-like virtuosity, the reality is altogether different. This is tone poetry, a modestly scaled orchestral diptych with seductive operatic garnish.
With an accompaniment sensitively shaped by Wagner and some delicate contributions from the orchestra, soloist Sylvia O’Brien took a somewhat shaded approach to her wordless part that emphasises the darker side of the music’s romanticism.
In the swoops and swirls of her opening vocalese, she suggested the hallucinations of a wanderer lost in some sultry landscape; with the thinly veiled waltz outlines that ensued, she conjured up the eerie elation of opening the shutters on some long-sealed-up ballroom.
Yet it wasn’t until the closing moments that O’Brien’s considerable vocal freedom, clarity and power briefly became fully apparent. What had always been a satisfyingly evocative performance suddenly became also a tantalising one.”

Andrew Johnston/ The Irish Times  June 2006

RTE Living Music Festival – Morton Feldman: Neither


"Sylvia O'Brien delivered the obsessive, awkwardly-lying soprano line with well-nigh impeccable poise."

Michael Dervan The Irish Times  February 2006

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant/G. Barry/NSO

“..there's an injection of innocence and clarity from Gabriele (the sharp and sparkling Sylvia O'Brien, in devastatingly accurate-sounding vocal form.)”

Michael Dervan The Irish Times  May 2005

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant/G. Barry/NSO


“..and Irish soprano Sylvia O'Brien demonstrated her diversity and exceptional musicianship as Gabi, Patra's daughter.”

Michael Dungan/Irish Examiner  May 2005

Governess/The Turn of the Screw/Britten/OTC

Sylvia O'Brien was an excellent Governess

Opera Magazine/Ian Fox  July 2004

Governess/The Turn of the Screw/Britten/OTC

Sylvia O'Brien...emerging singer of remarkable talent, both vocally and dramatically.

Sunday Tribune  April2004