Gerald Barry

The Importance of Being Earnest


“It was Barbara Hannigan’s Cecily Cardew who stole the show, however, the voice pushed ever heavenwards by Barry’s devilish musical scheme.”

Opera, July 2012

“At the other end of the spectrum, Cecily becomes a china doll of a high soprano, enunciating her perfected phrases in a high-to-super-high register. The role was written for Barbara Hannigan, who performed it with thrilling precision and gleam. Her rows of even high b naturals at her repeated line, “Thank you, Aunt Augusta” came like diamonds, the last astonishingly extended, but her every utterance was remarkable.”

Times Literary Supplement, May 2012

“pirouetting in the stratosphere”

Independant on Sunday, April 2012

“the hard-working cast was particularly notable for the staggering technique of Barbara Hannigan’s Cecily”

Telegraph, April 2012

“The musical variety and expertise of the cast, not least the exceptional Barbara Hannigan leaping nimbly up to top Ds as the winsome Cecily, provided enough action in this concert performance to keep you gripped.”

The Guardian, 29 April 2012

“Barbara Hannigan gave us a beautiful, clarion Cecily, commanding the stage in opulent costume.”

Musical Criticism, April 2012

“Soprano Barbara Hannigan’s Cecily gambolled along in the top of her range with incredible insouciance, as if delighting in the sheer extravagance involved.”

Irish Times, April 2012

“It is Barbara Hannigan’s Cecily who shines brightest, plucking top Ds from the air, and clashing with Gwendolen (Katalin Karolyi) in a vocal battle of wilfully non-musical vigour.”

The New Statesman, April 2012

“But what voices they were, outstanding among them the pinpoint stratospheric accuracy of Barbara Hannigan’s slightly chavvy Cecily Cardew.”

Birmingham Post, April 2012


Gerald Barry

La Plus Forte


“Barbara Hannigan is mesmerising as the garrulous Madame, who saps her own strength by talking and talking and talking, incriminating her damaged self through every one of her transparently spiteful sentences. It’s a part that could be pitched in so many different ways. Hannigan delivers it without coarseness or caricature, pitching it on the level. The grip of an absorbing reality, of an overheard top-of-the-bus encounter, is at the heart of Hannigan’s appeal. Psychology, pure, still, stationary, is all there is here. And it makes for a thrilling theatrical experience.”

The Arts Desk, 07 June 2010

La Plus Forte sets a French translation of Strindberg’s tiny play The Stranger, in which Madame X finds Mademoiselle Y sitting alone in a cafe on Christmas Eve. Though the younger woman says nothing, Madame X continues her small talk about domestic matters, until it dawns on her that her companion has had an affair with her husband. After confronting her rival, though, she comforts herself with the fact that she will be going back to a home and a husband, while Mademoiselle Y will be spending Christmas alone. Barry turns what is effectively a monologue into a remarkable vehicle for the soprano Barbara Hannigan, who rattles off the machine-gun word setting with aplomb. It’s unaccompanied to begin with, then the orchestra enters with the familiar Barry repertoire of brassy riffs, rampaging toccatas and a rocking lullaby-style tune. It adds up to brilliantly effective scena, by turns frivolously witty and psychologically penetrating.”

The Guardian, 09 June 2010

“Then again, perhaps it was the contrast with the sharp-edged innocence of Barry’s La Plus Forte that made it seem so. Soprano Barbara Hannigan was a marvel as a neurotic and primly elegant actress who encounters a rival in a café, and subjects her to a 20-minute monologue of feigned concern, anxiety, and (finally) outrage when she realises this hussy has seduced her husband. This rival is never seen or heard, but her hateful presence could be sensed in every twitch of Hannigan’s marble-white shoulders and in her amazing rendition of Barry’s cruelly difficult lines, icily controlled but on the edge of hysteria. It was hilarious and deeply poignant.”

The Telegraph, 07 June 2010

“No blank exterior was possible during La Plus Forte, a pocket opera by the Irish maverick Gerald Barry, based on a French translation of Strindberg’s short psychodrama The Stronger. The remarkable soprano Barbara Hannigan took the sole sung role, babbling in step with Barry’s equally chuntering score as the neurotic wife who senses that her silent café companion has probably enjoyed an affair with her husband. Hannigan’s vocal onslaught was remarkable, though it wouldn’t have struck home so forcibly without Barry’s playful gift for dramatic portraiture. An excellent night.”

The Times, 08 June 2010

“The other soloist of the evening, however, the soprano Barbara Hannigan clearly stole the show in the UK première of Gerald Barry’s La Plus Forte. Written for Barbara Hannigan after her performance in Barry’s 2005 ENO commission The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, this one-act opera is a French translation of the Strindberg short play The Stronger. Its brief twenty-minute duration belies the intensity of the dark and devastating psychodrama that unfolds in a chance meeting of Madame X and Mademoiselle Y on Christmas Eve. Actresses that had competed for the same role, Madame X, the only spoken role of the work, comes to the realisation Mme Y may also have had an affair with her husband.
From the opening a cappella phrases, Hannigan inhabited the character of Madame X with breathtaking passion, reaching out and gripping the audience, taking them with her on an agitated emotional journey, that threatens to, but doesn’t quite become unbalanced. Barry’s considered scoring cleverly intensifies the drama; often the voice is alone, or the orchestra is used as a chamber ensemble, subtly needling and disquieting the character. Adding to the awkwardness of the scene, the vocal lines soared and plummeted with a range to rival that of the Queen of the Night’s ‘Der Hölle Rache’ and were stunningly executed by Hannigan.”

Musical Criticism, 8 June 2010


Gerald Barry

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

English National Opera

“Barbara Hannigan as Petra’s daughter Gabriele vaults impressively through vocal acrobatics that put Strauss’s Zerbinetta in the shade.”

Irish Times, 19 September 2005

“The Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan was imported to sing Petra’s daughter, and let fly a voice that hit high notes with a Queen of the Night’s brilliance and power.”

Times Literary Supplement, 23 September 2005

“Barbara Hannigan was convincing in her school uniform as Petra’s daughter, on the threshold between child and woman.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 26 September 2005


Hannigan inhabited the character of Madame X with breathtaking passion,
reaching out and gripping the audience, taking them with her on an agitated emotional journey,Musical Criticism