Biography

ben_woodward_biographyBen Woodward was born in Staffordshire. He was educated at Chetham’s School of Music and was then Organ Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Immediately after graduating, he became organ scholar / assistant organist at Christ Church, Greenwich, CT, USA, in his second year of which he mounted two performances of the Bach St John Passion, one in Greenwich, and one in New York City, which he conducted from the harpsichord.

Shortly after this, he was asked by the One World Symphony to répétiteur for Salome for three weeks on three days’ notice – his first experience of performing opera. After this experience, they then asked him to Chorus-Master Peter Grimes and play for and Chorus-Master Elektra.

Whilst in the States, Ben became continuo player for The New Baroque Soloists, with whom he continues to edit music and play their summer season in Connecticut. In 2005 they performed J.D. Heinichen’s Mass in F with St Mary’s Stamford professional choir, where Ben had recently become Music Director. Along with Doug Myers, Ben had edited this work from source, and this was the modern-day world premiere.

Returning to London in 2007, Ben became Director of Music at St John’s Church in Fulham. Since being there he has expanded the musical reputation of the church to include a recital series, and has played and conducted concerts of semi-professional groups in works including 5th Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart Requiem, Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem, Handel Messiah, and two Festival Evensongs for Fulham Week, including Tallis’s 40-part motet Spem in Alium.

In 2008, Ben brought opera to St John’s Fulham, and conducted Tell Tale Opera in a performance of La Cenerentola, with small orchestra in his own arrangement, stage directed by Fiona Williams.   In 2009, at the suggestion of the Peter Grimes from the One World Symphony performance, Jon Morrell, Wagner’s Die Walküre Act I, was staged in the church, which Ben rendered on the piano, and Fiona Williams directed. Parsifal Act 2 followed in late 2010, also with Jon Morrell, and twelve flower-maidens, mainly taken from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where Ben had just started his post-graduate as a répétiteur on the opera course.

At Christmas 2010, the late Robert Presley suggested that the next project be Das Rheingold, and Fulham Opera was born. Das Rheingold in August 2011, again, staged by Fiona Williams. This was a runaway success, and laid down a gauntlet.

Fulham Opera, under Ben’s musical direction continued with Die Walküre in May 2012, Siegfried (directed by Max Pappenheim) in February 2013, and was concluded with Götterdämmerung in November 2013. A revival of all four operas and two complete Ring Cycles were produced in February-March 2014, in the second of which Ben played all four operas.  Since then Ben has lead Fulham Opera in Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra and Der fliegende Holländer.

Ben was Music Director of Buckland & Betchworth Choral Society from 2010-16, winning the overall prize in their division at the Leith Hill Musical Festival three years running.

Between October 2016 and the end of January 2017, Ben covered a sabbatical for a member of the music staff at Staatsoper Hannover, where he played for Henze’s Die englische Katze and Hänsel und Gretel, and conducted rehearsals of Carmen and Der fliegende Holländer.  In Novmber 2018, he returned to Germany to work at the Theater im Revier Gelsenkirchen to work on Dialogues des Carmélites.

He has just become Repetitor mit Dirigierverpflictung at the Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landestheater in Flensburg, Germany, where he will assist on productions for at least the next two seasons, which have begun with Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.

Ben is available as an opera coach via the contact form below.

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