Charismatic mezzo-soprano Wendy Dawn Thompson has performed with many of the world’s leading national opera companies, including the Royal Opera House, Opera Australia and Portugal’s esteemed Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. The New Zealander’s engaging performances in a wide ranging repertoire make her a favourite with both audiences and critics, whether she’s playing the role of Teresa Salieri in Amadeus at London’s National Theatre, Charlotte in Werther at Vilnius City Opera or Magdalena in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Edinburgh International Festival.
At the age of four Wendy told her mum that she would be a classical singer when she grew up. This despite the fact that the family didn’t own a stereo at the time. Wendy taught herself to play piano and read music while at high school and went on to study singing at Victoria University of Wellington, winning New Zealand Young Performer of the Year Award in 1998. She then took part in the prestigious Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist scheme at New Zealand Opera before coming to the UK to complete postgraduate courses at the Royal Northern College of Music and Royal College of Music.
In her final year of study Wendy won the 2003 Kathleen Ferrier Prize and made her operatic debut with Garsington Opera as Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte). She has since returned to the critically acclaimed summer opera festival on several occasions, most recently in the 2014 staging of Offenbach's rarely heard operetta Vert-Vert.
A gifted and energetic performer, Wendy’s operatic appearances have seen her shooting across the stage on a Segway, climbing 3-metre walls, singing in the rain, balancing on top of a caravan and adorned in motorcycle leathers from top to toe.
Her proudest professional achievements in opera include the world première of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Minotaur for the Royal Opera House, Sesto (La clemenza di Tito) with Opera Australia and The Importance of being Earnest at Opera national de Lorraine. She has performed with Opera North (Varvara in Katya Kabanova), Scottish Opera (Fidalma in Cimarosa's The Secret Marriage) and English Touring Opera (Ruggerio in Alcina), and regularly takes on leading roles at both Birmingham Opera Company and New Zealand Opera. Mignon, at Buxton Opera, in which Wendy played the title role, was a finalist in the 2012 Sky Arts Award for opera.
Wendy relishes telling stories through music on the song recital and concert circuit too. Recital appearances have seen her performing at the Wigmore Hall, Aldeburgh Festival, BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and Bridgewater Hall. Other concert highlights include Mozart’s Requiem, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic, and Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 and Elijah with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Wendy was proud to represent New Zealand in the final of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
Having gained a huge amount from mentors and teachers over the course of her career – the late conductor Richard Hickox and tenor Philip Langridge were major influences – Wendy embraces opportunities to mentor younger singers whenever possible. She enjoys leading masterclasses and has done so at institutions including the University of Birmingham and Blackheath Halls, part of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Wendy feels strongly that the world of opera and classical music can only benefit from becoming more reflective of society as a whole and, as such, is a vocal supporter of organisations campaigning for improved access to the profession, including Parents and Carers in Performing Arts and Supporting Women and Parents in Opera.