Kate Brown studied English at Oxford and Music in Austria before becoming a director. She has worked with most of the major British opera companies, and in Europe she has worked in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. In 2000 she made her debut in the US.
She has made a special study of the performance theory and practice of early opera, but also directs the work of contemporary composers, including Eddie Maguire’s The Loving of Etain for the Paragon Ensemble in Glasgow and Edinburgh, G. P. Cribari’s Las Escondidas at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, and Jonathan Dove’s Tobias and the Angel for Almeida Opera in London and at St Matthew’s Perry Beeches in Birmingham.
She has worked extensively in Scotland, directing Rameau’s Castor et Pollux for Edinburgh University Opera, Händel’s Rodelinda at Hopetoun House, and many projects for the Scottish Early Music Consort, including the modern world premieres of two 17th century Roman operas: La Vita Humana and La Baltasara. She directed one of the first productions since the 17th century of The Indian Queen by Dryden and Purcell at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, and subsequently La Didone by Cavalli at Glasgow’s Tramway, in a co-production between the Glasgow International Early Music Festival and the Fundacion Olivar de Castillejo, Madrid.
As well as various educational projects (including ‘Opera from Scratch’, which won a major Sainsbury’s Award), she has devised, scripted and directed many smaller scale touring shows , which presented early music in an innovative theatrical framework, often combining speech and dance as well as music, including Kentigern at Easter (medieval Easter dramas); Scenes of Love and War (based on music by Monteverdi, performed in Birmingham, Belfast, Glasgow, and all round the Highlands and Islands); Celebrating Mr Purcell (for the 1995 Purcell tercentenary, commissioned for the Covent Garden Festival), and Celtic Voyages, which wove together medieval, traditional, and contemporary dance and music from Celtic sources, and played on Mull, Iona, Lewis and Benbecula, as well as in Glasgow and Milan. Her last SEMC show was A Conversation with Angels, based on the music and writing of the twelfth century visionary abbess, Hildegard of Bingen, which played in Glasgow and in London.
Since making her debut in Germany with Händel’s Flavio in Halle, she has also directed Händel’s Riccardo Primo for Göttingen, with conductor Nicholas McGegan, in both places also contributing to international panels on Händel performance-practice. In 1996 she made her Spanish debut with more Händel: Acis and Galatea for the Almagro Festival, and continued in Germany with Der Freischutz for the Zwingenberg Schlossfestspiele. Other major productions have included Rigoletto for Opera Holland Park, Eugene Onegin at Newbury and Tobias and the Angel, a new church opera by Jonathan Dove. This last was premiered by Almeida Opera in London, and was given a new community production in Birmingham in 2000 (in association with the City of Birmingham Touring Opera), both of which she directed.
The year 2000 also saw her in the US directing Dido and Aeneas and other Purcell pieces for the University of Indianapolis, as well as Händel’s Giulio Cesare for the Birmingham Conservatoire, and an appearance at the Convegno Rospigliosi in Pistoia, Italy to give a paper on seventeenth-century Italian opera, which will be published next year. In 2001 she returned to Indianapolis to direct The Pirates of Penzance and in 2005 she staged The Fairy Queen for the Gabrieli Consort and Players, performing at Brinkburn Priory and at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall.
Last year's major production was Lady Hamilton’s Attitudes. Originally written and directed in 1996 for performances in Glasgow and Aberdeen by the Scottish Early Music Consort, the show was invited to perform at the British Museum for the opening of the exhibition on Sir William Hamilton's collections Vases and Volcanoes. For the year 2005 Kate rewrote the show for a new production in association with Trinity College of Music at the old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. This played in various venues throughout the UK in celebration of the Trafalgar bicentenary, in Kendal for the George Romney Society, and also in Woerlitz, Germany, to celebrate the first eruption of the Artificial Volcano since the late 18th century. Click here for full details and pictures.
At present she is continuing her researches into the performance practice of early opera, including the nature of acting and stagecraft in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has given numerous workshops and masterclasses on this (notably at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, at the Royal Academy of Music, and at Trinity College of Music) and also won an award for further research from the John Ramsden Fund of the Society for Theatre Research. This helped in particular to fund the research behind The Passions Project, performed at the Guildhall in March.
Plans include a further series of workshops on performance practice at the Guildhall, courses in running opera workshops at the Conservatoire of Zwolle in Holland, and supervising a B.Mus module on Opera Production at the University of Glasgow.