‘Extraordinarily committed, searingly communicative performances…thanks to Philip Headlam’s lucid direction‘

The Guardian

‘Extraordinarily committed, searingly communicative performances…thanks to Philip Headlam’s lucid direction’

The Guardian


Conductor Philip Headlam has received acclaim for his performances with orchestras, opera companies and ensembles in the U.K., Canada and Europe. Equally at home in the opera house and on the concert platform, he conducts a wide range of repertoire encompassing Baroque and Early music and opera, the great symphonic and opera masterpieces of the 18th and 19th centuries and 20th century music of all genres. He has much enthusiasm for working with composers and has conducted many world, U.K. and Canadian premieres.

He has conducted and worked with English Touring Opera, English National Opera, Royal Opera House (Covent Garden) Welsh National Opera, Theatre de la Monnaie (Brussels), Bregenz Opera Festival (Austria), Batignano Opera Festival (Italy), Royal Albert Hall /R. Gubbay opera productions, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Opera Rara, Birmingham Opera, Wexford Festival (Ireland), Aldeburgh Festival, Almeida Opera and BBC Television Opera. He has conducted many opera productions including Fidelio, Madame Butterfly, Suor Angelica, Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’Elisir d’Amore, Hansel und Gretel as well as L’Incoronazione di Poppea and others from the standard repertoire. He has conducted Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Turn of the Screw, Albert Herring, Peter Grimes and operas by Weill, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Poulenc, Barber, Ernst Toch and Zemlinsky as well as Georges Aperghis, Hans Werner Henze, Harrison Birtwistle, Jonathan Dove, Luca Francesconi, Peter Maxwell Davies, Michael Tippett, Judith Weir, Udo Zimmermann and others.

He has conducted the Britten Sinfonia, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, CBC Festival Orchestra (Toronto), Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (Canada), Paul Collaer Ensemble at the Flanders Festival, Belgium, the Contemporary Music Network, University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in symphonic and concerto works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Dvorak, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Shostakovich, Strauss, Tchaikovsky as well as Stravinsky, Copland, Berg, Varese and Webern.

He has worked with and conducted pieces by many of the most eminent composers in the world today including Henri Dutilleux, Georges Aperghis, Luca Francesconi, Jose Evangelista, Fred Rzewski, Pierre Bartholomee as well as Julian Anderson, Gavin Bryars, Richard Causton, Kenneth Hesketh, Benedict Mason, Colin Matthews, Roger Smalley, John Tavener and Errollyn Wallen. In Canada, he has conducted works by composers John Beckwith, John Burge, Denys Bouliane, Sean Ferguson, Talivaldis Kenins, John Metcalf, Owen Underhill, John Weinzweig and many others.

Mr. Headlam has conducted numerous broadcasts for BBC Radio 3, Belgian Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), RTE (Ireland) and for Channel 4 television, U.K. He has built a considerable reputation in Bel Canto and other Italian language opera repertoire, the operas and music of Benjamin Britten and 20th/21st century orchestral, ensemble, opera and vocal music.

He is the conductor and co-artistic director of The Continuum Ensemble has led them to outstanding and critically acclaimed performances in concerts, operas, films, CDs, radio broadcasts and new work commissions. He has conducted The Continuum Ensemble at the Spitalfields Festival, New Iberia Festival, Quebec in Motion Festival, Cutting Edge series and at the Southbank Centre, Linbury Studio (Royal Opera), Blackheath Concert Halls, Union Chapel, Old Royal Naval College, Wilton’s Music Hall and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.

He is noted for his innovative concert, opera and music festival programming which combines unusual or unjustly neglected music by composers from past centuries with standard repertoire as well as finding hidden gems by modern composers, all of which attracts great interest from audiences and critics alike. His most recent festival, Swept Away, at King’s Place, London, featured operas and concert works by Kurt Weill, Ernst Toch, Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek, Stefan Wolpe, Erwin Schulhoff and other composers from 1920s Germany who were later forced to flee into exile. He conducted five concerts featuring renowned singers and soloists, The Continuum Ensemble and the BBC Singers for BBC Radio broadcast. Swept Away received outstanding reviews in the U.K. and international press.

As a piano accompanist, he has performed songs and song cycles by Schumann, Brahms, Britten, Prokofiev, Sibelius and Faure as well as Julian Anderson, Henri Dutilleux, Elliot Carter, Julian Grant, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Schoenberg’s Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten (Dartington Festival, Devon), Judith Weir’s Natural History and The Voice of Desire and cabaret / theatre songs by Misha Spoliansky, Friedrich Hollander and Kurt Weill.

He has scored pieces for chamber orchestra by Berg (Altenberg Lieder), Dallapiccola (Rencesvals) and Ravel (Cinq Mélodies Populaires Grecques and Don Quichotte à Dulcinée) as well as Brahms’ Quintet op. 111 for string orchestra that have been performed and broadcast in Europe and Canada.

He has much experience as a conductor and opera repertoire coach with young professional opera singers and has been a faculty member of the Royal College of Music Opera Dept., Head of Opera at Birkbeck, University of London and guest conductor and coach with the Opera Program at the Banff Centre, Royal Academy of Music (London), Israeli Vocal Arts Institute, Tel Aviv and International Opera Academy, Ghent.

Mr. Headlam, born in Canada, studied at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto (B. Music in Conducting) and with teachers Victor Feldbrill, Otto-Werner Mueller and at the class of Franco Ferrara in Siena, Italy. He has been assistant conductor to Kazushi Ono, Sir Andrew Davis, Daniele Callegari, Sir Mark Elder and Mario Bernardi. He has been awarded prizes and awards from the Canada Council, Faculty of Music, U. of Toronto and the Clifford Evans Prize for Conducting (Canada).