For Immediate Release

On 25 October 2016, Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra gave the world-premiere performance of John Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre in Birmingham, an occasion that was universally acclaimed and is destined to be remembered for years to come. At the conclusion of the two-act opera’s concert performance, audience and musicians alike arose in a simultaneous standing ovation for the 89-year-old composer who at long last heard his magnum opus brought to life. The critics followed suit with widespread praise for the performance that was captured for posterity by the SOMM label. The live recording is scheduled to be released in March 2017 to coincide with Joubert’s 90th birthday.

Kenneth Woods, the English Symphony Orchestra and soloists take a bow on the stage of the
Ruddock Arts Centre in Birmingham following the premiere of John Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre

The Critics’ Perspective
“April Fredrick sang with a lyrically gleaming soprano, soaring rapturously on Joubert’s singer-friendly lines.  David Stout supplied virile tone as Rochester … Kenneth Woods conducted a well-prepared performance that ought on disc to win new admirers for the operatic Joubert” – The Daily Telegraph

“As a timely reminder of the melodic strengths and potency of Joubert’s music this fine performance with April Fredrick as Jane, David Stout as Rochester and Mark Milhofer as the Reverend St John Rivers, certainly did the trick.” – The Guardian

Soprano April Fredrick as Jane Eyre

“Joubert’s luminous, ardently lyrical score (think Britten without his splinter of ice) is disarmingly direct. David Stout made a suitably brusque and Byronic Rochester, but it was April Fredrick as Jane who really carried the whole thing … whether flashing with defiance or soaring rapturously and with radiant tone over a surging orchestra” – The Spectator

“Five Stars. The tears in our eyes at the end of this professional première of John Joubert’s Jane Eyre were quickened not only by the ravishing music of Jane and Rochester’s reconciliation, but also by the sheer emotional importance of the occasion … Joubert’s vision was finally fulfilled … the near-ninety year-old acknowledged thunderous applause after a tremendous performance of a wonderful score” – Birmingham Post

“Five Stars. The support from cast members was exemplary, and the orchestra … in the warm and immediate acoustic of Birmingham’s Ruddock Hall, sounded polished and vibrant … there was an added poignancy in the standing ovation, and a feeling that something of real value had taken place: an important contribution to the repertoire, deserving of a place on the world opera stage.” – Bachtrack

“the 2 CD set release will be quite an event … a passionate work and full of heart … we can look forward to the release of what is likely to prove a glowing entry in the annals of recorded English opera.” – MusicWeb International

“A world première positively reeking of drama and tension … it took this Birmingham audience by storm. Fredrick was utterly absorbing to listen to … Stout matched her at every turn … the English Symphony Orchestra as committed and on the ball as I’ve heard them … conducted throughout with wonderful command and control by Kenneth Woods … a truly rich experience.” – Music and Vision Daily

“the work makes a powerful impact … April Fredrick captured the development of the character well … Her voice is warm and attractive across a wide range and the resolve of the character shone through. David Stout’s brooding Rochester was also impressive … Kenneth Woods conducted with aplomb, and the recording is much looked forward to.” – Classical Source
The Conductor’s Perspective
“Joubert’s magnum opus is a work that reaches for the stars. The composer boldly chose to adapt a beloved and iconic novel, rich with detail and multiple layers of meaning and complex characters. I knew from my first look through the score that Jane Eyre was an opera of great aspiration. Having now conducted it, I understand it as an opera of great achievement. Joubert’s absolute genius for orchestration creates a sound world which illuminates the inner lives of the carefully crafted and boldly etched characters. His uncanny gift for melody rewards and inspires the singers at every turn. His profound understanding of musical form has allowed him to create a work full of sophisticated structural relationships and a fascinating and compelling web of musical connections. This is what opera is all about at its very best: character, emotion, musicianship and melody. I’ll be forever grateful to have been part of the effort to bring this masterpiece to the public’s attention, and doubly grateful to have done so in partnership with such an extraordinary cast. Thanks to Siva Oke for taking the initiative to undertake this epic project, and all gratitude to John for the great gift he has given music and opera lovers everywhere with a score which will be performed, discussed, studied and loved for generations to come.” – Kenneth WoodsA Soloist’s Perspective
Composer John Joubert with
soprano April Fredrick (Jane Eyre)

“‘Music, when soft voices die … vibrates in the memory’ (Percy Shelley). Two days after the recording and premiere of Jane Eyre with David Stout, Mark Milhofer, Gwion Thomas, Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra, these lines by Shelley capture my sensations, along with this portion of Kenneth Birkin’s marvellous libretto: ‘This is the sweetest hour. The sun going down in simple state Sheds golden blessings on mankind. Extending high and soft and wide The radiant heavens over … Lingers as I do … loth to leave this …” – soprano April Fredrick

A Musician’s Perspective

“His night. His opera. His triumph. Of music he’d at one time despaired of ever hearing, of one of the works existing closest to his heart. And [Joubert’s daughter] Anna wasn’t the only one in tears: no, we were all in tears, at least in the violas and celli, and you can shove this on my tombstone (because it practically killed me but it was a true highlight of my cello-playing life, better than playing with the Hanover Band in Carnegie Hall, better than playing under Sir John Eliot Gardiner in the Lincoln Center, better than almost any concert with the BBC Symphony or Royal Philharmonic I ever did): I played in the premiere of Joubert’s Jane Eyre.” – Alice McVeigh, ESO cellist

The Producer’s Perspective
For me the happiest moment came when singers, orchestra and conductor bowed to an audience who stood on their feet applauding a superb performance of a true masterpiece. The memory of a beaming John Joubert struggling to his feet to acknowledge the ovation will remain forever etched in my memory. And another blissful moment … His first words to me, having bounded up the steps to give him a hug – ‘We did it, we did it, we did it!’– Siva Oke, owner of SOMM Recordings, Executive and Recording Producer of Jane Eyre


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Jane Eyre
is the English Symphony Orchestra’s first foray into a full opera and the latest achievement in an impressive string of world premieres. The orchestra’s October 2015 Elgar Festival produced the premieres of Elgar’s Piano Quintet and Sea Pictures in new arrangements by Donald Fraser, resulting in a chart-topping recording released by AVIE Records. October 2014 saw the premiere of Deborah Pritchard’s Wall of Water at London’s LSO St. Luke’s with a reprise at the National Gallery and release on the Nimbus label.
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Further information about the premiere of John Joubert’s Jane Eyre can be found here.For any media enquiries, interview and image requests, please contact Melanne Mueller,, +44 (0) 20 8698 6933 or
+1 917 907 2785
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