Helen Abbott


Professor Helen Abbott is a specialist in nineteenth-century French poetry and music at the University of Birmingham (UK). She writes about word-music relationships deployed in poetic language and critical-philosophical texts. An expert in using digital methodologies, she directs the AHRC-funded Baudelaire Song Project which has recently launched a database of over 1,700 songs in 25 languages, and 40 different musical genres www.baudelairesong.org/search. The project also showcases a new networked model for analysing and visualising word/music relations in songs. Professor Abbott is author of three books, Baudelaire in Song 1880–1930 (Oxford University Press, 2017), Parisian Intersections (Peter Lang, 2012), Between Baudelaire and Mallarmé (Ashgate, 2009) and is co-writing a new book on Baudelaire and Debussy with Dr Mylène Dubiau of the Université de Toulouse—Jean Jaurès (France). A classically-trained soprano, Professor Abbott is also in demand as a specialist language coach for professional and early-career singers working on French repertoire. She was recently French poetry consultant and language coach on a Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2018 nominated album Voyages (Signum, 2017) with Mary Bevan (soprano) and Joseph Middleton (piano). She has the CBSO Choruses and soloist for projects including Berlioz La Damnation de Faust, Debussy La Damoiselle élue, and Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande in the 2018–19 season. Her language coaching practice is informed by expert knowledge of French versification and declamation styles, and she has performed declaimed versions of French poetry in musical contexts, including Debussy’s Musique de scène pour les Chansons de Bilitis for the CBSO Debussy Festival 2018. Professor Abbott’s extensive knowledge of poetry by the major nineteenth-century French poets (Banville, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Verlaine) set to music by composers spanning the mélodie and chanson repertoires (Charpentier, Fauré, Debussy, Rollinat, Vierne) makes her in demand as one of the leading experts in the French song repertoire.

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