A performer of great versatility, the distinguished soprano Merlyn Quaife has performed opera, oratorio, lieder, chamber music and contemporary music to great acclaim throughout Australia and Europe. She has performed as soloist with the Singapore Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Voronesz Philharmonic (Russia). Merlyn has appeared with every Australian Opera Company in roles ranging from the bel canto Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor to the minimalistChiang Ch'ingin Nixon in China. She has performed with all the major Australian symphony orchestras, featured in repertoire of every conceivable style from Handel to Ligeti, as well as recording a number of CDs including Aria for John Edward Eyre by David Lumsdaine, which won her a Sounds Australia Award. Her recordings appear on the Naxos, Move, Tall Poppies and ABC Classics labels.
In 2010, Merlyn created the role of Betty in Brett Dean’s new opera Bliss for Opera Australia in Sydney, Melbourne and at the Edinburgh Festival to great acclaim. 2011 saw her in the role of First Lady in The Magic Flute for Victorian Opera and a performance of Brett Dean’s Wolf Lieder and Webern’s Four Lieder Op. 13 with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Merlyn also performed as part of the newly formed Vocal Quartet, Songmakers Australia, an exciting new initiative of pianist Andrea Katz. In 2012 her engagements include the role of the Overseer in Elektra for West Australian Opera, Les Noces for West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Opera XS with Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, appearances at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville, and concerts including Pierrot Lunairefor Melbourne Festival with ‘Songmakers Australia’ and Syzergy. In 2013 her engagements will include singing the role of Ortlinde in Die Walküre in Opera Australia’s Melbourne Ring Cycle.
Other recent performances have included Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Haydn Paukenmesse for Auckland Philharmonia and several performances at the Melbourne Recital Centre including the inaugural concert of Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, Bach arias with the Freshwater Trio and ‘Walk to the Field of Stars’ – a concert in which Merlyn shares her experience of walking the Camino de Santiago in 2006 in words and song. Merlyn also performed in the premiere of Brenton Broadstock’s Tyranny of Distance and Unsuk Chin’s Akrostichon Wortspieland Dutilleux’s Correspondencewith the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra,Marianne in Der Rosenkavalier in concert with Hong Kong Philharmonic and Ortlinde in concert performances of Die Walküre with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Merlyn has had many works composed for and dedicated to her, with Gordon Kerry's Kindled Skies and Christopher Willcock’s Akmahtova Stanzas being among the highlights. Fortune My Foe composed by Roger Heagney to poems by Graeme Ellis is being performed by Merlyn and her associate artist, Andrea Katz, to raise funds and awareness for ACRATH who assist victims of human trafficking.
In 1994, Merlyn made her American debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, singing the title role in Gordon Kerry's opera Medea with Chamber Made Opera. She also sang to great acclaim when she created the title role in Melbourne, with subsequent seasons in Sydney and Canberra with the same company. This was closely followed by a new production with the Berliner Kammeroper, which enjoyed three seasons.
Poulenc's La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice) has become a regular performance piece with orchestra or piano. Other highlights include Shostakovich Symphony No. 14, Sibelius' Luonnotar and Rachmaninov's The Bells with the Sydney Symphony, Britten War Requiem with the Berliner Capella and the First Flower Maiden in the acclaimed State Opera of South Australia production of Parsifal - the first fully staged Australian performance, under the baton of Jeffrey Tate. Merlyn has also performed the Schoenberg String Quartet No. 2 with the Arditti String Quartet for Melbourne International Arts Festival and the Goldner String Quartet for the Adelaide Festival and the role of Kitty Hart in the Australian premiere of Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie for the State Opera of South Australia.
Education has been an important part of Merlyn’s career. Between 1995 and 2007 she was the Head of Department for Vocal Studies at the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne. She has also been guest teacher at the Lotte Lehmann Woche Summer School in Pereleberg, Germany and has been invited to teach and perform in Vienna and the USA.