Amanda Holden trained as a musician. She has written many texts for stage performance; the majority of these are translations of opera librettos ranging throughout the repertoire, but also of concert works, Lieder, Music Theatre and plays. Her work has been performed by all Britain’s opera companies and abroad in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and coast to coast in the US. Her recent commissions have included Glanert’s Caligula (for its UK premiere) and Rameau’s Castor & Pollux – her `sensitive and poetic’ translation received an Olivier Award nomination.
As well as translations, Amanda has written librettos. They include Bliss, after Peter Carey’s novel, for Brett Dean (Opera Australia); Family Matters, for six composers, after Beaumarchais’ La mère coupable (Tête-à-Tête), The Piano Tuner for Nigel Osborne, after Daniel Mason’s novel (Music Theatre Wales/ROH) and The Silver Tassie after Sean O’Casey’s play (for Mark-Anthony Turnage, ENO), for which she and the composer received the 2001 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.
Amanda first wrote for the opera house when she co-translated the libretto of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for Jonathan Miller’s production at English National Opera in 1985. Since then she has worked regularly with ENO, ETO, Opera North, Raymond Gubbay’s arena productions and for Chandos’ Opera in English series. Some of her lyrics have been used more widely, e.g. by Werner Herzog for a short La bohème film and on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers.
Amanda grew up in post-war London where her medical parents and musical grandmother took her to musicals, opera and the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. She studied for an MA in music at Oxford, then went on a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, where she later taught piano while also working as a freelance accompanist. She also studied Music Therapy and, in 1974, began the music department at Charing Cross Hospital’s centre for children with learning difficulties; it has now moved to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.
In the mid-1980s she started work on the Viking/Penguin Opera Guides, which detail the lives and operatic works of hundreds of composers; the most recent edition – and the only one in print – is The Concise Penguin Guide to Opera. A web edition containing all the material in the books – articles on the operatic lives and works of about 1,000 composers – is currently being prepared.