Chance was born in Penn, Buckinghamshire, into a musical family. After growing up as a chorister at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, attending the St George's School, he went on to Eton and later King's College, Cambridge.
His first operatic appearance was in the Buxton Festival in Ronald Eyre's staging of Cavalli's Giasone which was followed by appearances in Lyon, Cologne, and three seasons with Kent opera. Subsequently, he has performed in the Sydney Opera House, Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, La Scala Milan, Florence, New York, Lisbon, Oviedo, Leipzig, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and with Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, and English National Opera.
His roles include the title roles of Orfeo (Gluck), Giasone, Giustino, Rinaldo and Ascanio in Alba, Solomon, Ottone / L’incoronazione di Poppea, Athamas / Semele, Andronico / Tamerlano, Oberon / A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tolomeo / Giulio Cesare and Apollo / Death in Venice. He has had roles written specially for him by Sir Harrison Birtwistle (Orpheus / The Second Mrs Kong) and Judith Weir (A Military Governor / A night at the Chinese Opera). Recent festival appearances include Edinburgh, Aix-en-Provence, BBC Proms in London, Salzburg and Bertarido in a new production of Handel's Rodelinda for the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
His appearances in oratorio and recital have taken him to concert halls all over the world including Carnegie Hall, Concertgebouw, Musikverein, Neue Gewandhaus and Berlin's Philharmonie. He has given recitals in Frankfurt, Vienna, Amsterdam, Israel, New York and London's Wigmore Hall with a variety of programmes, ranging from Elizabethan lute songs to new works commissioned for him. He sings regularly with the viol consort Fretwork and has toured with them to Japan and the United States.
Michael Chance's list of recordings is numerous and widespread. He received a Grammy award for his participation in Handel's Semele for Deutsche Grammophon with John Nelson and Kathleen Battle. He has recorded frequently with John Eliot Gardiner, including the Bach Passions and Cantatas, B Minor Mass, Monteverdi's Orfeo and L'Incoronazione di Poppea and Handel's Jephtha, Tamerlano and Agrippina. Other conductors he has recorded with include Trevor Pinnock, Frans Brüggen, Ton Koopman and Nicholas McGegan. On his CD for Deutsche Grammophon, “Michael Chance, the Art of Counter-tenor”, he sings solo alto cantatas by Vivaldi with Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert.
His belief in extending the counter-tenor repertoire has prompted new work to be composed for him by Richard Rodney Bennett, Alexander Goehr, Tan Dun, Anthony Powers, John Tavener, and Elvis Costello - amongst others.
His television appearances include A Night at the Chinese Opera, Death in Venice, The Fairy Queen, the three Monteverdi operas with Netherlands Opera, Poppea with Welsh National Opera, Messiah in Dublin with Sir Neville Marriner, and in the Autumn 1999 he was featured by the South Bank Show. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
It was announced in October 2015 that Michael Chance would become the first Artistic Director of The Grange Festival, a new opera company established to continue performances at The Grange theatre in Hampshire. Opening in June 2017 with operas by Monteverdi, Mozart, Bizet and Britten, The Grange Festival is one of the few opera companies in the world to be led by an internationally renowned opera singer.
- ‘CHANCE, Michael Edward Ferguson’ in Who's Who 2012 (London: A. & C. Black, 2012); online edition (subscription site) by Oxford University Press, December 2011, accessed 22 April 2012
- Template:London Gazette
- BBC News New Year Honours list
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