A lyric coloratura soprano with a flair for contemporary music, a range of over three octaves and a taste for a challenge, Joanne Roughton-Arnold emigrated from New Zealand to the UK to pursue a career as a violinist. She began her vocal studies with Esther Salaman and Paul Hamburger while a postgraduate violinist at Trinity College of Music, London, before going on to become a prize-winning vocal student at Birmingham Conservatoire, then continuing her studies with renowned operatic soprano Nelly Miricioiu and international vocal coach David Harper.
In 2019 she co-founded formidAbility with Holly Mathieson out of a conviction that opera can touch so many more people if we better reflect the diversity of our audiences on stage. This new opera company is made up of a healthy mix of disabled and non-disabled professional artists creating high calibre work, breaking down barriers and challenging perceptions of disability and inclusion in the arts. The company's first production was a double-bill of Hotspur by Dame Gillian Whitehead and Schoenberg's iconic Pierrot Lunaire. Joanne shared the stage with dancers Isolte Avila and David Bower of Signdance Collective International in this world-first merging of opera with Signdance and the Rationale Method of audio description.
She is passionate about showcasing New Zealand music to a wider audience. In 2015 she commissioned Gillian Whitehead and Fleur Adcock to write Iris Dreaming, a one-woman chamber opera based on the life of celebrated NZ writer and feminist, Iris Wilkinson. She performed and produced the world première as part of the 2016 Grimeborn Festival at London’s Arcola Theatre, with Sara Brodie directing and Jonathan Hargreaves conducting the Octandre Ensemble. In February 2017 she gave the New Zealand premiere of Iris Dreaming in partnership with NZTrio in a special adaptation for Nelson’s prestigious Adam Chamber Music Festival, later broadcast by Radio NZ.
She sings regularly with the British Paraorchestra under Charles Hazlewood: The Nature of Why (Perth Festival, Southbank Centre, The Lowry, Kneehigh Festival, Blackpool Empress Ballroom, Bristol Old Vic), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, Kraftwerk: Re-werk (WOMAD, Colston Hall, The Marble Factory) and Minimalism Changed My Life (Southbank Centre, Bridgewater Hall).
In 2015 she made her first appearance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the virtuosic role of Semele in a research and development workshop on Roberto David Rusconi’s new opera, Dionysos. She gave the world première of Lisa Illean’s Artificial Night with the Octandre Ensemble and has made concert appearances at HM Treasury (Churchill Room) and Handel House Museum.
Her other operatic credits include Annina in La Traviata with the Chelsea Opera Group and Nelly Miricioiu (Queen Elizabeth Hall), La Zia in Madama Butterfly with Opera Holland Park (Christine Collins Young Artist), Methodist Preacher in A Pastoral Messiah (Unexpected Opera) and Sarah Whitehead in Malcolm Williamson’s English Eccentrics under Lionel Friend.
She was a Crear Scholar in 2017 and 2018, participating in Malcolm Martineau’s annual residential masterclass on the west coast of Scotland.