Soprano Carolyn Sampson has been proclaimed "the best British early music soprano by some distance" by the editors of Gramophone. A native of Bedford, born May 18, 1974, she studied voice with Richard Smart at the University of Birmingham, and made her debut with the English National Opera in a production of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea and continues to appear with this company with regularity, in addition to appearances at the Paris Opera. The vast majority of Sampson's singing has been heard in concert engagements with period ensembles, and by 2006 she had appeared with most of the best-known groups of this sort, but especially the King's Consort, Collegium Vocale, and Ex Cathedra. Sampson has recorded extensively for the Hyperion, BIS, Harmonia Mundi, and Deux-elles labels.
In 2005 Sampson recorded the newly discovered soprano cantata Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn, BWV 1127, an unusual work that poses challenges for the interpreter: it has a unique 12-stanza shape. Several early music groups recorded the new cantata, but Sampson's, led by Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki, was the first to use all 12 stanzas. That led to Sampson's appearances on recordings in Suzuki's magisterial complete Bach cantata cycle on Sweden's BIS label, as well as to recordings on Vivat. Most of these were of Baroque repertory, especially of Bach and Handel, but she has also recorded music by Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry, and Francis Poulenc, as well as a group of settings of poems by Paul Verlaine. Her 2014 Hyperion release A French Baroque Diva featured music associated with the mid-18th century Parisian opera star Marie Fel. On-stage, where the situation calls for it (as in Handel's Semele, for instance, in an English National Opera production), Sampson has offered frankly erotic looks and performances. In 2017 Sampson released a trio of Bach soprano cantatas from the Weimar period on Harmonia Mundi.