4.4 Solo Performers of Classical Music

Dame Gwyneth Jones[1], DBE, born 1936, is one of the greatest sopranos of our age. She performed for the first time as a professional soloist in Zu­rich in 1962. After her great success at Covent Garden in 1964 in the part of Trovatore's "Leonora" she had her final breakthrough in 1965 with her performance in Wagner's "Walküre".

Since then she has made her appearance in all the great opera houses in the world as a Wagner singer and in roles like "Madame Butterfly", "Aida", "Desdemona" or the Princess in Puccini's "Turandot".

Sir Geraint Evans,[2] CBE, one of Britain's leading operatic bari­tones, was born 1922 as son of a coal miner. He won a gold medal in a singing competition at the early age of four. In 1948 he joined the opera company at London's Covent Garden, He made his debut in "Die Meistersinger", then performed in the role of  Figaro, Falstaff (his signature role), Papageno etc.

He sang in nearly all the great opera houses of the world: Milan, Salzburg, New York etc. He was knighted in 1969.

Bryn Terfel [3], is at the moment the most popular bass-baritone in the world. He has even been referred to as the bass-baritone of the 21st century. This tall man (1,92 m)  was born in 1965 as son of a North Wales farmer. As a boy he was an extremely good athlete and sang in choirs. He took part in many eisteddfods (regional and national) and won several prizes in these.

In 1988 he won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship and in 1989 the "Lieder Prize" in the Cardiff "Singer of the year" competition. In 1992 he won the titles "Young Singer of the Year" and in 1993 "Newcomer of the Year".

Among his operatic roles were Figaro, Don Giovanni and  Jokanaan in Richard Strauss's "Salome". He has sung roles in Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten" and in works by Richard Wagner and others. He is well known for lieder and songs (Franz Schubert, Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler…) and for choral works (Frideric Handel, Edward Elgar, John Ireland…).

With his great stature he is very imposing on stage. He has a charismatic personality and is so full of energy that he is able to captivate the audience by his fantastic perform­ance. "His ability as a dramatic actor, coupled with a virtuosic command over his dark, resonant voice, made him one of the most highly sought-after of modern singers" (Britan­nica).
The recording "Something Wonderful", with music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Ham­merstein II (1997) was a huge success. "With a rich, warm, vibrant voice that was capable of expressive pianissimos as well as roaring fortissimos, he continued to stand out in the world of classical singing." (Britannica)

Over the last years Terfel has become so popular that the papers even talked of "Ter­felmania" spreading across the continents as far as Australia and the USA.
His favourite town from a musical point of view is Salzburg. It is amazing that Terfel is able to sing in German  and also in Italian without a recognizable foreign accent.

Apart from the singers mentioned  above, others such Margaret Price, Helen Watts, Steward Borrows and Patricia Kearn have made Welsh opera voices famed throughout the world.

Aled Jones: His career  began at a very young age at local eisteddfods and concerts. At the Urdd Eisteddfod in 1982, he won the solo and the Cerdd Dant solo competitions for competitors under 12. From 1980 he sang in the choir of Bangor Cathedral. 1985 he per­formed in front of the Queen, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with Dame John Suth­erland and with Leonard Bernstein. Several of his 16 recordings went Gold and Plati­num.[4]

Wales' youngest great singing talent is 13-year-old Charlotte Church.[5] Although so young, she already has the mature voice of a grown-up opera diva. She first presented her wonderful voice – "The Voice of an Angel" to the public on a TV show when she per­formed Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu". There she was discov­ered by the Sony Music UK chairman who signed her on at once.

From there on her career went straight up: She performed in many TV shows. More­over she sang for personalities as important as the Pope and Prince Charles.

Charlotte's repertoire ranges from classical songs such as "Ave Maria" to Welsh folk songs. The success of her debut album "Voice of an Angel" shows how famous she really is and how her voice impresses her audience. With "Voice of an Angel" Charlotte became the youngest ever musician to reach no. 1 in the classical charts and so many copies of this album were sold in the USA that she received a gold disc for it.

Michael Wilson is a 15-year-old violinist, who was already impressing his audiences at the age of 7. In 1996 he began to study with Ruggerio Ricci, who described him as one of the most talented young musicians he had met in the last 40 years.[6] Soon after he went to the Mozarteum in Salzburg and from there to the Academy of Music in Vienne. Gerhard Schulz is his tutor.

 

[1] Information from Encarta; http://www.anaserve.com/~parterre/jonesbio.htm?140,128 
[2]
Information from: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of  Music, Britannica, Encarta 2000
[3]
Information from Britannica, a TV portrait in ARTE, record covers, Western Mail, St. David's Day 1999,  http://die.soundcity.de/terfel/timeline.html 
[4]
cf. record covers; listen to recording on the enclosed CD
[5]
cf. http://www.charlottechurch.com/bio.html ; http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/stage/6542/bio.html ; cf. recording on the enclosed CD
[6]
cf. Western Mail, 08-05-1999

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