Sunday, June 5, 2011

Golden Age Singer of the Week--Dame Gwyneth Jones

I do have every intention of posting a singer from the 20th century's golden age of opera every week.  Last week's post about Giorgio Tozzi's death had to suffice as the post for the week.

Today we have Dame Gwyneth Jones when she was young. What remarkable subtlety in her singing in this video!

Dame Gwyneth Jones DBE (born November 7, 1936 in Pontnewynydd, Wales) is a Welsh soprano.

Dame Gwyneth studied music at the Royal College of Music, London, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena as well as the International Opera Studio in Zürich. After making her professional debut in 1962 as a mezzo-soprano in Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, she was engaged by the Zurich Opera House. She soon discovered that her easy top range could enable her to sing soprano roles and she switched to the soprano repertoire from around 1964, her first major soprano role being Amelia in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.

Jones came to prominence in 1964 when she stood in for Leontyne Price as Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Her career then developed rapidly, and she met with success as Aïda, Leonore (in Fidelio), Desdemona (in Otello), Elisabeth (in Don Carlos), Donna Anna (in Don Giovanni), Cio-cio-san (in Madama Butterfly), Lady Macbeth (in Verdi's Macbeth), and even heavier roles like Minnie (in La fanciulla del West), Chrysothemis (in Elektra), Ariadne (in Ariadne auf Naxos) and Turandot. She has appeared regularly at virtually every major opera house in the world, including the Vienna State Opera, the Zurich Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the San Francisco Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Paris Opéra, and many others.

Gwyneth Jones's large-scaled, powerful dramatic soprano voice, unusually robust vocal stamina, stage presence and acting abilities were widely admired, although she also faced criticism for the wobble that her voice developed in the 1970s and which afflicted some of her performances. Nonetheless, she could still be remarkably secure and tonally rock steady beyond the age of 60. One of her most noted achievements was her interpretation of Brünnhilde in the Bayreuth centennial production of Der Ring des Nibelungen under Pierre Boulez and directed by Patrice Chéreau, a performance preserved on both video and audio discs. The recording won a Grammy in 1983. While best known for her work in the Wagner-Strauss-Puccini repertoire, her versatility enabled her to take on other roles, such as Poppea (in L'incoronazione di Poppea), Hanna Glawari (in The Merry Widow) and Norma.

Jones made roles that exemplify the Wagnerian/heavy dramatic soprano fach, such as Brünnhilde, Isolde, Elektra, the Dyer's Wife and Turandot, part of her core repertoire, and performed them throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She once famously undertook the roles of both Elisabeth and Venus in Götz Friedrich's production of Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival in the 1970s, and has also been credited with the unique achievement of having performed all three major female roles in Elektra on stage.
She also performed in concerts and lieder recitals, television and radio broadcasts and participated in several film projects, including the epic television series, Wagner, in which she played the first Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld. She has also devised for herself a couple of one-woman music-theatrical shows - O, Malvina! and Die Frau im Schatten - which are inspired by real historical characters, namely, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Pauline de Ahna (wife of Richard Strauss).

In 2003 she made her debut as director and costume designer in a stage production of Der fliegende Holländer in Weimar, Germany. She has also given master-classes for young singers and acted as an adjudicator in international vocal competitions. Despite her advancing years and the extraordinary demands of her chosen repertoire, she remains an active performer on the stage, taking on various soprano, mezzo-soprano and even contralto roles with vocal authority and dramatic conviction.

She was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1976 and was promoted to Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1986. She is also the recipient of numerous musical/cultural awards and honours from many different countries and organisations, including the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Golden Medal of Honour in Vienna, the Austrian Cross of Honour First Class, the Shakespeare Prize and the Puccini Award. She is a Kammersängerin at both the Vienna State Opera and the Bavarian State Opera and she has been made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.

Bio, as always, ganked and abridged from Wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

You may be interested in Dame Gwyeth's latest venture ..

Taminophile said...

Thanks, eyesometric! I hadn't heard about that!

Dear readers, please do click on the link and scroll down to the article about Dame Gwyneth.