Six of the best… baritones

With baritone Simon Keenlyside on the cover of the current issue, Helen Wallace picks out the greatest baritones that are making an impact on the world stage

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Simon Keenlyside
British b. 1959
Keenlyside became as famous at one time for his gleaming torso – naked or clad in black leather – on an opera house ad campaign as for his intensely realised stage roles. The one-time choir boy is an ideal Papageno, a searing Billy Budd, a formidable Posa, and ‘one of the most inspired Wozzecks ever’ for some. He won awards for creating the role of Prospero in Thomas Ades’s The Tempest. A passionately committed singer who has taken his career slowly but surely, admired for the fire and virility in his warm, clear baritone.

Listen to: Tales from the Opera/Sony 82876884822
Schumann: Dichterliebe/Brahms recital disc/Sony 88697566892

 

Gerald Finley
Canadian b. 1960
Finley is the baritone of choice for many composers: he’s created indelible roles in Mark Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie, the love-lorn Jaufré in Saariaho’s L’amour de loin and made a tour de force of John Adams’s Dr Atomic with his tortured Robert Oppenheimer. He’s equally good in recital, as his fine collection of song discs on Hyperion shows; one is always aware of a penetrating intelligence at work; a singer for whom the text is pre-eminent. ‘Gerald Finley's Oppenheimer – ruthless in attack, pellucid in delivery – remains one of the truly great opera-house performances of the past decade'. Opera News

Listen to: Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky & Ives/Wigmore Hall Live WHLIVE0025
John Adams: Dr Atomic/Opus Arte OA0998D (DVD)

 

Matthias Goerne
German b. 1967
Goerne was a member of Dresden Opera and has played a memorable Wozzeck, but is mainly revered for his peerless Lieder singing. A pupil of the great Fischer-Dieskau, he has a uniquely rich and dark-hued voice and has brought new depths to Schwanegesang and Winterreise. ‘Few male singers, even Fischer-Dieskau, have such a rich palette of colours as Goerne does.’ Sunday Times

Listen to: Schubert: Schwanegesang with Alfred Brendel/Decca 475 6011
Schubert: Winterreise with Alfred Brendel/Decca 467 0922

 


Christian Gerhaher
German b. 1969
Another outstanding recitalist, Gerhaher’s Schumann disc Melancholie won the BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award last year. Exquisite diction and sheer beauty of sound, along with a dizzying range of articulation mark Gerhaher out. He was a ‘sensation’ as Papageno at Würzburg Opera and in the title role of Monteverdi’s Orfeo at Frankfurt. He shines in Harnoncourt’s recent recording of Haydn’s The Seasons. Expect to hear more from this modest Munich-based musician.

Listen to: Schumann: Melancholie/RCA 88697168172
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte/Vienna PO/Muti/Decca 073 4221 (part of 33 disc-set of operas)

 

Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Russian b. 1962
The glamorous, silver-haired Siberian was launched as a heart-throb following his 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World win. Years later, the Financial Times critic was warning women not to sit in the front row ‘in case they get their ears singed.’ In fact, Hvorostovsky is best in the brooding roles, an ideal Eugene Onegin, Simon Boccanegra, Giorgio Germont in La traviata and Prince Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades. His upper register has a tenor-like ring, his tone beautifully rounded and his breath control renowned. He regularly tours Russia to stadium-size audiences.

Listen to: Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin/Phillips 475 7017 (2 discs)
Heroes & Villains/Delos DE3365

 

Bryn Terfel
Welsh b. 1965
Terfel needs no introduction. He arrived with the Lieder prize in the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World, and has won hearts with Welsh hymns, Broadway, Vaughan Williams, as a chilling Jochanaan in Salome, an ideal Flying Dutchman, and a deeply moving and uproarious Falstaff. But he can also do the really big stuff. Following John Tomlinson’s long and distinguished reign, Terfel is the new British Wotan. ‘One of the most important and charismatic singers performing today.’ Opera Magazine

Listen to:
Wagner: excerpts from Die Fliegande Hollander & Die Meistersinger etc/Deutsche Grammophon DG 471 3482
Vaughan Williams: Silent Noon/Deutsche Grammophon DG 477 5336

Audio clip: Schumann: 'Aus meine Tränen' from Dichterliebe

Homepage image credit: Harry Borden


 

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