(b Dresden, Aug 1, 1926). German bass-baritone. As a boy he was a member of the Dresden Kreuzchor, and he studied in the city and at Weimar before making his début at the Dresden Staatsoper in 1949. He joined the Berlin Staatsoper in 1952. That year he made his début in a small role at Bayreuth, graduating to King Henry in 1954 and to Wotan in 1963; his later roles there included the Dutchman, Amfortas and Hans Sachs. At the Salzburg Festival he was heard as Ochs (1969) and Wozzeck (1972), and at the Vienna Staatsoper he sang the title role in a new production of Don Giovanni in 1972. Also in Vienna he sang a memorable Pizarro in the Beethoven bicentenary production of Fidelio at the Theater an der Wien in 1970, conducted by Bernstein. His other roles included Philip II, King Mark and La Roche (...
(b Kingston, ON, Nov 5, 1959). Canadian rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and photographer. The son of a diplomat, he spent his youth in England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. After returning with his family to North America, he began performing and recording at the age of 15 with rock bands in British Columbia and Ontario. In 1978 he began what became a long and successful songwriting partnership with Jim Vallance, with whom he created most songs recorded under his name up to 1987, as well as songs recorded by Rod Stewart, Kiss, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Diamond, and the Canadian groups Prism, BTO, and Loverboy.
Adams’ albums characteristically alternate between down-tempo piano ballads and straight-ahead rock numbers. His third solo album, Cuts like a Knife (1983) launched him to the status of an international celebrity; its singles included the ballad “Straight from the Heart” and the anthem “Cuts like a Knife,” which both featured for weeks on magazine charts and music television. The next album, ...
(b Houston, TX, Aug 27, 1961). American gospel music singer. Adams credits her earliest musical influences as James Cleveland, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Nancy Wilson, and Stevie Wonder. She worked in a variety of jobs, including stints as a fashion model, television news anchor, and schoolteacher, before devoting herself to gospel music. She began her career as a lead singer touring with the Southeast Inspirational Choir, with whom she garnered the attention of composer/producer Thomas Whitfield who oversaw her debut solo album Just As I Am (1988) with Sound of Gospel Records. Grounded in traditional church music but open to diverse musical influences, Adams is known for infusing traditional gospel with urban musical influences such as jazz, R&B, and hip hop. Her mainstream album Mountain High … Valley Low (Elektra, 1999) is of particular importance in this regard because its diversity of musical styles had the ability to reach both Contemporary Christian and urban music listeners. The album achieved multi-platinum status and went on to earn a Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album (...
revised by Katie Buehner
(b New York, NY, July 24, 1925). American soprano. Her vocal and musical abilities won her scholarships to Westminster Choir College, Princeton (BM 1946), and the Berkshire Music Center, where she studied with Boris Goldovsky. She made her recital debut at Boston in April 1948 and, after further coaching with Povla Frijsh in New York, appeared at Town Hall in January 1952. This established her reputation and led to engagements with many American orchestras and the New England and New York City Opera companies. She dubbed the title role in Samuel Goldwyn’s film Porgy and Bess (1959). On 23 September 1962 she sang in the inaugural concert at Lincoln Center; she toured the USSR in 1963. The silvery timbre of her voice, her agility, and her distinguished musicianship all made her an ideal performer of Baroque music, as her recordings of Bach (St. Matthew Passion...
(b Springhill, LA, Jan 13, 1962). American country music singer. In line with country “hat acts” and neo-traditionalists such as Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins has forged a working-class image and hard-driving sound by merging honky-tonk with Southern rock, gospel, and blues. His masculine bravado and allegiance to a blue-collar ethos has solidified his position as one of country’s top acts.
After time spent working on an oil rig, Adkins moved to Nashville in 1992 to pursue his musicalcareer. There he met producer Scott Hendricks, who signed him to Capitol Records. His 1996 debut album, Dreamin’ Out Loud, yielded the successful singles “Every Light in the House,” “I Left Something Turned on at Home,” and “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” which became his first number-one country hit. Despite problems with alcoholism and a drunk-driving charge, his 2001 album Chrome reached the top five on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. In ...
(b Cluj, Aug 16, 1955). Romanian baritone. After studying in Cluj, he made his début there in 1979 as Silvano (Ballo in maschera), followed in 1980 by Sharpless. During the next decade he sang Don Giovanni, Malatesta, Germont, Luna, Posa (Don Carlos), the title role of ...
( b Baillieston, nr Glasgow, April 11, 1964). Scottish tenor . He won a choral scholarship to Magdalene College, Oxford, where he read music. After singing in consorts and professional choirs, he quickly established a reputation in the early music field, where his agile, elegant tenor has been particularly admired in the French haute-contre repertory. Agnew has worked frequently with leading conductors in the field, including John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, Paul McCreesh, Trevor Pinnock and Christopher Hogwood. He also sings regularly with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, with whom he has performed many works by Rameau and his contemporaries (including the title role in Hippolyte et Aricie at the Palais Garnier, Paris), and other works such as Handel's L'Allegro (which he sang at the Proms in 2001). In 2001 Agnew appeared in Rameau's Platée at the Opéra Bastille, and in Berlioz's Les Troyens at the Edinburgh Festival. His other non-Baroque roles include the Male Chorus in ...
(b New York, NY, Dec 18, 1980). American singer. She is one of the most popular singers of her generation. Her father (originally from Ecuador), a sergeant in the US Army, and her American mother, a Spanish teacher, divorced when Aguilera was seven. As a child, Aguilera placed second on the television show Star Search, and performed on the Mickey Mouse Club along with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. In 1998, she launched her recording career with a track for Disney’s animated film Mulan. In 1998 she also signed with RCA, and her first album, Christina Aguilera (1999) reached number one on the Billboard 200. Her singles from that album, “Genie in a Bottle,” “What a Girl Wants,” and “Come on Over Baby” reached Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her first Spanish language album, Mi reflejo (2000), stood for 20 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Latin charts and earned her a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Album. In ...
(b Crewe, July 9, 1963). English tenor. He studied music at Oxford University and with Diane Forlano. After early engagements with Gothic Voices and other groups he made his first operatic appearance in Scarlatti's Gli equivoci nel sembiante at Innsbruck's Early Music Festival (1988). He made his American début in 1990 with concerts in Boston and New York, and has sung with the ENO (début in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, 1989), the WNO (Idamantes), Scottish Opera (Fenton), and at the Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne festivals (Don Ottavio). He made his San Francisco début in 1995 as Don Ottavio (a role he has recorded with Norrington) and his Netherlands Opera début as Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1996. More recent roles have included Lensky, David in Nielsen's Saul og David, and Jupiter in Semele, which he performed to acclaim at the ENO in 1999. A supple lyric tenor in the English tradition, Ainsley has an extensive discography ranging from Monteverdi to Britten. Among his recordings are Britten's ...
(b Clichy-sous-Bois, June 7, 1963). French tenor. Born of Sicilian parents, Alagna began his career as a cabaret singer in Paris, accompanying himself on the guitar while studying with Raphael Ruiz, a Cuban émigré in Paris. After winning the Pavarotti International Voice Competition in Philadelphia in 1988 and receiving encouragement from Pavarotti himself, he began his career singing Alfredo Germont with Glyndebourne Touring Opera the same year. He repeated this role, and sang Rodolfo in La bohème, at the Monte Carlo Opera the following season, when he also appeared as Nemorino at Toulouse. Alagna made his début at La Scala as Alfredo, with Muti conducting, in 1990, a performance issued on video and CD; he has subsequently sung the Duke of Mantua and Macduff at La Scala. In 1992 he sang the title role in Roberto Devereux at Monte Carlo, Rodolfo and Alfredo in Barcelona, and made his much lauded Covent Garden début as Rodolfo, following it with an equally admired Romeo in Gounod's opera (...
(b Villabate, Feb 3, 1950). Italian bass-baritone. He studied in Palermo and Milan making his début in 1977 at Pavia as Don Pasquale, then taking part in Soliva's La testa di bronzo at the Piccola Scala (1980). A Rossini specialist, he sings a wide range of comic and serious roles, among them Selim, Dandini, Alidoro, Polidoro (Zelmira), Mustafà (on his US and British débuts at Chicago in 1987 and Covent Garden in 1988) and Mahomet. Alaimo's other roles include Count Robinson (Il matrimonio segreto), Dulcamara, Belcore, Henry VIII (Anna Bolena), Nottingham (Roberto Devereux) and Rodolfo (Sonnambula). He returned to the Covent Garden company as Don Basilio, Pharoah (Mosè in Egitto) and Don Magnifico. His many recordings include Apolloni's L'ebreo. The exceptional range of his keenly focussed, flexible voice enables him to sing Verdi baritone roles in addition to the ...
(b Baton Rouge, LA, Jan 10, 1950). American baritone. Albert was born, raised, and trained in the South; he received his first degree from Louisiana State University (BM) in 1972 and a few years later completed his Master’s degree in Music from Southern Methodist University. He made his debut in the Houston Grand Opera’s 1975 production of Joplin’s Treemonisha. The following year was an extraordinary one for Albert, who returned to Houston to take roles in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and the lead male role in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The latter production was so successful it was moved to Broadway and, when recorded, won the Grammy for Best Opera Recording of 1978. Albert soon became known for his portrayal of Porgy, reprising the role throughout the world, especially with a major European tour that began in 1988. In 1978, he appeared at the Washington National Opera and New York City Opera, and in the next year at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. After making impressive appearances throughout North America in the early 1980s, he began to receive attention in Europe after performing at the Teatro Comunale in Florence. In the 1990s, Albert began to take on Wagnerian roles, including Wotan and The Flying Dutchman. He won another Grammy for Best Opera Recording in ...
revised by Peter Mondelli
(b Baltimore, MD, Oct 4, 1949). American tenor. He was trained by Rilla Mervine and Raymond McGuire at Catholic University, Washington, DC (1969–72), by Oren Brown at the American Opera Center at the Juilliard School (1972–6), and by Marlene Malas. While at the American Opera Center he made his debut as Ernesto (in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale). In 1977 he won two first prizes at the Concours International de Chant de Paris; his European debut, two years later, was as Belmonte (Die Entführung aus dem Serail) at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels. He first sang at the Santa Fe Opera in 1978, and has subsequently appeared at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna Staatsoper, the New York City Opera, the Washington Opera, and with the leading American orchestras. Aler’s clear, agile, and appealing tenor is well suited to the operas of Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. The range of his repertory, however, extends from the French Baroque through the 20th century, including composers as diverse as Rameau, Handel, Berlioz, Britten, and Messiaen. He has made over 60 recordings, three of which—Handel’s ...
revised by Claudio Vellutini
(b Lynchburg, VA, March 3, 1949). American soprano. She studied at the University of Michigan, and continued her training at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, and the Netherlands Opera Studio, with which she made her debut in La cambiale di matrimonio (Rossini). Making her home in Amsterdam, she sang a variety of roles with the Netherlands Opera, one of them in the premiere of Viktor Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis (1975). Her European engagements included performances in Berlin and Zürich (Fiordiligi, Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Countess Almaviva). She made her American operatic debut at Houston in 1980 as Pamina; she sang Richard Strauss’s Daphne at Santa Fe (1981), and Zerlina at the Metropolitan Opera (1983), where she later sang Bess (Gershwin), Countess Almaviva, Vitellia (La clemenza di Tito), Jenůfa, and Mimì. Her British operatic debut was at Covent Garden as Mimì (...
[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]
(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...
(b Seaham Harbour, Co. Durham, Sept 10, 1944). English baritone. He studied at the RCM, 1964–8, with Hervey Alan (singing) and Harold Darke (organ). Early experience with the WNO (début as Marchese d'Obigny, La traviata, 1969) and in the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus led to important leading roles with WNO, among them Rossini's Figaro and Mozart's Count Almaviva, and thence to a Covent Garden début (Donald, Billy Budd, 1971). In this first phase of his career Allen undertook an unusual variety of musical styles, from Purcell, Rameau and Gluck to Tippett and Thea Musgrave (the Count in the première of The Voice of Ariadne, Aldeburgh, 1974), while making a particular mark in the title role of Billy Budd and in Mozart works; but almost every appearance seemed to be stamped by his conjoining of striking appearance, magnetic command of the stage, and warm, naturally produced, vibrant lyric baritone of easy emission and wide range. At his peak Allen's Don Giovanni (which has been encountered in most of the world's leading theatres) was unrivalled for its compelling blend of comedy and menace, charm and cruelty, manly authority and sinuous elegance; many other successes – as Wolfram, Posa, Thomas's Hamlet, Marcello, Eisenstein, Busoni's Faust, and Ulysses in Henze's Monteverdi arrangement – have convincingly demonstrated his powers. In later years has come a move toward ‘mature’ roles (Don Alfonso, Giorgio Germont, Sharpless, Beckmesser and Janáček's Forester among them), in which the deepening and refining of his art of characterization is everywhere in evidence....
(b Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe, July 20, 1947). French soprano. She studied in Bonneville, and then Geneva where she graduated from the Centre Lyrique. She made her début at the Opéra-Studio in Paris as Pamina in 1976, and then joined the Lyons Opéra, where she remained a member of the company until 1983. Her roles there included Jonathas in Charpentier’s David et Jonathas and Mélisande. She made her first appearance at Glyndebourne in 1981 as Cherubino, returning for Ninetta in The Love for Three Oranges in 1982. In 1983 Alliot-Lugaz created the role of the Page in Boesmans’s La passion de Gilles at La Monnaie in Brussels. Her repertory also includes Messager’s Véronique, Gluck’s Alcestis, Ascanius in Les Troyens (which she sang at the opening of the Opéra Bastille, Paris, in 1990) and Eurydice in Berio’s Opera, while her many recordings include Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Lully’s Alceste, Campra’s Tancrède, Offenbach’s Les brigands...
(b Houston, TX, Nov 11, 1928; d Shoreline, WA, March 10, 2016). American jazz and blues singer. At the age of 12, she won a talent contest held at the El Dorado Ballroom in Houston by improvising new melodies to popular songs and in 1941 began performing with Russell Jacquet. In an attempt to remove Anderson from the nightclub scene and improve her academic standing, her family moved to Seattle in 1944. However, this was just as the jazz scene began to thrive there, and Anderson subsequently performed in bands under Bumps Blackwell, Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, and Lionel Hampton. She also recorded with Gigi Gryce (Nica’s Tempo, 1955, Savoy) and toured Scandinavia with Rolf Ericsen (1956). While in Sweden, she recorded her début album Hot Cargo (1956, Met.). This album, coupled with performances championed by Ralph J. Gleason, made Anderson a sensation. However, a legal dispute with Mercury, which prevented her from recording for around five years, then derailed her career. Anderson’s popularity was revived by a celebrated performance at the Concord Jazz Festival in ...
revised by Alan Blyth
(b Boston, Dec 30, 1952). American soprano. She studied at Yale University and made her début in 1978 as the Queen of Night at the New York City Opera, where she also sang Rosina, Gilda, Olympia (Les contes d’Hoffmann) and Lora (Die Feen). In 1982 she made her European début at the Rome Opera in Semiramide. She has sung at La Scala and in many other European cities. In the USA she has sung in Chicago and San Francisco, and first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in 1989, as Gilda. She made her British début in 1984 with the WNO as Violetta, disclosing her dramatic talents, and first sang at Covent Garden in 1986 in a concert performance of Semiramide, returning as Lucia, Gilda and Elvira (I puritani, 1992), roles that are peculiarly well suited to her vocal gifts of plangent tone and technical flexibility, and her sincere and eloquent acting. She has sung Rossini’s Desdemona, Anna (...
[Wells, Julia Elizabeth]
(b Walton-on-Thames, Oct 1, 1935). English singer and actress. Her prodigious talents as singer and dancer were recognized early on by her mother (Barbara Morris Wells, a pianist), and stepfather (Ted Andrews, a Canadian vaudeville performer). After vocal lessons with Lilian Stiles-Allen and sporadic appearances in her parents' act, she made her solo début at the age of 12 in the Starlight Roof revue (1947), singing ‘Je suis Titania’ from Ambroise Thomas' Mignon. She repeated this feat at the Royal Command Performance of 1948.
Following engagements on BBC radio (‘Educating Archie’, 1950–52) and in Christmas pantomimes, she was asked to play the female lead in the Broadway production of Sandy Wilson's West End musical The Boy Friend (1954). This led to her portrayal on Broadway of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1956), a role she repeated in London in 1958...