This section contains short, newspaper cuttings in more or less chronological order (most recent first), either by SK or about him, plus photos that don’t seem to fit anywhere else!
Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet” arrived in a bargain-basement road show of a production with the superb baritone Simon Keenlyside in the title role. Though Thomas’s score has its moments, this is no great opera. But Mr. Keenlyside’s riveting performance proved that a great singing actor in the right role can not only triumph over a production but seduce you into thinking that a composer’s score is actually compelling, in the moment anyway.
Simon with Gerald Finley, New York, March 2010. Photo courtesy of www.juliusdrake.com
Farming kings of the Welsh mountains
Up at half past four. I always dread getting up that early – well, who wouldn’t? But getting up early is probably the cheapest and most certain way to feel glamorous. The utter silence of the middle of the night in the middle of the winter, that stillness coupled with the early riser’s sense of purpose; the promise of things about to happen, never fails to exhilarate. It made the daytime seem, well, everyday.
By breakfast time I was in the middle of Wales, crunching hot toast made by Simon Keenlyside, a classical singer of great renown. His prima ballerina wife was feeding their young baby. Neighbours had gathered around the breakfast table. It was raining, windy and beautiful outside on the mountain.
Simon had spent his childhood here, in a neighbouring cottage, and had recently had the opportunity to buy some of the land he knew so well. His delight spilled over, just like mine still does, and we marvelled at our good fortune, to be stewards of the land. The neighbouring farmers were having a parallel conversation, about how terrible it all was. But they couldn’t burst our bubble.
To be fair to the farmers it’s true that these mossy rolling hillsides with rushing streams were marginal in food production terms but somehow they were all the more beautiful for it: a precious habitat for wildlife, a poet’s paradise.
Soon we were on the march in wellies and waterproofs, putting my host’s zoology degree to good use. Several times he stopped to examine bat droppings. They must have been huge bats. There were dozens of bird boxes, new groves of trees, endless delights. What an excellent morning. I wonder if our paths will ever cross again, probably not, but there is nothing more interesting for people who live on farms than other people’s farms. They all have the fascinating beauty and endless variety of snowflakes.
Simon Keenlyside appears on BBC Radio 4′s On Your Farm on 7 March
My first opera, by those in the know
Simon Callow, Philip Pullman and others recount their first experiences of the art form and what they made of it
Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Not until my early twenties did I hear my first opera: a record of La Bohème. The story, the music and Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni’s glorious singing transcended the language barrier. I was hooked.
I’d be very careful about introducing kids to opera. Mozart’s Magic Flute is an obvious starter; full of fun, slapstick, costumes and packed with sublime music.
Above: Simon with Antonio Pappano in an ROH advert
A wonderful series of photos from Picturedesk of Simon, Zenaida and Norin Shade at the Wiener Philharmoniker Ball in 2006
From an article “Voices from the Fens” by Michael McManus for Gramophone, March 2009
…Probably Padmore’s most notable singing contemporary from Cambridge is the baritone Simon Keenlyside (b1959), a product not of King’s but of St John’s (and newly appointed as an Honorary Fellow there). He first encountered St John’s as a boy chorister and soon his approach to music was totally remoulded by the legendary George Guest, musical director at the College from 1951 to 1991. Keenlyside is as thoughtful and engaging in person as he is imposing on stage. He speaks of Guest with affection and respect, describing him as a “fantastic, intuitive, visceral musician” who taught him the wisdom behind Louis Armstrong’s dictum “there is (sic) two kinds of music, the good and bad – I play the good kind.” He soon learnt to distinguish purely technical issues from questions of style: “It’s just music, it’s just a story to be told and I think it’s just a different accent.” He attributes the articulation associated with King’s not purely to stylistic choices made, but also to the tricky (“wall of washy sound”) acoustic of the College chapel.
Within a kinder acoustic, George Guest was able to encourage the more “muscular” singing style that Keenlyside himself epitomises. So what of the latest generation, the twenty-somethings limbering up to challenge their elders for the commanding heights of vocal artistry?
…He [tenor Allan Clayton] was greatly inspired by the success of Simon Keenlyside: “So many people see choral singing as a negative, and it’s good to see someone in that high regard who’s willing to talk not only about his past as a choral singer, but also about how much it has helped him as an opera singer.”
Catherine Ashmore/Royal Opera House
Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House:
The most beautiful transformation occurs to Elvira during her aria, “Mi tradi” – I think she realizes that true love means trying to save Don Giovanni from what she sees as a sure leap into eternal damnation. She rushes into his banquet – his last supper – and pleads with him to change his ways. He is having none of it, and resorts to ridiculing her. Simon Keenleyside was particularly vile (in the best ways) in this final scene: one night he improvised biting my hand, another tugging at my hair, but always finishing the scene with the worst gesture of splashing red wine all over Elvira’s skirt. Truly vile – and such a great realization of the character. I’m not sure where Simon finds those things, because he’s one of the most gentle souls you could imagine, but his Giovanni? It was terrifying!
Summer of the Superstars
Even with the recession, the Royal Opera will surely be posting sold-out notices for a month programmed with three of the most popular operas in the repertory, revived in spectacular productions and glitzily cast with some of the greatest singers in the world. Take your pick from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with Joyce di Donato, Simon Keenlyside and Juan Diego Florez; Verdi’s La Traviata with Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson; and Tosca with Deborah Voigt and Bryn Terfel. Royal Opera House, WC2 (0207 304 4000), 18 June -18 July
Most romantic opera duets of 2008
Rupert Christiansen’s pick of the duos who brought the most romance to the stage.
1 Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Royal Opera House
2 Alice Coote and Danielle de Niese in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at Glyndebourne
3 Deborah Voigt and Robert Dean Smith in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera House
4 Anna Christy and Barry Banks in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the London Coliseum
5 Sarah Connolly and Marie Arnet in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at Opera North
6 Rolando Villazon and Katie van Kooten in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Royal Opera House
7 Peter Auty and Orla Boylan in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta at Opera Holland Park
8 Angelika Kirchschlager and Simon Keenlyside in Lehar’s Die Lustige Witwe at the Barbican
9 Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jose Cura in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West at the Royal Opera House
10 Patricia Bardon and Christine Rice in Handel’s Partenope at the London Coliseum
Seen in The Times, 3 December 2008
Cambridge, St John’s College. Elected to Honorary Fellowships:
Mr Simon John Keenlyside
From the Friends of Wigmore Hall Newsletter, November 2008
“the 2009/10 season…….includes residencies for Mark Padmore and Simon Keenlyside”
From The Times, 20 November 2008, in a review by Hilary Finch of Pelléas et Mélisande at Sadler’s Wells
Ingrid Perruche is an intensely yet simply sung pre-Raphaelite beauty of a Mélisande, lost in an isolation intruded upon by both the sweetness and strength of Thorbjørn Gulbrandsøy’s superbly sung Pelléas, and by the locked-in fear of Andrew Foster-Williams’s Golaud — apparently mentored by Simon Keenlyside. The mentoring, scholarships and fellowships of Independent Opera continue: catch this while you can.
From an interview with Angelika Kirchschlager, The Times, 30 October 2008
“…Kirchschlager, who arrives at the Barbican on Monday for a frothy but enticing programme of operetta duets with her old friend, the baritone Simon Keenlyside, rose to the top in seamless fashion.”
“It’s no surprise to find out just how deep the friendship, or kinship, with Keenlyside really goes: he’s another singer with his feet planted firmly in the real world, impervious to opera’s celebrity culture. “We have the same ideas about how we want to live, our priorities . . . we always know what we mean, and when we sing together it’s so relaxed.”
So, yes, perhaps you could call Monday’s concert light relief, but don’t expect anything less than 100 per cent, particularly since the Austrian is on real home ground: operetta is in her blood. “I think this is a kind of music that goes directly to your heart. I feel very cosy when I sing it, and I always have the feeling that everything will have a happy end.” When it comes to Kirchschlager, everything probably will.”
From an interview with Christopher Maltman for musicalcriticism.com
I ask if Maltman sees it as advantage that directors are now freed up to create more physical interpretations of roles and mention David McVicar’s Magic Flute production. At the latest revival Maltman shared the role of Papageno with Simon Keenlyside, who had created the physically demanding interpretation of the character. ‘Yes, well that’s grist to the mill, so long as we don’t lose our musical standards. Simon is a prime example of how we can give opera another dimension, how we can make it more believable. But it’s not about leaving behind beautiful singing. In a conductor-driven age, you’d stand at the front of the stage, you’d sing forwards and you’d have to watch the conductor. It was just about making music above all; the director and designer were merely there to make the picture pretty. Opera for me can be so much more than that and all the best experiences of opera I’ve had, both as a participant and an audience member, have all been about that sort of melding of musical, visual and dramatic arts. Chuck them all together and all of sudden they strike sparks off each other. So the more drama and the more realism we can bring to opera, why not? It’s all well and good. It’s not just about looking pretty on stage, it’s about adding that to all the other elements.
From an interview in Opernglas with Roberto Alagna: he is asked about singing Otello
Translated by Petra Habeth
”For me in that case Beniamino Gigli and Luciano Pavarotti are models. Accordingly I need a production team and conductor who respond to me and with whom I feel comfortable, to sing this part in the way that I like to do it. I could imagine very well doing an Otello-production with my brothers, Angela [Gheorghiu] could sing Desdemona and Simon Keenlyside, for instance, could sing Iago. Verdi’s operas don’t have to be sung by heavy voices, you may also approach them from the lyrical side.”
Another wonderful photo from Joyce DiDonato’s blogsite 18 September 2008. Dinner for the cast (and Zenaida) after the final performance of Don Giovanni at the ROH
Two extracts from an interview with Joyce DiDonato for Musicalcriticism.com
“…Do you have good chemistry with Simon Keenlyside?
‘No, he’s a terribly, terribly difficult person, no stage charisma!’ she laughs. ‘I’m joking! We’re just starting, tiptoeing into the staging now, but what’s lovely about him and Kyle [Ketelsen, the Leporello] is that they listen. They’re opera singers who act by listening as well as singing gloriously – and they’ve fleshed out their characters because they’ve lived in their shoes for a long time. It’s lovely to watch them work, but it’s lovely to watch them react too. I was trying some things in the opening scene and Simon said “Ooh, no Elvira’s ever done that before, I love it, let’s try that!”. And so they’re very patient and open….’
“…DiDonato is ending the season, too, as Rosina in a revival of Il barbiere di Siviglia. Covent Garden has gathered the starriest cast of the season for it, with Simon Keenlyside as Figaro, Juan Diego Florez as Almaviva, Alessandro Corbelli as Bartolo and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Basilio. ‘I can’t wait!’ says the mezzo. ‘I enjoyed working with this team so much. It was such a rewarding experience for me, and I’ll be working with Maestro Pappano for the first time in opera. And the cast is not bad either! I think it’s going to be so much fun, knowing these performers. Simon’s such a clown, in a harlequin sense, which I think was their vision of Figaro in this production, and with Corbelli, Florez and Furlanetto it’s going to be wonderful.’ When I ask her about the recent announcements in Opera magazine’s ‘We hear that’ column that she’s returning to do Cendrillon and La donna del lago, she replies with an innocent smile, ‘I’ve heard that too’.
(Ms DiDonato is Donna Elvira in Simon’s forthcoming Don Giovanni at the ROH)
“One of my current colleagues apparently has a penchant for rock climbing – or in this case, cross climbing on the set! It’s the perfect example of someone who LIVES their life to the fullest and brings all of that energy and exuberance to the stage. The audience feels it, and his colleagues adore it! I don’t need to point out how lucky I am that I Mr. Keenleyside is my first Giovanni, do I? Yeah … I didn’t think so! (I wish the photo was better technically, but he caught me just a wee-bit off-guard!)”
The Nation’s Favourite Male Singer, according to a poll taken by Classic FM and Radio Times, announced 25 August 2008
1st Russell Watson
2nd Bryn Terfel
3rd Andrea Bocelli
4th Luciano Pavarotti
5th Placido Domingo
6th Simon Keenlyside
7th Jose Carreras
8th Thomas Allen
9th Roberto Alagna
10th Geraint Evans
regarding the Sun’s take on Simon’s forthcoming Don Giovanni at ROH
Opera – the Sun loves it
Hats off to the tabloid – their spread on opera is virtuoso stuff
Today’s the day for Sun readers – and first-time, sheepish Sun readers who normally read the Guardian – to apply for cheap tickets to the first night of the Royal Opera House’s new season on September 8, which I wrote about last week. And I have to say, hats off to the Sun – what a fabulous job they have done. On the front page the headlines read: “Amy was ‘spiked with e’”; “Honeymoon Groom Ben Brain Dead”… and “A night at the Opera from £7.50… OPERA WE LOVE IIIIIIT!”
Inside comes the headline:“Sex, death, booze, bribery, revenge, ghosts… who said opera is boring?” The story explains that “The truth is, most operas are dirtier than Amy Winehouse’s beehive, riper than a full-on effing rant by Gordon Ramsay and more violent than a Tarantino bloodfest.”
This is virtuoso stuff. What’s brilliant – and important and true -about the Sun’s take on opera is that they see no reason to pretend that it’s a polite, elegant, decorative artform – they are determined to communicate that it is dirty, dangerous, sexy and nasty. Which in my view, is spot on. Good for them. I even forgive them their rather hilarious attack on “elitist broadsheet the Guardian … blow them. They can have a night in with their mung bean sandwiches and discuss existentialist feminism. We’ll be down at the opera having a knees-up”.
Best of all, is the “easy-to-understand guide to dirty Don”, a true masterpiece whichyou can read in full here – with a challenge to Guardian readers to come up with even better Sun-style plot precis of other operas. It begins:
“DON GIOVANNI is a pretty nasty type – but for some reason he has still managed to amass a string of lovers across Europe.
Think Dirty Den, Richard Hillman and Russell Brand rolled into one – then multiply by ten.
SEX PEST STRIKES IN SUNNY SPAIN
His sidekick and servant Leporello – a slightly smarter and more hygienic version of Baldrick from Blackadder – is always keeping watch on his filthy boss and his depraved deeds.
Giovanni is in Spain near the Costa Del Sol and is up to his appalling tricks again.
Disguised in a mask, he attempts to rape a woman named Donna Anna.”
Think you can do better?
From the Wigmore Hall Midsummer Gala programme, Thursday 19 June 2008.
The gala featured a recital by Bryn Terfel and Malcolm Martineau, and a charity auction for which Simon donated a doodle. See second to last entry (we are very chuffed).
Simon and wedding ring
Two snippets seen in BBC Music Magazine, June 2008
Seen in John Allison’s review of The Minotaur premiere at Covent Garden, Opera June 2008
(Win some, lose some!)
Harrison Birtwistle’s new opera The Minotaur, unveiled with confidence at this magnificently well prepared first night, is surely the most important premiere Covent Gardenhas given since-well, since the same composer’s Gawain in 1991. That may not sound like operatic progress, but it is: in almost every respect The Minotaur marks an improvement over the very considerable earlier piece. (Among the intervening premieres at Covent Garden, no slight is intended towards Thomas Ades’s The Tempest, the most recent previous Royal Opera commission and an important I addition to the small repertory of successful new operas, but I confess a slight is implied towards Nicholas Maw’s Sophie’s Choice and most certainly meant in the case of Lorin Maazel’s 1984.)
Seen in an article on Antonio Pappano in ‘About the House’, the magazine of the Royal Opera House, April 2008
‘It’s partly a question of compassion,’ suggests Simon Keenlyside, who has worked with him on Faust and La boheme, with Don Carlo in prospect. ‘Some conductors have a phenomenal musical ability or technique but they’re not always so good at knowing what to do when things come adrift. If someone is below par, or gets caught up with something on stage which slows his responses down a few seconds, Tony knows exactly how to bring it back together. It comes down to trust.’
A ballerina’s pregnant pause
As a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, Zenaida Yanowsky knows that every step on stage has to be carefully rehearsed. So when on Saturday night she decided to tell her dance partner David Makhateli she was pregnant, she waited until the curtain came down.
The pair are starring in the technically challenging Sylvia at the Royal Opera House. And Zenaida, 32, who is married to the opera singer Simon Keenlyside, has kept her 11-week pregnancy secret to all but a handful of people in the company.
“She didn’t want to put David off with so many lifts in the show, so it was all kept hush-hush,” an Opera House insider tells me. “She told him as the curtain fell, which was why David gave her such a big kiss as they took their curtain calls.”
News of the pregnancy later emerged at a Crush Room party where guests included carrot-haired Old Etonian actor Damian Lewis and his wife Helen McCrory, crooner Bryan Ferry and designer Kelly Hoppen.
A beaming Zenaida — whose baritone husband has been calling in from Paris to check she doesn’t overdo things — said: “It’s a hard role, quite strenuous.”
Simon and piano at the Chatelet, Paris 17 December 2007
Wigmore Hall’s Mr January 2008
Seen in the Independent, 5 January 2008
Kate Royal in her interview with the BBC Music Magazine, Sept 2007
‘If there’s one thing that makes me angry, it’s singers who lack involvement. I care passionately about people being part of the action. I hate selfishness in a singer. Some singers still think it’s good enough to stand, to sing, to bow and walk off. It’s not. Singers like Simon Keenlyside are the opposite: he gives of himself, to the audience, to the other singers, challenging them to do more, to take risks. I was watching a ballet company in Paris, and seeing their dedication, the way every single muscle could be read by the audience inspired me. We as singers need to realise that every note, every movement, matters.’
Excerpt from an interview with Susan Graham for www.musicalcriticism.com
about upcoming performances of Iphigénie en Tauride.
“One of the big draws of the forthcoming performances is the presence in the cast of English baritone Simon Keenlyside – a favourite at the House and a favourite with Susan Graham too, it seems. ‘Simon and I have worked together for years and it’s always a joy to see him again. We haven’t worked together in a while and it was wonderful on the first day of rehearsals to come back in and pick up where we left off. He is so brilliant in this role. Simon has such depth and such a very vivid inner life. I watched him in rehearsal today; the whole opera is a mad scene for Oreste on one level, and Simon is also a little mad, so it works out very well! He’s one of the people in our profession whom I admire the most because by doing little, he can do so much. The way that he sings something while staring blankly into space: you can see lifetimes going on in his head, and you suddenly realise that it’s not a blank expression at all. And the sound of his voice is so rich and beautiful and expressive. In this music, that’s key to the success of the performance.’ ”
Photos of Simon and Angelika Kirchschlager, (from Beck/Sony BMG) featuring in Opernglas 7/8 2007
Seen on musicalcriticism.com: Rebecca Evans talks to Dominic McHugh
“…Pamina is absolutely my favourite role. It was such a joy to do it with the wonderful Simon Keenlyside in David McVicar’s beautiful production here at the Royal Opera – I think it’s my favourite production of the opera and we had an amazing cast here a couple of years ago. I recorded it with Simon and with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting. Simon is a sublime Papageno; he brings something to it that is heaven-sent…
“…The chance to fulfil one of my greatest ambitions just came up and I had to let it go. My ambition throughout my career since knowing Bryn [Terfel] has always been to sing Figaro with him. I was just invited to sing Susanna at the Met with Bryn doing his last-ever Figaro and Simon Keenlyside as the Count. And I was already booked to do something else, so I had to turn it down. I have wept so many tears over that because it was my absolute wish to have done that glorious piece with him – it would have been my last Susanna and his last Figaro. I can’t believe I couldn’t do it when it finally came around…”
Snippets from Musicalcriticism.com on the current revival of the ROH Don Giovanni
“…Although his [Erwin Schrott’s] voice is powerful and attractive, I was not remotely convinced by the way Schrott portrayed the character. There was no dignity or wit, such as one might find in Simon Keenlyside’s version of the Don, and he had such a blank expression and stark, pale, glam-rock face and hair that I was reminded, somewhat unfortunately, of Marilyn Manson (though this was partly the result of the production’s deliberate concept of sexual ambiguity).”
“…Ultimately, I think this production will never be wholly satisfactory. Even in the second cast of the original run, with Mackerras and Keenlyside involved, it left questions in the air. But there’s still plenty to enjoy here, and with Poplavskaya, there is the opportunity to hear a star in the making. Don’t miss it on the big screens in Covent Garden and around the country, on Wednesday night.”
Reported in the German press 18 June 2007
ECHO Klassik trophy
Simon is to be awarded the ECHO Klassik 2007 prize “Singer of the Year” for his CD “Tales of Opera”. The event, which is to be staged in Munich on 21 October, will be broadcast live on ZDF TV. Click here for more details and story.
It’s been quite a year for Kyle Ketelsen. Since I interviewed him last June, he’s won rave reviews at the Royal Opera House for his portrayals of Figaro and Zoroastre (Orlando), provided one of the highlights of the Proms playing Leporello and Figaro opposite Simon Keenlyside’s Count and Don Giovanni, and sung Escamillo in the San Francisco Opera’s production of Carmen.
“…Giovanni is a difficult role because you can do it in so many different ways. Simon Keenlyside and Gerald Finley have it down perfectly. You watch them treat a scene in a special way and think, ‘I would never have thought to do it like that but it’s perfect…”
From the Bravo Cura fan site
The Opera Rara Patric Schmid Bel Canto Prize, held in Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music 4 May 2007. The jury were José Cura, Sir Peter Moores, Patricia Bardon, Simon Keenlyside, Edward Gardner
1st Prize – Julia Sporsen – soprano
2nd Prize – Caryl Hughes – mezzo soprano
Other Finalists – Lan Wei – soprano; George von Bergen – baritone; Richard Rowe – tenor; Dong Jun Wang – baritone
Photos courtesy of http://kira.romeoandjuliet.net/kireannasweb/
An extract from Mélisande and I, an interview with Angelika Kirchschlager on classicalsource.com
… before we get down to discussing her role as Mélisande in Debussy’s remarkable opera Pelléas et Mélisande (Stanislas Nordey’s production new to Covent Garden has already been seen at the Salzburg Easter Festival with Simon Keenlyside and Angelika in the title roles). The side of Angelika’s work that stands in contrast to this is to be found in the Broadway songs she has recorded and in her stage appearances in such works as Die Fledermaus and The Merry Widow. I wonder if this stems from being Austrian but she laughs at this suggestion, not in order to deny it but to refer to her Pelléas in this context. “Simon (Keenlyside) is English you know, but he is even crazier about operetta than I am. But I really love it: there’s so much wonderful music there, music that makes us happy. It deserves singers of real ability because, different as it is from opera, it is in fact difficult to sing well. This autumn Simon and I will be doing a European tour providing an evening of operetta and we’ll probably follow that with an American tour. This country? Well, let’s first see how it works, how people respond.”
… “It’s an idea that comes into being when singers like one another and want to spend time together. I think that’s a good reason to start a duo recital, the simple fact that you like each other.”
From an interview with Zenaida Yanowsky in the April edition of
Interviewer: How has your recent marriage affected you?
ZY: As a person definitely, so as an artist, I would think so; I certainly feel a real sense of well being. It is nice to have a
meeting point in the artistic world, and actually we do tend to think pretty much in the same way and we then go off into our own artistic forms. I know nothing about singing and he knows practically nothing about dancing, so I couldn’t even say “oh, you sang the wrong note”, which is very unlikely! I love seeing him on stage – there he isn’t my husband but rather this wonderful stage creature. I’m a good audience for him!
Interviewer: But he can count your fouettes though!
ZY: That was his mum, who, after Swan Lake, came up to me and said “thirty-two”!
From an interview with Ian Bostridge in Opera, May 2007
Bostridge is a great proselytizer for Britten. ‘I’ve been trying to persuade Anna Netrebko to sing The Poet’s Echo, and talking to Simon Keenlyside about transposing some of the tenor cycles down. I know this is music that is hugely popular and performed everywhere, but I still feel that in terms of style and interpretation, it needs opening up a bit.’
Extracts from an article in Opera Now, May/June 2007
Vox pop : Are the likes of Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson really popularising opera, or merely presenting a shadow of what it actually has to offer? Mark Glanville gets cross over crossover
“Beyond all the blather about giving high culture a popular edge, the motivation behind all this, as you might expect, is money. Roberto Alagna’s recording of Luis Mariano songs sold 300,000 copies in France, vastly more than the collections of operatic arias with which he would more naturally be associated. Katherine Jenkins topped that by selling 500,000 copies of her latest CD in the UK, while even her sales figures are dwarfed by the success of Andrea Bocelli who has sold a staggering 50 million CDs worldwide. Such is Bocelli’s value to Universal Records that he has even been allowed to encroach on the hallowed territory of major operatic recordings, uniquely unqualified to do so in a field where every other artist has had to pay their dues on the operatic stage. ‘You look at the UK classical music charts,’ says Simon Keenlyside, ‘and you’ll find no voices that are singing on the major stages in the world. You tell me what that says. This is a classical music chart, and most people are not performing live in the theatre. Is it that they choose to ply their trade in the recording field and not the theatre? No it’s just that they’re not equipped for anything else. There’s a whole half of the art form you’re missing. I just think that’s an odd situation.’”
“Should those of us who already appreciate the glories of opera worry that our enjoyment of the form will be affected by all this? What Simon Keenlyside and others fear is that microphone singers, perhaps with the help of pushy publicists and the avarice of opera houses, will begin to encroach on the operatic stage, compensating for their lack of ability to project with the euphemistically termed ‘enhanced acoustic’. Indeed there are already examples of well-known singers from the classical world with limited vocal projection being aided in this way. ‘It does happen. If I knew about it during a show, I would not go on,’ claims Keenlyside. ‘I know it’s possible to do the old-fashioned craft without a mike. If we get to the state where we’re miking opera in the theatre, we’re really on a slippery slope, and I’m glad that I will not be singing by then. I’d rather be a gardener than do that.’ The ‘garden’ of opera, Covent or otherwise, should be left to those who know how to cultivate it best.”
Seen on Julius Drake’s website
SK messing about in Barcelona
Advert for the forthcoming production of Pelléas et Mélisande at Covent Garden
(Sunday Times 22 April 2007)
Seen in an article on playbillarts.com
“Each November the [Richard Tucker Music] Foundation presents the Richard Tucker Gala at Avery Fisher Hall. The 2007 Gala, to be held on November 4, will feature Renée Fleming, Bryn Terfel, Simon Keenlyside, Dolora Zajick, Marcello Giordani, Susan Graham, Diana Damrau, and Matthew Polenzani, among other artists.”
For more about the Richard Tucker Music Foundation click: http://www.richardtucker.org/
Seen in Classic FM Magazine (sadly omitting SK’s guest appearances on the CD!)
Simon’s favorite recordings according to Sony, as published by the German weekly “Welt am Sonntag”
Franz Schubert String Quartet D956 – Aeolian String Quartet (Saga)
Franz Schubert Impromptu D 935, Clifford Curzon (Decca)
Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto, David Oistrach (DG)
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony Nr. 7, Harnoncourt (Teldec)
Richard Wagner “Die Walkure”, Erich Leinsdorf (Decca)
Claudio Villa “Big Night” from “Stornelli amorisi” (Edel)
Louis Armstrong “When the saints go marching in” (FA)
Fats Waller “You’ re not the only oyster in the stew” (Jazz forever)
Amalia Rodriguez “Vou dar de beber a dor (Hemisphere)
Billie Holiday “God bless the child” ( Blue Moon)
From the “Clonter Opera Newsletter” from the Clonter Opera
A President for Clonter
With great delight we are able to announce that the international baritone Simon Keenlyside CBE, has agreed to be Clonter Opera’s first President. He recently accepted this invitation, and recalled fond memories of his time at clonter in 1984 rehearsing and performing the role of the Count in The Marriage of Figaro. Simon was introduced to Clonter Opera by his teacher, John Cameron. John also recommended his friend Leonard Hancock who subsequently became Clonter’s Musical Director, for the next 15 years. Simon still recalls Leonard’s “wonderful and patient tuition”, and also remembers the care he received from Jeffery Lockett’s mother, Betty Bannerman, at the RNCM, “another highlight of my song education”.
As many of our Clonter supporters will know, Simon is in great demand on the international opera and concert platform with dates in his diary well into 2010. Simon’s recent performances include Count (Marriage of Figaro) and the title role in Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera. Simon will be in concert at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester at the end of April, and will sing the role of Pélleas in Pélleas et Melisande at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in May 2007.
An advert for Simon and Angelika’s Operetta Concert in Munich, October 2007
SK will be adjudicating The Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music on Thursday 3rd May at the Barbican.
“The Gold Medal 2007, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s premiere prize for exceptional soloists will be held at the Barbican Hall on Thursday 3 May at 7pm. Now in its 92nd year, the Gold Medal competition is for instrumentalists and singers who compete in alternate years for this illustrious prize.
This year sees four senior Guildhall singers compete in the final: Sophie Angebault (soprano), Katherine Broderick (soprano), Sara Gonzalez Saavedra (mezzo-soprano) and Benedict Nelson (baritone).
The distinguished panel of judges includes: soprano Dame Josephine Barstow who is acknowledged as a singing actress of first rank whose distinguished career has included acclaimed performances of Salome, Tosca, the Lady Macbeths of Verdi and Shostakovich as well as leading roles in the operas of Benjamin Britten; Hugh Canning, Music Critic for the Sunday Times; Damian Cranmer, Director of Music, Guildhall School; baritone Simon Keenlyside, one of the most sought after singers of his generation whose career highlights to date include his acclaimed Billy Budd and Prospero in the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ ‘The Tempest’ at the Royal Opera House; Sir John Tusa, Managing Director of the Barbican since 1995.”
Classical Brit awards 2007
Simon Keenlyside has been nominated for singer of the year at the Classical Brit awards. Other contenders are Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko.
Extract from an interview with Philip Langridge for MusicOMH, March 2007
…Langridge shows a good deal of generosity when talking about his fellow artists, those who inspired him such as the tenor Richard Lewis (“an enormous influence”) as well as contemporary singers he works with. He cites Simon Keenleyside [sic] (currently working alongside him in The Tempest) as a “superb actor and singer, a wonderful artist” and Bryn Terfel (Wotan in Rheingold and Die Walküre) as a “fantastic” performer. Maybe his most heartfelt praise is for his wife, the mezzo Ann Murray: “She’s the best; she can sing any time, day or night.”
SK on ROH Spring Season booklet and posters
Click each photo for a larger image
Click below to hear Simon’s radio “jingles” for German station Klassikradio (with Holger Wemhoff).
The translations are by Petra Habeth
Click here “Here is Simon Keenlyside and we all, pianists, violinists, conductors and singers, wish you a relaxing weekend with klassikradio.”
Click here “Hello Holger, here is Hamlet, Don Giovanni or Wolfram. In truth, and you want true stories my name is Simon Keenlyside. I am a baritone and you will hear me on Klassikradio.”
Click here “I sung as a young man, a boy, in a famous choir in Cambridge (St John’s College Choir), we sang everything and I remember that it was wonderful. Then I thought I do not know if my voice will be good enough but I can’t think of anything else to do, I did not want anything else…” (“Good” Holger Wemhoff)
From a review in musicomh.com
“John Tomlinson’s eagerly awaited debut performance of Schubert’s Winterreise was attended by the cream of British singers (such as Simon Keenlyside, Philip Langridge, Ann Murray and Joan Rodgers) and by many of Tomlinson’s large number of fans.”
Extracts from The English Chorister: a History, Alan Mould, published by Hambledon Continuum 2007 (cost £30). Chapter 16 Choristership pp 272-273
“In the 1970s, by which time there were no beatings and showers were warm, boarding from the age of eight at St John’s Cambridge left predominantly unhappy memories for baritone Simon Keenlyside* (*In Conversation with Iain Burnside, Radio 3, 2004).
In Simon Keenlyside’s case the legacy was a deep admiration for a choirmaster for whom nothing less than the very best would do and the undying thrill of singing in a choir animated by George Guest.”
“…Above all, in their multitudes there are distinguished musicians. Here are a few, by way of illustration… Jeremy Backhouse, Howard Goodall and Simon Keenlyside already mentioned”
From the BBC website
Photos from the Royal Opera House exhibition celebrating 60 years at Covent Garden, on display in the Amphiteatre foyer: The last photo is SK as Prospero in Thomas Ades’s Tempest.
From the Observer, Dec 10, 2006
“Can’t decide how to fill your nearest and dearest’s stockings this year? Our film, music and games critics prescribe the perfect DVDs, CDs and computer games for everyone from culture buffs to footie fans”. One of Anthony Holden’s choices for his friend Jenny Lake. “Women melt over British baritone Simon Keenlyside, who stars in Harmonia Mundi’s DVD of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (£ 29.49) performed at La Monnaie in Brussels, under the baton of the incomparable Rene Jacobs.“
Heard on Classic FM Newsnight with John Brunning, 24 November 2006
JB “Jane Jones is doing a bit of moonlighting, but it’s all in a good cause, she’s hosting [?] a gala concert in aid of English National opera’s Benevolent Fund. It’s a star-studded event featuring artists like Sir Thomas Allen, Amanda Roocroft, Dame Felicity Lott and bass[?]-baritone Simon Keenlyside to name but four. Simon says he’s really looking forward to taking part and doing what he loves best.
SK “It’s not fashionable, among singers even, to talk about singing. I am crazy about singing and I love singing – it’s not the only thing in my life but I adore this old fashioned art. I don’t want to reach everybody, I don’t have any burning desire to bash people over the head and say ‘You must do this and you must hear this. You must feel this way’. But to me, I’m still now as I was as a student about how one note links to another, what colour is…”
JB “And that opera gala concert in aid of English National Opera’s Benevolent Fund is on Sunday evening at the home of English National Opera at St Martin’s Lane in London…”
Anna Picard reviews the best recordings of Winterreise. Bloomberg, 23 November 2006
“…Of all the lieder singers I have heard, Baer makes the letters that normally interrupt sound really sing. To hear him place a double “S” just so is to be spellbound. Passionate yet never reckless, authoritative yet intimate, and conveying a sense of continuance beyond the last song, this would be my ultimate “Winterreise.” At least, until Simon Keenlyside records it.”
From a programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, October 2006.
Support the return of the Royal Opera’s production of The Tempest by Thomas Adès (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
“Some months before the start of rehearsals for Thomas Adès’s new opera The Tempest, he played me what he had to date composed for the baritone. I was nervous! A singer is skating on thin ice when he asks a composer to write music that will make him come off stage smelling of roses. It’s an uncomfortable request to make. Tom’s music for that first scene was insistent, text-driven, dramatic and utterly fascinating. I was bowled over. We singers want to serve the music as best we can, but that can only happen if the range is, broadly speaking, within our vocal compass.
I marvel at the writing of the character of Ariel. The music is a novel and absurdly virtuosic as the startling arias that Mozart wrote for the Queen of the Night in his Magic Flute, there is nothing in the vocal repertory that sounds anything like it. The opera is a great work. And what right have I to say that? I’m no arbiter of quality. But I suppose I can say that it doesn’t take greatness to know greatness, and that singers from previous generations knew well that they were dealing with great works of art.
Listening to Adès’s Tempest unfurl, piece by wonderful piece, before my ears was one of the most exciting musical adventures that I have been privileged to be a part of.”
Simon Keenlyside, September 2006
(See “The Tempest” page for more details of this production.)
Click here for
From the magazine “Spotlight” aimed at German-language speakers wanting to learn English, October 2006
Bryn Terfel, interviewed in BBC Music Magazine, October 2006
“I don’t consider myself a Don Giovanni; I’m happy leaving that to the Simon Keenlysides of the world.”
Seen in the Times “Make my day: Friday”, 7 October 2006
Spotted in the Guardian, 22 September 2006
Seen among the House of Commons publications
Wednesday 8 March 2006
‘Early Day Motion’ 1721
That this House congratulates English National Opera (ENO) for winning both categories at the 2006 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Opera Production of Madam Butterfly and for Simon Keenlyside’s Outstanding Achievement in Opera performance in the title role of ENO’s Billy Budd as well as in the Royal Opera House’s 1984…
Melanie Eskenazi chose ENO Billy Budd as her Seen and Heard “Concert of the year 2005” http://www.musicweb.uk.net/SandH/2006/Jan-Jun06/coty_2005.html
“unquestionably my musical event of the year”
“…the ENO stages a hugely ambitious production of one of the greatest of all 20th century operas, by a great British composer, casts it from tremendous strength with a mostly British cast, and pulls off a notable triumph.”
From the Telegraph Arts Supplement (31December 2005) entitled “My New Year’s revolutions”.
Excerpts from the Telegraph (24 December 2005). Rupert Christiansen writes his Review of Opera in 2005
On the ENO:
“Two great baritones gave terrific performances: Simon Keenlyside as Billy Budd and Gerald Finley as Eugene Onegin.”
On the Royal Opera House:
“… I thought my colleagues were hard on Lorin Maazel’s 1984, which provided effective musical theatre in an imaginative staging by Robert Lepage, but I don’t suppose it will ever be heard again.”
“The heights worthy of an international opera house were hit three times – in Rigoletto with Rolando Villazón and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, in Die Walküre with Waltraud Meier, Bryn Terfel and Placido Domingo, and in the thrilling concert performance of Donizetti’s Dom Sébastien, authoritatively conducted by Mark Elder.”
Excerpts from an article, The modest maestro, about Charles Mackerras in The Guardian by Stephen Moss, August 20, 2005
”…a conductor devoted, as baritone Simon Keenlyside puts it, to making great music rather than a great career.”
“Are the big music directorships the mark of a great career?” asks baritone Simon Keenlyside, who has worked frequently with Mackerras over the past few years. “Or are they the mark of a great marketed career? Perhaps if he’d done those jobs, he wouldn’t have had time for the Janacek scholarship. He’s got a very broad base, and I like that.”
“Charles may seem brusque”, explains Simon Keenlyside, “but what he’s waiting for is you to present him with things and to be able to deliver them. If you can’t deliver them, then it’ll be irritating to him and he will steamroller you. His ideas are fabulous and he’s very generous with his music-making, but you have to be on top of things at all times”.
Excerpt by SK from “The Experts’ Expert – Baritones”, The Gramophone, August 2005.
It’s ‘horses for courses’ really. In German song repertoire I wouldn’t choose any of my favourite soundsmiths, such as Tagliabue, De Luca, Amato, Merrill or Zanelli. Nor, in Italian opera, would I choose wonderful Lieder singers such as Rusch, Dieskau, Fassbander (Willi-dom), or Schlusnus. All in all, I think the greatest singers have to have embraced opera. They have risked more, failed more often, understand compromise and, as a result, have a better grasp of vocal colour and so of meaningful communication. The one, then, that has given me the most all-round enjoyment (even without German or French song in his world) is Tito Gobbi.
Excerpt by Christopher Maltman from “The Experts’ Expert – Baritones”, The Gramophone, August 2005.
I was lucky enough to hear Fischer-Dieskau live when I was 17, and shall always remember it. He represents all that I aspire to as an artist. He has voice, intelligence, unflinching musicality and a kind of crossborder versatility that allows him to bring these gifts to bear on all music, regardless of allegiance to stage, concert hall or recital platform. Fortunately we don’t need to look backwards in time to find others who display these virtues. The likes of Sir Thomas Allen, Simon Keenlyside, Bryn Terfel and Thomas Hampson give me constant pleasure and food for thought.
Excerpt from an interview with baritone Matthew Rose by Michael Church, The Independent 24 May 2005 http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/features/article222985.ece
“… he [Rose] joined Covent Garden’s Vilar scheme, and began to tread the boards with his heroes Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel. What has that taught him? “Economy and efficiency. No superfluous movement, just enough to communicate what you’re feeling at the time.”
Seen in the Sunday Telegraph, late 2003. Simon was one of several people asked to choose their performance of the year.
“Like every great actor, Simon Russell Beale speaks as if he were making up the text on the spot. In Jumpers at the National Theatre, sometimes he impishly raced through Stoppard’s complexities, no doubt for the sheer joy of the unsettling effect that has on us the audience, and other times it was only the weighting of a pause and his gimlet looks that punctuated his intentions. No flashy tricks, just a wonderful cast and Stoppard’s language.”
Excerpts from Opera News, August 2003
Songs for Low Voice
Stephen Francis Vasta takes an up-close look at the virtues and vices of nine top lieder baritones
“What I’ve heard of the contributions of another Brit, Simon Keenlyside, to Hyperion’s Schumann edition is most impressive. His clean, handsome sound stays more consistently focused than Terfel’s and is more mobile as well (for example, in the Drei Gedichte von Emanuel Geibel). Keenlyside commands a wide dynamic range efficiently: his gently touched piano loses color as it ascends (“An die Türen”), but he can exploit in-between levels to express the emotional ambivalence of “Erstes Grün,” and to shape vividly the peculiar narrative of “Die Löwenbraut.” He is equally at home in the extroverted, ringy Vier Husarenlieder and the fervent, contained eloquence of “Stille Liebe.” Only a tendency for his narrow focus to become a constricted snarl at the bottom — especially noticeable in the repeated low Gs at “in ihrem,” in the last of the Husarenlieder — distracts from Keenlyside’s otherwise polished, communicative work.”
“If we were to take, say, Fischer-Dieskau at midlife as a paradigmatic exponent of the lied — not a bad standard in any event — none of the current crop of lied baritones, by the recorded evidence, quite reaches that ideal, but each of them approaches it from his own peculiar strengths. Terfel’s vocal sweep and impact, Keenlyside’s point and intelligence, Quasthoff and Finley’s freedom to vary and blend their timbral palettes — all illuminate distinctive and diverse aspects of their material. Even those singers battling more obvious shortcomings have much to offer: Skovhus and Goerne make the best use out of their dark, burnished instruments; Holzmair, operating within potentially crippling technical limits, calibrates textual nuance to perhaps the finest degree. All in all, with this variety from which to choose, heady times lie ahead for the German art song.”
Angelika Kirchschlager on SK, and SK on Angelika Kirchschlager
Extract from Angelika’s Art, an interview with Angelika Kirchschlager for Opera News, May 2003
“…And she has perhaps the rarest of gifts in both singers and actors: she knows how to listen. This quality was revealed in a joint recital of German lieder she performed with baritone Simon Keenlyside at the Salzburg Festival in August 2002. In songs such as Wolf’s “Bei einer Trauung,” she showed a rare degree of responsiveness to her stage partner. “That’s the most exciting thing about music,” she says. “You just stand next to each other and feel it, you know? It’s like when you jump out of a plane, and you are connected, and you only have one parachute. Whatever you do, when you start from the first note, you connect, and no matter what one does, the other will follow.”
Keenlyside is a favorite colleague of Kirchschlager’s. Their friendship dates back to a B-minor Mass in Rome under Riccardo Muti, which was followed by Le Nozze di Figaro at the Vienna Staatsoper. “Whilst we were doing that,” recalls Keenlyside, “I went to hear her sing a liederabend, and I was knocked silly by it. Everything I admired — lots of colors, a nice wide palette and simple delivery. No nonsense. I thought, ‘If I’m going to sing recitals with her, I’m going to have to be on the ball. We’ve been friends for years, but just being friends isn’t going to help me!’ So I went to her and said, ‘I’m nervous about our friendship.’ She was so upset by that, the next day she summoned me to a restaurant and said, ‘What did you mean when you said you think our friendship is not going to work?’ So I told her I wanted to do something with her. And that was it.”
In a New York Sunday Times article about Natalie Dessay where they mention her Ophelie to SK’s Hamlet
“The English baritone Simon Keenlyside, who took the title role, says he regards Ms Dessay as “one of those artists that it is sort of unnecessary to deconstruct.” “What unzips you” he added, “is something to do with the terrific voice but also with economy of movement. Anything she does onstage not only reads clearly but supports and amplifies what she’s expressing with her voice.”