Magazine article Gramophone

Jon Vickers

Magazine article Gramophone

Jon Vickers

Article excerpt



Born October 29, 1926

Died July to, 2015

The Canadian tenor Jon Vickers has died following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease: he was 88 years old. Celebrated for his intense performances of the Heldentenor repertoire, he was a major figure on the world's stages for more than three decades.

Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Vickers studied at the Royal Conservatory in Canada on a scholarship. He joined the company of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1957. Early roles here included Riccardo in Verdi's Un hallo in maschera. In 1958 he sang Giasone opposite Maria Callas's Medea in Cherubini's opera in Dallas (a live recording exists). He made his Bayreuth debut the same year as Siegmund, a role he very much made his own, and in 1964 he returned as Parsifal. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1960 as Canio (Pagliacci): in all he would sing 277 performances at the New York house in 17 roles (including Don Jose, Radames, Erik, Herman, Samson, Otello, Peter Grimes, Enee and Parsifal) across 22 seasons.

Vickers's recorded legacy was extensive, including the tenor part for Thomas Beecham's Messiah ('You're damn good, Vickers,' shouted Sir Thomas as the tape ran--thereby ruining the take!) as well as key roles in his repertoire: Florestan, Tristan, Siegmund and Otello (all with Herbert von Karajan, who was a great admirer), and Enee (Berlioz's The Trojans) for Sir Colin Davis, with whom he also recorded Peter Grimes. Benjamin Britten was said not to have cared for Vickers's assumption of the role, maybe finding the intensity and near-psychotic nature of the character too much. …

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