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Canadian-born tenor Jon Vickers dies

Renowned heldentenor was one of the 20th century’s greatest opera singers, and appeared at Covent Garden scores of times.

By Ellen West (Head of Online Content)

11 July 2015 at 9.20pm | 59 Comments

We have received the following message from Jon Vickers’ family – our thoughts are with them:

‘It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, Jon Vickers, after a prolonged struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by one sister, his five children, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. His family and dearest friends remember him for his ringing laughter, warmth, and generous spirit. A man of the land who was the most at home on his farm, surrounded by nature and his family, he had an abiding search for the truths and essences of life.

Born, October 29, 1926, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Jon was the sixth of eight children. The Canadian-born heroic tenor was one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century. He performed opera’s most demanding roles, Tristan, Siegmund, Parsifal, Otello, Aeneas, Peter Grimes and more, with searing vocal intensity and powerful dramatic interpretation; his performances are still recalled to this day. Vickers was a deeply religious and private man. From small-town, rural Saskatchewan to a celebrated career on the world’s major stages he was regarded for his powerful stage presence and his deeply thoughtful characterizations. He possessed a uniquely powerful and distinctive voice, which when combined with his superior acting ability, made him one of the most exciting operatic artists of his time.

In 1950 he was awarded a scholarship at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he studied for five years. Invitations soon followed to sing in New York concert performances of Fidelio and Medea and, in 1956, to audition for David Webster of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden where he made his debut as Gustavis III (Riccardo) in 1957. He also sang Don José and Aeneas in Berlioz' Les Troyens and in 1958, added Verdi’s Radames to his repertory. That same year he sang Don Carlo in Luchino Visconti’s famous production conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, debuted at the Bayreuth Festival as Siegmund, appeared as Samson in Handel’s oratorio and performed Jason to Maria Callas’ Medea at Covent Garden. Vickers 1958 Bayreuth debut as Siegmund in Die Walküre launched one of his signature roles and an international career destined to extend well over 3 decades. In 1959 he was invited to the Vienna Staatsoper with Herbert Von Karajan and made his San Francisco debut.

He joined the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1960, (debuting as Canio in Pagliacci), where he sang a wide range of German, French and Italian roles for more than 25 years. In Un Ballo in Maschera, Carmen, Don Carlo, Aïda, Peter Grimes, Fidelio, Otello, Tristan, and especially in Les Troyens as Aeneas, he was highly praised by the world's major critics. Indeed, in his London appearance as Aeneas - a role Vickers later said was ‘written for a tenor who didn't exist’ - he met the lyric-dramatic-spiegal demands with such remarkable skill that reviewer Jacques Bourgeois described him as the most heroic tenor to come forward since Del Monaco. Enormous successes then followed at Dallas, Vienna, Milan and Buenos Aires, placing his outstandingly dramatic heldentenor talent in great demand.

Reviewers reveled in metaphoric descriptions of Vickers' unique voice: ‘towering’, ‘achingly beautiful’, ‘of clarion power’, ‘tireless’, ‘ringing with truth’, ‘holding a hundred colors and inflections’ (critic John Ardoin 1971) or Herbert Breslin’s comment, ‘An iron column that weeps tears.’ After one 1964 Bayreuth performance of Parsifal, Peter Diggins wrote that ‘the audience gasped at the sheer beauty of the Canadian's voice.’ Criticized at times for seeming to sacrifice a beautiful note for the sake of character development, Vickers claimed that his approach to acting ‘hung on the music, absolutely - everything I do as an actor I find a motivation for in the music.’ His robust, powerful voice was admirably equipped to transport the listener to the shadowy realm of Wagner, and his interpretive insights remain a standard to which other tenors strive. The 20th century’s leading conductors, (including Herbert von Karajan, with whom he made many recordings, including Tristan, Otello, Die Walkure, Fidelio, Carmen and Pagliacci), repeatedly returned to his vocal (and physical) suitability for such heroic roles, calling on his rare abilities to read a composer's deepest personal intentions, and his unique capacity to reveal these dramatic dimensions.

Holding strong convictions, Vickers wrestled with portraying certain characters - notably Parsifal – and actually refused to perform some roles on moral grounds – specifically, Tannhauser. Other roles included, Nerone (L'incoronzione di Poppea), Hermann (The Queen of Spades), Vasek (The Bartered Bride), Pollione (Norma), Erik (Der fliegende Holländer), Don Alvaro (La forza del destino), Herod (Salome) and the title roles of Andrea Chenier, Samson (both Saint Saëns and Handel).

Vickers' distinctive portrayal of Britten’s Peter Grimes offered the opera world an unprecedented sensitivity towards, and an historic interpretation of a wronged human soul’s slide into insanity and is among the roles for which Vickers is best remembered. ‘The meeting of character and singer,’ critic Leighton Kerner said of Vickers' Grimes, "has proved to be one of the mightiest collisions in 20th century opera.’

In great demand internationally for three decades, Vickers sang in Ottawa's Christ Church Cathedral at the funeral of his friend John Diefenbaker in 1979 and in 1984, performed Peter Grimes in Toronto. In 1988 he announced his retirement and gave his final performance in a concert version of Act II of Parsifal at Kitchener's Centre in the Square, although in 1998 he did return to Canada from Bermuda (his home since 1973) to perform Strauss's Enoch Arden for spoken voice and piano at the Montréal Chamber Music Festival.

Vickers was a recipient of many honors and awards and held seven honorary degrees, two Grammy awards and in 1969, was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada. Receiving the Molson Prize in 1976 and the Evening Standard Award in 1978, he was named to the Academy of Vocal Arts Hall of Fame for Great American Singers in 1985.

‘Art is a wrestling with the meaning of life,’ Vickers once said. Since society no longer resists ‘the pull of success,’ it can no longer ‘define or draw a line between what's art and what's entertainment.''

By Ellen West (Head of Online Content)

11 July 2015 at 9.20pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Jon Vickers, obituary, tenor

This article has 59 comments

  1. Sandra Garrett responded on 11 July 2015 at 10:27pm Reply

    I saw Jon Vickers in "Otello" at Covent Garden in March 1977.My first visit to the opera. Unforgettable

  2. angela rigoli responded on 11 July 2015 at 11:19pm Reply

    Che tristissima notizia! uno dei più grandi artisti di sempre ci lascia. Che il Signore lo accolga fra le sue braccia e lo conforti della terribile malattia. Le più affettuose e sincere condoglianze alla famiglia. Maestro, resterai sempre nell'Olimpo dei Grandi e nei nostri cuori! Riposa in pace.
    angela

  3. David Pozos responded on 11 July 2015 at 11:25pm Reply

    The definative Peter Grimes.

  4. Timothy Ballard responded on 12 July 2015 at 12:44am Reply

    Every singer and/or lover of opera should hurt just a little for this.... what a wonderful artist that has now gone. RIP

  5. Ann Raven responded on 12 July 2015 at 2:33am Reply

    Oh, oh, I think that Jon Vickers is one of the greatest tenors ever. I hope that he died peacefully, What a TRISTAN he was! What a voice! I am happy to have seen him sing several times. I am devastated but, he had an amazing influence on operatic singing AND acting. He has a legacy that will last forever.

  6. Kostas Sarantidis responded on 12 July 2015 at 3:01am Reply

    Deeply saddened by this news. I saw him as Tristan in Montreal back in the mid-70s with Roberta Knie as Isolde, Maureen Forrester as Brangaene and Zubin Mehta conducting! It still lives in my memory. And just now, when I read this sad news, I happened to be listening to Die Walküre from the ROH conducted by Solti, released on the Testament label. I was marveling at his incredible soft singing during the Annunciation of Death scene with Brünnhilde when I saw this announcement on my Facebook page! What a great artist! RIP.

  7. Edward A. Cowan responded on 12 July 2015 at 5:55am Reply

    There exists another recording of Jon Vickers singing the tenor solos in Handel's Messiah: originally on the "Beaver" label (Canada), Beaver LPS 001, three LPs, this recording, cond. Sir Ernest MacMillan (see: WERM (World's Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, vol. 2, p. 93), also appeared in the United States on Bluebird LBC 6100 and on RCA Victor LM-6134 (this item not listed in WERM). I have the RCA LP set. Apart from Vickers' superb performance, the remainder of this set is not competitive. --E.A.C.

    • Alexander Inglis responded on 12 July 2015 at 2:33pm

      I actually have that Beaver LP set ... but no device to play it upon!

  8. Marcia Shapiro responded on 12 July 2015 at 6:17am Reply

    Beautifully and imaginatively written obit. Thank you. Fans would discuss Jon Vickers outside the stage door long after he retired.

    • Malcolm Farrell responded on 17 July 2015 at 9:16am

      C.1958, I was at the Covent Garden stage door after a performance by Vickers & asked permission to take a photograph. He replied "Sure - would you like the kids as well?" He knealt down with them & I had my photograph. It had been my attention to send him a copy of the transparency but I left it too late.
      I saw everything he did at Covent Garden. He was a really great artist - quite unique.
      Malcolm Farrell

  9. Maillet responded on 12 July 2015 at 8:39am Reply

    Un des plus grands chanteur acteur du XXe siècle. Une voix et une présence sur scène si prenante. J'ai eu la chance de le voir et de l'entendre dans Parsifal, Othello,Samson, Peter Grimes, c'est inoubliable..Condoléances à sa famille.

  10. Louise Matlock responded on 12 July 2015 at 9:12am Reply

    The most wonderful operatic experiences of my life, hearing his Fidelio, Radames and Otello. Utterly compelling with a voice of such great beauty and sincerity.

  11. eddy fauville responded on 12 July 2015 at 9:45am Reply

    It is with great sadness that I heard this morning in the news, the passing of my most favourite tenor, Jon Vickers. For me ,he remains unsurpassed as Peter Grimes, Otello, Florestan and Enée .I have had the chance to see him in Paris, New York, as well as in London, Covent Garden and will never forget his kindness and his enormous intelligence to chat briefly with his admirers standing at the stage door for an autograph, and the handshake he gave me,strong and sincere .Thank you , Jon, for having been around so long in my opera life . You have been a giant !!

  12. John Malone responded on 12 July 2015 at 10:43am Reply

    I'm a semi pro tenor and was in Italy last week talking to some friends about talking about the great tenor john Vickers it's so sad to hear . My thoughts go out to all is family at this sad time x

  13. Diane Ricard responded on 12 July 2015 at 11:32am Reply

    To William( Bill), I do not know if you remember me. I taught you voice at the National Theatre School. I want to offer my deepest sympathy to you and your family.I will always remember the Parsifal I saw in New-York( I was your guest).Diane Ricard

  14. Andrew Valentine responded on 12 July 2015 at 11:54am Reply

    Very very sad, I saw him many times, and he was always superb. The world has lost one of the very greatest of artists.Heaven is the richer, they now have Vickers and Nilsson.

  15. Paula Romanow responded on 12 July 2015 at 1:36pm Reply

    Jon Vickers introduced me to opera when I was in high school in the 1970s. My piano teacher and he were classmates at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and she introduced me to his music. I saw him in The Queen of Spades in Ottawa at that time, and was awestruck. Such a wonderful voice!! But what truly made him stand out for me was the strength and courage of his moral convictions, and his absolute belief that he was simply a vehicle to translate the great music he sang, a servant to the composers' work. CBC did a documentary of him in the 1970s which is worth tracking down. I was deeply saddened this morning to hear of his passing, but heaven just gained a particularly strong member of the heavenly choir. Godspeed, Jon, you will always be remembered.

  16. Rai d’Honoré responded on 12 July 2015 at 2:03pm Reply

    What a sad day. He was such a lovely man. My parents had become friends with Jon and Hetty, and we rented their house outside London when they left. I was Lorely then. Jon would come to stay when he was singing at Covent Garden. I remember once after dinner, my father was drying the dishes, and Jon was washing. They were singing “normally” and then Jon broke into his real voice. It was so incredibly powerful, my father nearly dropped the plate! It was an unforgettable time and an incredible privilege to know and to hear him.

  17. Emily B Curtis responded on 12 July 2015 at 2:07pm Reply

    I, too, am quite sad. He was the definitive
    Peter Grimes, and excelled in all of his roles.
    The angels in heaven must be very with such a magnificent addition to their ranks.

  18. Alexander Inglis responded on 12 July 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    I only heard Jon Vickers live twice: around 1976 in Ottawa in a production of Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" opposite Maureen Forrester and, about a year later, at the Guelph Spring Festival where he sang Schubert's "Winterreise". His deeply moving, tortured persona suited both works well. On recording, he will always be a favourite Florestan in the Klemperer recordings of "Fidelio" and in his agonizingly beautiful Tristan and Peter Grimes.

  19. James Devin responded on 12 July 2015 at 4:02pm Reply

    Jon Vickers has now found the peace beyond understanding and to which his performances provided us a foretaste.

    His performances of the songs by Jean Coulthard show the colour and grace of his great voice.

  20. Jeryl Woitach responded on 12 July 2015 at 4:41pm Reply

    My husband, Richard Woitach, was Jon Vickers accompanist for many years. They did a number of concert recitals together and Richard conducted a performance of "I Pagliacci" with Jon as Canio at New York's Metropolitan Opera. We knew that Jon was in a nursing home in Toronto but just became aware that he had passed away. My husband has been playing recordings of their performances together even since we received the news of Jon's death.

  21. Stephen Kish responded on 12 July 2015 at 5:21pm Reply

    I agree with Ann: Jon Vickers, who I was lucky enough to see in Walkure in Toronto, is one of the greatest tenors ever. Also my favorite tenor. No tenor ever had more passion --- extraordinary quality of his voice. Will listen to his definitive Peter Grimes today.

  22. Elizabeth Eisenhauer responded on 12 July 2015 at 5:37pm Reply

    When Jon Vickers was a high school student in Prince Albert, my mother, Edith Wheatland, was his pianist accompanist. Years later, in 1969, the National Arts Centre opening in Ottawa where we were living at the time. My parents made sure to attend the performance of Jon Vickers in the 2-week gala festival and hosted a small soiree for him at our home. It was an amazing evening for a young teenager to meet such a superstar, who, by joining my parents in their home to reminisce about their youth in Prince Albert, clearly had not lost touch with his humble roots. A great Canadian opera Star, heralding several generations of similarly talented singers from our country.

  23. A unique voice now is silly, but will not be quiet . His art will never die, because he deeply influenced the way of singing and performing, a tenor who was physically able to sing the most difficult roles, e.g. the pianissimi in the third act of "Tristan" and as intelligent as empathic to get to the bottom of the inner life of the broken heroes he reawakened.
    So, I deeply adore the art of Jon Vickers. He was for 20 years one of the greatest Heldentenors of the world, in the post-war era comparable and in a certain way the successor of Ramon Vinay. The Wagner community, but also anybody who loves the art of singing will never forget his wonderful way of interpretation a role.
    But he also will remain an example of a man of valors and respect. He, the perfect voice for "Tannhauser", never sung that rule because the deep respect and his unshakable religious faith let him take the final decision not to sing that role. But he will remain in our memory as a true Parsifal, a role he performed as outstanding as the Tristan and as outstanding lived in real life. He was an example for all of us: a helping hand as teacher for his students, a fabulous college and a honest man - disciplined, authentic, faithful.
    And we can reawaken his artistry by several recordings of his interpretations of the masterworks. So let's remember him by taking a look at the wonderful stage production of "Tristan und Isolde" at the roman amphitheater at Orange, France - a live performance recorded in 1974 together with Birgit Nilsson: Wagner conducted by Karl Boehm, a summer night at Southern France in a theater built by the romans 2000 years ago and an overwhelming interpretation of the Tristan by Jon Vickers: http://fresques.ina.fr/en-scenes/fiche-media/Scenes01014/birgit-nilsson-et-jon-vickers-chantent-tristan-et-isolde.html
    My prayers will include him and his family. May god give him eternal peace.
    A real hero is gone forever

  24. Jian-Xin Li responded on 12 July 2015 at 5:50pm Reply

    A great tenor and superb musician from As a young graduate student in Engineering, I attended his memorable seminar in U of Toronto after his retirement. Greatly impressed with his expressive singing style and his warm personality like a grandfather. Really proud of him as a UT alumnus (Soprano Teresa Stratas is another UT alumna, now 77). His voice will live with us foreverRIP

  25. Thom Carlson responded on 12 July 2015 at 6:12pm Reply

    I was privileged enough to have seen several of his performances at the Metropolitan opera, including Parsifal, both Samsons, Otello, Florestan, and Peter Grimes. The one performance that sticks out most in my mind is his Siegmund opposite Nilsson as Sieglinde at the Met. On this particular night, Vickers had a very difficult time pulling the sword out of the tree. After several vain attempts, he mustered all his strength and gave a mighty heave-ho to the sword. The sword flew out of his hand, across the stage, and hit the scrim that divided the audience from the stage. Both Vickers and Nilsson were laughing so hard that they had to turn upstage. It was a very funny and, over the years, much cherished moment! He will be greatly missed. He, his family, friends, and fans are in my thoughts, prayers, and, especially, my heart.

  26. Michael Scholar responded on 12 July 2015 at 6:15pm Reply

    One of the great breaths has been stilled. His wind echoes in the caves of my memory. He was loved as the spirit in the wind, crisp and sharp like a desert night wind, fulsome and fecund like a zephyr off the waves. I shall hear every note and every silence until I die. I studied his recording of Otello for months before directing Otello for the National Opera Company of Mexico (INBA). Even thus and ever so was he my mentor. He will remain with somany of us.

  27. Milan responded on 12 July 2015 at 6:56pm Reply

    To me Jon Vickers WAS Opera. Just like Callas was Opera for other people. And neither one needed a director's "concept" or scenery to get across the footlights the true theatricality of Opera, the music thru the voice. I followed him from 1965 at the Met, across America, Canada, Covent Garden, to the Enoch Arden in 1990 in Manhattan. I have a closet full of live audio's, videos, autographed programs as well as autographed photos on my wall.
    I knew he had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home for many years. I'm not sad at the news. How could I be when he gave me so much pleasure as an artist over so many years? Thank you Jon.

  28. Jo Kornegay responded on 12 July 2015 at 7:04pm Reply

    I heard Vickers sing Siegmund and Peter Grimes in Toronto on a tour with the Met in the early 80's. He was incomparable. His performances will live on in my mind's ear and those of others privileged to have heard him. A Wagnerian tenor only surpassed by that of one's imagination, who served the heilige kunst.

  29. Morgan Lowrie responded on 12 July 2015 at 7:21pm Reply

    Would anyone who knew Mr. Vickers personally be willing to share memories for an article? morgan.lowrie@thecanadianpress.com

  30. Ross Dodington responded on 12 July 2015 at 7:33pm Reply

    Back in the 50's my singing lesson with George Lambert followed Jon Vickers and I often came early to listen outside in the hallway of the College St. studio. Mr. Lambert used to say that he learned something new from Jon with every lesson! My father was a tenor and he took us to hear 'The Messiah' at Massey Hall, and the Viennese Night at the CNE Grandstand show where Jon Vickers sang 'You Will Remember Vienna'. In the 60's my wife and I drove to Montreal to hear 'Otello' and drove straight back to Toronto after the performance. It was well worth the long drive! Today Met Opera Radio keeps Jon's memory alive with numerous performances from their archives. Very frequently we play our Vicker's recordings on our 1961 Harman Kardon stereo at home. It's an old farmhouse in Elgin County with 11' ceilings and with the Tannoy speakers you sense that Jon Vickers is in the room with you. Even our neighbours enjoy the experience!
    Jon will always be in our hearts and in our ears! May he RIP.

  31. Avery Gordon responded on 12 July 2015 at 7:58pm Reply

    I sang with Vickers twice, and he became my favorite singer over all others. We first did "Pagliacci" at Houston Grand Opera, and being more of an actress than an opera singer at that time, I thoroughly understood his grief in his solo aria, and his very real, unthrottled rage toward Nedda at the end. Vickers would tell the chorus exactly what they should be aware of, and how they should therefore react. It helped tremendously.

    He insisted on using a real switchblade which, after he "stabbed" Nedda, he would throw into the floor, into which it would stick. On the few occasions in which the knife didn't stick, everyone stayed out of his way for several minutes!

    But when Vickers came to perform "Peter Grimes," everyone warned us to give the man a wide berth. Vickers was a character actor, and in "Grimes," he instructed the huge chorus on what their community was about, what their/our opinions of Grimes should be, and though he at first sounded angry, we soon realized that he cared SO MUCH about the chemistry of everyone onstage with him, that it truly made the greatest impact on the audience. God, what a wonderful man he was, and what a great, great voice! I can always identify it no matter where I hear it. It is not just "pretty," it is the human spirit expressed by that one voice, that man, complete with its flaws. I know I'll never hear another artist with such depth. May God bless his family, as well as those of us who loved him. I've had him on my mind all week, oddly, and now I know why. Heaven will sound all the fuller now!

  32. Fred Kolo responded on 12 July 2015 at 8:33pm Reply

    One generally forgotten part of Vickers enormous talent and artistic integrity was displayed when he sang Vasek in "The Bartered Bride". His comic talent was revealed to equal his depth of feeling for the tragic. He was truly hilarious and I have never heard an opera audience give itself so freely to genuine laughter. He suddenly also put himself up there with Keaton and Chaplin. And in those performances with Teresa Stratas he continued one of his few genuine partnerships with an artist who could breathe the same air. I think also of his work with Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, and Herbert von Karajan as being at this level, a genuine mingling of great artists to create something beyond the individual.

  33. Rochelle Miller Goldman responded on 12 July 2015 at 9:01pm Reply

    I had the privilege of working with Jon Vickers as a chorister in Peter Grimes and other operas at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the 1970's. I can still hear his voice in my head. Not only was he a great singer but truly a great person who befriended some of us on stage and outside the theater. I also performed with Pavorotti and Domingo but I believe Vickers far out performed them vocally and dramatically. He is greatly missed.

  34. Konstanze Hollweg responded on 12 July 2015 at 9:38pm Reply

    I was at the Vienna State Opera ballett in Vienna at the time when Jon Vickers was "my" Bajazzo".
    I will never forget him!
    Very sadly,
    Konstanze Hollweg

  35. Anne Martin responded on 12 July 2015 at 9:42pm Reply

    I remember Jon when he was the tenor soloist at Glenview Presbyterian Church in North Toronto and studying at The Royal Conservatory of Music. He came to my mother and father's house for dinner a number of times. I was just a little girl at the time, but he made a lasting impression on me. He was so full of fun, with such a vibrant personality. He had an absolutely beautiful voice. In addition, he had this extraordinary ability to totally transform himself into the person he was portraying on the stage. What a truly gifted man he was. My sincere condolences to all of his family at this very sad time.

  36. Joel responded on 12 July 2015 at 10:07pm Reply

    I was a student in Dallas when I went to a performance of Medea with Vickers, Callas and Berganza. Opera was never the same for me after that. I shall never forget the ringing sound of his Jason. I was fortunate enough to hear him many times in NY and in Boston (a wonderful Cellini there). And was present for the "Tristan of the Century" at the Met.

  37. Betty Sekhri responded on 12 July 2015 at 10:07pm Reply

    I only heard Jon Vickers live in performance once when he sang Schubert's 'Winterreise' so beautifully.. I was so saddened to hear of his passing and send my deepest condolences to his family. May he RIP.

    • Jane Susanna ENNIS responded on 13 July 2015 at 10:05am

      When I heard the news of Vickers' death, I listened to his performance of Winterreise....fortunately it is available on YouTube,

  38. Graham Wright responded on 12 July 2015 at 10:33pm Reply

    Saw him in performance in Tristan, Walkure, and Otello. On stage he was the only person one saw. His voice and commanding presence put everyone else in the shade. His Carmen with Karajan is almost too emotional to watch. Living in Italy there are only two Canadian artists that are recognized GlennGould and Jon Vickers. Everyone else diminishes in comparison.

  39. Paul Houle responded on 13 July 2015 at 1:12am Reply

    I saw Jon Vickers in concert in Vancouver in 1984. One of the most captivating solo recitals I have ever attended. I was sitting close to the stage and felt he was singing directly to me.

    I loved the way he talked to the audience and set the scene for each item he sang. I particularly remember him explaining that it was challenging to do the "mad scene" from Peter Grimes with just a piano accompaniment. He said that he would give it his best shot - and he had us electrified.

    His live recordings of Medea with Maria Callas are especially electrifying - a pairing of two of the greatest singing actors of the 20th century!

  40. Patti Spurgeon responded on 13 July 2015 at 3:57am Reply

    I worked at the Met Opera years ago. I remember him singing and i thought he was very intense. RIP dear. They have a sweeter place just for singers ❤

  41. Jane Susanna ENNIS responded on 13 July 2015 at 10:04am Reply

    So sorry to hear of the death of Jon Vickers. I still remember his TRISTAN at Covent Garden as one of the greatest performances of anything I have ever seen...it was about 35 years ago, and I still get a frisson of excitement when I think about it. And Florestan, Otello, Samson, Canio......and I discharged myself from hospital to see his Peter Grimes.

  42. Geoffrey Bellamy responded on 13 July 2015 at 12:04pm Reply

    I saw Jon Vickers live at ROH singing Otello and Laca (Jenufa). He filled the stage with musical power, his voice was extraordinary and moving, used with taste and at the service of the music.
    Over the years I acquired most of his recordings. I treasure them.
    I was privileged to share his gifts through listening, his legacy will remain with us in his recordings.
    May he now rest at peace unto Eternity with his God and mine.

  43. ROBIN HAWKER responded on 13 July 2015 at 12:18pm Reply

    The many performances I saw of Jon Vickers remain seared into the brain and memory. Just replaying them in the minds eye/ear can leave the same emotions as when there many years ago.
    There has been no one else except Callas who could transcend the art form to get to the dramatic truth to emotionally devastating effect.
    A giant of the operatic world has passed but lives on forever.
    Thoughts are with his family and devoted fans.

  44. Anna Brett responded on 13 July 2015 at 12:20pm Reply

    I had the great priviledge of seeing Jon Vickers in Elijah Moshinsky's great production of one of our greatest 20th century operas, Peter Grimes. Jon Vickers was Peter Grimes. Never have I seen such a marriage between music, libretto and voice, so toweringly fused into the definitive interpretation of the central role in Peter Grimes. Jon Vickers was both the man and the sea in the conviction of his singing, musicality and acting. Searing, unforgettable, always there.

  45. David Woodhead responded on 13 July 2015 at 12:39pm Reply

    Not only one of the greatest singers of the 20th century but also a consummate actor. His Tristan and Peter Grimes were the most riveting I have ever seen or heard.

  46. J'ai entendu John Vickers en personne à Montréal deux fois, dans TRISTAN et dans OTELLO, et chaque fois il m'a transmis une émotion rare, unique même, son émotion propre du personnage qu'il interprétait d'une façon magnifique.

    C'était du grand Art. Transmettre l'émotion d'une façon aussi magistrale, en plus de la voix et de la présence scénique, me nouait la gorge, me faisait mal physiquement parce que lui souffrait sur scène, de jalousie ou d'impossibilité d'amour.

    Merci John, j'aurais aimé vous connaître de plus près, vous côtoyer, mais nos mondes artistiques et nos répertoires n'étaient pas les mêmes, plus parallèles, sur des longueurs d'ondes différentes.

    J'ai retenu de vous cette observation que vous aviez faite en entrevue que « l'état de grâce total » (alors que toute la distribution d'une représentation est à son meilleur) n'arrive que deux ou trois fois par année. Mais qu'il faut quand même donner toujours le meilleur de soi-même. C'est ce que vous avez fait, vous êtes un immortel, je vous ai toujours aimé et admiré.

    Bruno Laplante, baryton

  47. Patricia Lancaster responded on 13 July 2015 at 2:48pm Reply

    He bought our farm in 1966. My parents remained friends and attended several evenings listening to that voice. I am unable to find funeral arrangements. We loved him.

  48. j.olson responded on 13 July 2015 at 7:05pm Reply

    I heard him in most all of his roles including a rather bizarre Andrea Chenier and the legendary Dallas Tristan in which he yelled"shut up with your damn coughing" to the audience in early act 3. I also saw and heard several offstage tirades - so silly , self righteous and unessessary that I could not listen to him with the same admiration in the late years. What he gave the world onstage - That rare animal danger , ready to erupt can't be communicated on records. However- his early recording of Italian arias with serafin is a revelation. What a shock in the time of Bergonzi ?

  49. Bruce responded on 14 July 2015 at 1:02am Reply

    Not only one of the greatest singers the world has ever known, but one of its greatest actors too :) ... RIP Mr. Vickers .... Heaven knows you deserve it.

  50. Sergio Elizondo responded on 14 July 2015 at 3:42am Reply

    One of the greatest voices of 20th century, his Radames in Verdi's Aida, with soprano Leontine Price and Georg Solti conducting is the best I've ever heard. RIP Jon Vickers.

  51. Jean-Michel Desclaux responded on 14 July 2015 at 11:06am Reply

    My first opera seen on stage was Incoronazione di Poppea in 1979 in Paris with Jon Vickers and Gwyneth Jones...This day I became an opera lover...Thank you Jon

  52. I had the privilege to know John Vickers when I lived in Bermuda for a couple of years . I also got to interview him too.
    Im a freelance journalist based in Scotland now. He was a generous soul. with a wonderful voice which I enjoyed hearing in Christ Church , Warwick where we both worshiped each Sunday. He will be sadly missed by all. Love to his family .

  53. Ken Vickers responded on 14 July 2015 at 7:34pm Reply

    I had a lovely call from Teresa Stratas this morning who gave so many memorable performances with my father. She asked me to post this statement of hers. My father once told me that the greatest lessons he learned about opera were from Giulietta Simionato, Maria Callas and Teresa Stratas.

    “Jon was the love of my artistic life. He was the greatest artist that I have ever worked with, but was also the greatest artist I ever saw or heard sitting in an audience. One always had the feeling that you had to reckon with the whole wretched world, but also with the exquisite beauty found in it simultaneously. Jon Vickers defies words and descriptions, and his magnificent voice carried the entire danger, volatility, and suffering of humanity within it and yet at the same time, the tender and positive redemptive power of love. It was as if his voice knew everything about this world. Maybe that’s why we could always recognize his sound for it was a unique and like no one else’s. His voice could be filled with fury and simultaneously filled with tenderness. He was a mysterious man both on and off the stage. In my first Otello in Montreal with Jon in the mid 60’s, I had a feeling he could snap me in two, the element of danger loomed so large on stage. At the same time he was so vulnerable, that I wanted to run to him and cradle him in my arms, despite his fierceness. He always brought his high intelligence and those unique qualities to every one of his roles. For example in the Bartered bride you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was also such a perfectionist. I remember he would give a monumental performance in Pagliacci, then pick me up at the end when I was still in awe of the moment and ask me if he had been okay? He was always striving to make his art better.”

    • James Devin responded on 15 July 2015 at 6:46pm

      Teresa Stratus tribute to Jon Vickers is that of a consummate artist to another..

  54. Chris Guest responded on 22 July 2015 at 3:48pm Reply

    So sad to hear of Jon's death. met him personally after a Royal Festival Hall concert performance of Mahler's Da Lied von der Erd in 1981, he was so gracious and down to earth. Asked him about a recent cancellation at Covent Garden of a performance of La Fanciulla del West, which I had booked sad he never performed the role but I did catch him in Otello, Grimes and Tristan at CG, unforgettable.
    Thankyou Jon

  55. Addio Grande Tenor, Maestro "Jon Vickers" Viva Sempre ... Viva...Big Otello ....

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