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Willard W. White

Bass

Biography

Willard W. White in action.
Willard W. White as Klingsor in Parsifal © ROH / Clive Barda 2013

Jamaican bass Willard W. White sings Klingsor (Parsifal) in the 2013/14 Royal Opera Season. He made his Royal Opera House debut in 1978 as Don Diégo (L’Africaine) and has since performed numerous roles for The Royal Opera, including Don Fernando (Fidelio), Timur (Turandot), Duke Bluebeard and Porgy (Porgy and Bess, a co-production with Glyndebourne Festival).

White was born in St Catherine's, Jamaica, in 1946 and first discovered a love of singing through recordings of Nat King Cole. He trained at the Jamaican School of Music before winning a scholarship to study at the Juilliard School under Giorgio Tozzi. He made his professional debut as Colline (La bohème) with New York City Opera in 1974 and went on to develop an international career as one of the world’s leading basses. His repertory has included roles such as Ivan Khovansky (Khovanshchina), the Flying Dutchman, King Marke (Tristan und Isolde),Wotan (Der Ring des Nibelungen), St François d’Assise and Nekrotzar (Le Grande Macabre). He was awarded a CBE in 1995 and a knighthood in 2004, and in 2000 received the Jamaican Order of Merit. In 2009 he was appointed President of the Royal Northern College of Music.

White's extensive career has included singing in all the world's major opera houses and at the first and last nights of the BBC Proms. He has also worked as an actor, playing Othello in Trevor Nunn's 1990 RSC production opposite Ian McKellen and Imogen Stubbs. He cites Paul Robeson as one of his most major influences.

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