13 July 2015 at 10.30am | 3 Comments
‘Jon Vickers was one of the operatic giants of the 20th century’, says Director of Opera Kasper Holten. ‘He has given operatic audiences — both at ROH and around the world — truly unforgettable moments, some of which are fortunately recorded for future generations to enjoy. To learn of his death has made a profound impression on all of us at ROH, and we all think of him and the loved ones he left behind.
‘As no title in our current repertory is amongst Jon Vickers’ most celebrated achievements, we have decided to dedicate the last performance of the season, Verdi's last masterpiece Falstaff on Saturday 18 July, to his memory. An opera by Verdi — and his last one — seems a fitting tribute to a singer who made an everlasting impression in the same composer's Otello.’
Born in 1926, the tenor was one of the first stars to emerge from the Covent Garden Opera Company in the 1950s. His powerful voice and commanding stage presence made him unforgettable in Wagner and Verdi roles, and as Peter Grimes in Elijah Moshinsky’s influential 1975 production.
Vickers was unquestionably one of the great Heldentenors of the post-war era. But such was his vocal versatility that he was also renowned in such diverse roles as Samson (both Handel’s and Saint-Säens’), Aeneas in Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio and as Jason in Cherubini’s Medea, starring opposite Maria Callas in 1959.
Vickers’s performance of the title role in the famous Visconti production of Don Carlo in 1958 is part of Royal Opera history – no less so his performances as Radames, Otello, Tristan and Siegmund. Vickers also toured extensively with The Royal Opera and celebrated 25 years with the company in 1982.
To all his roles Vickers brought a unique sense of musical phrasing, always individual and exciting. On stage he was a passionate performer, and introduced an extra physical dimension to such roles as Florestan and Peter Grimes.
John Tooley recalls how ‘Jon, a singer of extraordinary intensity and commitment, used his large voice to thrilling as well as deeply moving dramatic and musical ends, but only on roles of his considered choice. He was profoundly moved by his faith and this in turn governed what he undertook.
‘Jon was never slow to tell conductors, producers and managers what he thought of them. After the outburst good sense usually prevailed, compromise was reached and the production benefited. Jon gave many wonderful performances, which will live long in the memory.’