Geraint Evans (Sir)
(16 February 1922 – 19 September 1992)
Geraint Evans was a Welsh bass baritone
He was famous for roles including Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte and the title roles in Falstaff and Wozzeck.
In a career spanning 1948 till 1984 he sang over 70 different roles at the Royal Opera Covent Garden.
After singing in the forces during the second World War he made his debut at Covent Garden as the nightwatchman in Die Meistersinger.
The next year he went on to sing Figaro in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro- a role he would sing more than 500 times during his international career.
He sang Figaro in his début at La Scala in 1960 and was the first British singer to appear there after the war.
His début as a last-minute replacement at the Vienna Staatsoper so impressed Herbert von Karajan he offered Geraint Evans a contract with the company, but Evans declined.
Geraint Evans always retained a strong commmitment to Covent Garden and jokingly called himself "Sir David [Webster]'s boy." (David Webster head of the Royal Opera).
At the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1957, he sang Verdi's Falstaff - it was to become one of his signature roles and he sang it around the world including at the Metropolitan Opera.
Other noted roles of his were Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, Figaro, Don Pizarro in Fidelio, the title role in Don Pasquale, Dulcamara in L'Elisir d'Amore and Leporello in Don Giovanni.
Recognised as an outstanding actor he easily handled both comic roles and tragic roles such as Wozzeck.
With his preferred repertoire was in the bass-baritone range such as Don Pizarro, he chose the lower roles when singing Mozart. That is why he preferred to sing Leporello rather than Don Giovanni and Figaro rather than the Count.
He stayed clear of higher register roles such as Iago in Otello and his one attempt at Rigoletto in 1964 ended in disaster when his voice completely failed on the opening night.
It was such a catastrophe for him he even apologised to the audience at the final curtain.
Geraint Evans frequently appeared in the premières of modern British operas including Vaughan Williams's Pilgrim's Progress in 1951 and Britten's Billy Budd in the same year and Gloriana in 1953.
Britten actually wrote the title role of Billy Budd for him but again it was too high for him and he ended up switching to the role of the evil John Claggart instead
He made many studio recordings including Falstaff (conducted by Georg Solti) Marriage of Figaro (with both Otto Klemperer and Daniel Barenboim) Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte conducted by Otto Klemperer. Ned Keene in Peter Grimes (conducted by the Benjamin Britten) Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger (conducted by Herbert von Karajan) Dulcamara in L'Elisir d'Amore (conducted by John Pritchard) and Wozzeck (conducted by Karl Böhm).
He also recorded three Gilbert and Sullivan roles for EMI conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent- playing Ko-Ko in The Mikado in 1957, the Duke of Plaza Toro in The Gondoliers (1957) and Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard in 1958.
A performance of Don Giovanni conducted by Solti with Cesare Siepi as Giovanni and Evans as Leporello that had been recorded at Covent Garden in 1962 was finally released on CD in 2006.
Between 1968 and 1981 Geraint Evans gave a series of masterclasses for the BBC which were broadcast on television.
The subtelty of his acting brought incredible realism to the characaters as he inbued them with individual characteristics.
He was knighted in 1969 but he had recieved many other prestitious honours throughout his career.
After retiring from the opera stage he was in much demand throughout the world as a director especially of the Britten operas as well as Figaro and Don Pasquale.
He appeared in a Gala peformance to mark the closure of the old opera house at Glyndebourne in 1992 along with colleagues such as Janet Baker, Montserrat Caballé, Ruggero Raimondi, Elisabeth Söderström and Frederica von Stade.
Two months later at the age of 70 he died unexpectedly.
A memorial service in Westminster Abbey was held for him and over 1,700 family, friends and admirers attended.
Geraint Evans was one of Britains finest ever singers- and in his time, he was an icon of the British opera stage.