Bryn Terfel (Bass-baritone)|
Bryn Terfel Jones was born in Pant Glas, North Wales, the son of a farmer. He knew of another Welsh baritone named Bryn Jones, so Terfel chose Bryn Terfel as his professional name. Terfel had an interest in and talent for music from a very young age. A family friend taught him how to sing, starting with traditional Welsh songs. After winning numerous competitions for his singing, Terfel moved to London in 1984 and entered the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied under Rudolf Piernay. He graduated in 1989, winning both the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award and the Gold Medal. He came in second behind Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the Cardiff BBC Singer of the World Competition the same year, though he won the Lieder Prize.
In 1990, Terfel made his operatic debut as Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte at the Welsh National Opera, and later in the same season he sang the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, a role with which he made his debut with the English National Opera in 1991. His international operatic career began that same year when he sang the Speaker in Mozart's Die Zauberflote at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels and made his United States debut as Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera.
In 1992, he made his Royal Opera House, Covent Garden debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni, with Thomas Allen in the title role. That same year Terfel made his Salzburg Easter Festival debut singing the role of the Spirit Messenger in Die Frau ohne Schatten. This was followed by an international breakthrough at the main Salzburg Festival when he sang Jochanaan in Strauss's Salome. Terfel went on to make his debut as Figaro at the Vienna State Opera and his debut at Covent Garden as Masetto in Don Giovanni. That year, he also signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and returned to the Welsh National Opera to sing Ford in Falstaff. In 1993, he recorded the role of Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard, by Gilbert and Sullivan and sang Figaro to acclaim at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Terfel has said that he would like to record "an album of Gilbert and Sullivan arias".
In 1994, Terfel sang Figaro at Covent Garden, and made both his Metropolitan Opera and Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos debuts in the same role. He also sang Mahler's Eighth Symphony at the Ravinia Festival under the baton of James Levine. However, back surgery in 1994 (and again in 2000) prevented him from performing in several scheduled events. In 1996, Terfel expanded his repertoire to include Wagner, singing Wolfram in Tannhauser at the Metropolitan Opera, and Stravinsky, singing Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress at the Welsh National Opera.
In 1997, Terfel made his La Scala debut as Figaro. In 1998, Bryn had a recital at Carnegie Hall which included works by Wolf, Faure, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, and others. In 1999, Terfel performed in Paris the title role of Don Giovanni for the first time and sang his first Falstaff at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; the latter of which he reprised in the inaugural production at the newly refurbished Royal Opera House.
In 2007, Terfel performed at the opening gala concert for the re-dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on April 6-7. Later, Terfel performed the title role in a concert version of Sweeney Todd that had four performances from July 5 to July 7 at London's Royal Festival Hall. This was the idea of he and his fellow Irish bass-baritone friend Dermot Malone.
Terfel has not shied away from popular music either. He has recorded CDs of songs by Lerner and Loewe and Rodgers and Hammerstein. In 2001 he commissioned and performed Atgof o'r Ser ('The Memory of Stars') in the National Eisteddfod with the composer Robat Arwyn.
In September 2007, Terfel withdrew to severe criticism from Covent Garden's Ring Cycle when his six-year-old son required several operations on his finger. But the singer did successfully return to the Met in November 2007 to sing the role of Figaro. He told reporters in New York that he will now retire Figaro from his repertoire.
Terfel intended to take 2008 as a sabbatical from opera performances, but broke this to take the title role in WNO's revival of Falstaff. He sang in this production in 1993, when he played the role of Ford.
In 2009 Terfel will sing Scarpia and the Dutchman for the Royal Opera House.
Honours and awards
Terfel has been awarded the honour, by the Eisteddfod, of becoming a member of the Gorsedd of Bards. Created in 1792 as celebration of Welsh heritage, Gorsedd inductees are considered to have contributed to Welsh culture.
In 2003, Terfel became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales. In 2006, he became the second recipient of the Queen's Medal for Music (the previous recipient was conductor Sir Charles Mackerras). In 2008, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.
Terfel is also President of the Welsh homelessness charity Shelter Cymru and is Patron of Bobath Children's Therapy Centre Wales a registered charity, based in Cardiff which provides specialist Bobath therapy to children from all over Wales who have cerebral palsy.