Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on cbcmusic.ca, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 p.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.
Ben Heppner talks to the superstar bass-baritone about a recording that features two of his most important mentors.
Bryn Terfel rose swiftly to the top of the opera world in the early '90s, and he's yet to falter. These days, the Welsh bass-baritone is nearly synonymous with several of the major baritone roles. His Figaro is the stuff of legend. Earlier in this series, Sondra Radvanovsky proclaimed him the greatest Scarpia of our time. And you couldn't turn a corner in New York City in 2010 without seeing his bewigged, eyepatched visage gazing out of a billboard, in character as Wotan from the Met's new production of Wagner's Ring.
And then, there's Falstaff.
Terfel's performances as the fat knight in Verdi's final masterpiece have been highlights of a major career. So, it shouldn't be surprising that he would choose a recording of Falstaff as his favourite ever. And the specific recording he went for features two artists who were crucial to his early success. The Welsh bass-baritone Sir Geraint Evans mentored Terfel from an early age. Terfel told Ben Heppner about his first encounter with Sir Geraint, who was a juror at a competition where the young Terfel was set to sing the catalogue aria from Don Giovanni. He had barely begun when Evans stopped him with a terse "Thank you!"
"I only sang two words!" Terfel told Ben. Nonetheless, not long after that competition, Terfel managed to impress Evans enough that he encouraged the legendary conductor Georg Solti to give the young singer a try. "One phone call," said Terfel, "and I was walking into that music room of Sir Georg's that has more Grammys than any other performer on Earth, I should imagine. And you know, if you worked with this man, he opened doors. People realized that you were working with greatness. The real term 'maestro' is him."
So, the confluence of the role of Falstaff, the voice of Geraint Evans, and the leadership of Georg Solti make this 1963 recording indispensible for Bryn Terfel. Hit the play button above to hear Heppner's full conversation with Terfel about Falstaff, Evans and Solti. You can tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Oct. 15 to hear more from this conversation, plus Solti's recording of Falstaff in its entirety.
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