Opera Scotland

Kenneth Woollam Suggest updates

Born Chester, 16 January 1937.

Died London, 15 April  2020.

English tenor.

Kenneth Woollam was head chorister at Chester Cathedral Choir School before studying in London at the Royal College of Music under Heddle Nash.  He sang in the chorus at Glyndebourne for three seasons 1962-4.  He then joined the BBC Singers from 1964-72.  As an operatic tenor he tended to specialise in heroic parts, but his voice always retained an expressive quality.

He joined ENO in 1972 and made his debut as Pierre in War and Peace.  He sang this leading part at the New York Met when ENO made a much acclaimed American tour.  His roles over a career with ENO ranged through Monteverdi (Nerone);  Beethoven (Florestan);  Wagner (Rienzi,  Siegmund,  Siegfried);  Verdi (Alfredo,  Radamès);  Offenbach (Hoffmann);  J Strauss (Alfred);  Puccini (Calaf);  Leoncavallo (Canio);  Strauss (Herod,  Bacchus);  Janáček (Števa,  Boris);  Stravinsky (Oedipus Rex).   He also created roles in operas by Hamilton (Challcuchima  The Royal Hunt of the Sun);  Blake (Bricard & Millet Toussaint )  and Tavener A Gentle Spirit.

He appeared occasionally with other companies, including Scottish Opera (Bacchus Ariadne auf Naxos,  Boris Kátya Kabanová) and Opera North (Walther,  Max in Krenek's Jonny spielt auf).  His only appearance with the Royal Opera was in 1988 as Aegisthus Elektra.   He made a late appearance at the Edinburgh Festival,  singing Herod in an interesting staging of Salome.

He also made many concert appearances, continuing after his operatic work ended, and his interpretation of Gerontius was memorable.

Sadly there are few recordings, though one that is of interest is a rare Delius opera Margot la Rouge.

He also taught, returning to the Royal College of Music, where he was a Professor.

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