Opera Scotland

Charles Craig Suggest updates

Born London, 3 December 1919.
Died Oxfordshire, 23 January 1997.

Studies
He began his career as a member of the chorus at Covent Garden. He was then sponsored by Sir Thomas Beecham to study with Dino Borgioli; and also studied with Joseph Hislop.

Performances of opera
In 1953 Charles Craig joined Carl Rosa as principal tenor. His roles included Rodolfo, Faust, Duke of Mantua, Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, and the title role in Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini.

After the closure of Carl Rosa he transferred to Sadler’s Wells, where Samson, Cavaradossi, Pinkerton, and Manrico were in his repertoire. He also sang the Prince in the British premiere of Dvořák’s Rusalka, Andrea Chénier, Sou-Chong in The Land of Smiles, and Bacchus in Ariadne on Naxos.

With both of these companies he toured for a number of years to Scotland’s main cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen. He worked with Alexander Gibson at Sadler’s Wells and on tour but he is most warmly remembered in Scotland for his contributions to the formative years of Scottish Opera. He joined the company for its first season in 1962, singing Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. He returned the following season to sing his first Otello, and went on to perform with the company fairly regularly in those early productions. He repeated Pinkerton and Otello on a number of occasions and went on to add to his Scottish Opera roles with Siegmund (Die Walküre 1966), Siegfried (Götterdämmerung 1968). Florestan (Fidelio 1974), and Gustavus (Un ballo in maschera 1975). He sang Siegmund in the company’s first performance of the Ring Cycle in 1971.

Charles Craig made his Covent Garden debut in 1960, again as Pinkerton. He followed this with other Italian roles there, including Turiddu, Canio, Radamès, Alvaro (La forza del destino), Luigi (Il tabarro), Arturo (I Puritani) and Pollione (Norma). His non-Italian roles at Covent Garden included Aegisthus in Elektra and Golitsyn in Khovanshchina. In 1981 he sang Otello with the Royal Opera in Manchester as a late substitute for Carlo Cossutta, and the following season repeated the feat at the Royal Opera House when Plácido Domingo was ailing.

Towards the end of his career he returned to perform with Sadler’s Wells (now English National) Opera at the Coliseum, learning Otello and Radamès in English for the first time, and relearning Cavaradossi in a more modern translation than the one he had known years before.

His international career was extensive. He sang Otello and Siegmund in Berlin, Otello and Samson at La Scala. He sang in Norma opposite Maria Callas in Paris and Joan Sutherland in Buenos Aires.

Recordings
Charles Craig did not make many commercial recordings. At the start of his career, Sir Thomas Beecham used him as one of the soloists in his recording of the Delius Mass of Life. During his years at Sadler’s Wells he appeared on a disc of extracts from Il Trovatore. This has been re-issued on CD by EMI. Around this time he also made records of Italian arias, Neapolitan songs, and popular British ballads. He also recorded operatic duets with Dame Joan Hammond, with whom he had often sung in the 1950s. These recordings have all appeared on CDs from the independent company Testament.

His ENO Otello of 1983 was recorded live and is available from Chandos, and EMI recorded extracts from Scottish Opera’s staging of Un ballo in maschera in 1975. Live recordings of two of his Buenos Aires performances, Don Carlo (1967 with Gwyneth Jones) and Norma (1969 with Sutherland), have also appeared on CD.

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