Opera Scotland

Eric Shilling Suggest updates

Born London, 12 October 1920.

Died London, 15 February 2006.

English bass-baritone.

Eric Shilling spent thirty years as a member of the Sadler's Wells company, where he dominated performances in a group of classic comic roles. He did also sing some serious parts. Everything he did was marked by admirably clear diction, with every word effortlessly audible even in big theatrea.

He studied at the Guildhall under Walter Hyde, then at the Royal College, where his teachers were Clive Carey and Frank Titterton. He made his debut with Sadler's Wells in 1945, as Marullo, However, he did not become a permanent member of the company until 1959.

His early experience came with the Intimate Opera Company, which toured the country performing opera to piano accompaniment. Many of the works he played in were adapted from full-scale works. Others were composed specifically for these forces by composers such as Antony Hopkins and Joseph Horovitz. He toured Britain and abroad with this group for a number of years.

He eventually joined Sadler's Wells in 1959, and continued to work with them for the rest of his career. While his comic roles did include Leporello, Papageno, Gianni Schicchi and Don Pasquale, he had great success with Rossini, singing dozens of performances of Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, Don Magnifico in Cinderella and Taddeo in The Italian Girl in Algiers. However he will be best remembered, partly because several of these roles were recorded, for his performances in various kinds of operetta, whether work by Strauss, Offenbach or Sullivan. In Die Fledermaus he was always hilarious as Colonel Frank, the prison governor. His Offenbach parts included Baron Gondremarck in La vie parisienne, and perhaps best of all, his Jupiter in Orpheus in the Underworld, where his Fly duet was equally suggestive whether courting the Eurydice of June Bronhill, Iris Kells or, in later runs, Valerie Masterson or Norma Burrowes. His most memorable Sullivan roles were perhaps the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe and Colonel Calverley in John Cox's superb staging of Patience.

Perhaps the most surprising serious role he did was Alberich in later performances of the Goodall Ring, where his effortless diction came into its own. He also appeared in most of the company's performances of The Makropulos Case, as the solicitor Dr Kolenatý. His delightful performance as Count Rostov in War and Peace allowed him to make his debut at the New York Met when ENO toured there. He also sang Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier.

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