Opera Scotland

Ian Wallace

Born London, 10 July 1919.
Died London, 12 October 2009.

English-born Scottish bass and actor.

Charterhouse and Cambridge (law degree interrupted by outbreak of war)
He had no formal training as a singer or actor.

Performances of opera
At the end of the war, much of which he had spent in hospital, suffering from tuberculosis, Wallace joined the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre as an actor. Alastair Sim then cast him in a musical adaptation of The Forrigan Reel (James Bridie). When that was enjoying a London run at Sadler’s Wells he auditioned for Jay Pomeroy’s company, the New London Opera at the Cambridge Theatre. The artistic director was the retired tenor Dino Borgioli and the musical director Alberto Erede. Operas performed included Don Pasquale, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, Falstaff, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La bohème and Tosca. Some notable star singers worked with it, including Margherita Grandi, Alda Noni, Ljuba Welitsch, Marko Rothmüller, Mariano Stabile and Martin Lawrence. This organisation, precariously financed and always in danger of bankruptcy, gave him regular employment for three years to 1949 and it taught him all the vocal technique he required as well as fluent Italian. He sang a number of principal roles including Schaunard and Dr Bartolo.

He sang the small role of Ceprano in Rigoletto at Covent Garden. It was directed by Carl Ebert, who took him to Glyndebourne, where he worked regularly until 1961. That company was the mainstay of the early years of the Edinburgh Festival. At the King’s Theatre with the Glyndebourne company he performed Masetto (Don Giovanni 1948), Sam (Un ballo in maschera 1949), Dr Bartolo (Le nozze di Figaro 1950), Don Magnifico (La cenerentola 1953), The Tutor (Le comte Ory 1954), Dr Bartolo (Il barbiere di Siviglia 1955), Melitone (La forza del destino 1955) and Ser Matteo (Arlecchino 1961).

He worked with Scottish Opera as Leporello (Don Giovanni 1965), Pistol (Falstaff 1966), Duke of Plaza-Toro (The Gondoliers 1968/9), Don Magnifico (1969/70) and finally Dr Bartolo (The Barber of Seville 1975). He also appeared many times at Ledlanet, contributing to Ledlanet Nights, as Colas in Mozart’s early singspiel Bastien and Bastienne as well as in Gentleman’s Island by Joseph Horovitz and The Jolly Beggars by Cedric Thorpe Davie.

He was invited to sing Rossini roles in Italy in the 1950s, visiting Parma, Venice and Rome with great success. He sang Don Magnifico with Sadler’s Wells Opera in 1960, and appeared with several smaller companies. His last operatic appearance, in 1977, was as Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea for the Handel Opera Society at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, back where his singing career had begun.

Other Activities
He enjoyed a long career as a popular entertainer, especially singing the comic songs of Flanders and Swann. In 1956 he had a long run at Drury Lane starring with Robert Morley in the musical Fanny. For 27 years from 1967 he was a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s long-running entertainment My Music. From 1967-70 he linked his broadcasting work to opera by presenting all editions of a programme made by Scottish Television called Singing for your Supper. In this he introduced opera to new audiences in Scotland, singing many extracts with his old Glyndebourne colleague, the Scottish tenor Murray Dickie, by then long resident in Vienna. He wrote two volumes of autobiography, Promise Me You’ll Sing Mud (1975), Nothing Quite Like It (1982) and one of reminiscence ´╗┐Reflections on Scotland (1988).

The Glyndebourne recordings of Mozart and Rossini conducted by Vittorio Gui have deservedly acquired classic status. Wallace appears in La cenerentola, Le comte Ory, Le nozze di Figaro and Il barbiere di Siviglia. He also recorded Busoni's Arlecchino. He appears on two of the Sir Malcolm Sargent Glyndebourne recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan – Mountararat in Iolanthe and Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.

Roles in Scotland

Masetto a peasant, engaged to Zerlina
Don Giovanni 1948
Count Ribbing a conspirator (Sam)
Ballo in maschera 1949
Bartolo a doctor, the Countess's former guardian
Marriage of Figaro 1950
Mefistofele the devil
Mefistofele 1951
Don Magnifico Baron of Montefiascone
Cenerentola 1953
Cenerentola 1969
Cenerentola 1970
Gouverneur Ory's tutor
Count Ory 1954
Bartolo a doctor, Rosina's guardian
Barbiere di Siviglia 1955
Barbiere di Siviglia 1974
Barbiere di Siviglia 1975
Melitone a Franciscan friar
Force of Destiny 1955
Ser Matteo del Sarto a Master Tailor
Arlecchino 1960
Leporello Giovanni's servant
Don Giovanni 1965
Pistola Pistol, a follower of Falstaff
Falstaff 1966
Colas a quack magician
Bastien and Bastienne 1966
Duke of Plaza-Toro a Grandee of Spain
Gondoliers 1968
Gondoliers 1969
Herr Schlendrian
Coffee Cantata 1968
Mr Somers an indigo importer
Gentleman's Island 1968
Drei Pintos 1976
Drei Pintos 1976

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