Opera Scotland

Ryland Davies Suggest updates

Born Cwm, Ebbw Vale, 9 February 1943.

Welsh tenor.

Ryland Davies has had an outstanding career as a light lyric tenor, particularly noted for his Mozart performances and similar roles such as Nemorino and Fenton. Always an unusually good actor, he has continued to perform character parts in major houses.

He trained under Frederic Cox at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where roles in student productions included Paris in Gluck's Paride ed Elena and Lindoro in The Italian Girl in Algiers. On graduation he joined the chorus at Glyndebourne. Small roles in his early seasons included the Marschallin's Major-domo in Rosenkavalier (with Montserrat Caballé as the Marschallin) and First Armed Man in Die Zauberflöte. His debut with Welsh National in 1964 was as Almaviva, and he joined Scottish Opera in 1966 for Fenton, returning the following season for Ferrando, which would become a role he performed frequently in many of the world's great houses (though it may be that his voice was not at its best in huge theatres). Early appearances at Sadler's Wells included Almaviva, as well as Essex in Gloriana, which he also sang on a tour to Lisbon. In 1967 he was winner of the first John Christie Award at Glyndebourne, and had a success as Nemorino in the first season of Glyndebourne Touring Opera. He then started to appear in principal roles at the Glyndebourne Festival, including Belmonte (from 1968) and Ferrando.

He made his first appearance at the Royal Opera House in 1969, as Hylas in Les Troyens. Subsequent parts at Covent Garden included Ferrando, Don Ottavio, Fenton (which he also sang on the company's visit to Berlin), Ernesto and Cassio (which was the role of his 1970 debut at the Salzburg Festival, conducted and directed by Karajan). Ferrando was the part for his first appearances at San Francisco (1970) and the New York Met (1975). At the Paris Opéra he appeared in Così fan tutte and Barbiere.

Further appearances at Covent Garden included Enéas in Massenet's Esclarmonde (1983), and at Glyndebourne he added Tamino, Lensky, Flamand, the Prince in Love for Three Oranges, and Tikhon in Kátya Kabanová. He appeared as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream in both houses. He worked with Scottish Opera again as Tamino, Belmonte and Nemorino, as well as repeating Fenton. For Ulster Opera in 1969 he sang Fritz in La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein, and later at the Wexford Festival he appeared as Nureddin in Der Barbier von Bagdad.

Later in his career he sang some slightly heavier roles, such as Alfredo (Opera North), Werther (Bordeaux), and Weber's Oberon (Montpellier). He added Pelléas in Stuttgart (1979), Berlin and Hamburg, as well as during a period working in Bonn. As he moved towards the character field, he added two more Mozart roles (Monostatos and Arbace) at the New York Met. At Covent Garden he did Benoit and Alcindoro in La bohème and at the Coliseum the Chaplain in Carmélites and Hauk-Šendorf.  He also sang Parson Adams in Peter Grimes in a London concert under Rostropovich. Most recently he appeared at the Salzburg Festival as Triquet in Eugene Onegin (2007), the Messenger in Theodora (2009), and Hauk-Šendorf in The Makropulos Case (2011). Other character parts include the Shepherd in Tristan und Isolde at La Scala and Covent Garden (2009) and Monsieur Taupe in Capriccio in Paris (2012). He returned to Scottish Opera to sing the Emperor (Turandot) in concert.

He can be seen on a number of video recordings. DVDs from Glyndebourne include the classic Peter Hall production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as Love for Three Oranges, Kátya Kabanová and Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The Capriccio (with Elisabeth Söderström's magnetic Countess) was televised, but not released commercially. The Walker video series of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas features him as the Defendant in Trial by Jury. The Salzburg Onegin and Theodora have also been preserved.

Audio recordings include the 1969 Trojans and Idamante in a recording of Idomeneo (never released on CD) as well as Esclarmonde, and Armand in another enjoyable Massenet rarity, Thérèse. Franco Leoni's L'oracolo sees him lining up alongside Tito Gobbi and Joan Sutherland. His unusually serious reading of Ferrando is preserved on Solti's first recording of Così fan tutte. He recorded The Seasons (Haydn) and also made three major Handel oratorio recordings - Messiah, Saul and Judas Maccabaeus. Another 18th century role he recorded is Paolino in Daniel Barenboim's excellent performance of Il matrimonio segreto (Cimarosa).

Early in his career he made characterful appearances in important small roles in studio recordings, such as Ruiz in the Price, Domingo, Milnes Trovatore, Lerma in the Giulini Don Carlos, and Arturo in the Lucia with Sutherland and Pavarotti. Other appearances of this kind are in La Navarraise (Massenet) and L'Amore dei tre Re (Montemezzi) - both with Domingo in the leading tenor role. He is the Shepherd in Solti's recording of Oedipus Rex with Peter Pears. A live recording has been available of the 1970 Salzburg Otello. More recently the ENO Carmélites and 1965 Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier have also been issued, and he appeared in recordings based on two of the Edinburgh Festival concert performances mounted by Sir Charles Mackerras - Figaro and Lucia. Vocal recordings include the Mozart Requiem and 'Coronation' and 'C Minor' Masses, all under Colin Davis, as well as Raymond Leppard's recordings of Monteverdi Madrigals.

Revised Apr 2016.

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