Opera Scotland

Robert Tear Suggest updates

Born Barry, Glamorgan, 8 March 1939.

Died London, 29 March 2011.

Welsh tenor.

Robert Tear had a significant international career as a lyric tenor both in concert and opera. He was particularly noted as one of the most important successors to Peter Pears in leading Britten compositions, but he also sang a wide range of other operatic work. His appearances in Scotland were generally in parts he did not sing elsewhere.

He studied at King's College, Cambridge, then from 1961 was a member of the choir at St Paul's Cathedral. He made his debut with the English Opera Group in 1963 as Male Chorus, following that with other Britten roles (Quint and Lysander) as well as Arbace in Idomeneo. He created two Britten roles, Meshach (The Burning Fiery Furnace 1966) and Younger Son (The Prodigal Son 1968) , as well as Todd in The Grace of Todd (Gordon Crosse 1969).

Other parts he created during his career include three at Covent Garden - Dov  in The Knot Garden (Tippett 1970), Deserter in We Come to the River (Henze 1976) and Rimbaud in Thérèse (Tavener 1976). He later created the title role in Penderecki's Ubu Rex (Munich 1989).

His debut at Covent Garden in 1970 was as Lensky, and he returned regularly throughout his career. His repertoire there included other Russian parts - the Simpleton and Shuisky in Boris Godunov, Golitsin in Khovanshchina and Mephistopheles in The Fiery Angel. He also appeared in works by Tippett (Paris, Jack); Richard Strauss (Matteo, Herod, Aegisth, Valzacchi, the Youth in Die Frau ohne Schatten); Offenbach (Spalanzani); Mozart (Monostatos); Wagner (David, Froh, Loge); Johann Strauss (Orlofsky); Handel (Jupiter, Samson); Stravinsky (Tom Rakewell, Fisherman in Song of the Nightingale); Berio (Director in Un re in ascolto); and Admète in Gluck's Alceste. His Britten roles at the Royal Opera House included Peter Grimes and Captain Vere. His farewell performances in 2009 were as Emperor Altoum in Turandot.

He frequently sang abroad, highlights including the Painter and Negro in the premiere of the three-act completion of Lulu at the Paris Opéra (1979), Loge at Munich (1987) and Eumete in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria at Salzburg (1985).

Appearances with other British opera companies were infrequent, but with Welsh National he sang Jaquino (1969) and Herod. He sang Prologue and Quint with ENO and added to his Britten repertoire by appearing as Aschenbach on the 1989 Glyndebourne Tour and later at the Festival. His appearances with Scottish Opera were in a concentrated period in the mid-seventies, beginning with Alfredo, and continuing with Admète, Tamino, Male Chorus and Belmonte. His frequent Edinburgh Festival appearances included a concert performance of Oedipus Rex, and many years later he sang Aegisth in Elektra with the RSNO under Walter Weller.

Several of his Britten roles were recorded, including the original cast versions of Burning Fiery Furnace and Prodigal Son. He also sings the Novice in Britten's recording of Billy Budd and Snout in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The BBC made historically important video recordings of Billy Budd and Peter Grimes, in which he sings Novice and Parson Adams. The Glyndebourne Tour Death in Venice was also filmed, and he recorded several of the concert works including the War Requiem.

One of Tear's earliest recordings is the Sailor in Dido and Aeneas, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. The Paris Lulu and original cast Knot Garden both survive on disc, and he also appears in Colin Davis's recording of Béatrice et Bénédict. Tear also recorded several works by Handel, including Acis and Galatea, Messiah, Samson. Semele, Belshazzar and Solomon. He sings in a recording of Haydn's Creation, and his Gerontius with Alexander Gibson and the SNO is an excellent performance.

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