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Live performances, 1967-1998. Bonus CD features an enlightening and entertaining interview with Mr. Vickers in which he discusses his career and interpretations.
[2001, 2-CD, 121 minutes]
Dvorak: Gypsy Melodies, Op. 55 - My song resounds, Yon lies the moon, Dark in flowing linen, Soaring ever upward
(with Richard Woitach, piano)
Purcell: Sweeter than Roses, There's not a Swain of the Plain, Not all my Torments, Man is for the Woman Made
(with Richard Woitach, piano)
Schubert: Winterreise, Op. 89 - Der Lindenbaum (No. 5), Wasserflut (No. 6), Auf dem Flusse (No. 7)
(with Peter Schaaf, piano)
Wagner: TRISTAN UND ISOLDE - O sink' hernieder, Nacht der Liebe
(with Birgit Nilsson and Grace Hoffmann; Horst Stein, conductor)
Leoncavallo: I PAGLIACCI - Recitar!... Vesti la giubba / No, Pagliaccio non son! (to end of opera)
(with Cornell MacNeil, José Nait and Joan Carlyle; Juan Martini, conductor)
R. Strauss: Enoch Arden, Op. 38 - Long lines of cliff breaking have left a chasm
(with Marc-André Hamelin, piano)
Jon Vickers in Conversation with Jon Tolansky (Interview)
Jon Vickers' life-story is a powerful and colourful tale of a virtuoso artist with courageously searching views on the role of his art and thought-provoking observations on the works he has interpreted. An intrepid critic of standards and attitudes, he has only occasionally given interviews and was not willing to contribute in any way to a recently published biography of his life. The conversation released here was recorded during a visit to London in the summer of 1999. It was originally made for a radio profile in my series 'Voices of the Century', but less than of a third of what we actually taped was used for the programme, owing to air-time exigencies. The great tenor was feeling wonderfully relaxed and expansive and thus it turned out much more than could be included in the broadcast. With the premiere release of the complete interview here, the majority of the conversation can now be heard for the first time.
In the interview, Mr. Vickers recalled his family background and early life before he became a singer, his years of study, and the unconventional way in which his career began. Then he talked in considerable detail about some of his favourite and most famously remembered roles, including Aeneas, Otello, Tristan and Peter Grimes. Also, he remembered some of the artists he most enjoyed performing with, such as Herbert von Karajan and Sir Thomas Beecham. He was alternately deeply serious and vividly amusing, and I felt that our recording captured the true essence of this great titan's penetrating mind and profound humanity - his strength, his wisdom, his compassion and his joie de vivre. Through his words here, we have a rare opportunity to experience the inspirational personality of the legendary tenor with one of the most powerful and dramatic voices and riveting stage personae in memory.
Jon Vickers holds a unique position in the pantheon of the greatest tenors of the century. Few singers have possessed such a range of musical and dramatic expression, from the sweetest lyrical whisper to the most explosive forte. This was matched by the depth of his dramatic interpretations and sense of style that enabled him to reign supreme in such diverse works as Samson (Handel and Saint-Saëns), Fidelio, Les Troyens, Don Carlo, Otello, Carmen, Pagliacci, Tristan und Isolde, Die Walküre, Parsifal, and Peter Grimes. Above all, he brought an energy and intensity to the stage that made every Vickers performance an "event."
Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Vickers rose to international prominence in 1957 when he debuted with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. According to the Sunday Times, London, he "electrified the audience by the force and ringing brightness of his voice." He was soon courted by all the great opera houses of the world, and made debuts in Vienna, Bayreuth, Paris, San Francisco the Metropolitan Opera, and La Scala. Under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, Vickers regularly participated in the Salzburg Summer and Easter Festivals. His many citations include Champion of Honour of the Order of Canada.
After nearly a decade of retirement, Mr. Vickers has returned to the stage, inspired by Tennyson's narrative poem Enoch Arden, a moving work which (in Vickers' own words) "examines the potential for nobility of the human spirit." His performances of the poem, in its setting for speaker and piano by Richard Strauss, have been hailed as a revelation. "It was not only a dramatic reading; it was a musical performance," wrote the Washington Post. And American Record Guide reported, "To the ear, [Vickers] brought all the power, emotional expressiveness, dynamic nuance and vocal color we associate with his legendary interpretations - the thrilling intensity, and tremendous reserves of almost frightening power."
VAI is proud to present this recorded tribute to Jon Vickers, the first set to combine an interview of the tenor with performance excerpts. It is an opportune way of wishing Mr. Vickers a most happy 75th bithday.
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