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Rosenblatt Recitals

Dear subscriber,

We are delighted to share with you this exclusive Q&A with legendary Welsh tenor Dennis O'Neill, and the opportunity to purchase 2 for 1 tickets to his recital on 5 May.

Dennis O'Neill2 for 1 tickets!
Dennis O'Neill’s Rosenblatt Recital
Monday 5 May, 7:30pm
Wigmore Hall

Songs and arias by Mascagni, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Cilea and Tosti

Ring the Wigmore Hall Box Office on 020 7935 2141 and quote ‘newsletter subscriber’.

In conversation with... Dennis O'Neill

This will be your third Rosenblatt Recital. How do you approach a recital differently to an opera performance? What are the different challenges you face?

There are three challenges that make solos recitals more difficult than being a team member in an opera cast: stamina, the wide variety of styles and loneliness.

You’re renowned for your performances of Italian repertoire, particularly specialising in the works of Verdi. What was the thinking behind the formation of this programme? How did you come to narrowing down what songs and arias to sing for this particular recital?

Choosing a programme for a recital where both arias and songs are the norm, is a special challenge. Once I have a first draft, I imagine myself in the audience and try to find weaknesses when the audience might be distracted. In a way, I try to think of the evening as one very long piece of music, where the arias supply the thrill of theatrical drama while the songs display drama in a more intimate way. In line with my chosen Italian Romantic repertoire, characteristic ingredients of vocal display, emotional involvement and melody must be strongly presented. No surprise then that the composers Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi dominate with some verismo arias and delicious songs by Tosti. This recital took several drafts I might tell you.

As mentioned above, you’re a prolific performer of Verdi – what has been your favourite Verdi role and why?

I began with Verdi’s lighter roles such as Oberto and Fenton (Falstaff) arriving, after a very long journey, at Otello. A long and hugely demanding role, it takes years before one can feel confidence and security. Always a challenge, always more secrets to discover, always challenges for improvement. Hard to beat, but sentimentally, Alvaro in La forza Del Destino was the most natural fit of them all – I enjoyed it enormously.

You are often called ‘The Welsh Caruso’, not only because of your voice, but also due to a more-than-passing resemblance (and even a shared birthday!). You also made a TV series about the great tenor – do you feel a personal affinity with Caruso, and how influential has he been to your career?

Obviously one cannot but admire Caruso’s wonderful voice and commitment. To be honest however, despite the odd coincidences you mention, he was not really an influence in my career. The tenors who initially excited me were Gigli and Schipa and later Kraus and the inimitable Gedda especially. Technical wizards and always musical – in their different ways. They sang to their audiences without reserve which is what singing is about.

The television series you made for the BBC back in the late 1980s were extremely popular and helped transfer your success on the opera stage to a much broader audience, becoming a familiar face on British TV. You must have interviewed lots of stars, who was your most memorable guest and why?

Easy. Eva Turner. She contributed to the television movie I made for ITV on Caruso. She had heard him in the Queen’s Hall London when she was a student. Her description – in great detail! – of his singing was amazing. When I asked her what she particularly admired, she replied “those wonderfully matched vowels”. She was 98 at the time. Wonderful artist and fabulous personality.

You’re passionate about the education of younger opera singers and in 2007, founded the Cardiff International Academy of Voice (now Wales International Academy of Voice) to help coach the next generation of young singers and, hopefully, the next generation of opera stars. What is the most important piece of advice you give young singers?

Vocal technique is the necessary foundation for all of us. One must be able to “play the instrument” with confidence and reliability. This is a journey that never stops as the voice matures and fine tuning continues. Musicality alone does not suffice and will not sustain a long career, irrespective of talent.

Finally, you have sung in some of the greatest opera houses all around the world, but have had a long association with the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. You must be looking forward to returning to London again for this recital?

The Royal Opera, London and its public has been so kind to me over so many years. It is truly impossible for me to tell you what it means to give this recital in London particularly in one of Ian Rosenblatt’s concerts.

From Our Friends...

Julia LezhnevaJulia Lezhneva sings Handel

7 May, Barbican Centre


Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva brings her astounding agility, her rock-solid technique and her trademark lightness and power to Italian arias by Handel. Joined by Giovanni Antonini and his specialist ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, Lezhneva promises an enchanting evening of Baroque music.


Book here

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