Ryland Davies established an international reputation as a leading operatic tenor some forty years ago; he maintains that reputation to this day. He was born in South Wales GB and entered the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1960. At the age of 17 to study singing with Frederic Cox OBE. He continued to study with him until the influential teacher’s death.
During his time at the RMCM Ryland was awarded two major prizes – the Imperial League of Opera Prize, and the Ricordi Prize. And was made a Fellow of the College in 1971.
Whilst a member of the Glyndebourne chorus Ryland won the Boise and Mendelssohn Foundation Scholarship in 1964, and in 1965. He was the first recipient of the John Christie Award. These two awards enabled a further period of study in Italy. Firstly, on the recommendation of Pavarotti, with his teacher Ettore Campogalliani in Mantova and then with Luigi Ricci in Rome.
Ryland made his operatic debut singing Count Almaviva in the Barber of Seville for the Welsh National Opera in 1964. A production that was repeated in 1965 and led to an engagement with Sadlers Wells Opera and his London operatic debut. In the same role. He made his debut with Scottish Opera in 1966 as Fenton in Falstaff with Sir Geraint Evans as Falstaff. Then in 1967 he sang the role of Essex (see on left) with Sylvia Fisher in the excellent Colin Graham production for Sadlers Wells.
And also in 1967 sang his first Ferrando in the famous Besch production of Cosi Fan Tutte. With Jennifer Eddy, Elizabeth Harewood and Dame Janet Baker (see on right). He also quickly made his name singing Mozart at Glyndebourne. With the roles of Belmonte in Die Entfûrung Aus Dem Serail,1968 and 1972 and Ferrando in 1969.
This relationship with Glyndebourne continued throughout the seventies and eighties. With Lensky in Eugene Onegin in 1975 and with Flamand opposite Elisabeth Soderstrom in Richard Strauss’s Capriccio in 1976 (see on right). Both conducted by Andrew Davis, with Tamino in 1980 in Die Zauberflöte. Lysander in the famous Peter Hall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1981 and 1982. With The Prince 1981 and 1982 (see on left), in Love of Three Oranges, and Tichon in Katya Kabanova, 1988 and 1990.
Covent Garden debut
Sir Georg Solti engaged Ryland for his Covent Garden debut in 1969 as Hylas in The Trojans. Conducted by Sir Colin Davis. His first major role was Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (see on left) . Since that time his many roles at the Royal Opera House have included Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Nemorino in L’Elisire d’Amore. Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Fenton in Falstaff, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Aeneas in Esclarmonde- Massanet with Joan Sutherland. Almaviva in Barbiere di Sivglia with Sesto Bruscantini (see on right) and Geraint Evans. It is interesting to note that in virtually all these productions at the Royal Opera House. Ryland shared the stage with his countryman Sir Geraint Evans.
Herbert von Karajan
He was invited by Herbert von Karajan to sing Cassio in his production of Otello at the Salzburg Festival in 1970. And for two subsequent years. It was also in 1970 that he made his American debut in San Francisco as Ferrando and Cassio. After the success in San Francisco he sang Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus at the Hollywood Bowl in 1971. And then Ferrando with Chicago Lyric Opera in 1972. He sang Ferrando at San Francisco again in 1973 and in 1975. At the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and in 1976 sang Almaviva at the Met. Interestingly, he attempted with good success the role of Werther, which is normally sung by heavier tenor voices. In 1977 at La Monnaie, Brussels, conducted by Roberto Benzi.
Since the early seventies Ryland has made many appearances on the stages and concert platforms in most parts of the world. Including all four opera venues in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, Monte Carlo. Geneva, Milan, Rome, Palermo, Berlin, Hamburg, München, Bonn, Brussels, Strasbourg, Madrid, Barcelona, Stuttgart, Buenes Aires, Vienna, Tel Aviv and many others. In concert he has appeared with all the major orchestras at home and abroad. BBC Symphony, London Symphony, Philharmonic Orchestras, English Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Symphony, Cleveland Symphony, St Louis Symphony, Boston Symphony. Minneapolis and St Paul Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic, Symphony Orchestras, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, RAI Radio Orchestra of Milan, Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome. And many others.
Ryland has sung and recorded with many leading conductors – Sir John Prichard, Bernard Hatink, Raymond Leppard, Sir Colin Davis. Sir Charles Mackerras, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti, Richard Bonynge, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Nello Santi, Karl Bohm, Kyril Kondrashin. Lovro von Mattachic, Raffael Frubeck de Burgos, Jesus Lopes Cobos, Silvio Varviso, Dennis Russell Davis, James Levine, Serge Bordeaux. Sir Simon Rattle, Mistislav Rostropovich, Eugene Ormandy, Erich Leinsdorf and Carlo Maria Giulini.
The Nineties have seen further successes in a range of new roles. 1993 was marked with noted concert performances of the Reverend Horace Adams in Peter Grimes with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mistislav Rostropovich. 1994 saw a very busy schedule once again on both sides of the Atlantic with the Podesta in La Finta Giardiniera. Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Welsh National Opera. In 1994 there was a concert performance and recording of Basilio in Nozze at the Edinburgh Festival. Conducted by Charles Mackerras with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
In both 1994 and 1995 he sang Arbace to Plácido Domingo’s Idomeneo at the Metropolitan Opera New York.1997 saw a particularly successful series of Basilio at Glyndebourne with unanimous critical praise from all quarters. In the autumn of 1997 he made his debut with the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv. Again as Basilio in a production by Robert Carson.
Dialogues des Carmelites
In 1998 he teamed up again with Carson for a hugely successful production of Dialogues des Carmelites. For the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. Following the Amsterdam performances it was time for another debut. This time at Santa Fe Opera New Mexico and his first attempt at Monostatos in the Magic Flute directed by Jonathan Miller.
Ryland returned to Santa Fe the following year 1999 for two productions. Firstly ‘Countess Maritza’ an operetta composed by Emmerich Kalman. Where in playing the old servant to the Countess, ‘Tschekko’, a speaking role. Fulfilled his personal wish to do a play before the end of his career. This lovely old character was the nearest he has got to this wish so far. The second production was ‘Dialogues Of The Carmelites’ by Francis Poulenc. Where he played the pivotal role of the ‘Chaplain to The Convent,’ in a daring production by Francesca Zambello. Which was beautifully conducted by Stephane Deneve.
The Millennium saw another return to his professional ‘Alma Mata,’ Glyndebourne. This once again was to sing ‘Don Basilio’, now in the Graham Vick production. And also to sing the role of ‘Sellem’, the auctioneer in The Rake’s Progress. In January 2001 he enjoyed another spell in Amsterdam with the Netherlands Opera as Basilio. In the Jurgen Flimm production of Nozze di Figaro, conducted by Edo De Waart. From Amsterdam it was next stop New York for Monostatos in Zauberflote at the Metropolitan Opera. That summer he returned to Glyndebourne for a revival of the Vick ‘Figaro’. And at the end of it took his well tried Basilio to the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad Swizerland. For a semi staged performance on August 25th.
After a gap of some ten years Ryland made a return visit to Opera North on January 24th 2002 singing the role of Arbace. In a series of Idomeneo in a production by Tim Albery and conducted by David Parry. On March 4th 2002 he was back in Amsterdam for a revival of Robert Carson’s outstanding production of Dialogues des Carmelites.
The summer of that year saw Ryland make his first visit to Japan for a production of Peter Grimes as part of the Saito Kinen Festival under the baton of it’s director Seiji Ozawa. In the autumn of 2002 the same forces reconvened in Florence at the ‘Maggio Musicale’ for another series of ‘Grimes’, this being a co-production with the Florence house. Before the Florence engagement Ryland was able to fit in a lieder recital with his accompanist Jean Mallandaine during the Mananan Opera Festival at Port Erin Arts Centre. On the Isle of Man.
2003 saw two further series of Zauberflote, firstly in Amsterdam and secondly at Covent Garden, amounting to a total of nineteen performances of the role that season alone. That autumn saw him in another revival of Sir Peter Hall’s production of Le Nozze Di Figaro for Chicago Lyric Opera.
Peter Grimes with LSO
January 2004 commenced with two concert performances of Peter Grimes with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis at the Barbican Hall on the 10th and 12th. These concerts were recorded by the LSO for their LSO Live label. A few days after these concerts cast and orchestra were all flown to New York for a one off performance of the above on the 18th at Avery Fisher Hall. Quite a whirlwind affair but a huge success just the same. After a very quick turn around at home on the 20th Ryland was on a flight to Venice for a five week engagement with the ‘Teatro La Fenice’. To sing the role of ‘Francis Flute’ in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner in a clever production by David Pountney.
Later that year in June and July he performed the role of ‘Hauk-Sendorf’ in ‘The Makropulos Case’ at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. In the famous production from Glyndebourne by Nikolaus Lehnoff, partnered by the evergreen ‘Emilia Marty’ of Anja Silja.
2005 saw Ryland’s first visit to Salzburg’s Easter Festival. This was for two performances of the Rev. Horace Adams in Peter Grimes in a production by Trevor Nunn with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle. These same forces also travelled a week after Salzburg to the Philharmonie in Berlin for two concert performances of ‘Grimes’.
In May Opera De Lyon engaged Ryland to sing Hauk-Sendorf in the Makropulos Case, once again in the Lehnhoff production from Glyndebourne. In fact Lyon Opera mounted a short season of three Janacek operas, all three productions by Lehnhoff and borrowed from Glyndebourne. From Lyon it was quickly back to London and the Royal Opera House for his third series as ‘Alcindoro’ in La Boheme on June 17th.
On September 30th 2006 Ryland made his Los Angeles Opera debut. As Guillot de Morfontaine in Massenet’s ‘Manon’ with Anna Netrebko as Manon and Rolando Villazon as Chevalier des Grieux, in a production by Vincent Paterson. The performances were conducted by the indifatigable Plácido Domingo.
Spring 2007 Ryland returned to the Paris Opera for his third production of the ‘Makropulos Case’, this was a co production with Teatro Real in Madrid. The Director of this production was Poland’s Krzysztof Warlikowski and the performances were conducted by the extremely gifted young Tcheque conductor Tomas Hanus.
In June he arrived in Salzburg for a new production of ‘Eugene Onegin’ singing the role of ‘Monsieur Triquet.The production was by Andrea Breth and the opera was conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
In April 2008 Ryland made his Canadian opera debut in Toronto’s new opera house,the Four Seasons Centre. Singing ‘Monsieur Triquet’ in a production of Eugene Onegin directed by Enrico De Feo after Marco Arturo Marelli the original director. Musically the performances were in the experienced hands of Sir Richard Armstrong who conduted with great verve.
In May Ryland travelled to sunny Madrid for rehearsals and ten performances during June/July of the Paris ‘Makropulos’ production, conducted on this occasion by our own Paul Daniel.
May the 4th 2009 he sang in six performances of ‘Makropulos Case’. Once again at L’Opera Bastille in the first revival of the 2007 production. In June he travelled to Salzburg for a production of Handels ‘Theodora’. In which he sang the short role of the ‘Messenger’, but who, in this brilliant Christof Loy production, was engaged for long periods on stage as a dramaturgical rudder. The Performances with the outstanding Freiburg Baroc Orchestra were in the specialist hands of England’s Ivor Boulton. Immediately after Salzburg Ryland was straight into rehearsals at Covent Garden. Once again with Christof Loy, for his production of ‘Tristan Und Isolde’ in which he sang the role of the ‘Shepherd’.
The world of song
The world of song is another area where Ryland has enjoyed success. His gift for languages and sensitivity in the use of words make him a natural as a recitalist. In his early years he was fortunate to be encouraged by and to work with such accompanists as Martin Isepp, Geoffrey Parsons, Peter Gellhorn and Sheelagh Gallwey. The Sunday Times critic J. W. Lambert at the Wexford International Festival in 1973 certainly recognized these qualities and wrote “Ryland Davies gave great pleasure in his lunch time recital.
As soon as he breathed the quiet opening of “An die ferne Geliebte” I knew that we were listening to a born Lieder singer. Beautifully marrying platform presentation and purely musical expressiveness, he gave Beethoven’s under-rated cycle with a moving balance of wistfulness and fine, fresh, youthful ardour. His timbre changed for a Fauré group, and again for Britten’s Michelangelo Sonnets. Quilter’s splendid setting of Shelley, “Love’s Philosophy.” fairly soared. And a final group of Neapolitan songs, which Mr Davies clearly relishes as much as Hugo Wolf did, warmed us like a sunburst.
So few tenors can command the range of expressive vocal colour to ward off monotony: if the demands of opera can leave Mr Davies time to work at and sink into the infinite world of song, we shall have a tenor well able to take over from the sadly missed Fritz Wunderlich. And, on the showing of this enchanting exploratory recital, go further”. His accompanist at the above mentioned recital was Jean Mallandaine with whom he has in recent years teamed up again. Especially at the Mananan International Festival of Music, where they enjoyed highly acclaimed successes. They intend to extend their activities in this the most consummate of art forms.
During the remaining years of his performing life Ryland is intending to increase his giving of master classes, adjudicating competitions and sitting on audition panels etc, and at this point invites enquiries and or offers in this area of classical music.
- Royal Opera House (ROH)
- Royal Academic of Music
- Ryland Davies sings an aria from Les Troyens