Remembering opera singer Geraint Evans on what would have been his 100th birthday

By Julie McNicholls Vale   |   Deputy news editor   |
Wednesday 16th February 2022 8:00 am
@JulieCambrian
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Sir Geraint Evans is pictured here as Falstaff, his most famous role
Sir Geraint Evans is pictured here as Falstaff, his most famous role (Family photo )

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The Cambrian News has been looking back on the life of opera singer, Sir Geraint Evans, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this week.

Regarded as the world’s greatest bass-baritone of his generation and one of the most famous opera singers of all time, Geraint Llewellyn Evans died in Aberaeron in 1992.

Born in Pontypridd on 16 February 1922, his father was William “Stripes” Evans, conductor of Pontypridd Male Choir. His mother, Charlotte, sadly died just a few months later.

Geraint left school at 14 and worked as window-dresser for a store in Taff Street, Pontypridd, and it was then that he started having singing lessons in Cardiff.

He took part in chapel concerts and shows with a local amateur dramatic society.

He volunteered for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, and trained as a radar operator. He also took part in services entertainment with the British Forces Network.

Singing lessons from baritone Theo Herrman in Hamburg, Fernando Carpi in Geneva, and Walter Hyde at the Guildhall School of Music in London followed.

He made his first appearance at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1948 as the nightwatchman in Die Meistersinger.

A year later was played Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro. He sang the part more than 500 times, making his debut at La Scala, Milan in 1960, in the role, becoming the first British singer to appear there in 35 years at the same time.

In 1957, at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, he played his most famous role for the very first time - Verdi’s Falstaff. He played it in opera houses around the world, for many years to come.

He also played Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, Don Pizarro in Fidelio, the title role in Don Pasquale, Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore and Leporello in Don Giovanni.

Between 1968 and 1981 he gave a series of televised master classes for the BBC, taking young professional singers through key operatic works.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Brenda, and lived mainly in London, but in the 1960s, they bought a holiday home in Aberaeron, where Sir Geraint pursued one of his favourite pastimes - sailing.

He was knighted in 1969.

He received many more honours, and was also High Sheriff of Cardiganshire for a time.

Sir Geraint Evans’ final public appearance - at a gala to mark the closure of the old opera house at Glyndebourne - was in July 1992, just two months before his death.

He died in Aberaeron at the age of 70.

A memorial service in Westminster Abbey was attended by more than 1,700 family, friends and admirers.

Friend of the family, Caryl Morris, told the Cambrian News: “Considering all he did for British singers, Wales and music around the world, I feel it would be a fitting tribute to celebrate the life of this much-loved and revered operatic star.”

His son Huw said: “It’s nice people still ask to hear his records and stop to talk to us about him.”

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