In honor of Jon Vickers, who died on Friday. He stopped singing live before I was able to have that experience, but even on recordings you can get a sense of how he cast a spell on his audiences.
Read Anthony Tommasini’s excellent obituary:
He once touched on the impetus of his artistry in a graduation address in 1969 at the Royal Academy of Music in Toronto. “I sang because I had to,” he said. Singing, he explained, was “an absolute necessity, fulfilling some kind of emotional and even perhaps physical need in me.”
Richard Osborne at Gramophone offers an assessment:
Vickers was sometimes accused of pushing too far, of breaking the mould of the roles he played: Laca in Jenůfa, Alvaro in La forza del destino, the uninhibitedly promiscuous Nerone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. And Tristan. Though he was a practised Wagnerian, proud to have been Knappertsbusch’s last Parsifal, Vickers mistrusted Wagner in general and Tristan in particular – ‘a glorification of Wagner’s own immorality’ as he put it. Robin Holloway summed up the terribilità of Vickers’s Tristan when he wrote of the Third Act of the Karajan recording: ‘There is no doubt whatsoever about the stature of this unique tour de force, but it remains an extreme – something unique as if the story were, just this once, literally true [my emphasis].’