† Jon Vickers
Jon Vickers, who was born in Canada in 1926,
Jon Vickerswas the most significant heldentenor of the second half of the 20th century, though he never restricted himself to Wagner. Even those who have only ever seen him on DVD can see and hear how the powerful, thrilling yet flexible voice and the gigantic stature of the man could form a fearsome unity when he so desired – witness, for example, his Don José as Grace Bumbry’s partner in Carmen (1967) or as Otello (1973) alongside Mirella Freni, both famous opera films under the direction and the baton of Herbert von Karajan;
C 690 074 L or as Peter Grimes in a London production of 1981, where he was able to portray the little boy hidden inside the body of a domineering, brutal man.
It was in Wagner’s Tristan that Vickers found the role of his life, though he was also a grandiose Aeneas in the legendary first recording of Berlioz’s Les Troyens under Colin Davis.
In Bayreuth, Jon Vickers sang only the roles of Siegmund (1958) and – for one summer – that of Parsifal, each time under Hans Knappertsbusch. In the live recording of this Parsifal from 1964, released on the Orfeo label (C 690 074), Vickers proves not least to have been a master of transformation, able to express despair with a sense of existential urgency after the kiss in the second act, yet still sung with great subtlety, while in the third act he sang and acted with a touching restraint and mellowness.
Jon Vickers died on 11 July 2015 at the age of 88.