ORFEO International


April 2011

† Robert Tear

With the death of the Welsh tenor Robert Tear on 29 March, the world has lost a great artist. In the German-speaking world he was known above all as an outstanding singing actor – at the Bavarian State Opera, for example, he sang Loge in Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Robert Tear
Robert Tear
Foto: Ben Campbell-White
Herod in Strauss’s Salome and a screamingly funny hero in Janáček’s The Excursions of Mr Broucek. But the label of “character tenor” may threaten to obscure our appreciation of fine singing, and this is especially true of Robert Tear, with his clear and penetrating timbre, his vocal agility and his finely nuanced singing. On the other hand, there is no doubt that his art of vocal characterization was second to none, as is clear from Orfeo’s live recording of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria on our Salzburger Festspieldokumente label, to cite only one example among so many. The fact that he performed the role of the swineherd Eumete in Hans Werner Henze’s realization of Monteverdi’s score is entirely symbolic of Robert Tear’s career, for he was just as much at home in early music as he was in the music of the 20th century. After singing in the King’s College Choir in Cambridge, he scored a number of early successes in world premières and first performances of works by Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett, and yet this was never a reason for him not to take part in historically informed performances of early music, notably in works by Handel and Mozart, even if, in his later years, he also made a number of critical comments on the subject. A great lover of art in general, he was also a collector who was never at a loss for a cutting remark, as may be seen from his two published books. Last but not least Robert Tear was an outstanding lieder recitalist and oratorio singer whose repertory extended from Dowland and Bach to Schubert and Britten. The programmes of his song recitals were always extremely varied, and he enjoyed appearing with a whole range of instruments – not just the concert grand but also the guitar. He also appeared infrequently as a conductor, but during the final phase of his career he concentrated on teaching and sat on juries, most recently at the 2009 ARD Singing Competition in Munich.