Baritone Peter Glossop has died

posted 2008-09-09 16:05:15 by grendel

The Sheffield-born baritone, who has died aged 80, was one of the first British singers of the post-war period to appear at most of the world’s leading opera houses in the 1960s and 1970s. Remarkably, Glossop achieved this feat primarily in the major Verdi roles – Rigoletto, Iago, Macbeth, Posa, Falstaff, di Luna – often considered to be (and cast as) exclusively the preserve of Italian-born singers.

Wanting to be a singer since he was 14, Glossop worked as a bank clerk, studying privately with Leonard Mosley and Eva Rich, who encouraged him to join the Sheffield Operatic Society. For them he sang his first important engagement, doubling Miracle and Coppelius in their 1949 Tales of Hoffmann, and was soon spotted by Covent Garden scouts. In 1952 he was a finalist in the Great Caruso Contest and joined the Sadler’s Wells chorus, soon graduating to minor roles and, in 1956, di Luna. His affinity for Verdi was immediately obvious (he soon sang his dream role of Rigoletto) but he was also cast as Scarpia, Gérard (Andrea Chénier), Zurga (The Pearl Fishers), the title role in Eugene Onegin, Guglielmo and even Sir Tristram in Flotow’s Martha.

Glossop was able to study parts very quickly, which helped him towards the first prize at the inaugural International Competition for Young Opera Singers in Bulgaria in 1961 and then onto an international career. He won an especial reputation as a Verdian in the hypercritical rough and tumble of Italian theatres like Parma, Palermo and Naples, important preparation for his debut (as Rigoletto) at La Scala in 1966. Meanwhile back at home he became one of the young British singers given a chance in the Georg Solti/ David Webster regime at Covent Garden, singing Demetrius in the company’s first production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in London and the Edinburgh Festival, the title role in Billy Budd (which he would both film and record) and Balstrode in addition to a major tranche of Verdi roles.

In 1964 Glossop took over the title role at very short notice (from an ailing Geraint Evans) in a new Zeffirelli/Solti production of Rigoletto and sang di Luna in the Visconti/Giulini Trovatore (shortly for release on CD). By the time in 1965 that he took on Donner in the Covent Garden Ring cycle – a German role was at that time rare for him – he was becoming one of the international Verdi baritones of choice. Major debuts followed at La Scala, in Paris and in San Francisco. In 1968 he learnt the role of Tonio in a few days for Karajan’s Pagliacci film and staging at La Scala, following up with Iago in the maestro’s Salzburg production, film and recording of Otello.

In the 1970s Glossop had success at the New York Metropolitan (Scarpia, then the Forza Don Carlo, Falstaff and Wozzeck), in Vienna and returning to English National Opera. He also became more interested in German roles, adding Pizarro (at the Met), Mandryka and the Dutchman to his repertoire. His career continued into the 1980s when he retired to the West Country to teach, play golf and listen to his collection of jazz records. Sheffield University awarded him an honorary doctorate. He was married at first to the soprano Joyce Blackham and later to Michele Amons, and is survived by two daughters.

The disappointingly few studio recordings of Glossop’s work include Billy Budd for Decca under Britten, highlights from Rigoletto in English and Chorebus in the first Davis Les Troyens. But the continuing reissue of “live” performances on film and disc – the Verdi first-edition series conducted by John Matheson (Glossop can be heard as Macbeth and Don Carlo) and the Budd telecast under Mackerras – has provided some compensation.

In 2004 he worked with Jon Tolansky on an autobiography, Peter Glossop: The Story of a Yorkshire Baritone.

Born July 6, 1928; died September 7, 2008