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Bryn Terfel Jones CBE (Welsh pronunciation: ˈbrɨn ˈtɛrvɛl; born 9 November 1965) is a Welsh bass-baritone opera and concert singer. Terfel was initially associated with the roles of Mozart, particularly Figaro and Leporello, but has subsequently shifted his attention to heavier roles, especially those by Wagner.

Biography

Bryn Terfel Jones was born in Pant Glas, North Wales, the son of a farmer. His first language is Welsh, but he became proficient in English as he grew up. He knew of another Welsh baritone named Bryn Jones, so chose Bryn Terfel as his professional name. He had an interest in and talent for music from a very young age. A family friend taught him how to sing, starting with traditional Welsh songs. After winning numerous competitions for his singing, he moved to London in 1984 and entered the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied under Rudolf Piernay. (He has recorded that he initially applied to the music college in Cardiff but when the reply was addressed to 'Miss Terfel' he was so annoyed a Welsh College did not know Bryn was a man's name that he switched to London.) He graduated in 1989, winning both the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Award and the Gold Medal. The same year he came second behind Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the Cardiff BBC Singer of the World Competition, but won the Lieder Prize.

Career:

In 1990 Terfel made his operatic début as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte at the Welsh National Opera, and later in the same season he sang the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, a role with which he made his debut with the English National Opera in 1991. His international operatic career began that same year when he sang the Speaker in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels and he made his United States début as Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera.

In 1992 Terfel made his Royal Opera House, Covent Garden début as Masetto in Don Giovanni, with Thomas Allen in the title role. That same year he made his Salzburg Easter Festival debut singing the role of the Spirit Messenger in Die Frau ohne Schatten. This was followed by an international breakthrough at the main Salzburg Festival when he sang Jochanaan in Strauss's Salome. He went on to make his début as Figaro at the Vienna State Opera and his debut at Covent Garden as Masetto in Don Giovanni. That year, he also signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and returned to the Welsh National Opera to sing Ford in Falstaff. In 1993, he recorded the role of Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard, by Gilbert and Sullivan and sang Figaro to acclaim at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Terfel has said that he would like to record "an album of Gilbert and Sullivan arias".

In 1994 Terfel sang Figaro at Covent Garden, and made both his Metropolitan Opera and Teatro Nacional de São Carlos débuts in the same role. He also sang Mahler's Eighth Symphony at the Ravinia Festival under the baton of James Levine. However, back surgery in 1994 (and again in 2000) prevented him from performing in several scheduled events. In 1996, he expanded his repertoire to include Wagner, singing Wolfram in Tannhäuser at the Metropolitan Opera, and Stravinsky, singing Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress at the Welsh National Opera.

In 1997 Terfel made his La Scala début as Figaro. In 1998, he had a recital at Carnegie Hall which included works by Wolf, Fauré, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, and others. In 1999, he performed in Paris the title role of Don Giovanni for the first time and sang his first Falstaff at the Lyric Opera of Chicago; the latter of which he reprised in the inaugural production at the newly refurbished Royal Opera House.

In 2003 Terfel hosted and performed on the stage with opera tenor José Carreras and Christchurch soprano Hayley Westenra in front of the capacity crowd of 10,000 people from Faenol Festival in Wales.

In 2007 Terfel performed at the opening gala concert for the re-dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on April 6-7. Later, he performed the title role in a concert version of Sweeney Todd that had four performances from July 5 to July 7 at London's Royal Festival Hall. This idea came from Terfel and his fellow bass-baritone and friend, the Irishman Dermot Malone.

Terfel has not shied away from popular music either. He has recorded CDs of songs by Lerner and Loewe and Rodgers and Hammerstein. In 2001 he commissioned and performed 'Atgof o'r Ser' ('The Memory of Stars') in the National Eisteddfod with the composer Robat Arwyn.

In September 2007 Terfel withdrew, to severe criticism, from Covent Garden's Ring Cycle when his six-year-old son required several operations on his finger. But he did successfully return to the Met in November 2007 to sing the role of Figaro. He told reporters in New York that he will now retire Figaro from his repertoire.

Terfel intended to take 2008 as a sabbatical from opera performances, but broke this to take the title role in WNO's revival of Falstaff. He had sung in this production in 1993, when he played the role of Ford.

In 2009 Terfel sang Scarpia and the Dutchman for the Royal Opera House.

In 2010 Terfel made his debut as Hans Sachs in Wagner's Die Meistersinger in a production for Welsh National Opera, in Cardiff and on tour. On 17 July 2010, the cast of this production gave a "concert staging" at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2010 BBC Proms, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Four television. On 31 July, again at the Proms, he performed in a concert from the Royal Albert Hall celebrating the works of Stephen Sondheim, in his 80th birthday year.

Terfel took on the role of Wotan for the premiere performances of Robert Lepage's new Met staging of Wagner's Ring 2010-2012. He sang the role in all three of the four Ring operas that feature Wotan: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre and Siegfried.

In September 2011 Terfel joined Andrea Bocelli in his concert at the great lawn of Central Park, performing for over 70,000 people. In December 2011, he opened the season in La Scala as Leporello in Don Giovanni.

Personal life:

He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Lesley; the couple have three children: Tomos, Morgan, and Deio Sion. The family lives in Bontnewydd, near Caernarfon, Gwynedd. Terfel was a leading petitioner in the creation of Bontnewydd railway station on the rebuilt Welsh Highland Railway, and in part sponsored its construction.

Honours and awards

Bryn Terfel continues to be a patron of the Welsh language and Welsh culture, facets of his life which are largely unknown outside his native Wales. Terfel has been awarded the honour, by the National Eisteddfod, of becoming a member of the Gorsedd of Bards. The Gorsedd was created in 1792 as a celebration of Welsh heritage, and inductees are considered to have contributed to Welsh culture.

In 2003, Terfel became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales. In 2006, he became the second recipient of the Queen's Medal for Music (the previous recipient was conductor Sir Charles Mackerras). In 2008, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.

Terfel is also President of the Welsh homelessness charity Shelter Cymru and is Patron of Bobath Children's Therapy Centre Wales, a registered charity based in Cardiff which provides specialist Bobath therapy to children from all over Wales who have cerebral palsy.

Terfel was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Music by Bangor University during February 2012 for services to music.

Faenol Festival

Terfel started the Faenol Festival, at the Faenol Estate near Snowdonia, Wales, in 2000. Billed as "Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival" (often referred to as "BrynFest" or known in Welsh as "Gŵyl y Faenol"), it turned into an annual music festival featuring internationally famous opera singers as well as popular Welsh artists. In the same year he released We'll Keep a Welcome - The Welsh Album, an anthology of favourite traditional songs. In 2009 and again in 2010, he was forced to cancel the festival because of low public bookings, after having been voted a £250,000 grant by the Welsh Assembly.

Previously staged at the Faenol Estate, the event, a pop/classical/opera crossover, will be staged in London as part of the Southbank Centre's Festival of the World from 4-7 July 2012.

Operatic repertoire

Terfel has performed the following roles on stage:

Composer

Opera

Role

In repertoire

Recorded

Britten

Peter Grimes

Balstrode

1995

No

Donizetti

L'elisir d'amore

Dulcamara

2001

Yes (DVD)

Gounod

Faust

Mephistopheles

2004

Yes (DVD)

Mozart

Così fan tutte

Guglielmo

1991

No

Mozart

Don Giovanni

Masetto

1992

Yes

Mozart

Don Giovanni

Leporello

1991

Yes

Mozart

Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni

1999 -

Yes

Mozart

Die Zauberflöte

Speaker

1991

No

Mozart

Le nozze di Figaro

Figaro

1991 - 2007

Yes

Offenbach

Les contes d'Hoffmann

Four Villains

2000

Yes (DVD)

Puccini

Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi

2007

No

Puccini

Tosca

Scarpia

Yes

Puccini

Madama Butterfly

Sharpless

1996

No

R. Strauss

Die Frau ohne Schatten

Der Geisterbote

1992

Yes

R. Strauss

Salome

Jochanaan

1993

Yes

Sondheim

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd

2002 -

No

Stravinsky

The Rake's Progress

Nick Shadow

1996 - 2000

Yes

Stravinsky

Oedipus Rex

Creon

1992

Yes

Verdi

Falstaff

Falstaff

1999 -

Yes

Verdi

Falstaff

Ford

1993

No

Wagner

Das Rheingold

Donner

1993

No

Wagner

Das Rheingold

Wotan

2005 -

No

Wagner

Die Walküre

Wotan

2005 -

No

Wagner

Siegfried

The Wanderer

2011 -

No

Wagner

Tannhäuser

Wolfram

1998

No

Wagner

Der fliegende Holländer

Holländer

2006 -

No

Wagner

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Hans Sachs

2010

Concert staging of Welsh National Opera production broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four television as part of BBC Proms

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