Wales’ Opera Superstars – the men – part 2

25 February 2021

In the lead up to St David’s Day, Welsh National Opera takes a further look at some of the men from our home nation who have made an impact on the world’s opera stages.

Born in Carmarthen Wynne Evans, the man now (in)famous as Gio in those adverts, studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the National Opera Studio, launching his career at the Royal Opera House in 2011 in their new production of Cherevichki. That year proved very diverse with appearances including Anna Nicole the new opera based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith and as opera singer Ubaldo Piangi in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall. Evans’ association with Welsh National Opera includes roles in L'elisir d'amore, Otello, Rigoletto (pictured) and La boheme among others. Wynne can currently be heard presenting his own show on BBC Radio Wales.

Born in the village of Cilfynydd, not far from Pontypridd, in 1933, the operatic tenor Stuart Burrows OBE began his working life as a teacher before giving that up to pursue a singing career. Burrows, known around the world for his performances in oratorios, operas (particularly the works of Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti and Mozart) made his WNO debut in 1963 as Ismael in Verdi’s Nabucco. In 1967, his performance during the Athens Festival brought him international acclaim.

Stravinsky himself requested he perform Oedipus rex leading to him being considered one of the world's finest lyric tenors of all time. During the 1970s and 1980s, he starred in his own hugely popular series, Stuart Burrows Sings, made by BBC Wales and broadcast on BBC Two. He was awarded the OBE in the 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

David Ffrangcon-Davies (1855 – 1918) was a popular baritone. Born David Thomas Davies in Bethesda, he took the stage name Ffrangcon from the nearby valley Nant Ffrancon. Following a spell at Oxford University, he was ordained a clergyman and became curate at Llanaelhaearn on the Llŷn Peninsular in 1884 and then at Conwy in 1885. While at Conwy he studied the organ and decided to concentrate on a singing career.

In 1888, he performed in concerts in Cardiff before joining the Carl Rosa Opera Company where he made his operatic debut as the herald in Wagner's Lohengrin. His greatest success was in the title role of Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah, which he sang for the first time in 1890 at the Horringham music festival in Yorkshire. In the late 1890s, Davies toured the US and Germany before moving to Berlin to sing and teach singing. In 1904 he was appointed professor of singing at the Royal Academy of Music. His daughter was actress Dame Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies (1891–1992).

While we celebrate Welsh talent from the past and present, we know there are many new artists emerging. Tell us who you think the Welsh stars of the future are on our social media channels.