Singers on Singing :
Jon Vickers

Singers on Singing: Jon Vickers

From the time that he became internationally famous with his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1957 up to his retirement from the operatic stage in 1988, the great dramatic tenor Jon Vickers held audiences spellbound with the huge dynamic and expressive range of his singing and his powerfully gripping acting. He was highly acclaimed in a very wide range of styles, singing Italian, German, French and English operas, and he was particularly celebrated for his performances of two of the most taxing tenor roles in all the repertoire: Verdi’s Otello and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

His virtuoso projection of an unusually varied range of colours, timbres and dynamic contrasts arose out of a protracted period of study in his formative years, which were spent in Canada, where he had been born, and it was in his home country that he had made his operatic debut in 1954, singing the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto.

In an interview he recorded in 1999, he looked back on his career from his earliest years studying, through his Canadian debut, up to his major international appearances at Covent Garden, and he then went on to discuss some of his favourite operatic roles as well as the conductors he most greatly appreciated singing with. The interview was adapted into the profile appearing here, which was broadcast in 2004, and the feature also includes contributions from other distinguished musicians, identified during the feature, who cast light on Jon Vickers’ very special vocal, artistic and theatrical attributes.

–Jon Tolansky


Jon Tolansky

Guest Artists included in this feature:

  • Conductor Sir Colin Davis
  • Conductor Sir Edward Downes

Musical excerpts included in this feature:

  • “Gott! Welch Dunkel hier” from Fidelio (Beethoven)
  • “Celeste Aida” from Aida (Verdi)
  • “Nuit d’ivresse” (Duet) from Les Troyens (Berlioz), with soprano Josephine Veasey
  • “Every Valley” from Messiah (Händel)
  • “Go there…and…take away your hand” from Peter Grimes (Britten)
  • “Wie sie selig” from Tristan und Isolde (Wagner)
  • “Long lines of cliff breaking” from Enoch Arden (Strauss)
  • “Già nella notte densa” from Otello (Verdi), with soprano Mirella Freni
  • “Si pel ciel” from Otello (Verdi), with baritone Peter Glossop

Related Resources


Singers on Singing: The Performer’s Perspective


Singers on Singing: Jon Vickers–A Memoir


Singers on Singing :
Mirella Freni


Singers on Singing :
Peter Glossop

Part of

Singers on Singing: Great Artists in Conversation