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Simon Keenlyside: Wikis


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Simon Keenlyside (born 3 August 1959, London, England), is a British baritone opera singer.




Early life and education

He is the son of Raymond and Ann Keenlyside; Raymond Keenlyside played second violin in the Aeolian Quartet, and Simon's grandfather was also a professional violinist. Keenlyside has said: "Where other children would have nursery rhymes, I’d go to bed to the sounds of Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert." [1] As a child, Keenlyside was a chorister in the choir of St John's College, Cambridge while George Guest was the choirmaster there.

Keenlyside read zoology at Cambridge University, returning to St John's as a choral scholar, before studying singing at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. After graduation, he won a Peter Moore Foundation Scholarship (1985) and chose to join the Royal Northern College of Music to study voice with John Cameron, who opened up the world of German Lieder to him. He says "I wanted to learn to sing, and earning money at that point would have been, I'm sure, detrimental to learning how to sing". “… when I was in my mid-twenties my voice wasn’t ready for opera. John was rightly concerned that I should not force my natural vocal weight, like some singers do-–a Faustian pact you pay for later with wobble and nodules.”

Singing career

Keenlyside made his first appearance in a major operatic role in 1987 as Lescaut in Manon Lescaut. Opera magazine remarked on it being an “astonishingly mature” performance, and that he “used his warm and clear baritone with notable musicianship”. At this time he realized that singing Lieder on the music club circuit was never going to be a living. His professional debut as a baritone was in 1987 (not 1988, as is usually stated) at the Hamburg Staatsoper where he sang Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.

In 1989, Keenlyside joined the roster of Scottish Opera, where he stayed until 1994, performing as, among other roles, Marcello (La Boheme), Danilo (The Merry Widow), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Figaro (Barber of Seville), Billy Budd (Billy Budd), Papageno (Zauberflöte) and Belcore (L'elisir d'amore). “It was fantastic training for me, couldn’t have been better”.

During this period, he made debut performances at the Royal Opera House, (1989 singing Silvio), English National Opera (Guglielmo), Welsh National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Geneva, Paris, and Sydney. In an interview with The Scotsman, he says that he learned his trade over five years in leading roles in Scotland, and he feels a "huge debt of gratitude" to the company. He sang for Glyndebourne for the first time in 1993 and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1996. Keenlyside has performed at virtually all the major opera houses in the world, including the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Paris Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

His recordings include several issues for Hyperion Records, including music of Benjamin Britten, Emmanuel Chabrier, Maurice Duruflé and Henry Purcell. He is also a featured singer on five volumes of the Hyperion Franz Schubert Edition and on the second volume of the Hyperion Robert Schumann Edition.

In 2004, Keenlyside sang the role of Prospero in the world premiere performances of Thomas Adès' The Tempest.[2] He is scheduled to participate in the planned EMI Classics recording of the opera.[3]

Personal life

Keenlyside is married to the Royal Ballet dancer Zenaida Yanowsky and they have a young son.[4][5] His hobbies include running; while at Royal Northern College of Music, he joined the Sale Harriers.

Operatic roles

Honours and awards

  • 1986: won the Richard Tauber prize for singers
  • 1987: won the Walter Gruner International Lieder competition
  • 1990: won the Elly Ameling competition
  • 1994-1995: Singer of the Year Awards from the Critics' Circle and the Royal Philharmonic Society
  • 2003: made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday honours list "for services to Music".
  • 2004: won the Laurence Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in Opera for performances as Prospero in The Tempest
  • Opera Award for the category Best Baritone (Don Giovanni, Théâtre de la Monnaie) from the Italian magazine L'Opera. (Source: L'Opera, December 2004.)
  • The XII Premios de la Crítica (Barcelona) awarded to Simon Keenlyside and Natalie Dessay in Hamlet (opera) for the best male and female singers in a staged opera. (Source: Ópera Actual, 19 October 2004)
  • 2005: Played Count Almaviva in the Rene Jacobs recording Marriage of Figaro which won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.
  • 2006: Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera, for his work in the ROH production of 1984 and ENO's Billy Budd in 2005.
  • 2007: won ECHO Klassik 2007 award Singer of the Year (male)
  • won Friends of Liceu Opera Award for Best Recital Artist
  • won the Gramophone Award Best of Category (Recital) for his debut recital album Tales of Opera.


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