Stuart Burrows

Stuart Burrows

Stuart Burrows occupied the top rung of the operatic lyric tenor ladder for 20 years from the mid-60s, particularly known for his fine performances of Mozart. And yet he could have been a professional rugby player before converting his career to the opera and concert stage.

Like many singers, Stuart Burrows' career started light years away from the opera stage. Born in 1933 on the same street in Cilfynydd as Geraint Evans, he taught for several years, and word of his skills on the rugby field reached the prestigious Leeds Rugby League club, who offered him a contract.

At the last minute Stuart decided it wasn't for him - but his career did change course from then on and before long he was appearing with Welsh National Opera as well as on the oratorio stage.

His big break came in 1965, when he was seen by Stravinsky who engaged him to sing his Oedipus Rex in Athens. Just two years later he was starting an association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden which was to last 25 years.

Throughout this time he was to perform at all the major houses across the world, including San Francisco, Vienna, La Scala Milan and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

His voice was best suited to Mozart, Donizetti and French composers such as Berlioz and Massenet. It had a purity of tone allied with a great sense of line and control of the production of the notes. He was never going to have the Pavarotti kind of voice and throughout his career Stuart has known exactly what sort of repertoire suited him best.

In line with this, he has always looked after his voice. He couldn't even be persuaded by Sir Georg Solti to sing Wagner because he felt didn't suit his voice.

Another area where Stuart Burrows excelled was that of Victorian song, both English and Welsh. He reintroduced these to the repertoire in his many recordings with pianist John Constable and at recitals everywhere from Vienna to New York.

At the height of his career, in the 70s and 80s, Stuart Burrows starred in his own BBC Two series, Stuart Burrows Sings, made by BBC Wales. It ran for eight years and was hugely popular. In it he combined performances of opera and oratorio alongside Victorian song and folksongs and was one of the first exponents of what was not yet referred to as 'crossover' repertoire.

Throughout his career, Stuart Burrows' home has always been Wales and he still lives in his lovely house in St Fagans, Cardiff. Now retired, he teaches and occasionally sits on juries of international singing competitions.

He is president of a number of charitable organisations throughout south Wales, devoting much of his time to fund-raising. He has also established an international voice award in Carmarthen's Trinity College, where he studied as a young man.

In June 2007 he was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

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