Opera Scotland

Neil Howlett Suggest updates

Born Mitcham, Surrey, 24 July 1934.

Died 21 May 2020.

English baritone.

Neil Howlett spent much of his career singing a wide range of leading baritone parts with ENO, recognized particularly for his stylish singing of Verdi.

He was educated at St Paul's Cathedral Choir School.  As an oboist he won a place in the National Youth Orchestra, before gaining a scholarship to study English, archaeology and anthropolgy at King's College, Cambridge.  He also appeared with the Cambridge University Musical Society.

Taking up a singing career, he studied with Otakar Kraus in London, winning the 1957 Kathleen Ferrier award.   His solo debut in 1964 was with the English Opera Group to create the role of the Ferryman Curlew River.  He spent several seasons in the Glyndebourne Chorus and appeared on the Glyndebourne Tour as Amida (Cavalli's L'Ormindo) and Macbeth.  He also made his Royal Opera debut as Silvio Pagliacci.

He first worked with Sadler's Wells Opera (later ENO) in 1966 as Agamemnon La belle Hélène.  Numerous later roles include Mountjoy Gloriana,  Jokanaan Salome,  Count Almaviva and Scarpia.  In later years he sang some Wagner, including Amfortas.  However his reputation was largely as a singer of the leading Verdi baritone repertoire - Rigoletto, Il trovatoreLa traviataSicilian Vespers, Simon Boccanegra, A Masked Ball, Otello.  During his years with ENO he created three major roles, the Mirador The Story of Vasco (Gordon Crosse 1974), Title role Toussaint (David Blake 1977) and Commander The Plumber's Gift (Blake 1989).

His appearances in Scotland were rare, and he only sang two roles with Scottish Opera - Golaud Pelléas et Mélisande and King Fisher The Midsummer Marriage.  In later years he performed several Wagner roles with the Edinburgh Players Opera Group.  When he sang Wotan, his wife, the mezzo Carolyn Hawthorn, was Fricka.

He worked abroad a lot, especially in France (Bordeaux,  Marseilles,  Nantes,  Nice,  Toulouse) and Germany, where he was under contract in Bremen, but also sang in Hamburg.  He also worked in the Netherlands as well as the USA,  Russia and Argentina.

He later taught in London as a professor at the Guildhall, as well as at the RNCM in Manchester.

There are few recordings, but he can be seen on DVD as Mountjoy in the ENO staging of Gloriana.  There is a live recording on CD of the ENO Otello in which he appears as Iago.  He sings First Soldier in a studio recording of Salome that features Montserrat Caballé and Sherrill Milnes.

Roles in Scotland

Pelléas and Mélisande 1973
King Fisher Jenifer's father, a businessman
Midsummer Marriage 1988
Wotan father of the Valkyries and Volsungs
Valkyrie 2002
King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle
Tristan und Isolde 2005
Gurnemanz a veteran Knight
Parsifal 2006

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