Opera Scotland

Norman Bailey Suggest updates

Norman Stanley Bailey, CBE.

Born Birmingham, 23 March 1933.

Died Rexburg, Idaho, 15 September 2021.

English baritone.

Norman Bailey was one of the most successful British singers to have specialised in the leading Wagnerian heldenbariton roles, noted particularly for his interpretations of Hans Sachs, which he sang all over the world including Bayreuth, as well as Wotan and the Dutchman.

After a childhood in London, and wartime evacuation in Scotland, he moved with his family to South Africa in 1948. He later lived in Rhodesia. After studying music at Rhodes University, he taught there before moving to Vienna, where he trained under Adolf Vogel, Julius Patzak and Josef Witt.

His career was based in Austria and Germany from his first Vienna appearance at the Kammeroper in Rossini's Cambiale di Matrimonio in 1959.  He was a principal at Linz from 1960 to 1963. After a season at Wuppertal he spent from 1964 to 1967 in Düsseldorf.  Early Verdi parts included the title roles in Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra. In 1969 he sang Sachs at Bayreuth - the first Anglo-Saxon to do so.

International appearances included Dallapiccola's Job at La Scala in 1967.  He also sang Sachs with New York City Opera, and, in 1976, at the New York Met.

Sadler's Wells and English National Opera (ENO)

His British debut in 1967 was with Sadler's Wells Opera as Count Almaviva on tour in Manchester. This was quickly followed by Sachs in a new staging of The Mastersingers under Reginald Goodall - a part he had sung in several German houses. This was followed by Wotan in a famous production of the Ring. His other Wagner roles, sung either at the Coliseum or Covent Garden (from 1969), included the Dutchman, Wolfram, Kurwenal, Gunther, Klingsor and Amfortas. With ENO he also appeared as Kutuzov in War and Peace, Gremin, Don Pizarro, Scarpia, Peter Hansel and Gretel, and in Verdi roles that included Luna, Germont, and Don Carlo di Vargas. Non-Wagnerian parts with the Royal Opera included Ford, Balstrode, Jokanaan and Orest.

He appeared on television in BBC studio performances as the Dutchman (with Gwyneth Jones) and Macbeth (with Petricia Johnson).

Scottish Opera

Bailey first appeared with Scottish Opera in the 1973 Tristan, returning for Macbeth, Sachs (both in German and English), Sharpless, the Dutchman and Oroveso. He was announced as Amfortas in a production of Parsifal in the late seventies, but this was cancelled as an economy measure.

He made a guest appearance with Opera North at the Edinburgh Festival as King René (Tchaikovsky's Iolanta).


He can be heard in recordings of a number of his Wagner roles. The SWO/ENO productions of The Mastersingers and Ring have been issued on live recordings. He sang Reinmar on Solti's recording of Tannhäuser, and later recorded Sachs and the Dutchman with that conductor.

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