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Charles Santley Suggest updates

Sir Charles Santley.

Born Liverpool, 28 February 1834.

Died London, 22 September 1922.

English baritone.

Sir Charles Santley had an outstanding and versatile career in opera, oratorio and recital work, being a dramatic actor with a highly expressive voice, even if it was not especially beautiful. He was the first British singer to receive a knighthood (in 1907) and maintained his voice in excellent condition throughout a remarkably long career. His appearances in major roles in Scotland were with both the Mapleson and Carl Rosa organizations.

Perhaps the single fact most likely to be remembered about him is that Gounod enjoyed his interpretation of Valentin so much in 1863 that he composed a new aria for him when Faust was being revived the following year. The result was so effective that Chorley's English text, 'Even bravest heart', had to be translated into French (as 'Avant de quitter ces lieux') in order that it could take its proper place in all subsequent performances.

He grew up in Liverpool in a musical family, singing from childhood in local choirs and festivals. In 1855 he went to Milan, where he learned a good bel canto technique under Gaetano Nava and perfected his Italian. He sang in Pavia for a season in 1857, making his debut as Dr Grenvil in La traviata, and as well as minor roles he tried out Germont and Silva in Ernani. He then returned to London for further study with the Spanish baritone Manuel Garcia (1805-1906).

His early work in recitals and oratorio developed quickly - throughout his career he was the dominant performer of the title role in Elijah, singing it many times. His debut at Covent Garden in 1860 was as Hoël in Meyerbeer's Dinorah. He sang with the Pyne-Harrison English company from 1861 and with Mapleson the following year. During this period he created roles in a number of new British works, including Robin Hood (Macfarren), The Puritan's Daughter (Balfe), The Amber Witch (Wallace), and perhaps most famously the part of Danny Mann in The Lily of Killarney (Benedict). Through the next few years he established himself as one of the leading performers, ranking with the foreign stars Mapleson imported. With that company in 1870 he sang the Dutchman at Drury Lane in the first British performance of any Wagner opera (singing, of course, in Italian, which was standard practice in those days).

In 1870 he briefly established an English company at the Gaiety Theatre, singing the title role in Hérold's Zampa (normally a tenor part) as well as Tom Tug in Dibdin's Waterman, Lortzing's Zar und Zimmermann and Auber's Fra Diavolo. This was followed by a recital tour of the United States. It was during this visit that he joined Carl Rosa's company (Rosa's wife, the soprano Euphrosyne Parepa being a former colleague from years before). He remained with Rosa on the company's move to England, and in 1876 introduced The Flying Dutchman to the touring repertoire. In 1876-7, he sang the Dutchman fifty times, including the first Scottish performance on Feb 23 1877 in Edinburgh, followed by three others and then two in Glasgow.  In this season too he created the role of Claude Melnotte in Cowen's Pauline. He then retired from opera performance and turned to recital and concert work

Appearances abroad included seasons at Barcelona (1864) and La Scala. and he also toured in the USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. He had a wide concert repertoire, and continued to appear in public until quite an advanced age - his Covent Garden farewell did not occur until 1911, with a special performance as Tom Tug .

Roles in Scotland

Valentin Marguerite's brother
Faust 1865
Rigoletto a jester
Rigoletto 1869
Papageno a bird-catcher
Zauberflöte 1869
Count di Luna a young noble of Aragon
Trovatore 1876
Danny Mann a boatman, devoted to Hardress
Lily of Killarney 1876
Mikeli a Savoyard, settled in Paris as a water carrier
Water Carrier 1876
Zampa a Sicilian corsair and libertine
Zampa 1876
Zampa 1877
Zampa 1876
Zampa 1877
Zampa 1881
Fliegende Holländer 1877
Michel a miller
Siege of Rochelle 1877
Claude Melnotte
Pauline 1877
Messa da Requiem 1891

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