Opera Scotland

Ryland Davies Suggest updates

David Ryland Davies.

Born Cwm, Ebbw Vale, 9 February 1943.

Died 5 November 2023.

Welsh tenor.

Ryland Davies had an outstanding career as a light lyric tenor,  particularly noted for his stylish  Mozart performances and similar roles such as  Nemorino and  Fenton.  Always an unusually good actor, he continued for several years to perform character parts in major houses.

He trained under Frederic Cox at the Royal Manchester College of Music, where roles in student productions included Paris in Gluck's  Paride ed Elena and Lindoro in  The Italian Girl in Algiers.  On graduation he joined the chorus at Glyndebourne.  Small roles in his early seasons included the Marschallin's Major-domo in Rosenkavalier (with Montserrat Caballé as the Marschallin sending him to get her a brandy mid-performance) and  First Armed Man in  Die Zauberflöte.  His debut with Welsh National in 1964 was as Almaviva, and he joined Scottish Opera in 1966 for Fenton, returning the following season for Ferrando, which would become a role he performed frequently in many of the world's great houses (though it may be that his voice was not at its best in huge theatres).  Early appearances at Sadler's Wells included Almaviva (which toured to Glasgow), as well as Essex in  Gloriana, which he also sang on a tour to Lisbon.

In 1965 he was winner of the first John Christie Award at Glyndebourne, and had a success as Nemorino in the first season (1967) of Glyndebourne Touring Opera.  He then started to appear in principal roles at the Glyndebourne Festival, including  Belmonte (from 1968) and  Ferrando.

He made his first appearance at the Royal Opera House in 1969, as  Hylas in  Les Troyens.  Subsequent parts at Covent Garden included  Ferrando,  Don Ottavio,  Fenton (which he also sang on the company's visit to Berlin),  Ernesto and  Cassio (which was the role of his 1970 debut at the Salzburg Festival, conducted and directed by Karajan).  Ferrando was the part for his first appearances at San Francisco (1970) and the New York Met (1975), where he returned the following year as Almaviva.  At the Paris Opéra he appeared in Così fan tutte and Barbiere.

Further appearances at Covent Garden included  Enéas in Massenet's  Esclarmonde (1983 with Sutherland), and at Glyndebourne he added  Tamino,  Lensky,  Flamand, the  Prince in  Love for Three Oranges, and Tikhon in Kátya Kabanová.  He appeared as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream in both houses.  He worked with Scottish Opera again as  Tamino,  Belmonte and  Nemorino, as well as repeating  Fenton.  For Ulster Opera in 1969 he sang  Fritz in  La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein.  At the Wexford Festival he appeared as  Nureddin in Cornelius'  Der Barbier von Bagdad.

Later in his career he sang some slightly heavier roles, such as  Alfredo (Opera North),  Werther (Bordeaux), and  Weber's Oberon (Montpellier).  He added Pelléas in Stuttgart (1979),  Berlin and  Hamburg, as well as during a period working in Bonn.  As he moved towards the character field, he added two more Mozart roles  (Monostatos and  Arbace) at the New York Met, and also sang Monostatos in Jonathan Miller's staging at Santa Fé.  At Covent Garden he did  Benoit and  Alcindoro in La bohème and at the Coliseum the Chaplain in  Carmélites and  Hauk-Šendorf (The Makropulos Case).   He also sang Parson Adams in Peter Grimes in a London concert under Rostropovich.  Later still, he appeared at the Salzburg Festival as Triquet in  Eugene Onegin (2007), the Messenger in  Theodora (2009),  and  Hauk-Šendorf (2011).  Other character parts include the Shepherd in  Tristan und Isolde at  La Scala and  Covent Garden (2009) and  Monsieur Taupe in  Capriccio in Paris (2012).  He made a final return to Scottish Opera in 2014 to sing the  Emperor  (Turandot) in concert.


Ryland Davies can be seen on a number of video recordings.  DVDs from Glyndebourne include the classic Peter Hall production of  A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as  Love for Three Oranges,  Kátya Kabanová and  Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  The Capriccio (with Elisabeth Söderström's magnetic Countess) was televised, but not released commercially. The Walker video series of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas features him as the Defendant in Trial by Jury. The Salzburg Onegin and  Theodora have also been preserved.

Audio recordings include the 1969 Trojans and Idamante in a recording of  Idomeneo (never released on CD) as well as  Esclarmonde, and Armand in another enjoyable Massenet rarity, Thérèse

Franco Leoni's L'oracolo sees him lining up alongside Tito Gobbi and Joan Sutherland.

His unusually serious reading of  Ferrando is preserved on Solti's first recording of  Così fan tutte.  He recorded The Seasons (Haydn) and also made three major Handel oratorio recordings -  Messiah,  Saul and  Judas Maccabaeus. Another 18th century role he recorded is  Paolino in Daniel Barenboim's excellent performance of  Il matrimonio segreto (Cimarosa).

Early in his career Davies made characterful appearances in important small roles in studio recordings, such as Ruiz in the Price, Domingo, Milnes Trovatore,  Lerma in the Giulini Don Carlos,  and Arturo in the Lucia with Sutherland and Pavarotti. 

Other appearances of this kind are in  La Navarraise (Massenet) and  L'Amore dei tre Re (Montemezzi) - both with Domingo in the leading tenor role.  Davies is the Shepherd in Solti's recording of Oedipus Rex with Peter Pears.  A live recording has been available of the 1970 Salzburg Otello

More recently the ENO  Carmélites and 1965 Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier have also been issued, and he appeared in recordings based on two of the  Edinburgh Festival concert performances mounted by Sir Charles Mackerras - Figaro and Lucia (this time as Normanno).

Vocal recordings include the Mozart Requiem and 'Coronation' and 'C Minor' Masses,  all under Colin Davis, as well as Raymond Leppard's recordings of Monteverdi Madrigals.  He recorded Stravinsky's complete Pulcinella ballet under Claudio Abbado, with a concert performance also being given at the Edinburgh Festival.

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