Opera Scotland

Victor Spinetti Suggest updates

Victorio Spinetti.

Born Cwm, Ebbw Vale, 2 September 1929.

Died Monmouth, 18 June 2012

Welsh actor and director.

Victor Spinetti had a successful career as an actor and performer in musicals, winning a Tony award for a performance on Broadway. His work was dominated by his appearances in the 1960s with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and in several films featuring the Beatles. His only professional operatic role came at the end of his career, when he joined Carl Rosa for a tour of The Merry Widow.

His Italian father and Welsh mother ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales. During the war his father was interned temporarily on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien, and Victor was subjected to persistent bullying at school, as a result of which he was deaf in one ear.

He trained at the Cardiff College of Music and Drama, and one of his early jobs was in the chorus of South Pacific - a production which also featured the young Sean Connery. He joined the Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, appearing in three musicals under Joan Littlewood's direction. Other actors in the company included Barbara Windsor, George Sewell, Brian Murphy, Teddy Green, Avis Bunnage and Myfanwy Jenn. Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be and Sparrers Can't Sing were both successful. However the show which had a lasting impact came in 1963, with Oh, What a Lovely War!, a satirical review reviving many songs of the period. Spinetti played the master of ceremonies, a general, and a drill sergeant. The seriousness of the show's impact on audiences was quite unexpected, and it transferred to Wyndham's Theatre for a successful West End run, before moving in 1964 to Broadway, where Spinetti won a Tony award. This resulted in his appearance in an American musical, Skyscraper.

Meanwhile he had also appeared in the first film to feature the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night (1964). He got on well with all four Beatles, and worked with them again the following year on Help! and in 1967 on Magical Mystery Tour.  These successes made him into an internationally recognised figure. Other film appearances included Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew (directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael York in the cast). He can also be seen with Peter Sellars in The Return of the Pink Panther, and with Orson Welles in Voyage of the Damned. He also returned to his Welsh roots for Under Milk Wood and to London's East End for The Krays. Film appearances which were perhaps less memorable include Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World and The Great McGonagall.

He returned to the stage for a Carl Rosa tour of The Merry Widow in 2004, and in 2006 had a run at the London Palladium as Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Roles in Scotland

Baron Mirko Zeta Pontevedrian Ambassador in Paris
Lustige Witwe 2004

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