Opera Scotland

Graeme Matheson-Bruce Suggest updates

Born Dundee, 19 July 1945.

Died London, 12 February 1994.

Scottish tenor.

By the end of his relatively brief career, Graeme Matheson-Bruce had established himself as the greatest dramatic tenor to emerge from Scotland since the war (and William McAlpine and the pre-war Joseph Hislop were more lyric in style).  He developed into an intense actor with a powerful voice, and enjoyed successful performances in several leading Wagnerian roles in London and abroad, though, sadly, not in Scotland.

He was educated at Dundee High School and sang in his local church choir, before training, in Glasgow under Ena Mitchell at the RSAMD (1965-69), continuing for a year at the Royal Manchester College of Music. He worked as a civil servant in local government for a couple of years, and spent 1973-4 at the London Opera Centre. Like many notable dramatic tenors, he was identified initially as a baritone.

In 1973 he made his debut with Sadler's Wells Opera (as Dr Blind in Die Fledermaus). Other early parts at the Coliseum ranged from Mercury in Orpheus in the Underworld to Gaston La traviata, Goro Madam Butterfly, and three short roles in The Nose by Shostakovich. In 1978 he sang Diego de Trujillo in a revival of The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Iain Hamilton, the first of a number of notable appearances he made in new works.

His first appearances with Glyndebourne were with the touring company as Sellem in The Rake's Progress (1976) and Dr Caius in Falstaff (1977). At the main Festival his roles included Tchekalinsky in The Queen of Spades (1992).  He worked early on with the English Opera Group, singing Prunier in a rare staging of La Rondine (1974).  He also sang character roles with Opera North, including Don Basilio (a rare Mozart appearance) and Skula in Prince Igor.

As his career with English National Opera developed he appeared as the Drunken Cossack in Mazeppa (1984) and the High Priest in Akhnaten (British première 1985), Florestan in Fidelio, the Prince in Rusalka and Bob Boles, and later the title role, in Peter Grimes, as well as Bacchus in Ariadne on Naxos and Hermann in The Queen of Spades.  His first major Wagner performance came in 1986, taking over as Walther for the final act of a Mastersingers performance.  The following year he sang the complete role.

At the Coliseum he also created leading roles in two new operas, Lovelace in Clarissa (Robin Holloway, 1990) - derived from the enormously long 18th century classic by Samuel Richardson - and in 1992 the part of Pentheus in Bakxai by John Buller - the text of which was in classical Greek.

He went several times to the USA, appearing at Houston (Herod in Salome), San Diego (Florestan) and Pittsburg (Tristan, Erik in Flying Dutchman).  In Germany, he sang Macduff at Bremen in 1982 and was attached to the opera companies of Darmstadt and Freiburg, singing roles that included Lohengrin, Parsifal, Werther, and Max in Krenek's Jonny spielt auf.  In 1988 he sang Otello in Nantes.

He worked with several small companies in Britain, singing with Abbey Opera (title role in British première of Pfitzner's Palestrina 1981);   Chelsea Opera Group (Herod in Salome, John the Baptist in Massenet's Hérodiade, title role in Dvoƙák's Dmitrij);   and New Sussex Opera (Tannhäuser).

He never worked with Scottish Opera, Welsh National, or Covent Garden, and his only operatic appearances in Scotland as a mature opera  singer were at Haddo House, where he sang Calaf in Turandot.

Roles in Scotland

Messiah 1975

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