Opera Scotland

William Dickie Suggest updates

Born 7 September 1914.

Died 1984.

Scottish Baritone.

William Dickie was the elder brother of the great character tenor Murray Dickie (1924-1995). Murray spent most of his career at the Vienna State Opera, where he was succeeded by his son John (1953-2010), also a tenor.

William began his singing career with Glasgow Grand in the mid-thirties, when, under Erik Chisholm's inspired direction, the company was achieving a reputation of national importance, giving British premieres of Idomeneo, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict and performing rarities such as Benvenuto Cellini. The Barony Musical Association, also guided by Chisholm, produced Scottish premieres of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride and Armide.

William's war service took him to Italy, where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was also able to study with Titta Ruffo, Giuseppe de Luca and Gino Bechi. His performances in Italy included the title role in Rigoletto (Florence 1944). He joined Jay Pomeroy's New London Opera at the Cambridge Theatre (along with his brother Murray and the bass Ian Wallace) in 1947. William's roles then included Schaunard, Rossini's Figaro and Marullo in Rigoletto.

Having sung in Italy at the end of the war, he returned there occasionally. In 1956 he made his successful debut at the Vienna State Opera as Posa, singing in German. At his peak in the fifties he sang at Covent Garden. His roles at the Royal Opera House included Marcello and Escamillo in a 1957 run of Carmen opposite Jon Vickers as Don José, Regina Resnik as Carmen and Joan Sutherland as Micaëla. The conductor was Rafael Kubelik. A guest appearance with the Edinburgh Opera Company saw him sing the title role in Nabucco, with David Ward as Zaccaria, conducted by Alexander Gibson. A few weeks later he appeared as Amonasro in a concert performance of Aïda with the Liverpool Philharmonic and John Pritchard. He spent much of the following season with Welsh National, as Falke (Fledermaus), Tonio (Pagliacci) and Nabucco.

From 1973 William Dickie was Business Manager of the Intimate Opera Company. Founded in 1930, it toured productions of small-scale chamber opera for many years, and commissioned a number of new pieces. Its repertoire included baroque and classical chamber operas by Purcell, Bach, Handel, Pergolesi, Duni, Arne, Dibdin, Carey, Storace and Mozart. The company also performed some later pieces by Offenbach, Chabrier, Wolf-Ferrari and Menotti. New works were specially composed by Antony Hopkins (Three's Company, Hands across the Sky, Ten o'clock Call), Geoffrey Bush (If the Cap Fits), Joseph Horovitz (Gentlemen's Island, The Dumb Wife), and others.

William Dickie can be heard as Marullo in the famous 1955 recording of Rigoletto made at La Scala, Milan, featuring Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi, conducted by Tullio Serafin. He was the only British singer to feature in this historically important series of recordings.  There is sometimes available a performance of La traviata recorded live at La Scala about the same time, also with Callas and Di Stefano, in which he sings Douphol.

Roles in Scotland

Ghost of Hector Priam's eldest son
Trojans 1935
Priam King of Troy
Trojans 1935
Claudio an officer in Don Pedro's force
Béatrice et Bénédict 1936
Bernardino a workman in Cellini's foundry
Benvenuto Cellini 1936
Captain of the Grenadiers
Weird of Colbar 1937
Recruiting Sergeant in charge of the Press Gang
Weird of Colbar 1937
Captain Carr of the Royal Regiment
Weird of Colbar 1937
Thoas King of Tauris
Iphigenia in Tauris 1937
Amonasro King of Ethiopia and father of Aïda
Aïda 1938
Ubalde a crusader sent to look for Renaud
Armide 1939
Earl of Essex
Merrie England 1951
Nabucco Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon
Nabucco 1957

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