Bryn Terfel | Biography


Bryn Terfel
Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel has been moving audiences worldwide with the qualities of his mighty voice and his insightful artistry for more than three decades. With a repertoire that ranges from opera and sacred music to Lieder and musical theatre, he has cultivated a peerless degree of stylistic versatility over the years. In the latest of many honours bestowed on him, he was invited to perform at the coronation service for King Charles III on 6 May 2023 and at the Coronation Concert in the grounds of Windsor Castle on 7 May, making him the only artist to appear at both events. During the service he joined the Choir of Westminster Abbey in singing Paul Mealor’s beautiful Coronation Kyrie, the first Welsh-language work ever to be performed at a coronation. At the concert the following day, meanwhile, he and tenor Andrea Bocelli gave a heartfelt rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.  
Terfel was born in North Wales in 1965. After studies at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he attracted international attention in 1989 when he won the Lieder prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. The following year he made his professional operatic debut as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte for Welsh National Opera. His career gathered momentum in 1991 with significant debuts as Mozart’s Figaro at English National Opera and in the US for Santa Fe Opera; it took off at the Salzburg Festival in 1992 with an outstanding performance as Jochanaan in Salome and an equally impressive debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Masetto in Don Giovanni.
Since then, his operatic repertoire has grown to encompass the title roles in Boris Godunov, Der fliegende Holländer, Falstaff and Gianni Schicchi; Wotan in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre; Méphistophélès in Faust; the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann; Balstrode in Peter Grimes; Wolfram in Tannhäuser; Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress; and Scarpia in Tosca, among others. He has also made extremely successful forays into the world of musicals, starring to huge acclaim in both Sweeney Todd and Fiddler on the Roof.
Sir Bryn is equally at home on the concert platform, highlights of his long and varied career including the Wales Millennium Centre’s opening ceremony; the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall; a gala concert with Andrea Bocelli in Central Park, New York; and a Christmas concert streamed live from Brecon Cathedral as part of the Met Stars Live in Concert series.
Terfel signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 1993 and sang the title role in Le nozze di Figaro under John Eliot Gardiner for his first (Archiv) recording. His debut DG solo release was an album of Schubert songs recorded with Malcolm Martineau, while English song supplied the repertoire for his second, The Vagabond. These were followed by Opera Arias, Something Wonderful, a collection of hit songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and If Ever I Would Leave You, an album of Broadway songs.
His DG discography continued to grow with such diverse releases as We’ll Keep a Welcome, Bryn Terfel Sings Favourites, Simple Gifts, Silent Noon, Tutto Mozart!, Bad Boys and Homeward Bound. Terfel’s opera recordings include a Ring cycle (Metropolitan Opera production), Der fliegende Holländer (from Opernhaus Zürich) and Don Giovanni (La Scala). His most recent releases, on DG’s Verbier Festival Gold label, feature live recordings from Verbier: a 2011 recital of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Ibert and Quilter, and a 2016 semi-staged performance of Falstaff.  
Sir Bryn has won numerous Grammys, Classical Brits and Gramophone awards. In 2003, he was made a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for services to opera; in 2006 he became the second recipient of the Queen’s Medal for Music; and in 2017 received a knighthood for services to music. A passionate advocate for music education and for his native language and culture, he has recently launched a new foundation in partnership with the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. Cronfa Syr Bryn Terfel will offer scholarships and bursaries; support projects and commissions that celebrate the Welsh language and culture; and establish a new biennial international song competition in which students will sing at least one song in Welsh and one in their own language.
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