Simon Keenlyside

Sir Simon Keenlyside CBE (born 3 August 1959) is a British baritone who has performed in operas and concerts since the mid-1980s.


Early life and education

Keenlyside was born in London, the son of Raymond and Ann Keenlyside. Raymond played second violin in the Aeolian Quartet, and Ann's father was the violinist Leonard Hirsch. When he was eight, he was enrolled in St John's College School, a boarding school for the boy choristers of the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge and spent much of his childhood touring and recording with the choir under the direction of choirmaster George Guest.

He later attended Reed's School in Cobham, before studying zoology at Cambridge University. He returned to St John's as a choral scholar, before studying singing at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. After graduation, he won a Peter Moores Foundation scholarship (1985) and joined the Royal Northern College of Music to study voice with the baritone John Cameron where he developed a love for lieder and German poetry.

Singing career

Keenlyside made his first appearance in a major operatic role in 1987 as Lescaut in Manon Lescaut at the Royal Northern College of Music. Opera magazine remarked on it being an "astonishingly mature" performance, and that he "used his warm and clear baritone with notable musicianship". The Richard Tauber prize, which he won in 1986, allowed him to go to Salzburg for further study. His money ran out before he could finish his four-month term there, but Rudolf Knoll, a teacher at the Salzburg Mozarteum, gave him private lessons for free. Knoll encouraged him to work on the Italian repertoire while he was still young, and introduced him to the Hilbert agency which got him singing jobs in Germany. His professional debut as a baritone came in 1988, at the Hamburg State Opera as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.

In 1989, Keenlyside joined the roster of Scottish Opera, where he stayed until 1994, performing as, among other roles, Marcello (La bohème), Danilo (The Merry Widow), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Figaro (Barber of Seville), Billy Budd (Billy Budd), Papageno (Zauberflöte) and Belcore (L'elisir d'amore).

During this period, he made debut performances at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, (1989 singing Silvio), English National Opera (Guglielmo), Welsh National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Geneva, Paris, and Sydney. He sang for Glyndebourne for the first time in 1993 and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1996. Keenlyside has performed at virtually all the major opera houses in the world, including the Paris Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

Keenlyside sang in the world premieres of two 21st-century operas, creating the roles of Prospero in Thomas Adès' The Tempest in 2004, and Winston Smith in Lorin Maazel's 1984 in 2005. He later participated in the EMI Classics world premiere recording of The Tempest.

In 2010 Keenlyside sang the role of Rodrigo in a new production of Don Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera opposite Roberto Alagna to critical acclaim.

Keenlyside added the role of Golaud in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande to his repertoire in a new production which premiered at Wiener Staatsoper on 18 June 2017 (he previously sang the role of Pelléas for many years). The following afternoon, he was awarded the title of Kammersänger by the Austrian government in a ceremony in the Teesalon of the opera house.

His recordings include several issues for Hyperion Records, including music of Benjamin Britten, Emmanuel Chabrier, Maurice Duruflé and Henry Purcell. He is also a featured singer on five volumes of the Hyperion Franz Schubert Edition and on the second volume of the Hyperion Robert Schumann Edition. In 2007 Sony Music released a recital disc of arias entitled Tales of Opera.

Personal life

Keenlyside is married to the Royal Ballet dancer Zenaida Yanowsky.

Operatic roles

Honours and awards

This page was last updated at 2024-01-22 04:41 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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