25 January 2022

 

NIGEL ROGERS (1935-2022)



Nigel Rogers the great baroque tenor died on 19 January, aged 86.

In the 1970s, when I first heard him, his command of the baroque coloratura was unique and absolutely stunning. Everyone can do it now - though no one does it quite as well as him - but in those days the audiences were literally on the edge of their seats in amazement. It’s still thrilling to hear and, mercifully, well preserved on record.

He was particularly inspired by the technique of the Indian classical singer Bhimsen Joshi, though he once told me he had never actually met him, contradicting the well-known story that Nigel had heard him singing and went up to him and asked ‘Tell me how you do that’! He was a superb linguist which made his performances in German, Italian and French (as well as English) so convincing.

Two bits of trivia: he sings the role of Maintop in Britten’s Billy Budd, rather hauntingly, in the recording (and BBC Television relay, now on YouTube) with Pears, Shirley-Quirk, Peter Glossop, etc.; and is also in the choir as a choral scholar in the first television relay of the Service of Nine Lessons and carols from King’s College, Cambridge, in 1954 – also on YouTube. (He was also Mosbie, Alice Arden's lover, in the premiere of Alexander Goehr's Arden Must Die in 1974.) 

I was privileged to have some lessons with him in the 1970s, but never even remotely succeeded in approaching his vocal skills in the baroque repertoire (and in any case, he insisted I was really a tenor, not a baritone!). I know it’s a tired old clich√©, but he really was unique!

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