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Jon Vickers
A Hero's Life
Jeannie Williams; Birgit Nilsson, fwd.




Northeastern University Press
1999 • 424 pp. 31 illus. 6 x 9 1/4"
Biography - Musicians & Composers / Memoir / Opera

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-674-9



Jon Vickers: A Hero’s Life paints a fascinating, comprehensive, and colorful picture of a spellbinding and irreplaceable artist.”—The Opera Quarterly

The first biography of a legendary tenor

During his extraordinary career, the now-legendary Canadian tenor Jon Vickers sang the most demanding of operatic roles -- Tristan, Peter Grimes, Otello, Aeneas, Parsifal -- with searing emotional intensity and dramatic interpretation. In this first biography of Vickers, Jeannie Williams provides a captivating and revealing portrait of a very private, deeply religious man and complex artist who baffled and often enraged his friends and colleagues.

Drawing on scores of interviews with those who knew and worked with Vickers, Williams traces his life from boyhood in western Canada, to schooling in Toronto, to his debut at Covent Garden, to his tenure at the Royal Opera House, to his celebrated appearances on the world's major opera stages. She discusses his signature roles, including details of a little-known Otello in South Africa, over-the-edge performances, and stormy battles with conductors and directors. In addition, she details Vickers' controversial withdrawal from the Tannhuser opera, his on-going friction with BBC-TV, his conflicted relationship with his native Canada, and his choices in repertory. Williams also illuminates the paradoxes in the world view of a man who might have been a preacher or a prime minister if he had not been blessed with such a remarkable musical talent.

This in-depth, well-balanced, and objective biography will stand as the definitive work on one of the world's greatest heroic tenors.

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Reviews:

“No one who heard Jon Vickers on a night when he ‘came alive’ will ever forget him; his ideas on singing, and the strength of his commitment in roles ranging from the heroic Enee to the comic Vasek, ensure that this singer’s biography is a cut above most. Jeannie Williams has done an excellent job in bringing back memories of an extraordinarily vivid singer.”—Opera News

“Williams’s in-depth study includes performance histories, discography and videography, copious notes, and an extensive index. Taken together, these provide a remarkable entree into the private world of opera performance. Opera buffs and general readers will be grateful.”—Choice

“It is an achievement of this book, that while giving so clear a picture of the man, great but fallible, it also enables us to review the art, fallible also but still more surely great.”—Opera Now

Endorsements:

“Jon Vickers was a singing actor of overwhelming impact, his performances driven by a unique fusion of sensitivity, intelligence, brute force, and stubborn individuality. He also was a rather enigmatic figure who avoided conventional paths to operatic glory. Jeannie Williams’ probing biography explores Vickers’ triumphs, his contradictions, his frailties, his eloquence, and his egocentricity with equal parts objectivity and sympathy.”—Martin Bernheimer, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic






Fri, 8 Aug 2014 11:55:58 -0500