Harold Williams


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(b Woollahra, Sydney, 3 Sept 1893; d Gordon, Sydney, 5 June 1976). Australian baritone. He came to professional singing after showing outstanding proficiency in sport. After war service in France and Belgium he took lessons with Charles Phillips in London and made that city his base for most of his career. Following his Wigmore Hall début in 1919, he established a reputation primarily as a concert singer in works such as Elijah, The Dream of Gerontius, The Kingdom and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Scenes from ‘The Song of Hiawatha’, being admired particularly for his even and virile tone, incisive enunciation and exemplary phrasing. He sang the principal baritone roles in Tannhäuser, Otello, Pagliacci and other operas at Covent Garden, and sang two bass roles, Boris Godunov and Charles Gounod's Méphistophélès, at Covent Garden and elsewhere. He was one of the 16 soloists for whom Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his Serenade to Music in 1938; he appeared in most Prom seasons from 1921 to 1951, performed as a soloist at the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II and was associated with the Edinburgh Festival from its beginning in 1947. Williams toured Australia as a soloist in 1929 and 1940–44, taught at the NSW State Conservatorium in Sydney from 1952 (at Eugene Goossens's invitation) and took part, notably as Escamillo, in the postwar Sydney seasons that led to the establishment of a permanent professional opera company. Margreta Elkins was his pupil.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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