From Development server
10 September 2008

Peter Glossop, 80, Distinguished British Verdi Baritone of 1960s and '70s, Has Died

Peter Glossop
Peter Glossop as Billy Budd at
Covent Garden, 1965

© Reg Wilson 2008
PETER GLOSSOP
Sheffield, England, July 6, 1928 - Devon, England, September 7, 2008

One of the preeminent baritones on the international scene in the 1960s and '70s, Glossop was a bold, eager performer whose singing was marked by intelligence and conviction throughout a career that endured for more than thirty years. Principally celebrated for his performances in the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, Glossop also made his mark in works by Britten, Berg, Berlioz and Mozart.

Glossop was employed as a bank clerk in his native Sheffield when he made his debut with the local opera society in 1949, as Coppelius in The Tales of Hoffmann. After studies with tenor Joseph Hislop, the twenty-four-year-old baritone joined the chorus at Sadler's Wells in London in 1952 and soon progressed to comprimario and then principal roles with that company, winning special praise as Rigoletto, Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, Scarpia and Eugene Onegin. A 1961 win in the International Operatic Competition in Sofia, Bulgaria, jump-started Glossop's international career; he made his Covent Garden debut that same year as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream. After establishing himself as a favorite with Royal Opera House audiences and with the London critics as Renato, Amonasro, Germont and Posa, Glossop further solidified his reputation as a Verdian with two 1964 productions at Covent Garden - Franco Zeffirelli's staging of Rigoletto, conducted by Georg Solti, and as di Luna in a much-admired Il Trovatore led by Carlo Maria Giulini and directed by Luchino Visconti. Glossop's La Scala debut came the following year, as Rigoletto to Luciano Pavarotti's Duke of Mantua, and he arrived at both the Opéra de Paris and San Francisco Opera in 1966, as Posa in Don Carlo. Colin Davis paced Glossop as Chorèbe in Covent Garden's landmark 1969 Les Troyens and in the subsequent Phillips recording of the Berlioz opera.

Glossop also sang in Dallas, Chicago, Mexico City, Berlin, Naples, Parma, Palermo, Vienna and Salzburg, where his professional association with Herbert von Karajan began. Karajan - who said that he was riveted by the baritone's "pale blue eyes, the gaze penetrating yet sad"- cast Glossop as Iago in his epic 1970 Salzburg Festival production of Otello with Jon Vickers and Mirella Freni, a performance that was later released as a film by Unitel and an EMI recording. Glossop was also Tonio in Karajan's 1968 television film of Pagliacci.

Glossop's first appearance with the Metropolitan Opera was in 1967, as Rigoletto in a tour concert performance in Newport, Rhode Island. His official company debut was as Scarpia in a June 1971 matinée that also marked the Met debut of James Levine. Glossop sang eighty-five performances with the Met in New York and on tour, but relatively few of these were in the Verdi roles that were his specialties in London. In 1978, he took on Mr. Redburn in the John Dexter production of Billy Budd that marked that opera's Met premiere; the first lieutenant of The Indomitable was to be Glossop's most frequent Met role, despite his initial disappointment in not being offered the role of Billy, which he had sung at Covent Garden and had recorded and filmed under Britten's direction. Glossop's other Met roles included Wozzeck in the 1974 English-language revival led by Levine, Peter in Hansel in Gretel, Iago, Don Carlo in La Forza del Destino and Paolo Albiani and Boccanegra in Simon Boccanegra. His last Met performance was as Scarpia, in 1986.

The baritone married twice. His first wife was mezzo Joyce Blackham, a fellow principal artist at Sadler's Wells Opera; the second was dancer Michelle Amos. Both marriages ended in divorce. After Glossop stopped performing in the mid-1980s, he taught voice and lectured. He retired to a village near Axminster, in Devon. His 2004 autobiography, The Story of a Yorkshire Baritone, contains many typically forthright Glossop observations about singing and about his colleagues in the opera world. Glossop noted, for example that Karajan was "… a dictator, [but] not a bully in the way that Solti was." He could be equally blunt about himself: in a 1968 OPERA NEWS interview with Susan Lee Fogel, Glossop said, "I'm a rascal at heart. That's why I perform my roles so well!"

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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