Welsh operatic baritone. In a career spanning 36 years, he sang more than 70 roles. He is best remembered for his singing of the title role in Verdi's Falstaff, which he sang and acted at Glyndebourne, Covent Garden, and elsewhere. The warmth of his voice, the clarity of his diction, and his engaging stage presence endeared him to opera house audiences, television viewers, and music enthusiasts all over the world.
Evans was born and grew up in Cilfynydd, a Welsh mining village. His father was a miner and local choir leader. He left school at 14 and worked as a window-dresser in a ladies' fashion shop in Pontypridd. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London, but World War II had started and he became a radar operator in the Royal Air Force. By the end of the war he had joined the BBC British Forces network in Hamburg as a singer and producer. He studied singing in Hamburg with Theo Hermann and later in Geneva with Fernando Carpi. In 1948 he joined the struggling Covent Garden company and made his debut with them as the Nightwatchman in Wagner's Die Meistersinger. He made such an impression that he was given the title role in a new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, a role he sang throughout his career at Covent Garden, at the Salzburg Festival, and in many opera houses abroad. He was associated with several productions at Covent Garden of works by Benjamin Britten. He created the role of Mr Flint, the sailing master, in Britten's Billy Budd in 1951, sang Captain Balstrode in Peter Grimes, and Bottom in the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1961.
He made his Glyndebourne debut in 1950 as Guglielmo, one of the lovers in Mozart's Così fan tutte. Other Mozart roles followed, including Papageno in The Magic Flute and Leporello in Don Giovanni. Other roles he famously interpreted include Schaunard, the Bohemian musician in Puccini's La Bohème, with which he made his Vienna State Opera debut; Beckmesser in Wagner's Die Meistersinger, the first of many roles he sang for San Francisco; and Dulcamara, the quack seller of love potions in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, the role in which he made his farewell appearance at Covent Garden in 1984. To coincide with this occasion he published his memoirs, A Knight at the Opera; he had been knighted in 1969.
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