Arnold Matters

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Arnold Matters (11 April 1904 – 21 September 1990) was an Australian operatic baritone whose career was made mostly in England during the 1930s and 1940s. He was for many years a mainstay of the Sadler's Wells Company in London.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Arnold Matters at first took up a position in the Public Service, but in his spare time pursued his interests in music and singing. He obtained a place at the Elder Conservatorium of Music at Adelaide and studied singing under Clive Carey. In due course he took the Sun Aria Prize, and other coveted awards, and began to attract a good deal of attention. He was invited by Nellie Melba to join her touring company, and met with such success that he decided to make music his profession.

In 1930 he abandoned his Public Service position and went to England, at first continuing his studies in London under Johnston Douglas. He became a member of the Westminster Abbey choir and was given a good deal of solo work. But his dramatic ability, fine voice and stage presence led him towards the theatre, and in 1932 he joined the Vic-Wells Opera Company, his debut being as Valentine in Gounod's Faust at the Old Vic in 1933. He soon made himself established as a popular Figaro, Don Alfonso, Silvio, Escamillo, and Sharpless.

He afterwards found his own favourite role as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and also became famous in the title role in Falstaff, as Dr Bartolo, Don Giovanni, the Die Walküre Wotan and as Wolfram in Tannhäuser. In 1935, 1938 and 1939 he joined the British singers in the international seasons at Covent Garden, where he was particularly successful as Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, with Eva Turner as Isolde.

During the war he returned to Australia and maintained a very successful concert and opera career there. In 1946 he was invited back to England, to Sadler's Wells, where he resumed his regular position in the company, also making occasional guest appearances at Covent Garden. He was especially effective as Scarpia, and also as Simone Boccanegra in the English revival opposite Howell Glynne's Fiesco, and recorded excerpts of this work at the time. He was also a most effective Papageno, Rigoletto, Don Carlo, Iago, Germont père, Conte di Luna, Amonasro, Pizarro and Governor, Varlaam, Kecal, Peter, Figaro and Almaviva, Mephistopheles, Telramund, and the Dutchman.

In 1949 he took the role of Eochaidh, the King, in the revival of Rutland Boughton's The Immortal Hour at the People's Palace. At Covent Garden on 26 April 1951 he created the role of the Pilgrim in Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Pilgrim's Progress, and in 1953 that of Cecil in Benjamin Britten's Gloriana. In October 1954 he created the role of Sir William Hamilton in Lennox Berkeley's opera Nelson at Sadler's Wells.

Sources[edit]

  • G. Davidson, Opera Biographies (Werner Laurie, London 1954).
  • H. Rosenthal and J Warrack, Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera (London 1974 printing).