Benjamin Luxon

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Benjamin Matthew Luxon CBE (born 24 March 1937 in Redruth, Cornwall, UK) is a retired British baritone.

Biography[edit]

He studied with Walther Gruner at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and established an international reputation as a singer when he won a third prize at the 1961 ARD International Music Competition in Munich. Soon afterward he joined composer Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group and on their tour of the Soviet Union in 1963 sang the roles of Sid and Tarquinius in, respectively, Britten's operas Albert Herring and The Rape of Lucretia. In 1971, Britten composed the title role of his television opera Owen Wingrave specifically for Luxon's voice; Luxon created the role later that year with the English Opera Group.

The following year, 1972, Luxon made his début at both the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden – creating the role of the Jester in Peter Maxwell Davies' opera Taverner – and at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, where he sang the title role in Raymond Leppard's realization of Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria. Thereafter he became a frequent guest at both venues and also at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, USA.

In 1974, Luxon began his long association with the English National Opera which culminated in his appearance in the title role of Verdi's Falstaff in 1992. He made his Metropolitan Opera début (as Eugene Onegin) in 1980, his La Scala début in 1986 and his Los Angeles début (as Wozzeck) in 1988. He sang in most of the major European opera houses and made frequent appearances in Munich (Bayerische Staatsoper) and Vienna (Wiener Staatsoper).

In addition to his opera work, Luxon also developed a reputation as a concert-giver and recitalist with an unusually broad repertoire, ranging from early music through Lieder to contemporary song, music hall and folk music. He has also been recognised for his work rehabilitating parlour songs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, particularly in partnership with Robert Tear. He has made more than a hundred recordings, many featuring early and mid twentieth-century British songwriting and folksong arrangements by composers such as Britten, George Butterworth, Percy Grainger, Ivor Gurney, Roger Quilter, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi and Peter Warlock. His regular accompanist between 1961 and 1999 was the pianist David Willison.

Luxon was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1986 Queen's Birthday Honours.[1]

Starting around 1990, Luxon began to be troubled by hearing loss. Though he explored a variety of conventional and 'alternative' treatments, continued fluctuation and deterioration in his hearing forced him to end his singing career by the end of the decade. Since then, however, Luxon has developed a career as a narrator and poetry reader whilst continuing to give master classes and direct opera. He currently lives in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, USA. He once stated, on the BBC's "Desert Island Discs" program, that his favourite piece of music is Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium.

Operatic roles[edit]

(Performed and/or recorded, listed alphabetically)

Role Opera Composer
Figaro  Il barbiere di Siviglia   Rossini
Count Almaviva   Le nozze di Figaro   Mozart
Don Giovanni Don Giovanni Mozart
Dr. Falke Die Fledermaus Johann Strauss II
Eugene Onegin Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky
Falstaff Falstaff Verdi
Jester Taverner Peter Maxwell Davies
Owen Wingrave Owen Wingrave Britten
Papageno The Magic Flute Mozart
Sid Albert Herring Britten
Tarquinius The Rape of Lucretia Britten
Ulisse Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria Monteverdi
Wolfram Tannhäuser Wagner
Wozzeck Wozzeck Alban Berg

Selected discography[edit]

Year Work/s Composer/s
1989 War Requiem Britten Atlanta Symphony Orchestra et al., cond. Robert Shaw
Telarc, recorded 1988
Simple Gifts
Benjamin Luxon and Bill Crofut sing folk songs at Tanglewood
Omega
1992 I Love My Love: A Collection of British Folk Songs Chandos Records
Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel   Vaughan Williams Chandos Records, recorded 1986
Quilter Songs Roger Quilter Chandos Records, recorded 1989
Butterworth and Gurney: Songs Butterworth, Gurney   Chandos Records, recorded 1989
1993 Owen Wingrave Britten English Chamber Orchestra et al., cond. Benjamin Britten
Decca, recorded 1970
1994 The Dream of Gerontius Elgar Scottish National Orchestra et al., cond. Sir Alexander Gibson
CRD Records
1998 Fauré: Requiem, Messe Basse Fauré English Chamber Orchestra et al., cond. Philip Ledger
EMI Classics for Pleasure
Warlock Songs Peter Warlock Chandos Records
2003 Enoch Arden Richard Strauss JRI Recordings
2004 Songs from "A Shropshire Lad",
English Idylls, Bredon Hill
Butterworth Decca
Die Zauberflöte Mozart London Philharmonic Orchestra et al., cond. Bernard Haitink
Arthaus Musik DVD

References[edit]

  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 50551. pp. 7–8. 13 June 1986. Retrieved 2008-03-19.

External links[edit]