Jill Gomez, Countess of Northesk (born 21 September 1942) is a Trinidadian and British soprano who enjoyed an active career on the operatic stage and in the concert hall in a wide repertoire, and has made many recordings.
Life and career
Gomez was born in New Amsterdam, Guyana to a Hispano-Trinidadian father and British mother, both white; was raised in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and has made her career primarily in the United Kingdom. After studying briefly at St. Joseph's Convent (Port of Spain) in Trinidad and dominating at the islands' biennial Music Festival, she moved to England at 13, where she studied at London's Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
She made her stage debut as Adina in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1968. She then created the role of Flora in The Knot Garden at the Royal Opera, London in 1970 and that of the Countess in Thea Musgrave's The Voice of Ariadne at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1973. She also appeared in productions by the English National Opera (Governess), Scottish Opera (Elisabeth, Pamina, Anne Truelove, Leïla), Oper Frankfurt (Cleopatra), Kent Opera (Tatyana, Violetta, Aminta, Donna Anna), Glyndebourne (Mélisande, La Calisto), Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux (Fiordiligi), Wexford (Thaïs and Rosaura) and Teresa at the Berlioz Festival in Lyon.
She worked closely with Jonathan Miller in La traviata for Kent Opera (Edinburgh Festival and UK tour), and Eugene Onegin and The Turn of the Screw (with ENO). She also played the Governess with the English Opera Group with the composer, Benjamin Britten, present.
Gomez was outspoken about the "international opera circus" and had no ambition to sing at the largest houses, preferring smaller venues such as Zürich where there is sufficient rehearsal time. She appeared in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production of Lucio Silla there, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. She also sang Arne cantatas with Jaap Schröder Concerto Amsterdam. She took part in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with the Israel Philharmonic under Solti. As well as recording of Ravel, with Boulez she performed the Webern Opp. 13 and 14 song cycles.
In 1995 Gomez created the lead role of the Duchess of Argyll in Powder Her Face. Her recording of the latter role was nominated for a Grammy Award, and in Allmusic Erik Eriksson wrote: "Gomez's portrayal is a tour de force, alternately opulent and unhinged. She achieves the difficult task of making a figure of ridicule into a person who evokes sympathy from the listener." Alongside The Knot Garden and The Voice of Ariadne, she was also in the premieres of Miss Julie (William Alwyn, 1979) and Maddalena (Prokofiev, radio, 1980).
Her TV debut was in the series Music Now produced by John Drummond in 1968–69, and other TV and film credits include the French film Une Femme française, and television programmes A Ladies Knight! (1987), Rattle on Britten (1985) and a BBC programme Opera in Rehearsal: The Marriage of Figaro Act 2 with Anthony Besch (1973).
- William Alwyn – Song-cycle: Invocations (John Constable, piano) CHAN 9220
- William Alwyn – Miss Julie (title rôle), Philharmonia Orchestra, Vilem Tausky Lyrita SRCD2218
- Britten – A Midsummer Night's Dream (Helena), City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox
- Britten – Les Illuminations, Op. 18, Endymion Ensemble, John Whitfield EMI Classics 95579
- Canteloube – Songs of the Auvergne with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vernon Handley – awarded a Rosette in the Penguin Guide to CDs and DVDs (17 songs) EMI Eminence – CD-EMX 9500
- Manuel de Falla – The Three-Cornered Hat (complete), Philharmonia Orchestra, Yan Pascal Tortelier CHAN8904
- Fauré – Pelléas et Mélisande, Suite Op. 80: "The king's three blind daughters", Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, David Zinman Philips 464701
- Handel – Admeto (Antigone), Milan Baroque Ensemble, Alan Curtis
- Handel – Acis and Galatea (Galatea), Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner Argo ZRG 886–887
- Alun Hoddinott – Sinfonia Fidei, Op. 95 with Stuart Burrows, Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus, Charles Groves Lyrita 332
- David Matthews – Cantiga, Op. 45, Bournemouth Sinfonietta, John Carewe – NMC 84
- John McCabe – Notturni ed alba, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Louis Frémaux EMI Studio 63176
- Monteverdi – Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610, Monteverdi Choir, Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, Monteverdi Orchestra, John Eliot Gardiner Decca 443482
- Mozart – Songs – (sixteen songs) (John Constable, piano) SAGA 5441 LP
- Pergolesi – Stabat Mater, Eufoda 1036 / 6803 143 LP
- Ravel – Trois Poémes de Stéphane Mallarmé, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez CBS M39023
- Villa-Lobos – Bachianas Brasilieras No 5 ; Suite for Voice and Violin, Pleeth Cello Octet, Peter Manning Hyperion 66257
- Walton – Songs after Edith Sitwell ; A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table, City of London Sinfonia, Richard Hickox CHAN8824
- Songs by Bizet, Berlioz, Debussy (John Constable, piano) LP SAGA 5388
- South of the Border ...down Mexico way (with The Markham and Nettle Piano Duo, National Philharmonic Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth). The Lady in Red by Allie Wrubel; Begin the Beguine Cole Porter; Peanut Vendor Moisés Simons; Perfida Alberto Domínguez; The Carioca Vincent Youmans; Amor, Amor, Amor Gabriel Ruiz; Orchids in the moonlight Youmans; Cielito Lindo Pablo Santos; Nina from Argentina Noël Coward; Poinciana Nat Simon; La Cucaracha traditional; La Paloma Sebastián de Iradier; Flying down to Rio Youmans.
- Blyth, A. Jill Gomez. In: The New Grove Dictonary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
- "You should be in opera" by Michael Church, in Caribbean Beat magazine (Issue #7, 1993)
- Adam, Nicky (ed). Jill Gomez. In: Who's Who in British Opera. Scolar Press, Aldershot, 1993
- Symbolic confusion Jill Gomez talks to Simon Mundy. Classical Music 29 March 1980.
- Erik Eriksson, Jill Gomez Biography, Allmusic, All Media Guide, LLC. (accessed 6 December 2007)
- Drummond, J. Tainted by Experience. Faber & Faber, London, 2000, p171.
- British Film Institute search for Jill Gomez, accessed 15 January 2014.
- Moss, Stephen (9 May 2007), "Desperately seeking Wagner", The Guardian, retrieved 30 March 2010
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5