- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Welsh tenor Robert Tear, who also made a mark as a conductor and a poet, has died at age 72.

Tear, who had cancer, died Tuesday in a London hospice, said Melanie Moult of the Askonas Holt agency.

He was born in the Welsh town of Barry on March 8, 1939, and performed in a Welsh National Opera performance of “Cavalleria Rusticana” just seven years later.

As an older student, he sang in the famed choir of King’s College, Cambridge between 1957 and 1961.


“I remember perfectly when I was in school in Wales listening to Peter Pears. That was certainly important,” Tear once said. He grew up to become understudy to Pears, and later performed many of the roles Benjamin Britten wrote for Pears’ voice.

Tear performed on more than 250 recordings ranging from Monteverdi to Messiaen, including operas, Bach cantatas, recitals, Schubert’s song cycle “Die Winterreise” with Philip Ledger, and Victorian ballads with Benjamin Luxon and Andre Previn.

Erik Eriksson, writing in the “All Music Guide,” described Tear’s voice as “serviceable rather than sensuous,” adding that a “keen intelligence and sophistication in matters of style and stage deportment have made him an invaluable artist in a wide range of settings.”

Britten recruited Tear to perform in the English Opera Group, and Tear sang in premieres of Britten’s “church parables” including “The Prodigal Son” and “The Burning Fiery Furnace.”

Tear made his debut at Britain’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1970 in Michael Tippett’s “The Knot Garden.”

His U.S. conducting debut came in 1985 with the Minneapolis Symphony, and he subsequently worked with several other orchestras, including the National Orchestra of Wales and the Toulouse Chamber Orchestra. He concluded, however, that he wasn’t suited to the job _ “I wanted too much to be liked,” he said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2004.

Tear was also an avid poet, and some of his work was set to music.

He has said he was happy not to be a Pavarotti-class celebrity, and could be dismissive of his art. “Singing is a profession which one can hardly call essential. It rests on the margins of frippery, chicness and downright uselessness,” he wrote in his memoir, “Singer Beware.”

His final singing performance was in 2009 as the Emperor in “Turandot” at the Royal Opera.

In an interview at the time, Tear said he had “run out of the need to sing.”

“The voice is still fine, but the body doesn’t want to go on much longer,” he told Mansel Stimpson, whose account is posted on http://www.clasicalsource.com.

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