Born: July 3, 1922; Dumbarton
Died: July 16, 1983; Dunedin, New Zealand
Tall and imposing, this Scotsman progressed in a decade's time from leading roles for lyric bass to the rigors of Wagner's Wotan. During the period in which Hans Hotter gradually withdrew from performances of Wagner's great creation, David Ward shared with the American baritone Thomas Stewart pre-eminence as Wotan, studying the role with Hotter and singing it under Hotter's stage direction. One of many British Isles singers to benefit from GeorgRead more Solti's tenure as music director at Covent Garden, he found his association with the conductor a significant enhancement to his career. His full, rounded bass of attractive timbre never was fully at ease in the highest reaches of Wotan, but he compensated with his magisterial authority, smoothly managed legato, and biting enunciation. He was also a credible singer of Verdi's leading bass characters, as well as other French, German, and Russian roles for low voice.
After studying at the Royal College of Music in London, Ward joined the chorus at Sadler's Wells Opera in 1952 and graduated the following year to the rank of soloist, appearing first as the Old Bard in Rutland Boughton's The Immortal Hour and later, as Count Walter in Verdi's Luisa Miller. At its premiere on September 22, 1954, he created the role of Hardy in Lennox Berkeley's Nelson, advancing each season thereafter to ever more important assignments. Aside from standard bass roles such as Méphistofélès, he undertook his first bass baritone part when he sang Vanderdecken in Der Fliegende Holländer. For his Covent Garden debut in 1960, Ward essayed Pogner, a role well-suited to his flowing voice and dignified manner. Lord Walton in Bellini's I Puritani was the vehicle for Ward's Glyndebourne Festival debut the same year in a production repeated in Edinburgh, starring Joan Sutherland. Bayreuth also beckoned in 1960 and Ward sang his first performances there as Titurel.
In Chicago, Ward made a memorable Lyric Opera appearance as Bluebeard in Bartók's psychologically probing opera, his huge, hulking figure matching the grim darkness of his singing. San Francisco heard his Das Rheingold Wotan in 1967 and in 1969, Ward returned for Sarastro in a Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), populated by several other singers from the United Kingdom, including Margaret Price, Stuart Burrows, and Geraint Evans.
Ward maintained a close relationship with the Royal Opera House until his retirement. Among his Wagner roles, Fasolt and Hunding gave way to Wotan, while his Sir Morosus in Strauss' Die Schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman), heard in 1961, was followed by his restrained and solicitous Arkel (recorded with Boulez), Rocco, Clement VII in Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini, Ivan Khovansky, and Don Basilio. Ward made his mark with several Verdi characters, notably a tragic Fillip II, Fiesco, and Zaccaria. For the Scottish National Opera, he sang an acclaimed Boris Godunov. He sang in Italy as well as Germany and America and performed Wotan in multiple Ring cycles at Argentina's Teatro Colón in 1967. His final performance at Covent Garden was as the Grand Inquisitor in Meyerbeer's L'africaine in 1978. By the early '70s, Ward had achieved an interpretive fullness with his Wotan that begged comparison with the century's most respected exponents. His Siegfried Wanderer, in particular, conveyed a sense of wry humor in resignation that was uniquely touching. Read less