Canadian baritone Gerald Finley is one of the country's best-known and most firmly established singers. He grew up in Ottawa and was a chorister at St. Matthew's Church there. That church's choir, under its director Brian Law, earned a reputation as an early training ground for future Canadian singers. After his voice changed, Finley continued to sing. He was a member of the Ontario Youth Choir, the Ottawa Cantata Singers, the Ottawa ChoralRead more Society, and the NAC Festival Ottawa, also singing at the Ottawa Music Festival and Festival Ottawa. At Festival Ottawa he sang opera for the first time.
He attended Ottawa University. Planning on a career in science, he applied to the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto. However, he also came to the attention of David Wilcox, a former director of the Royal College of Music in London. Finley auditioned for Wilcox in 1979 and was accepted. He finished music school at Ottawa, then moved to England.
At the RCM, Finley was able to work professionally on weekends while continuing his studies, which lasted three years. While learning music, singing, French, Italian, and theology, he also sang with the Cambridge Singers, and in a variety of jobs ranging from madrigal singing at the Lord Mayor's Supper to small country opera productions.
He received support of the Friends of Covent Garden and of The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and won the Glyndebourne John Christie Award. This enabled him to continue his studies at the National Opera Studio and at King's College Cambridge.
He joined Glyndebourne Opera in 1986 and sang with the company for two seasons. In the famous summer Glyndebourne Festival, he sang in the chorus and functioned as an understudy, then sang the roles he had understudied (such as Sid in Britten's Albert Herring) during the winter touring season. He did well, and was granted smaller parts in summer productions while continuing to understudy the main roles.
Finley's breakthrough occurred in 1989, when conductor Roger Norrington engaged him to sing the part of Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute. It was Finley's first professional engagement in Germany. His lively and well-sung performance became his ticket to professional success. He toured in the role with the Glyndebourne Company in 1990 and was invited by conductor John Eliot Gardiner to sing in his Magic Flute tour in Europe in 1995, the production of which was recorded on DG's Archive label. An Amsterdam performance on this tour was attended by Jonathan Friend, artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera, which led to Finley being offered a Met debut.
Finley has gone on to sing all the major Mozart roles. He also sings the title roles in Britten's Owen Wingrave and Vaughan Williams' Pilgrim's Progress, Nick Shadow in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème, the Forester in Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, and other standard repertoire roles. In addition, he sang Agamemnon in Gluck's Iphigenie en Aulide at Glyndebourne, the world premieres of Mark Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie (as Harry Heegan) at the English National Opera, and the title role in Tobias Picker's Fantastic Mr. Fox at Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the lead role in L'Amour du loin, a new opera by Kaija Sariaaho, at Santa Fe.
Finley is also a very active lieder singer, performing the standard German and French repertory and a wide range of English-language art songs. He considers as his strongest influences the German lieder singers Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Schreier. Finley records frequently on the DG and CBC Records labels. He is married to English mezzo-soprano Louise Winter. Read less
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