Jon Vickers

Biography

Born: October 29, 1926; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada   Died: July 10, 2015; Ontario, Canada  
While Jon Vickers was best known as a Wagnerian heldentenor, he was also capable of singing lieder, baroque opera, spinto Italian roles, and even the comic role of Vasek in The Bartered Bride. His voice and physique both radiated power, and his stage presence was one of the most impressive of his era. Like many singers with huge voices, he sometimes resorted to crooning soft passages, but the effect of such a voice scaled down was still highly Read more impressive. He was a man of equally powerful convictions, and refused to sing roles which he considered to be lacking in morality, or whose lack of morality did not carry a lesson.

His father was a lay preacher, and the young Vickers often sang for services. As his vocal gifts became more and more evident, he began to reconsider his aspirations for a career in business; his inclination towards music was confirmed in 1950, when he received a Royal Conservatory scholarship to study voice in Toronto. There he learned technique (founded in Baroque rather than Wagnerian music) from George Lambert and interpretation from Herman Geiger-Torel. He made his operatic debut as the Duke in Rigoletto at the Toronto Opera in 1952, and continued to sing in local houses and for Canadian radio in a wide variety of roles, from Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte to Alfredo in La Traviata to a few excerpts from Die Walküre and Parsifal.

In 1956, frustrated with what appeared to be a limited career and unsure whether he wanted the pressures of an operatic lifestyle, he was considering leaving music, but within a month of the deadline he gave himself to decide, Covent Garden invited him to make his debut as Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera in 1957. Other roles and debuts quickly followed: his Bayreuth debut as Siegmund in 1958, his Vienna State Opera debut in 1959 in the same role, his Met debut as Canio in 1960, and his La Scala debut the same year as Florestan in Fidelio. His first Peter Grimes was at the Met in 1967. By that time, he was one of the world's major heldentenors, and in 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. He made his Salzburg Festival debut the next year, as Verdi's Otello (a role he filmed with von Karajan). In 1976, he took on the title role of Handel's Samson at the work's United States premiere in Dallas, and followed that with performances in other major U.S. houses. He retired in 1988.

Vickers was known for having a prickly temperament, and was famous for once interrupting the last act of Tristan und Isolde to shout at the audience, "Stop your damned coughing!" In other ways, he was deeply modest -- he refused to call himself an "artist," insisting that he was merely the interpreter of the real artists, the composers, and refused to make recital pieces or recordings of arias outside of the context of the complete work, saying that this practice inappropriately elevated the performer above the music.

His Peter Grimes is one of the most memorable renditions of the role (despite the fact that Britten found the thought of Vickers singing it so far from the original spirit that he refused to attend his performances or hear the recording), and his Tristan und Isolde is magnificent, with one of the most moving death scenes on record. In the Italian repertoire, he made a powerful Radames on the Solti recording with Leontyne Price. Read less
Verdi: Otello / Vickers, Serafin, Rome Opera Orchestra
Release Date: 04/29/2016   Label: Rca  
Catalog: 88875196362   Number of Discs: 2
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Verdi: Aida / Solti, Price, Vickers, Merrill
Release Date: 07/12/2011   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 001572702   Number of Discs: 2
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Beethoven: Fidelio / Karajan, Ludwig, Janowitz, Vickers, Berry
Release Date: 06/10/2014   Label: Myto Records  
Catalog: 334   Number of Discs: 2
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Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde / Böhm, Nilsson, Vickers,
Release Date: 05/14/2002   Label: Kultur Video  
Catalog: 2230   Number of Discs: 2
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Verdi: Otello / Karajan, Vickers, Freni, Glossop, Van Dam
Release Date: 04/20/2010   Label: Warner Classics  
Catalog: 56450   Number of Discs: 2
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Browse 26-50 of 90 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    The Art of Singing - Golden Voices of the Century
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 4733 Release Date: 07/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Various
    Performer:  Leontyne Price,  Tito Schipa,  Fritz Wunderlich,  Enrico Caruso  ... 
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  • 27.
    Verdi: Aida / Solti, Price, Vickers, Merrill
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001572702 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Robert Merrill,  Rita Gorr,  Leontyne Price  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Chorus
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  • 28.
    Wagner: Tristan und Isolde / Karajan, Vickers, Dernesch
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 28858 Release Date: 07/12/2011   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Martin Vantin,  Christa Ludwig,  Helga Dernesch,  Jon Vickers  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus
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  • 29.
    Beethoven: Fidelio - Highlights / Klemperer, Ludwig, Vickers, Frick
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94895 Release Date: 06/21/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Christa Ludwig,  Walter Berry,  Jon Vickers,  Gottlob Frick  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Chorus
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  • 30.
    Beethoven: Fidelio / Bohm, Nilsson, Vickers, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 85309 Release Date: 05/03/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Oskar Czerwenka,  Jon Vickers,  Birgit Nilsson,  Hermann Uhde
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
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  • 31.
    Wagner: Die Walkure / Nilsson, Vickers, Rysanek, Stewart, Metropolitan Opera
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 85308 Release Date: 05/03/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Thomas Stewart,  Jon Vickers,  Christa Ludwig,  Birgit Nilsson  ... 
    Conductor:  Berislav Klobucar
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
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  • 32.
    Beethoven: Fidelio / Karajan, Dernesch, Vickers, Van Dam
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 48172 Release Date: 04/05/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Helga Dernesch,  Jon Vickers,  Helen Donath,  Zoltan Kélémén  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus
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  • 33.
    50 Best Opera
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 57531 Release Date: 06/29/2010   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Richard Wagner,  Richard Strauss,  Gustave Charpentier  ... 
    Performer:  Cornelius Hauptmann,  Margareta Lilowa,  Carolyn Watkinson,  Ursula Kunz  ... 
    Conductor:  Roger Norrington,  Bernard Haitink,  Rafael Kubelik,  Peter Schneider  ... 
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  • 34.
    Best Verdi 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 40878 Release Date: 06/08/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Richard Van Allan,  Keith Erwen,  Delia Wallis,  Ferruccio Mazzoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Tullio Serafin,  Riccardo Muti,  Sir Charles Mackerras  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 35.
    Classical Legends - In Their Own Words
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 08972 Release Date: 06/08/2010   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Various
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Ruggero Raimondi,  Mirella Freni  ... 
    Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
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  • 36.
    Verdi: Otello / Karajan, Vickers, Freni, Glossop, Van Dam
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 56450 Release Date: 04/20/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Mirella Freni,  Aldo Bottion,  Stefania Malagú,  Jon Vickers  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus
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  • 37.
    Verdi: Aida Scenes & Arias / Solti, Price, Gorr, Vickers
    Label: London/Decca Opera Gala Series   Catalog: 421860 Release Date: 04/08/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Giorgio Tozzi,  Leontyne Price,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Chorus
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  • 38.
    Essential Wagner
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 88597 Release Date: 02/23/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Helga Dernesch,  Christa Ludwig,  Siegfried Jerusalem  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Sir Adrian Boult,  Bernard Haitink,  Mariss Jansons
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  • 39.
    Beethoven: Fidelio / Otto Klemperer, Et Al
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 66703 Release Date: 11/17/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Walter Berry,  Gerhard Unger,  Christa Ludwig,  Kurt Wehofschitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Chorus
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  • 40.
    Best Tenor Voices 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 06701 Release Date: 10/06/2009   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Pietro Mascagni,  Francesco Cilča,  Umberto Giordano,  Giacomo Puccini  ... 
    Performer:  Franco Corelli,  Corinna Vozza,  Adriana Lazzarini,  Rolando Villazón  ... 
    Conductor:  Gabriele Santini,  Marcello Viotti,  Umberto Berrettoni,  Alain Lombard  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Munich Radio Orchestra,  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 41.
    The Record of Singing Vol 5 - From the LP to the Digital Era
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 28949 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Jacques Offenbach,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Luciana Serra,  Neil Shicoff,  Alain Vanzo  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sylvain Cambreling,  Georges Prętre,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Brussels Théâtre de la Monnaie Orchestra,  Paris Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 42.
    100 Best Tenor Arias
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 242720 Release Date: 02/24/2009   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Richard Wagner,  Johann Strauss Jr.  ... 
    Performer:  José Carreras,  Fritz Wunderlich,  Siegfried Jerusalem,  Peter Haage  ... 
    Conductor:  Jacques Delacôte,  Berislav Klobucar,  Bernard Haitink,  Heinz Wallberg  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 43.
    Best Karajan 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 15206 Release Date: 10/28/2008   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johann Nepomuk Hummel,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Bernard Walton,  Dennis Brain,  Lothar Koch,  Maurice André  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 44.
    Icon - Mirella Freni - The Opera Singer
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 06253 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini,  Pietro Mascagni,  Gustave Charpentier  ... 
    Performer:  Agnes Baltsa,  Mirella Freni,  José Carreras,  Katia Ricciarelli  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Franco Ferraris,  Alain Lombard,  Leone Magiera  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 45.
    Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana; Leoncavallo: Pagliacci / Karajan
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001076609 Release Date: 03/11/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pietro Mascagni,  Ruggero Leoncavallo
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Peter Glossop,  Raina Kabaivanska,  Fiorenza Cossotto  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
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  • 46.
    French Opera Masterworks
    Label: Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog: 9802 Release Date: 10/16/2007   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Georges Bizet,  Charles Gounod,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Oralia Dominguez,  Jon Vickers,  Ernest Blanc,  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa  ... 
    Conductor:  Jean Fournet,  Sir Georg Solti,  Georges Prętre,  Anton Guadagno  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Netherlands Radio Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus  ... 
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  • 47.
    Mirella Freni- Great Opera Duets
    Label: Emi Studio   Catalog: 63665 Release Date: 09/17/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gaetano Donizetti,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Charles Gounod,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Nicolai Gedda,  Mirella Freni,  Sesto Bruscantini,  Gösta Winbergh  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers,  Riccardo Muti,  Otto Klemperer,  Michel Plasson  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra  ... 
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  • 48.
    Opera Obsession! Act IV - Opera d'Oro's Greatest Hits
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1004 Release Date: 09/04/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Mirella Freni,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Jon Vickers,  Oralia Dominguez  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers,  Jean Fournet,  Horst Stein,  Bohumil Gregor  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Netherlands Radio Symphony,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $8.99
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  • 49.
    Best Beethoven 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 97307 Release Date: 07/31/2007   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Eric Heidsieck,  Paul Tortelier,  Stephen Kovacevich,  Siegfried Rudolf Frese  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Riccardo Muti,  Jeffrey Tate  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Nash Ensemble  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 50.
    Beethoven: Fidelio / Dernesch, Vickers, Karajan
    Label: Emi Studio   Catalog: 69290 Release Date: 09/25/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Helga Dernesch,  Zoltan Kélémén,  José Van Dam  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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