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Helen Watts

Biography

Born: December 7, 1927; Milford Haven, Wales   Died: October 7, 2009; Pembrokeshire  
Contralto Helen Watts was a leading member of that school of Welsh singers which came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. Nurtured in a British Isles atmosphere that had turned from insularity to international performance, Watts became the leading British contralto (or mezzo-contralto) in the post-Kathleen Ferrier age. Though never wanting in artistic temperament, she was a model colleague, always well-prepared and ready to sing a fully Read more invested performance. Her voice, of medium size though firmly focused, had a plushness that often made it seem larger than its actual size. She began by specializing in Handel and Bach, but grew artistically to become an exemplary singer of Mahler and Wagner. Watts did not neglect the works of Britten and Tippett either, performing and recording them as a part of her exceptionally extensive discography.

Watts studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London and made her debut as Didymus in Handel's Theodora in a production mounted by the Handel Opera Society. She followed those performances with both Juno and Ines in Semele. She also sang in Rinaldo, an opera which she repeated at Berlin's Komische Oper and at Halle in 1961. By the early 1960s, she had established a relationship with the English Opera Group and played an important part in performances of Britten's operas, assuming the title role in The Rape of Lucretia during the EOG's 1964 tour of Russia. She sang at Covent Garden from 1965 to 1971, offering her richly vocalized Erda and First Norn, portraying Mrs. Sedley in Britten's Peter Grimes, and offering a commanding Sosostris in a revival of Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage. At the Welsh National Opera, she also performed numerous roles suitable for a contralto, among them Sosostris, Mrs. Sedley, a delicious Dame Quickly, and Lanina. At Salzburg in 1971, she was well received as Farnace in Mozart's Mitridate, Re di Ponto and in 1978, she sang a moving Arnalta in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea with the Scottish Opera.

However busy she may have seemed in the opera world, Watts was busier still in recital and concert work. Her initial performances in Handel led to a recording of Handel cantatas and then a flood of discs of wide-ranging repertory. She made numerous recordings of Bach, paralleling her live performances throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, and America. Her years at Covent Garden coincided with the musical directorship of Georg Solti. Taken by her sumptuous voice and quality of musicianship, he employed her services for several recording projects and afforded her the international prominence she deserved. Aside from her First Norn in his Decca Götterdämmerung, he engaged her for his recordings of Mahler's Second, Third, and Eighth symphonies, all widely distributed and warmly praised. When Solti assumed the directorship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he brought Watts to Chicago for a series of memorable performances, including Mahler's Second Symphony and Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

Watts' Sosostris was recorded following the Tippett revival, the electronic medium greatly clarifying the composer's extremely thick orchestration and allowing her glorious singing to be heard. Watts was virtually on call to recording companies during her prime years, valued for her amazing consistency and unfussy approach to studio work. Her Angel in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius ranked with the best, and her interpretation of the contralto part in the Colin Davis recording of Handel's Messiah (including "But Who May Abide") is regarded by many as unsurpassed. Her recordings of Lieder were likewise exemplary, especially Brahms and Wolf. Read less
Browse 76-100 of 133 Available Recordings
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  • 76.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 52 - Cantatas Bwv 172-175 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92052 Release Date: 07/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Carolyn Watkinson,  Peter Schreier,  Philippe Huttenlocher,  Julia Hamari  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn  ... 
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  • 77.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 56 - Cantatas Bwv 185-187 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92056 Release Date: 07/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Hildegard Laurich,  Wolfgang Schöne,  Maria Friesenhausen,  Philippe Huttenlocher  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Frankfurt Kantorei
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  • 78.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 57 - Cantatas Bwv 188, 190-192
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92057 Release Date: 07/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Helen Donath,  Niklaus Tüller,  Adalbert Kraus,  Nobuko Yamamoto  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
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  • 79.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 39 - Cantatas Bwv 122-125 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92039 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Wolfgang Schöne,  Marga Höffgen,  Kurt Equiluz,  Arleen Augér  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Gedächtniskirche Figuralchor,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 80.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 39 - Cantatas Bwv 122-125 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92039 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Niklaus Tüller,  Adalbert Kraus,  Helen Donath,  Helen Watts  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Frankfurt Kantorei,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart  ... 
    CD not available
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  • 81.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 40 - Cantatas Bwv 126-129 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92040 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Philippe Huttenlocher,  Arleen Augér,  Gabriele Schreckenbach,  Aldo Baldin  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
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  • 82.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 41 - Cantatas Bwv 130-132 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92041 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Kurt Equiluz,  Wolfgang Schöne,  Arleen Augér  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Stuttgart Gedächtniskirche Figuralchor,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD: $17.99
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  • 83.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 41 - Cantatas Bwv 130-132 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92041 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Gabriele Schnaut,  Kathrin Graf,  Adalbert Kraus,  Wolfgang Schöne  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Stuttgart Gedächtniskirche Figuralchor,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD not available
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  • 84.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 42 - Cantatas Bwv 133-135 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92042 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Hans-Joachim Erhard,  Hedda Rothweiler,  Philippe Huttenlocher,  Adalbert Kraus  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
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  • 85.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 42 - Cantatas Bwv 133-135 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92042 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Hedda Rothweiler,  Kurt Etzold,  Hubert Buchberger,  Klaus Kärcher  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD not available
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  • 86.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 43 - Cantatas Bwv 136-139 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92043 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Inga Nielsen,  Helen Watts,  Philippe Huttenlocher  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD: $17.99
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  • 87.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 43 - Cantatas Bwv 136-139 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92043 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Kurt Equiluz,  Niklaus Tüller,  Helen Watts,  Adalbert Kraus  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD not available
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  • 88.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 44 - Cantatas Bwv 140, 143-145
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92044 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Andreas Schmidt,  Constanza Cuccaro,  Helen Watts  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn,  Frankfurt Kantorei  ... 
    CD: $17.99
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  • 89.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 45 - Cantatas Bwv 146-147 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92045 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Arleen Augér,  Helen Watts,  Kurt Equiluz,  Wolfgang Schöne  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Frankfurt Kantorei,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium
    CD: $17.99
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  • 90.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 46 - Cantatas Bwv 148-151 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92046 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Nobuko Yamamoto,  Hildegard Laurich,  Adalbert Kraus,  Hanns-Friedrich Kunz  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Frankfurt Kantorei,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD: $17.99
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  • 91.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 49 - Cantatas Bwv 161-164 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92049 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Helen Watts,  Arleen Augér,  Niklaus Tüller  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Frankfurt Kantorei
    CD: $17.99
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  • 92.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 49 - Cantatas Bwv 161-164 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92049 Release Date: 06/27/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Hildegard Laurich,  Wolfgang Schöne,  Kurt Equiluz  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Frankfurt Kantorei,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
    CD not available
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    MP3:  $9.99 Add MP3 to Cart

  • 93.
    Bach - Musica Sacra: The 4 Missa Breves, Etc
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 466754 Release Date: 06/01/2000   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Werner Krenn,  Tom Krause,  Elly Ameling  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Richard Hickox
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Richard Hickox Singers,  Richard Hickox Orchestra
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  • 94.
    Haydn: Lord Nelson Mass / Willcocks, King's College Choir
    Label: London/Decca Legends   Catalog: 458623 Release Date: 03/14/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Performer:  John Langdon,  Thurston Dart,  Dame Janet Baker,  Elizabeth Vaughan  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir,  English Chamber Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $12.99
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  • 95.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 37 - Cantatas Bwv 115-117 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92037 Release Date: 02/29/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Mechthild Georg,  Adalbert Kraus,  Andreas Schmidt,  Philippe Huttenlocher  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium
    CD: $17.99
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  • 96.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 37 - Cantatas Bwv 115-117 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92037 Release Date: 02/29/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Arleen Augér,  Helen Watts,  Wolfgang Schöne,  Lutz-Michael Harder  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
    CD not available
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  • 97.
    Mahler: Symphony No 2
    Label: Vox Da Capo   Catalog: 7213 Release Date: 02/29/2000   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  Felicity Lott,  Helen Watts
    Conductor:  Harold Farberman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Brighton Festival Chorus,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $11.99
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  • 98.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 27 - Cantatas Bwv 83-86 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92027 Release Date: 10/19/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Helen Watts,  Walter Heldwein,  Arleen Augér  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
    CD: $17.99
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  • 99.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 27 - Cantatas Bwv 83-86 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92027 Release Date: 10/19/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Adalbert Kraus,  Walter Heldwein,  Arleen Augér  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
    CD not available
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  • 100.
    Edition Bachakademie Vol 28 - Cantatas Bwv 87-90 / Rilling
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 92028 Release Date: 10/19/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adalbert Kraus,  Helen Watts,  Siegmund Nimsgern,  Arleen Augér  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Stuttgart Gedächtniskirche Figuralchor
    CD: $17.99
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