Morris has become the most noted Wotan of the turn of the century, known for his acting as well as a musical approach that emphasizes the legato, even lyrical parts of the role. His voice has a strong upper extension that allows him to tackle such baritone roles and Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca and Mozart's Don Giovanni to critical acclaim.
Appropriately enough, his two main teachers were a baritone and a bass. Morris, a native of
Baltimore, first studied with Forrest Barrett, and then won the first voice scholarship that the University of Maryland offered. However, at the advice of his mentor (and distant in-law), Rosa Ponselle, who recognized his potential but did not think that she herself would be the best teacher for him, he instead enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory, and continued his studies with Frank Valentino there. After some time there, he continued his studies at the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts with Nicola Moscona.
He first performed on stage with the Baltimore Civic Opera Company, and advanced in 1967 to the Baltimore Opera, making his debut there as Crespel in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann. In 1970, he had his first Metropolitan Opera audition, though he turned down the subsequent offer to join their Opera Studio. Moscona, who himself had had a long Met career, persuaded the management to re-audition Morris for the regular company, and this time he was offered a contract for 1971, and he made his debut as the King in Verdi's Aida. He made his Glyndebourne Festival debut as Banquo in Verdi's Macbeth.
In 1976, again at the Baltimore Opera, he created the role of King Alfonso in Pasatieri's Ines de Castro. He began to study Wagnerian roles, first Wotan in Die Walküre and the Dutchman, and made his Vienna State Opera debut as Wotan in 1984. In 1985, he took on the role of Wotan for the entire Ring cycle in San Francisco, to great acclaim, and followed that success in many other productions worldwide.
He recorded the complete Ring cycle with James Levine on DG (445 354), and an aria recital disc on EMI (49287) gives selections from Verdi as well as two selections from The Flying Dutchman and Die Walküre. Read less
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