mon 24/06/2019

Alberto Remedios: 'his natural instrument obeyed his inner thoughts with ease' | reviews, news & interviews

Alberto Remedios: 'his natural instrument obeyed his inner thoughts with ease'

Alberto Remedios: 'his natural instrument obeyed his inner thoughts with ease'

A great Isolde remembers a great Tristan, who has died aged 81

Alberto Remedios as Siegfried with Noel Mangin as Hagen in Seattle Opera's 1978 RingChris Bennion

When I sang Isolde to Alberto’s Tristan at English National Opera all those years ago, it was a joy to hear such wonderful tenor sounds in my ears, my heart and my soul. It was always difficult for him to memorise his work and up until the first night I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. Yet when we went into that other place of performing he became Tristan and we travelled, on the waves of his beautiful sounds, to places I have seldom been.

He was a very experienced singer who had sung with many great sopranos but I always got the feeling he was enjoying his time with me as much as any other. His ability to share a monastic love, huge laughter and sometimes despair was I think because of his great humility about his own singing. He really didn’t think of himself as the great singing artist he was. He was just a man doing a day’s work [Remedios started his working life as a docker in his native Liverpool], making friends along the way. Of course, not everyone understood his simplicity, and he was often hurt.

Alberto Remedios as LohengrinAlberto had an intangible gift of bringing himself and his up-until-that-moment unexpressed thoughts to the music without a great hoo-ha because he had a natural instrument which obeyed his inner thoughts with ease. He was a real person, not afraid of revealing himself warts and all. Reginald Goodall was one of the early conductors to give this non-intellectual singer time and space in the sometimes over-intellectualised world of Wagner, and the Wagnerian world of his generation in Britain was a better place because of this (pictured right: Remedios as Lohengrin studying the score before a performance).

He was also brave, because singers are not always on top vocal form and should sometimes cancel because of health reasons but in the Heldentenor repertoire there is seldom a suitable understudy to jump in. I have seen fear in Alberto’s eyes, as the performance started, change to joy when he made it to the end of the show without letting anyone down.

Long serious shows are where laughter at the smallest mishap is most prevalent and we shared many such moments. A lot of the mistakes were mine, which he instantly forgave, but the one I remember most was when we sat down for the long famous duet which is later echoed in the Liebestod and he whispered to me, "What’s next?" I smiled back because I thought he was having a quiet joke with me but when he asked again I told him the words. He replied, "I’ve forgotten the tune," which was by then upon us. I was never quite sure if in fact it had been a joke, because he remembered the duet perfectly as we sang his line together. The mistake, if it had been one, looked like mine. Laughter could be heard from our dressing-rooms long after the audience had gone home.

I think of that happy laughter and his wonderful singing, and send him love for his final journey.

Alberto Remedios, born 27 February 1935; died 11 June 2016

Next page: a complete radio broadast of the 1981 ENO Tristan and Isolde with Alberto Remedios, Linda Esther Gray and Reginald Goodall conducting on YouTube

Complete 1981 ENO Tristan and Isolde conducted by Reginald Goodall


Good to hear from you, Linda, albeit in such sad circumstances as Alberto's death. Fond memories also of your (all too brief) career. Those were good times. The ROH seemed dead set against British talent, but ENO and WNO provided a splendid platform for your formidable talent.

A fitting tribute to one of the greatest and most popular singers. I heard Alberto Remedios dozens of times as Walther, Siegmund, Siegfried and Tristan, as well as Florestan, Bacchus and many other roles, and he always delivered the goods. I would like to add an anecdote about his willingness to sing even when health considerations suggested he might be better not to. For the last run of ENO's Ring in 1977 (conducted, not very well, by Charles Groves), Remedios was slated to sing Siegmund with Kenneth Woollam as Siegfried. On the Tuesday of the cycle I attended he did indeed sing Siegmund, wonderfully, despite apologising for a heavy cold, which was barely noticeable. On the Thursday, the announcer told us that Woollam was unwell and that Remedios would therefore sing Siegfried, even though he was still suffering from the cold that had afflicted him on Tuesday. The cheers that greeted him 5 hours or more later told their own story. On the Saturday, for Gotterdammerung, Woollam was still unwell so, the announcer told us, Remedios would again sing Siegfried, even though ... but the rest of his announcement was drowned by the cheers and laughter of a delighted audience.

I was also there for that cycle and recall the stage announcements - and his marvellous performances - well. Minor detail correction: that was 1979, rather than 1977. Goodall conducted in 1977. I remember that well, because it was my first Ring and they used the performances to record Twilight and thus complete the recording of the cycle.


Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters