Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Theodor Uppman

Happy Birthday, Theodor Uppman

Today would have been Theodor Uppman's 91st birthday. The man who created the role in Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" died in 2005 at the age of 85.

Although he had an amazing career in opera, he will always be remembered as Billy Budd. The music critic Alan Blyth said of his portrayal, "I recall how fresh and spontaneous an interpreter he proved to be. His looks and mellow, yet virile, tone, allied to a seemingly natural gift for portraying a strong, yet still boyish sailor, were unforgettable attributes, and he made his solo, when condemned to death, as eloquent as it should be."

At the opening night performance of Billy Budd, the cast along with Benjamin Britten received seventeen curtain calls. 

The California native studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and made his stage debut i1947 at the San Francisco Opera opposite the great Maggie Teyte in Debussy's  Pelléas et Mélisande." He continued to perform into the 1980s when he took up teaching and coaching. One of the singers who he coached was Simon Keenlyside, another great Billy Budd.

Uppman excelled as a recitalist, as a Britten specialist and in lighter operatic fare, especially Mozart,

In his later years he became a professor of voice, teaching at both Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of music, from 1988 unti his death.
Here is a clip of him singing "O Mimi, tu piu non torni" from La Boheme with the great tenor Franco Corelli.

Duncan Rock: The next great Billy Budd?
As a special tribute to Uppman, here is the barihunk Duncan Rock singing Billy's famous aria. He would  have loved to have seen this role passed on to such a gifted and equally expressive performer.

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