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Greatest Opera Singers
Sunday, July 31, 2016
William Samuell (Baritone) (Swansea 1885 – 1916)
He studied singing under Frederick King and made
his debut in 1911 as Dapertutto in ‘’Contes d'Hoffmann’’ (Offenbach).
William Samuel! (1885-1916), a Swansea baritone
with a fine technique, won favourable notice in all three operas. A suspicion
of overacting disappeared when he assumed the title-role in Rigoletto, a part
he had essayed in Australia after joining Quinlan in 1911. In 1914 Henry
Russell, director of the Boston Opera Company, gave him a contract; but war saw
the demise of both company and singer, Samuell dying suddenly from typhoid in
early 1916. His London Rigoletto was as warmly received as that in Australia.
World's critic thought the inclusion of this opera a bold experiment, since it
was usually thought dependent 'on a strong star cast' (11 May 1915). But star
opera, foregrounding singer rather than character, was in abeyance during the
war, and the result was largely gain. Samuell shaded raw vitality with
tenderness, catching the softer side of the character as well as 'the stress
and agony of his tortured soul'. In projecting the tragedy of an abused father
he excited comparison with the celebrated Battistini by his vibrant singing and
'rare command of tone-colour'.'' But there was no question of imitation.
Frederic King, who had taught Samuel! at the Royal Academy of Music, and had
the advantage over him of having seen 'the greatest Italian exponents of the
part', found the 'old Italian tricks and traditions ... swept aside' in favour
of a brilliant display of singing acting.
British Theatre in the Great War: A Revaluation: Gordon Williams