A Consummate Master
Philip and I first met in 1969 when we were both with Ibbs and Tillett. He joined Allied Artists in 1974 and it has been my privilege and pleasure to work with him from then. One of our first tasks was to draw up an opera repertoire list to see what he might tackle in future. Philip was of course a consummate master of knowing which roles would best suit his voice and any given moment in his career. It is a rare skill and one which enabled him to maintain his position at the top of his profession for so many years. The roles in question are of course legendary and Philip’s interpretations have taken their place in operatic history – the major Britten parts, Loge, Shuisky, Laca, Aron, Idomeneo and the numerous contemporary works which he premiered.
There were other treats too – Barbe Bleu at Grange Park (directed by his son Stephen) where he gallantly roamed the stage looking very much like Noel Coward, and most recently a witch in Hansel und Gretel at the Met which he performed with such relish. Some fascinating rarities which I remember vividly were Aeneas in Les Troyens for the ABC in Sydney conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, Florestan for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, a role which was mainly associated at the time with heavier voices but Philip reminded us that his lighter more agile tones were equally well suited to such parts, recalling the great Julias Patzak. Most unusual of all was his interpretation of the Duke in Rigoletto at Frankfurt Opera with Michael Gielen and directed by Ruth Berghaus, a role he sang only once!
I am grateful to have had the good fortune to experience Philip’s unique, varied musical and dramatic qualities both on the stage and on the concert platform.