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WILLARD WHITE was born in Jamaica, where he commenced his musical training at the Jamaican School of Music and then went on to the Juilliard School in New York. Since making his debut with the New York City Opera he has sung regularly at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Metropolitan Opera, New York; English National Opera; the opera houses of San Francisco, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Madrid, and Paris; and at the Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence, and Salzburg Festivals. White’s huge repertoire includes bass-baritone roles in operas by John Adams, Bartók, Monteverdi, Handel, Henze, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Debussy, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Messiaen, and Gershwin.
White’s performances include Golaud / Pelléas and Mélisande and Tchélio / The Love for Three Oranges in Amsterdam and San Francisco, where he also sang the title-role in Messiaen’s St. François d’Assise and Nekrotzar in Le Grand Macabre, a role he also performed last season at the Teatro dell’opera, Rome and at the Salzburg Festival; Mephistopheles / Faust, Marke / Tristan und Isolde, Bluebeard / Bluebeard’s Castle, and Barbe-Bleue / Ariane et Barbe-Bleue at the Bastille; the Peter Sellars productions of The Rake’s Progress (Nick Shadow), Oedipus rex, and John Adams’ El Niño at the Châtelet. With English National Opera his roles have included the title-role in Stein Winge’s production of The Flying Dutchman, Kutuzov / War and Peace, Khovansky / Khovanshchina and Mephistopheles / La damnation de Faust, which he has also sung in Geneva, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, in Tokyo, at the Gulbenkian in Lisbon, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and in Toulouse. At the Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Easter Festivals Willard White sang Wotan / Wanderer in the new production of the Ring cycle with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He also sang Bluebeard’s Castle with the Orchestre d’Ile de France, at the Liceu, Barcelona, and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at the Barbican; the title-role in Boris Godunov for Welsh National Opera; and El Niño with the San Francisco Symphony, the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester in Berlin under Kent Nagano, and in Los Angeles, New York, and London. At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, his many roles have included Klingsor / Parsifal, Bluebeard / Bluebeard’s Castle, the Four Villains / Les contes d’Hoffmann, Fotis / The Greek Passion, and Timur / Turandot. At the Metropolitan Opera, New York, his roles have included Golaud / Pelléas et Mélisande, Ferrando / Il trovatore, Water-Sprite / Rusalka, and Gorianchikov / From the House of the Dead.
Willard White is much in demand for concerts and recitals throughout Europe, the U.S. and in the Far East. He sings regularly with the world’s major conductors and orchestras, including the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony, the Hallé, the Royal Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, La Scala, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Cleveland Orchestra, and he has appeared as soloist many times at the BBC Proms, including the First and Last Night of the Proms and at the Proms in the Park. His concert program Robeson Re-Explored, performed with a small group of versatile musicians and string quartet, follows upon the huge success of the first program, An Evening with Willard White – a tribute to Paul Robeson, which was performed at Festivals throughout the U.K., in the U.S., in Porto, and in Reykjavik; shown on BBC television; and issued on CD. His CD My Way was released on the Sony label and his latest CD, Bluebeard’s Castle with the London Symphony Orchestra under Gergiev, has been released on the LSO Live label.
Recent engagements include the title-role in Henze’s El Cimarron with the Royal Danish Opera; Gorianchikov / From the House of the Dead at La Scala, Milan under Daniel Harding; and Ned in a new production of Treemonisha at the Chatelet, Paris. He was Artist of the Month in St. Petersburg, where he gave a recital and sang Mephistopheles / La damnation de Faust and Marke / Tristan und Isolde Act II under Gergiev. Engagements in the 2010/11 season include Joseph / El Niño in the opening concert at the Edinburgh International Festival; Trinity Moses in the new production of Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Teatro Real, Madrid; Bluebeard’s Castle with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen; Arkel / Pelléas et Mélisande at the Metropolitan Opera, New York; La damnation de Faust in Hilversum under Charles Dutoit; Don Fernando / Fidelio at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; and Bottom in the new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with English National Opera, as well as concerts and recitals across Europe, including performances of his concert program Robeson Re-Explored.
Willard White was awarded the CBE in 1995 and he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honors in 2004.