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Biography

M.A. Oxon (English language and literature)
Member: AEFMAT (Belgian Association of Teachers of the Alexander Technique)

After graduating from Oxford university, I opted for singing, and immediately began a career that very soon took off at an international level. My debut at the English National Opera (Leporello) was followed by four seasons as bass soloist at Covent Garden. At my Paris Opera debut in 1977 I sang Masetto (Don Giovanni), the role I subsequently played in the celebrated film directed by Joseph Losey. I then went on to sing major roles throughout Europe, including Figaro in Paris, Arkel in Madrid, Leporello in Monte Carlo, Mannheim and Glyndebourne, for whom I also sang Caspar (Der Freischütz) and La Roche (Capriccio). I sang the protagonist’s role in La Pietra del Paragone (Rossini) for La Scala and was invited to sing Leporello for the Metropolitan Opera. For the BBC, I recorded operas by Verdi, Rimski-Korsakov, Handel and Vaughan Williams and sang regularly at their promenade concerts. I also performed at festivals such as Edinburgh (Haydn, L'anima del Filosofo, aged 23, a small part, but with Sutherland and Gedda), Madrid (Colline and Arkel), Aldeburgh (René, Iolanta, Tchaikovsky), Aix-en-Provence (Leporello) and Santa Fé (Figaro in Le Nozze).

At the same time I developed my concert career, lucky enough to sing with the most distinguished conductors. I worked frequently under Sir Georg Solti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as in Europe, a highlight being a Beethoven Ninth Symphony in Florence, “In memoriam Italo Calvino”. Particularly attracted by the Russian repertoire, I have worked with Rostropovitch, Rozhdezvenski, Osawa, Eötvös, Cambreling, Howarth, Foster and Rattle in works by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Shostakovich, notably the latter’s 13th and 14th Symphonies, with which I have a special affinity.

From 1980, while fully continuing my operatic career, I started to put into practice my parallel passion for the teaching of singing. I had been extremely fortunate in my own teachers, renowned guardians of the old Italian tradition of vocal technique: E. Herbert Caesari (1884-1969), Luigi Ricci (1893-1981) and Otakar Kraus, pupil of the great tenor and pedagogue Fernando Carpi (1879-1959). The pedigree of these three masters goes back by uninterrupted transmission to the belcanto of the early 19th century. Having been the recipient of such precious knowledge, now almost forgotten or poorly understood, I started teaching, aware of the importance of keeping alive the precepts that had sustained the great era of Italian opera.

In 1988, Gérard Mortier engaged me as singing professor and musical advisor at the Monnaie theatre, Brussels, where I stayed for eight years, limiting my singing activities to that theatre. Notable roles were Leporello in K-E Hermann's celebrated production of Don Giovanni, Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra), Seneca (L’incoronazione di Poppea) directed by Luc Bondy, Assur (Semiramide) with Monserrat Caballé, Pimen (Boris Godunov) and the Doctor in Wozzeck. For the Brussels edition of l'Incoronazione I also revised the libretto from the original manuscripts. 

In 1991, having benefited greatly during my career from the practice of the Alexander Technique - a method of neuromuscular and sensory re-education, (see Alexander Technique pages) - I trained to teach the Technique, qualifying in 1994. Since then I have incorporated this inestimable tool into my singing-teaching practice, as well as taking other pupils. I have given masterclasses in Italy, France and Belgium for instrumentalists and singers alike, as well as for the general public.  I am especially conscious of the origins of the Technique, which, in the words of Walter Carrington, Alexander's chief assistant for for many years, "was all about breathing. You went to him to sort out your breathing."

I have been teaching singing full-time since 1996. My years at the Monnaie Theatre earned me an international reputation in this field, and I later spent twelve years in Paris, where I acquired an increased number of pupils from throughout Europe, as well as the United States and the Far East. Among my pupils there are several who are now to be heard in the great opera houses of the world: La Scala, Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Opéra de Paris, Vienna, Hamburg, Berlin etc.

I have been living and teaching in Brussels since 2017.