Classical preview: Baritone’s perfectly-pitched approach to the song book

INTERVIEWING Roderick Williams before his Opera North debut fifteen years ago, he expressed the hope that he could build a career on both the opera stage and in the concert hall.

It was a nervous time as it also marked his first major operatic engagement at a time when he was already turned thirty, his singing studies having been tailored to meet his spare time as a school music teacher.

It proved a critically acclaimed success, leading to further engagements with the company and with Scottish Opera. There soon followed his first appearance at London’s Royal Opera House in Puccini’s La Boheme.

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At that time recitals might have been well down his list of aspirations, but he was to become the UK’s leading baritone in the world of song, his many recordings of the British repertoire placing him right at the top of the “must have” list of our major concert promoters. As a foretaste of his appearance at London’s Wigmore Hall, he returns to Leeds as part of Opera North’s Winter Season at the Howard Assembly Room. Opening with a selection of love songs by Hugo Wolf and excerpts from Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn, there is a total change of mood for Schumann’s setting of words by Justinus Kerner. The poet fascinated the composer in his younger years, their brooding and melancholic nature suited to his own self-inflicted depressions.

Two weeks later Williams sings more Mahler at Sheffield’s City Hall, with a performance of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen as part of the Halle Orchestra’s programme that also contains Elgar’s First Symphony. Mark Elder conducts.

n Howard Assembly Room, Grand Theatre, Leeds, Mar 4, 7.30pm. 0844 8482727. Sheffield City Hall, Mar 18, 7pm. 0114 2789789.