Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

May 18, 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


HMV, London 1915-09-10
Hérodiade (Massenet): Divine volupté... Vision fugitive 2-032019 Ho1036ac

1 comment:

  1. I know that record! It includes a bit of the introductory recitative, beginning at 'Divine volupté'. Samuell's French is peculiar, as is the completely inauthentic trumpet obbligato, but the singer's splendid voice and fine command of light and shade are well exemplified here.