Simon Keenlyside



 Simon Keenlyside (born August 3, 1959, London, England), is a British baritone opera singer. He is the son of Raymond and Ann Keenlyside. His father played second violin in the Aeolian Quartet, and his grandfather was also a professional violinist. Keenlyside has said: "Where other children would have nursery rhymes, I’d go to bed to the sounds of Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert." As a child, Keenlyside was a chorister under Dr George Guest in the choir of St John's College, Cambridge.

Keenlyside read zoology at Cambridge University, returning to St John's as a choral scholar, before studying singing at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. After graduation, he won a Peter Moore Foundation Scholarship (1985) and chose to join the Royal Northern College of Music to study voice with John Cameron, who opened up the world of German Lieder to him. He says "I wanted to learn to sing, and earning money at that point would have been, I'm sure, detrimental to learning how to sing". “…when I was in my mid-twenties my voice wasn’t ready for opera. John was rightly concerned that I should not force my natural vocal weight, like some singers do – a Faustian pact you pay for later with wobble and nodules.”


Keenlyside made his first appearance in a major operatic role in 1987 as Lescaut in Manon Lescaut. Opera magazine remarked on it being an “astonishingly mature” performance, and that he “used his warm and clear baritone with notable musicianship”. At this time he realized that singing Lieder on the music club circuit was never going to be a living.

His professional debut as a baritone was in 1987 (not 1988, as is usually stated) at the Hamburg Staatsoper where he sang Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.

In 1989, Keenlyside joined the roster of Scottish Opera, where he stayed until 1994, performing as, among other roles, Marcello (La Boheme), Danilo (The Merry Widow), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Figaro (Barber of Seville), Billy Budd (Billy Budd), Papageno (Zauberflöte) and Belcore (L'elisir d'amore). “It was fantastic training for me, couldn’t have been better”.

During this period, he made debut performances at The Royal Opera House, (1989 singing Silvio), English National Opera (Guglielmo), Welsh National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Geneva, Paris, and Sydney. In an interview with The Scotsman, he says that he learned his trade over five years in leading roles in Scotland, and he feels a "huge debt of gratitude" to the company. He sang for Glyndebourne for the first time in 1993 and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1996.

Keenlyside has performed at virtually all the major opera houses in the world, including the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Paris Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

His recordings include several issues for Hyperion Records, including music of Benjamin Britten, Emmanuel Chabrier, Maurice Duruflé and Henry Purcell. He is also a featured singer on five volumes of the Hyperion Franz Schubert Edition and on the second volume of the Hyperion Robert Schumann Edition.

In 2004, Keenlyside sang the role of Prospero in the world premiere performances of Thomas Adès' The Tempest. He is scheduled to participate in the planned EMI Classics recording of the opera.

Keenlyside is married to the Royal Ballet dancer Zenaida Yanowsky. His hobbies include running. Whilst at Royal Northern College of Music, he joined the Sale Harriers.

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