News from afar of a British tenor’s passing

News from afar of a British tenor’s passing


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2013

We have received belated word of the death of Ken Collins, in Lavender Bay, Australia, on July 26. He was 81.

Ken was one of the adornments of Welsh and British opera in the 1970s and 1980s, a splendid spinto who never gave less than his best.

Here’s an appreciation by WNO’s David Pountney:

We learned only this week about the death on July 26th, aged 81, in Lavender Bay, Australia, of the splendid tenor Ken Collins. Ken made an enormous contribution to WNO in the 1970s as a ringing, vigorous spinto tenor, perfect for the heroic roles in Manon Lescaut, Il trovatore, I masnadieri, Ernani and Andrea Chénier. These raw, energetic Verdi and verismo operas were the backbone of WNO’s repertoire at the time, and the company was fortunate to have the services of a tenor who had the perfect, clarion, ringing instrument to deliver these roles with his signature sincerity, passion and vibrant physical and vocal energy. I saw many of these performances, and Ken is part of my fond memories of WNO in an era when I was seeing many of these operas for the first time.

We salute Ken for his important role in WNO’s history, and send our condolences to his children, Ian, Paul, Adam and Kim. Please accept this belated tribute from a grateful company.


ken collins


  • Niall Hoskin says:

    In the late 1970s I heard Ken sing ‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘E lucevan le stelle’ in a charity concert for Opera North at Leeds Grand Thetare- it was the most exciting, visceral singing I had witnessed. Woefully under-recorded, though his Manrico for Australian Opera is tremendous.

  • Tully Potter says:

    Collins can be heard in the famous BBC recording of the original version of La forza del destino, issued on CD by Opera Rara. As I recall, he was partly Italian-trained. He was certainly an excellent Verdi tenor.

  • Nigel Harris says:

    Indeed. I was first ‘converted’ to Verdi by his singing (and that of other members of a memorable cast – Thomas Allen, Suzanne Murphy, Stafford Dean) in a WNO ‘Don Carlos’ or (I think) 1978, conducted by Richard Armstrong. He had a magnificent, to my ears totally Italianate voice – and seemed just to love singing.

  • timwalton3 says:

    I heard Kenneth 10 times, the last of which was at ENO in Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani on 9.5.1984. A Strange & sad co-incidence that this same opera is about to start at the ROH.

  • Screenname says:

    Sad news. We in the antipodes were the great beneficiaries of his time down under. If you’ve never been can I tell you Lavender Bay is a gorgeous little bay just over the bridge and I can think of no more lovely a place to leave this earth, nor come to it, my father born there at the beginning of last century. I will take a few memories with me when my Lavender Bay turn comes not the least the memory of one of the most thrilling nights ever – his Calaf to Rita Hunter’s tile cracking Turandot with Joan Carden’s Lui, Cillario and the SSO. Very sad news.

  • Mark Burrows says:

    Mr Collins was a great man with a great voice
    R.I.P. Sir x