How a Wagner hero handled London’s opera snobs

Here’s a fond memory of the dockworker-turned-heldentenor Alberto Remedios by Bill Leece, former music critic of the Liverpool Echo:

My colleague David Utting in the London office of the Liverpool Echo interviewed Alberto once in the run-up to Tristan at the Coliseum. The interview went very well – he was a friendly chap who held the Echo in high regard – and after he formal part was over, Alberto asked David if he was coming to the first night a few days later. Alas, no.

The grandees of English National Opera regarded the Echo as somewhat beneath them, and David was on too tight a budget to buy his own. “Hang on a minute.” He picked up the internal phone to the press office and cranked up the Scouse accent a couple of notches. “It’s Alberto here. If the Liverpool Echo doesn’t get press tickets for next Thursday, I’m not f***ing singing. OK?” The tickets were waiting at the door, and from then the end of the Echo’s London operation they remained on the door for every first night.”
alberto remedios

Alberto died on Saturday, aged 81.

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  • Of course, both Remedios and Rita Hunter were Scousers – no wonder it was the greatest ever British Ring cycle!

    • I believe they both studied with Edwin/Ted Francis in Liverpool who, I’ve a very vague feeling, had Marchesi connections. Does anyone know anything about him?
      I heard them in the famous Colisseum Ring in the early 70s and they were excellent. Remedios had a pure, ringing and steady voice with one shortcoming: top A was its natural limit and I think this is why he was wary of Verdi. I did hear him in Berlioz’s Faust which was way too high for him.

  • Heard of Marchesi as I have his book, but not Ted Francis. But that doesn’t matter. They got well trained regardless, and on their northern English pronunciation. I’m a Londoner but am aware of the London, and mainly west London, snobbery. How unfortunate, as someone once said to me when I said aI was an east ender. But the east has the inverted variety. Janet Baker was from Yorkshire and home of the wonderful Opera North, where I now live, and Alfred Hodgson was from Lancashire. So may from the north, which is frowned upon by the London chattering classes, were good singers.

    • “But the east has the inverted variety.”

      So does the North, believe me.

      The long list of top northern opera singers implies that wicked London snobbery is not a huge obstacle. I’m going to risk life and limb and suggest that Billy Elliot syndrome is probably a bigger one, having encountered the attitudes on many occasions. That can apply equally to the East End, of course.

  • Just home from tonight’s Tristan at ENO. No reference to his passing and certainly no
    tribute – either from the stage or in the programme book. Rather poor I thought – especially for someone who gave so much to the company over so many years

      • I was also there on 15th June and also noted the lack of any appreciation. Frankly, posting a note on the website is not the same as making an announcement from the stage, or putting a note in the programme book. You could even have put up a poster in the foyer which would not have cost much.

  • Many obits have rightly mentioned his Siegfried and Walther . For those lucky enough to be there his singing of Act 3 of Tristan at ENO was absolutely unforgettable.

  • As a lad from ‘the one eyed city’, Birkenhead, Alberto was unfailingly kind and encouraging to me. It was an honour to have known him and heard him. Go ‘ead Laa and join the heavenly choir! Kimx.

  • Alberto Remedios was a wonderful man and gave me a great interview in his dressing room at the Colisseum, 34 years ago. (He wanted to talk at least as much about the Liverpool football team as Tristan or Wagner.) However, the story about the Liverpool Echo being refused complimentary tickets is apocryphal. I talked to Alberto mid-run and never saw the production.

  • Yes, there hasn’t been nearly enough said about my brother’s death. Nothing on the news, shame on you BBC. Edwin Francis was my Godfather, he taught the Bellcanto method.

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