Great British bass dies in America

Great British bass dies in America


norman lebrecht

September 16, 2021

We have been notified of the death of the great Wagnerian Norman Bailey, a heroic Wotan in Reginald Goodall’s London Ring cycle and the Dutchman in Solti’s Chicago recording.

He was 88 and had become a US citizen, settling in Idaho.

Norman received a CBE in 1977. Many think he deserved a knighthood.

He was a massive figure in British opera.

His wife, the international soprano Kristine Ciesinski, predeceased him in a flying accident three years ago.


  • Paul Dawson says:

    RIP. He was a magnificent Wotan. There was a legend back in his day that knighthoods and damehoods did not go to those who made their names at SWO/ENO. Goodall eventually got his in 1985, but it was long overdue. Hunter and Remedios (IMHO almost as deserving as Bailey) were also kept down to CBEs.

    • Pamela Foulkes says:

      Dear Paul,
      I agree with you. I was a Stage Manager on the Goodall Ring, a highlight of my career in the theatre, and also worked with Norman Bailey and Rita Hunter on many other productions. Such wonderful artists, of whom I have very fond memories.

      • Paul Dawson says:

        I’m just back from a Trovatore in LA. I felt Guanqun Yu was a little underpowered as Leonora. Perhaps my view was coloured by my first Leonora being Rita Hunter, who was anything but underpowered. That was (IMHO) an underrated ENO production. Another dearly departed ENO stawart – Katherine Pring – made a superb Azucena.

  • PaulD says:

    The first professional opera I went to was Die Meistersinger, in Los Angeles, in 1975. Mr. Bailey sang Sachs with the New York City Opera. That was an evening I won’t forget.

  • Siegfried says:

    Norman Bailey was one of the greatest. A generation of musicians and audience members were introduced and drawn to Wagner by Reginald Goodall at ENO/SWO. That success was founded on the company led by Norman Bailey, Rita Hunter, Alberto Remedios, Derek Hammond-Stroud and many more. Norman Bailey’s performances as Wotan simply shone out. Arguably, though, his portrayal of Hans Sachs was even greater. We have been fortunate in the UK in the last fifty years to have had several outstanding singers of the role but I am not sure that any, fine as they have been, have been able to match the humanity Bailey brought to the role. Those of us who were privileged to see him in a variety of roles were unbelievably lucky. A life well lived and a life which gave so much to opera and music. RIP

  • Novagerio says:

    He was also the Dutchman and Hans Sachs for Solti on Decca – auf Deutsch. R.I.P.

  • mel says:

    Sigh. Idaho is one of the hardest hit Covid states right now. Even if his passing was not Covid-related, it has hampered healthcare (including critical care) severely where many hospitals have reduced levels of care. Tragic.

    • Brian says:

      What an appalling comment. The man was 88 years old, well beyond the life expectancy of a man in the US. To even imply, with no evidence, that COVID is responsible in some way, either directly or indirectly, is completely inappropriate. It’s enough example of trying to use someone’s personal tragedy to advance a political agenda.

      • Rual the Worthy says:

        Idaho hospitals are so swamped with Covid cases that they are turning away many patients that would normally be admitted. l live in a neighboring state and our hospitals are jammed with Idahoans. If Mr. Bailey died of anything that would normally require immediate hospitalization his death may well be attributable to Covid.
        You are the one that is “politicizing ” this pandemic. And I find it horrific that you feel you can decide when someone has lived long enough, based on statistical life expectancy.

  • Pamela Foulkes says:

    Very sad to hear the news of the death of Norman Bailey. I worked with him at the ENO in the 1970’s, including the Ring Cycle. A wonderful artist and a lovely man. RIP

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    So many memorable Wagner evenings with him, Rita Hunter, and Alberto Remedios to look back on. All, now re-united in Valhalla. May he RIP.

  • CRogers says:

    Very sad to hear that NB has died. I heard him as The Dutchman and Hans Sachs. He had a powerful presence on the stage and I well remember his entrance as The Dutchman which made my hair stand on end! I also had an album of various songs-sea songs, and other popular pieces which I played over and over. Great memories. Thank you NB for all the musical joy you brought me.

  • erich says:

    The greatest Sachs I ever heard and his other roles were also never less than top class. Rest in peace.

  • Jean Collen says:

    I am very sorry to hear of the death of Norman Bailey. I sang in the chorus of “Nabucco” for PACT in Johannesburg in 1965 when Norman Bailey played the role of Nabucco. May he rest in peace.

  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    Many will remember Norman Bailey for his Wagner and Verdi roles. I first came across him on record. The piece was Peter Grimes, conducted by Sir Colin Davis with the ROHCG forces. Bailey’s was Balstrode excellent. RIP.

  • Joel Kemelhor says:

    Norman Bailey also recorded the title role in the Tippett opera KING PRIAM, for Decca/London.

  • John Freere Perry says:

    He was a real Tour de Force, a tremendous singer & singing teacher. R.I.P. Norman.

  • Andrew Short says:

    He sang a fine Sharpless for Scottish Opera. After his Covent Garden debut (I was not there) a review (probably The Times) began “There was an English cobbler among the German meisters….”. I took that to mean that he sang in English but, given his previous experience, I may have been wrong about that.