Don Garrard | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Don Garrard

Don (Donald) Garrard. Bass, born Vancouver 31 Jul 1929; died Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 Sept 2011.

Don Garrard

Don (Donald) Garrard. Bass, born Vancouver 31 Jul 1929; died Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 Sept 2011. He was a voice pupil of Glyndwr Jones in Vancouver and a semi-finalist in the CBC's "Singing Stars of Tomorrow" when his interest in a career as a singer was strongly encouraged at a 1951 summer workshop with Lotte Lehman and John Charles Thomas in Santa Barbara, California. The following year (February 22) he made his COC debut as the Speaker in The Magic Flute and won a leading role in the premiere of Dolores Claman'sTimber!! at Vancouver's Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). He undertook a sustained course of study 1952-7 at the Royal Conservatory Opera School (University of Toronto Opera Division) with George Lambert, Nicholas Goldschmidt, and others, including studying abroad with Luigi Borgonovo and George Cunelli. On 14 May 1953 for the CBC he sang the title role in the first full-length TV production of Don Giovanni (this also was the first production of any complete opera on TV in North America). He won the 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' in 1953 and "Nos Futures Étoiles" in 1954 and continued to appear with the COC, as Don Giovanni (1956, 1963), Billy Bigelow in Carousel (1957), The King of Nowhere in The Love of Three Oranges (1959), Ramfis in Aida (1963, 1972), Padre Guardiano in La Forza del Destino (1969), Méphisto in Faust (1970), Hunding in Die Walküre (1971), Boris Godunov (1974), Daland in The Flying Dutchman (1981), Banquo in Macbeth (1986), and the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos (1988). He also sang the title role in Handel's Solomon in a 1972 performance by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) at Massey Hall, Toronto.

Garrard joined Sadler's Wells as principal bass in 1961, enjoying great personal success as Thomas Becket in Pizzetti's Murder in the Cathedral (1962), as Sarastro in The Magic Flute, as Ferrando in The Thieving Magpie, as Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and as Méphisto in Faust. In 1963 he sang the Dallapiccola premiere as Riviere in Night Flight for Scottish Opera. He made his debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in 1970 as Ferrando in Il Trovatore. He has appeared also at the Aldeburgh Festival (as the Abbot in the premiere of Britten's Curlew River in 1964), at the Glyndebourne Festival (in 1965 as Rochefort in Anna Bolena and in 1966 in Handel's Jephtha), at the Hamburg State Opera (1968), the Scottish Opera (Boris Godunov 1968), and the Welsh National Opera (Aida 1970), and in Washington as Wotan in Die Walküre (1975). He sang Trulove for the first recording (1964) of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. He was Sarastro at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Festival Canada's production of The Magic Flute in 1977 (see Festival Ottawa). Garrard sang performed Mephistopheles in Faust in 1976 and as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor in 1982 with Vancouver Opera. He was Wotan in the Seattle Opera's production of the entire Der Ring des Nibelungen (1980) and sang with the San Diego and Palm Beach Operas as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin and as Zaccaria in Nabucco, both in 1985.

With his commanding presence, his keen theatrical sense, and a voice both substantial and flexible Garrard was respected on both sides of the Atlantic for his effectiveness in the whole range of operatic roles for bass. After his 1988 performance of Verdi's Requiem with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, critic Peter Mose wrote "Garrard's was the voice of the wisest, ripest eminence" (Toronto Star 11 May 1988).

Garrard lived in England 1961-85 but continued to appear in Canada with the COC, in recital, and on CBC radio and TV.

In 1989 he moved from Canada to South Africa where he sang King Heinrich in Lohengrin, Rocco in Fidelio, and Philip II in Don Carlos, appeared in concerts, and given masterclasses. He was also heard on the BBC, RAI (Italy) and PBS networks.


Don Garrard, "Working with Britten," Opera Canada, vol 5, Sep 1964

"Festival in the fields," Opera Canada, vol 7, Feb 1966


Bruckner Te Deum in C - Bach Magnificat. New Phil O, Barenboim conductor. 1970. Angel S-36615/Ser 4XG-60427 (cass)

Donizetti Anna Bolena. Glyndebourne Festival O and Chorus, Gavazzeni conductor, Garrard (Lord Rochefort). 1965. 3-Melodram MEL-458/2-Hunt 554 (CD)

- Roberto Devereux. Ambrosian Chorus, Royal Phil O, Mackerras conductor, Garrard (Raleigh). Ca 1970. 3-West WST-323/3-ABC ATS-20003/(excerpts) ABC ATS-20008/Angel AV-34015

Mozart Don Giovanni (excerpts). Scottish Chamb O, Gibson conductor. 1975. Classics for Pleasure CFP-40246

Stravinsky The Rake's Progress. Sadler's Wells Opera Chor, Royal Phil O, Stravinsky conductor. (1964). 3-Col M3S-710/22-Sony SX22K-46290 (CD)

Verdi La Forza del Destino. BBC Concert O, Matheson conductor, Garrard (Il Padre Guardiano). 1975? 3-Voce 72

Further Reading