Russell Smythe

Russell Smythe FRCM AGSM retired from opera in 2013 after nearly 40 years on the professional stage. Russell Smythe FRCM AGSM retired from opera in 2013 after nearly 40 years on the professional stage. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the London Opera Centre, going on to perform at the Hamburg Staatsoper, the Frankfurt Opera, the Paris Opéra, the Vienna Volksoper and Staatsoper, La Monnaie, Opéra de Lyon, as well as in most of the main houses in Europe, under the batons of Colin Davis, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Silvio Varviso, Antonio Pappano, Harry Christophers, René Jacobs, Bernard Haitink, Mark Minkowski, John Eliot Gardiner and Seiji Ozawa amongst others. Guest appearances further afield have taken him to Japan and North America.

In Britain, he performed with The Royal Opera, English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North and Welsh National Opera. His repertoire included roles such as Pelléas, Papageno, Figaro (Barbiere di Siviglia), Malatesta, Ping (Turandot), Billy Budd, Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Tarquinius, Guglielmo, Onegin, Don Giovanni, Oreste (Iphigénie en Tauride), Balstrode, Giorgio Germont and Peter (Hansel and Gretel). Other engagements included Onegin and Mr Redburn (Billy Budd) with Israeli Opera; Fernando in La Gazza Ladra (Rossini) at Garsington, which he later recorded for the Chandos Opera in English series; The Barber in Strauss’s opera Die Schweigsame Frau, and the Musiklehrer (Ariadne) also at Garsington. For the Vlaamse Opera, Arbace (Idomeneo), Starek (Jenufa) and Hastings in Giorgio Battistelli’s new opera based on Shakespeare’s Richard III. For the Buxton Festival he sang Tasso (Torquato Tasso/Donizetti), Manoah (Samson/Handel), and Lothario (Mignon/Thomas).

Concert performances have included Britten’s War Requiem, the last of these took place in Catania and Palermo, Sicily. Also, Messiah in Paris and The Creation in Ghent and Antwerp, both under Marc Minkowski. With the same conductor, he recorded two roles in operas by Rameau — Thésée (Hippolyte et Aricie) and Teucer (Dardanus) — for Deutsche Grammophon. Other concerts included Elijah and Joseph (L’Enfance du Christ/Berlioz) both with the Hallé Orchestra, and Shishkov (From the House of the Dead) with Sir Andrew Davies/BBC Symphony Orchestra in a Janacek series at the Barbican. He also recorded the role of Mr Redburn (Billy Budd) with the Hallé, conducted by Kent Nagano. Russell Smythe performed many song recitals both on the concert platform and for the BBC with such accompanists as Geoffrey Parsons, Graham Johnson and Roger Vignoles.

Russell lectures and teaches at the Royal College of Music, London, and taught choral scholars at King’s College, Cambridge for ten years, retiring from that post in June 2019. He has given masterclasses and workshops in Belfast, York University, Denmark (Musik Dramatisk Teater), at Jackdaws, and in Spain (La Caixa). In summer 2012, he took workshops in Québec, Canada (Le Domaine Forget), and taught vocal technique at the summer workshops in Cratoule (Provence, France) from 2011 to 2015.

Last year Russell was teaching alongside mezzo-soprano Della Jones at the New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui, and next year he and Richard Jackson will be tutoring at this event. Russell also has a busy private studio with students who are currently singing on the most prestigious opera and concert stages around the world