Open main menu

Gerald English (6 November 1925 – 6 February 2019) was an English tenor. He performed operatic and concert repertoire, was a recording artist, and has been an academic.

He gave many premiere performances of works by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Hans Werner Henze, Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett and Andrew Ford, often under their own direction. He has also sung under the batons of Ernest Ansermet, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Thomas Beecham. He has sung opera for the Glyndebourne Festival, The Royal Opera at Covent Garden, La Scala and in Sydney, Adelaide, Manchester, Edinburgh, Florence, Rome, Paris, Buenos Aires, Vienna, Barcelona, and Sadler's Wells. He also performed in concerts in America, as well as in cities like Brussels, Rome, Cologne, Stockholm, Lisbon, Amsterdam or Rio de Janeiro.


Gerald Alfred English was born in 1925. His father, a chemist, wanted him to be a mathematician. His family moved to France when he was two years old, and he lived in northern France for 14 years.[1] In World War II he spent four years in military intelligence, where he spent much of his time listening to secret German communications from a base on the bleak Yorkshire moors. One of his colleagues during that time was the composer Peter Wishart.[1] He became a student at the Royal College of Music. At age 25, he became a member of the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and, shortly thereafter, the Deller Consort, where his continental upbringing proved of value in singing idiomatic French. During this time, he also began to build a reputation as a recitalist, gaining particular authority as an interpreter of the songs of Gabriel Fauré.

He sang many opera performances in a wide-ranging repertory that covered several centuries. He was as comfortable and authentic in Monteverdi as he was in the music of his own time. He has had many years of experience in music of the Elizabethan period. English's debut in opera took place with the English Opera Group in 1956 when he sang the evil Peter Quint in Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw under the composer's direction. He also sang the role in Milan.

English received good notices for his interpretations in works by contemporary composers such as Tippett, Richard Rodney Bennett (who had requested him for the title role in The Ledge), Stravinsky, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Henze. He appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival 1962–1964 (where he sang in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea), and in 1963 at the Grand Opéra Paris (as Andres in Alban Berg's Wozzeck).

From 1960 to 1977, English was professor of music at the RCM, and tutor in singing at New College, Oxford.[1] During 1968–1969 he was with others in Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Brussels, Stockholm, Rome, Cologne, Amsterdam and Lisbon in a successful concert program, which included works from both the Baroque era, in particular of Johann Sebastian Bach, and from the modern era.

In 1973, he was artist-in-residence for universities in Western Australia and New South Wales.[1]

In 1977, he became Founding Director of the Opera Studio of the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. He also supervised postgraduate vocal studies in baroque music and movement.

Gerald sang Leoš Janáček's song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared as part of the 1992 Melbourne International Festival, and in the same year premiered Andrew Ford's Harbour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Other highlights include the role of the story teller in Peter Tahourdin's Heloise and Abelard for the West Australian Opera, Maurice Ravel's Chansons madécasses with the Australia Ensemble, performances of Peggy Glanville-Hicks' Letters from Morocco with the Hunter Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and the soloist in scenes and interludes from György Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

On 13 May 1989 English was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Sydney. Professor JM Ward, A.O, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University presented the degree as follows:

I have the honour to present Mr. Gerald Alfred English for the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Music (honoris causa). In the life work of Gerald English we may see, developed to a remarkable level, one of the central concerns of the study of music, that is, the integration of the results of musicological research in actual performance. A tenor of international reputation with a command of style in a wide spectrum of the repertoire, he has consistently harnessed vocal virtuosity and intellectual penetration to a single aim: a profound understanding of the composers' imagination. It is his sustained excellence in this field that this University wishes to honour with the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Music.

In 1993 he was awarded one of the prestigious Australian Creative Artists' Fellowships. In 1995, he persuaded 13 Australian composers to each write a piece, to be showcased at the Gerald English Birthday Concert in honour of his 70th birthday. The composers who contributed included; Tony Bremner, Roger Smalley, Richard David Hames, Gordon Kerry, Nigel Butterley, Wilfrid Mellers, Stephen Cronin, Andrew Ford, Michael Finnissy, George Tibbits, Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards and Martin Wesley-Smith.[1]

Premiere performances include Benjamin Britten's Nocturne with Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Hallé Orchestra, Henze's We Come to the River directed by the composer at Covent Garden, Dallapicolla's Ulisse conducted by the composer in Rome, and Luciano Berio's Opera for the Florence Festival. He has also premiered 12 pieces by the Australian composer (and broadcaster), Andrew Ford. The one-man music-theatre piece Night and Dreams: the death of Sigmund Freud was commissioned by the 2000 Adelaide Festival.

Gerald English has made many recordings, including the complete works of Monteverdi. He has recorded cantatas by Telemann, Handel and Bach with the group Il Pastor Fido. Other composers he has recorded include Andrew Ford, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Vaughan Williams (The Pilgrim's Progress), Henry Purcell (Te Deum), John Dowland and Robert Schumann.

Full list of conductors Gerald English has performed with as Soloist:

Claudio Abbado, Karel Ančerl, Ernest Ansermet, David Atherton, Sir John Barbirolli, Daniel Barenboim, Luciano Berio, Nadia Boulanger, Pierre Boulez, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Benjamin Britten, Oleg Caetani, Basil Cameron, Stuart Challender, Meredith Davies, Sir Colin Davis, Luigi Dallapiccolo, Christoph von Dohnányi, Antal Doráti, Sir Edward Downes, Mark Elder, Lawrence Foster, Sir Alexander Gibson, Berthold Goldschmidt, Harold Gray,[2] Sir Charles Groves, Bernard Haitink, Vernon Handley, Hans Werner Henze, John Hopkins, Hiroyuki Iwaki, Otto Klemperer, Raymond Leppard, Sir Anthony Lewis, Witold Lutosławski, Peter Maag, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras, Bruno Maderna, Igor Markevitch, Jean Martinon, David Measham, Krzysztof Penderecki, David Procellijn, Georges Prêtre, André Previn, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Eric Schmid, Marcus Stenz, Igor Stravinsky, Sir Michael Tippett, Edo de Waart,

List of orchestras Gerald English has sung solo with:


Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Brisbane Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra,

Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Radio Orchestra,


Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Hongkong Symphony



Austrian Radio Orchestra,


Czech National Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra,


Philharmonisches Staatsorcherester Hamburg, Radio Symphony Orchestra Saarbrucken, WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne, Collegium Auriem,


Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre national Bordeaux Aquitaine, French National Radio Orchestra,


Brussels Radio Symphony Orchestra Liege, Namu,


Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Rotterdam Philharmonic,

Spain Orqesta Ciudad de Barcelona, Orchestra Nacional Spain, Madrid Symphony Orchestra, Alhambra Concerts, Barcelona Concerts, San Sebastian Concerts.


Lisbon National Orchestra, Oporto Opera Orchestra, Gulbenian Centre Orchestra,


Turin Opera House Orchestra, La Scala Orchestra, Orchestra Sinfonica de Milano, Orchestra de Milano RAI RAI Roma, Orchestra Santa Cecilia Roma, Naples, Florence Opera Orchestra,


London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, English Chamber Orchestra, Bournemouth Sinfoietta, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Philaharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, Mozart Players, St. Martin in the Fields, Scottish Cahmber Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Liverpool Philaharmonic,

Hungarian State Orchestra

Dubrovnik Orchestra

Middle East

Israel Philharmonic, Tel Aviv Chamber Orchestra

North America

Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra

South America

Orquesta Filharmonica de Buenos Aire, Argentina, Brazil Rio de Janeiro Radio Symphony Orchestra.


  1. ^ a b c d e Georgina Safe, Lifelike slip on to Freudian couch, Weekend Australian, 13–14 January 2001
  2. ^ Birmingham Town Hall~8.6.1969~CBSO~Birmingham Choral Union & Hallé Choir