Above: Sir Bryn Terfel
Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel's knighthood was announced in the Queen's New Year's Honours List. Bryn had this to say about it: “A month ago, a letter was sent to my agent in Cardiff and I thought it was tickets to the rugby. I was absolutely speechless when I opened it – ashen-white, my heart-rate had tripled, my mouth was completely dry. What an accolade! I was given the CBE in 2003, The Queen’s Medal for Music in 2006 and now this is, without doubt, the icing on the cake. You have to step back and think how things have worked out for this farmer’s son from North Wales.”
Above: Bryn's leap to fame came at the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the Year competition; it's remembered as the "Battle of the Baritones" and ended with Dmitri Hvorostovsky being awarded the title Singer of the Year and Bryn taking the Lieder Prize. Within a week after the competition, my English friend Mollie sent me cassettes of the various competition rounds and the finals. In those days before the Internet became an instant way of sharing news and music from throughout the world, I liked to think of myself as the first person in the West to hear these two great voices. Since then, I have enjoyed both of them tremendously - both live and on disc - and am now hoping that Bryn will be asked to bring his newest role, Boris Godunov, to New York City.
Also knighted this New Year is the eminent conductor Jeffrey Tate (above).
Tate is currently chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. He has endured a lifetime of dealing with spina bifida, and recently said: "The gay world is immensely hung up with physical perfection for some curious reason ...therefore, being disabled in that world is harder".
One sweet memory I have of Maestro Tate's conducting is this rendering of the Presentation of the Silver Rose from DER ROSENKAVALIER, sung at the Met's 100th Anniversary Gala by Judith Blegen and Frederica von Stade. The video quality is murky, but the music glows: I know, because I was there.
Everyone who knows me or reads my blog knows I am an avid tennis fan. It therefore pleases me immensely that we can now refer to the World #1 male tennis player as Sir Andy Murray (above). Murray has made great strides in raising the level of his game in recent seasons, and the honor caps off a year in which the Scotsman assumed the #1 ranking.