Paul Harrhy: OBITUARY

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The Independent Online
In a career as a lyric tenor that lasted only a little over 10 years, Paul Harrhy always marked his performances with the individual stamp of his own personality.

A very good actor, he also disclosed the essential qualities of the characters he sang. Excelling in 20th-century and contemporary music, he created several roles in new operas at the Almeida Festival. The light incisiveness of his voice, and superb diction, both in English and Italian, made him a fine exponent of 17th- and 18th- century music. The Romantic style of the 19th century was mostly outside his range, although he was a good Mime and an excellent Loge in the City of Birmingham Touring Opera's Ring Saga, or Ringlet as the compressed cycle was nicknamed.

Trained in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Harrhy sang the title-role of Cavalli's L'Egisto, going mad most convincingly, as well as Fenton in Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor, while still a student there. The following year he made the first of several visits to Batignano for Musica nel Chiostro, appearing in Rinaldo da Capua's intermezzo La Zingara as the Gypsy's brother and a dancing bear.

In 1986 he toured with Opera 80 as Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress; though his rake sadly lacked moral fibre, he descended the primrose path in a most stylish manner. That year he sang one of the Shepherds in Monteverdi's Orfeo at a Promenade Concert and also the smuggler El Remendado in Carmen with Scottish Opera. His later roles for Scottish Opera included a sensitive study of the Novice in Billy Budd; a good-tempered Pedrillo in The Seraglio and a grumpy Mime in Das Rheingold, a foretaste of his double role in the Cobto's Ringlet in 1990.

In 1987 Paul Harrhy took a plunge into Romanticism with the role of Raimond in Chelsea Opera Group's rousing concert performance of Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans. He also sang Sam Kaplan, another sensitive young man, in Kurt Weill's Street Scene at a charity performance at the Palace Theatre in aid of London Lighthouse, and Pylades in Iphigenias, Opera Factory's compressed version of Gluck's two Iphigenie operas.

He first appeared with English National Opera in 1987 as the High Priest of Amon in Philip Glass's Akhnaten, followed in 1988 by Valzacchi in Der Rosenkavalier, a role which offered him splendid opportunity for comedy, and Janek in The Makropoulos Case, yet another ultra-sensitive young man. However, his most successful role that year was Truffaldino in Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges, which he first sang for Opera North, and later repeated for ENO, at the Edinburgh Festival and in Tel Aviv.

He took part in three premieres at the Almeida Theatre, as Stump in Jo Casken's Golem in 1989; as Henri d'Esperaudieu in Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park in 1990; and as the Regulator in Jonathan Dove's Siren Song in 1994. Returning to Batignano, he sang the title-role (a hen-pecked husband) in Provenzale's Lo schiave di sua moglie in 1989, and Calendrino in Mozart's fragment L'oca del Cairo, completed by Stephen Oliver, in 1991. That year he sang Tamino in Ladders and Snakes, Opera North's version of The Magic Flute for community performance.

After appearing as Pong in the Royal Opera's production of Turandot at Wembley arena in 1992, he sang the Lover in a concert performance in St Giles, Cripplegate, of Sibelius's one-act opera The Maiden in the Tower, and sang Nencio in Haydn's L'infedelta delusa at Garsington Festival. Nencio was another of Paul Harrhy's best roles, on a par with Truffaldino, a character who, purely comic on the surface, revealed more serious depths.

Paul Harrhy, opera singer: born 6 September 1957; died 8 March 1996.

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