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Obituary: Graeme Matheson-Bruce


Graeme Matheson-Bruce, opera singer: born Dundee 1945; died London 12 February 1994.

NOBODY could deny that the Scottish tenor Graeme Matheson-Bruce had tremendous courage. He tackled heroic and romantic roles such as Parsifal, Lohengrin, Florestan, Radames and even Otello, with a voice and physique more suited to character parts. A superb Bob Holes in Peter Grimes, he also sang the title-role of Britten's opera with great success. His real strength lay in contemporary music: as the High Priest in Philip Glass's Akhnaten, as Lovelace in the world premiere of Robin Holloway's Clarissa (1990), he was in his element, the somewhat ungrateful tone of his voice forgotten, the security of his singing paramount.

Born in Dundee, Matheson- Bruce studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and the London Opera Centre. In 1978 he was awarded a travelling scholarship by the Royal Society of Arts and went to Munich to study with Hans Hotter. He had already appeared at Glyndebourne (1975) as the Gnat in The Cunning Little Vixen, and with Glyndebourne Touring Opera as Sellem in The Rake's Progress. He had also begun a long association with English National Opera, for whom his roles included Loge in The Rhinegold, Walther in The Mastersingers, a drunken Cossack in Mazeppa, Florestan, the Prince in Rusalka, Lovelace, Bob Boles and Peter Grimes.

He sang the title-roles of Dvorak's Dimitrij at Nottingham University in 1979 and Pfitzner's Palestrina for Abbey Opera in 1981, both British premieres. During the 1980s he appeared frequently in Europe, where his repertory included Werther, Parsifal, Peter Grimes, Herman in The Queen of Spades, Gabriele Adorno, Radames, Don Jose and Hoffman. He also sang in the United States, as Herod and Florestan and as Erick in Der fliegende Hollander.

During the 1991/92 season he sang Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at Hamburg State Opera and created Pentheus in John Buller's The Bacchae for ENO. The latter role displayed his mastery of difficult contemporary music to an even greater degree than had Lovelace in Clarissa. He returned to Glyndebourne in summer 1992 to sing Tchekalinsky in a new production of The Queen of Spades, repeated in semi-staged concert form at the Proms in the Albert Hall.

In April 1993 he sang Herman in Tchaikovsky's opera for ENO. Although his vocal performance lacked the ideal romantic melancholy for that role, his interpretation of the character was excelllent, especially in the final scenes where Herman's obsession with gambling turns to madness.

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