Obituary: Kenneth Neate

Fifty years ago, on 14 January 1947, the fledgling Covent Garden Opera Company (later to become the Royal Opera), gave its first performance. The opera was Carmen and Don Jose was sung by the Australian tenor Kenneth Neate.

During the first season, which lasted about six months, Neate sang Don Jose 21 times; he also sang 17 performances of Tamino in The Magic Flute - everything in those days was sung in English - and 12 of the Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier. Neate had a strong, lyric tenor voice and, for the four seasons he sang with the company, he remained with the repertory.

He returned to Covent Garden on a famous occasion in 1959 when he took over at short notice from an ailing tenor as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, with Joan Sutherland as Lucia. By then Neate was already singing much heavier roles, such as Florestan in Fidelio, Lohengrin and, the part that became his cheval de bataille, Tannhauser. During the next dozen years, he clocked up more than 150 performances, mainly in Germany and Austria, but also in Australia. Later he sang Tristan a number of times.

Kenneth Neate was born in Cessnock, New South Wales, in 1914. He studied singing at the University of Melbourne and toured with an amateur company in Madama Butterfly and Carmen. On the advice of John Brownlee, the famous Australian baritone, he went to New York to study with Emilio de Gogorza and Elisabeth Schumann. His voice came to the notice of the conductor Bruno Walter, and he was engaged to understudy Chester Kallman, who was singing Tamino at the Metropolitan in 1941. Neate then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and, after he was invalided out, sang for the troops.

At the end of the Second World War, he came to London, where David Webster and Karl Rankl were auditioning singers for the Covent Garden Opera Company, and was immediately engaged. After Don Jose, Tamino and the Italian Singer during the first season, he sang the Duke in Rigoletto, Alfredo in La Traviata, Rodolfo in La Boheme and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. He rapidly gained stage experience, and by the time he left the company had become an excellent actor as well as a fine singer. He toured Australia with the J.C. Williamson Company, he sang in Italy and Paris, and, in May 1956 at Bordeaux, sang the title-role in the first performance of Henri Tomasi's Sampiero Corso, which was repeated at the Holland Festival in June the same year.

Neate began his attack on the heavier German repertory with Florestan in Fidelio at Karlsruhe in 1958. After his much- acclaimed return to Covent Garden in 1959 for Lucia di Lammermoor, in which he was a splendid partner for Joan Sutherland - his height was particularly appreciated by the prima donna - he sang Gounod's Faust for the Dublin Grand Opera, and returned to Karlsruhe for Tannhauser and Lohengrin. In 1960 he toured Australia with the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, and the following year was engaged at the New York City Opera, where he sang Radames in Aida, Don Jose, Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, and created Judge Danforth in Robert Ward's The Crucible, an opera based on Arthur Miller's play.

Neate made an excellent Loge in Das Rheingold at Bayreuth in 1963, and continued to sing Tannhauser, in Hagen, Mulhouse, Bucharest, Adelaide, Sydney and Innsbruck, where he achieved his 150th performance during the 1969/70 season. Meanwhile he had taken up another Wagner role - Tristan. After singing Tristan at Coblenz in October 1966, at the end of December he sang the role in Stockholm, with Birgit Nilsson at Isolde and Kerstin Meyer as Brangaene. The opera, with the same cast, was taken by the Royal Swedish Opera to Montreal for Expo 67, and the tenor later sang Tristan in Mannheim and Budapest.

After a final tour of Australia in 1970, when he appeared as Florestan, Neate returned to Innsbruck, where he sang Aegisthus in Elektra in 1974, and the title-role of Verdi's Otello in 1975. He was then 61 years of age, but his interpretation of Otello was highly praised, both vocally and dramatically. After his retirement he taught singing in Munich.

Kenneth Neate, tenor: born Cessnock, New South Wales 28 July 1914 ; married Gertrude Vollath; died Munich 26 June 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own