Obituary: Roderick Jones

Roderick Jones, singer, born Ferndale Glamorgan Gwent 2 June 1910, died Newport 16 September 1992.

Roderick Jones was a typical product of the Sadler's Wells Opera tradition, an honest, strong, no-nonsense singer who was willing to tackle, and made his mark in, a wide range of roles, serious and comic. He made his debut in the famous premiere of Peter Grimes on 7 June 1945. On that epoch-making occasion Jones created the role of Balstrode in Britten's opera. His typically bluff portrayal was just what the part needed. It remains a thousand pities that his performance and that of the rest of the cast was not recorded for posterity.

It was the beginning of a five- year period for Jones as principal baritone with Sadler's Wells during which he boxed the compass of roles. He became a great favourite with the loyal Rosebery Avenue public who liked to hear their singers in a variety of parts. His most famous and the one he performed most often was Scarpia to the Tosca of the even more popular Victoria Sladen. They struck sparks off each other and produced the true frisson of verismo opera, not to forget their faultless diction, a sphere in which their successors could well learn much from them.

Allied to his Scarpia was his tormented Rigoletto. Here his high, well-placed baritone also carried complete conviction as he expressed the hunchback father's predicament in clear and confident fashion. He was also a strutting, attractive Escamillo, a sympathetic Marcello and a vicious Tonio. So it surprised many in the company that he also evinced a gift for comedy. He proved a wise old Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte and a properly ludicrous Belcore in the company's initial performances of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. When pure lyricism was called for he was also able to deliver the goods - as in the part of the upright Valentin in Faust. Other notable portrayals, these in out-of-the-way works, were the title-roles in Vaughan Williams's Sir John in Love (a Falstaff opera) and in Weinberger's Schwanda the Bagpiper. His strong sense of character was also present as the Sergeant in Hugh the Drover, a memorable portrayal opposite James Johnston's eloquent Hugh.

In 1951, upon the formation of the Welsh National Opera, he was true to his roots. After making his debut with the company as Tonio, he took part in two seminal Verdi productions of then-neglected works, playing the forceful father Montfort in The Sicilian Vespers and the tortured ruler of the title in Nabucco. These underlined his gifts as a singing-actor, one to whom the text was quite as important as the singing. Sadly the record companies overlooked his talents and there are few mementoes of his appreciable art.

The son of a miner, he left the pits to study at the Royal Academy of Music, first piano then voice. The war broke into the start of his career. After service in the Royal Navy, he was spotted by Joan Cross, ever on the look-out for new talent, who engaged him for Sadler's Wells, of which she was then director. His Balstrode was the result.

In the late 1950s his career rather petered out, although he was occasionally heard on Third Programme productions of operas. In 1961 he became director of the Jamaica School of Music but returned to Wales in 1970 as a teacher at Aberystwyth University College.

(Photograph omitted)

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

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices