Obituary: John Heddle Nash

Elizabeth Forbes
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:05

John Heddle Nash, singer: born London 30 March 1928; married; died London 29 September 1994.

AS THE SON of a famous singer, the baritone John Heddle Nash inevitably lived somewhat in the shadow of his father, the tenor Heddle Nash, whose appearances at pre-war Covent Garden and Glyndebourne were still vividly remembered and who was still active as a singer when his son began his own career.

Joining the Carl Rosa Company in 1953, John Heddle Nash sang such roles as Silvio in Pagliacci, Lescaut in Puccini's Manon Lescaut and the protagonist of Don Giovanni. These operas were included in the annual summer seasons which the Carl Rosa gave at Sadler's Wells Theatre , in London, from 1955 to 1958. As I recall, his fresh, lyric baritone voice was just right for Silvio, while his characterisation of the swaggering Lescaut was particularly successful; his Don Giovanni, though very well sung, was not quite dangerous enough. However he possessed, as one critic wrote, 'his father's gift of really making something of the text'.

This gift was even more in evidence when Nash joined Sadler's Wells Opera. In April 1959 he sang Dr Falke in a production of Die Fledermaus at the London Coliseum, a decade before the company moved to that theatre. His Falke was described as 'suave', an adjective also applied to his performance as Pish-Tush in The Mikado, presented at Sadler's Wells in 1962. Both these works were recorded. A clever comedian, he was extremely funny as Agamemnon in La Belle Helene in 1963.

Nash did not appear in operetta or light opera alone, though. He was an excellent Rossini singer, making a fine Dandini in La Cenerentola and a lively Figaro in The Barber of Seville. One evening, while he was singing Figaro's entrance aria, 'Largo al factotum', a drunk in the gallery tried to join in, to the great amusement of the audience. Another of his best roles was Dr Malatesta in Don Pasquale, a characterisation this time described as 'debonair'. Nash was equally good in character parts such as Roucher, the hero's friend in Andrea Chenier, and Dancairo, one of the smugglers in Carmen.

His eloquent diction made him specially suitable as a singer of radio opera, and he took part in Rossini's La scala di seta, Vaughan Williams's The Poisoned Kiss and Wolf-Ferrari's L'amore medico for the BBC. After he stopped singing he assembled the material for a programme about his father's career, illustrated by recordings, which he gave to musical societies and clubs around the country.

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