Soloist injects Welsh note into Proms finale

Lesley Gerard
Sunday 23 October 2011 00:18

IT WAS either high jinks in keeping with the raucous tradition of The Last Night of the Proms on BBC 2 or it was a political statement of Welsh nationalism instead of the normal outburst of English patriotism.

Bryn Terfel, the Welsh singer, strode on to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall to sing Rule Britannia dressed in his country's colours, a Welsh flag attached to his rugby shirt, and a red cuddly dragon and rugby ball clutched to his breast, ensuring his place in the folklore of the Proms.

The bass-baritone managed to upstage the dress worn by the singer Sarah Walker in 1989, which transformed her into a human Union Jack, and went several stages further than Welsh mezzo-soprano Della Jones, who sported a gleaming Welsh dragon during her Last Night performance last year. Whether he will achieve the same notoriety as the woman member of the audience who bared her bottom from the box during a Proms concert in 1977, only time will tell.

Terfel was only the third man to be invited to sing Rule Britannia at the traditionally boisterous flag-waving Last Night. It is usually performed by a woman.

Terfel, 28, a burly 6ft 2in soloist and son of a farmer from Pantglas, on the western slopes of Snowdon, was undeterred by a lone heckler. He sang the penultimate verse in Welsh and, as the music soared to its triumphant finale, kicked his rugby ball into the audience. Among the sea of Union flags in the auditorium were two Welsh flags, their owners frantically waving their support.

In Wales his countrymen watched with pride. Daffyd Wigley, president of Plaid Cymru, said: 'The Proms are meant to be fun. Bryn is a singer of such calibre and exuberance, he entered into the spirit of the night.

'We are all very proud of him here. We know him well. I went to school with his mother.

'You would have to be pretty strait- laced to find his antics with the rugby ball remotely offensive. The fellow in the audience who caught it certainly looked pleased with himself.'

At the BBC, Terfel's interpretation of the jingoistic rabble-rouser on Saturday, the last night of the 100th season of the Proms, was also received with good humour.

'The crowd was delighted,' said a spokeswoman. 'He kicked the rugby ball gently. It was the Proms equivalent to Bruce Springsteen throwing his bandana into the audience.'

Referring to his outfit and the dragon, which was wearing a Manchester United football cap, she added: 'He is clearly a man with divided loyalties.'

The Welshman is achieving international status as an opera singer. Described by one critic as a Welsh Meatloaf, of late he has been incapable of turning in a dull performance. A recent success was as Figaro at the Royal Opera House in April.

The 100th season of the Proms was the most popular so far, with average attendance of 86.4 per cent.

Review, page 19

(Photograph omitted)

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