The terrifying sight of Graham Clark because the dwarf Mime, deranged by energy lust, staring on the viewers with penetrating, unblinking eyes and sporting the costume that belonged to Siegfried’s mom, Sieglinde, is an abiding picture of Richard Jones’s controversial 1995 Royal Opera manufacturing of Wagner’s Ring.
The characters of Mime and the hearth god, Loge, have been two of Clark’s finest identified roles, however the 122 performances he gave on the Bayreuth competition over 16 seasons additionally included David in Die Meistersinger, the Steersman in Der Fliegende Holländer and each Melot and the Younger Sailor in Tristan und Isolde. In all, Clark, who has died aged 81, had 413 performances and recordings to his credit score together with 276 performances of Loge and Mime.
Although he made his profession as a comprimario tenor, putatively subordinate to the principal roles, his incisively centered voice, hyperactive stage presence and musico-dramatic intelligence often conspired to make him the principle attraction.
Because the psychotic Mime in Jones’s Ring he was frequently acclaimed because the star of the present, whereas his Loge in Harry Kupfer’s Bayreuth Das Rheingold (1988) secured, on at the very least one event, the largest ovation of the night. Preening narcissistically because the latter in black leather-based, with a sculpted, blond, Eighties David Bowie-style hairpiece, he deployed a pungent, edgy tone very successfully to show his contempt for Wotan and the opposite gods.
Given his comparatively late entry into the occupation – he had earned his residing first as a sports activities instructor after which as a technical officer for the Sports activities Council earlier than beginning singing classes in his mid-30s – the sheer variety of performances Clark managed to clock up is outstanding. He attributed it partially to the health gained from his bodily coaching, however he additionally believed he was fortunate to have found such a rewarding profession and totally loved pursuing it proper by his 70s.
His final main look got here in September 2019, shortly earlier than the Covid-19 lockdowns, on this planet premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Macbeth Underworld at La Monnaie, Brussels.
Born in Littleborough, Lancashire, to Ronald, a customs and excise officer, and his spouse, Annie, he sang as a treble within the native church choir. He was educated at Kirkham grammar college and Loughborough Faculty of Schooling, earlier than gaining a certificates of schooling, with distinction in bodily schooling, at Nottingham College. He then turned head of bodily schooling at faculties in, successively, Oxford, Braintree in Essex, and Mexborough, Yorkshire, earlier than taking an MSc in recreation administration at Loughborough College.
Deciding belatedly that he wish to attempt his hand at singing, he joined the competition refrain at Wexford in 1973, taking small solo roles in Prokofiev’s The Gambler and Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar. He auditioned for Richard Bonynge and was invited by the conductor to sing in a gala at Covent Backyard. Scottish Opera then provided him a contract and he joined the corporate in 1975 basically to be taught the enterprise. Roles undertaken there included Brighella (Ariadne auf Naxos), Jaquino (Fidelio) and the Italian Singer (Der Rosenkavalier).
Roles sung for ENO included Almaviva, Hoffmann, Peter Quint, Depend Ory, Hermann (The Queen of Spades), Alexey (The Gambler), Mephistopheles (Doktor Faust) and maybe extra surprisingly the central function of Rodolfo in La Bohème.
Rodney Milnes in Opera journal commented that whereas Clark’s voice was notable for its reedy, virtually strident high quality, within the latter function “the highest notes particularly had a heat, bronzed high quality with none lack of readability or projection”. His performing skills additionally enabled him to hint the character’s growth from “heedless self-obsession to an consciousness heightened by tragedy with nice perception”.
Regardless of a proposal to sing the Duke of Mantua in Jonathan Miller’s Rigoletto, he determined to not pursue this sort of function, being of the opinion that, Rodolfo aside, such characters tended to be “a bit bit vacuous and moderately two-dimensional”, although he had additionally concluded that “for Italian music you want purple wine and sunshine in your voice and I didn’t have that”. The “psychologically difficult” characters he most well-liked to tackle typically appeared in northern European music moderately than southern European, he instructed.
He sang the title function within the British premiere of Ginastera’s Bomarzo at English Nationwide Opera (1976), becoming a member of the corporate in 1978 first as a principal after which as a visitor artist, and singing a complete of 215 performances for the corporate. He sang with all the opposite main British firms too, together with the Royal Opera, Welsh Nationwide Opera and Glyndebourne, in addition to the main firms in Europe and the US. He made his Metropolitan debut as Steva (Jenůfa), returning in 1989 as Herod (Salome).
Wagner’s characters of Mime and Loge remained central to his profession and enabled him to take advantage of each his tireless bodily vitality and his dramatic skills, particularly as a comic book actor. Loge’s half, he as soon as identified, lined a variety of registers: “At occasions it’s loud and declamatory while at others it’s superbly lyrical. It is usually tight, transient, mocking, ironic and sarcastic, stuffed with temper modifications, with crisp, sharp, pointed and sarcastic alliteration.”
Clark endeavoured, he continued, to replicate these variations each bodily and vocally all through the performances.
He relished such challenges and delighted in exploring infinite potentialities with imaginative administrators of the calibre of Kupfer, Jones and Keith Warner.
His pure exuberance and enthusiasm each on and off stage made him a favorite with colleagues and audiences alike.
Clark is survived by his spouse, Joan Lawrence, whom he married in 1979, and their daughter, Sarah, and two grandchildren, Christian and Fleur.