|Gwyneth Jones was born to Edward
George and Violet Webster Jones in 1936, in Pontnewynydd, Wales. Her
studies with Arnold Smith and Ruth Packer at the Royal College of Music
in London were made possible by a scholarship from the County Council.
She also studied at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, at
Herbert Graf's International Opera Centre in Zurich, and with Maria
Carpi in Geneva. Jones' professional debut, as a mezzo-soprano, was the
role of Annina in Der Rosenkavalier
with the Zurich Opera in 1962. Shortly afterwards, she noticed her
voice moving upward, which allowed her to sing her first soprano role
of Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera.
She was also heard singing Lady Macbeth for the Welsh National Opera
and the Royal Opera, and heard filling in for Leontyne Price and Régine Crespin
at Covent Garden. [The broadcast of Il
trovatore has been issued by the
Royal Opera, and is shown below.] After performing roles such as
Santuzza, Desdemona, Donna Anna, Aïda, and Tosca, she made
appearances at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, and at principal opera
houses in Berlin, Paris, Hamburg, and Rome.
Shortly after Jones made her 1966 American debut in the title role in Cherubini's Medea, she married Till Haberfeld, a director, with whom she had one child. She achieved American success with her performance of Fidelio with the San Francisco Opera and for her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sieglinde in Die Walküre. One of Jones' greatest achievements was doing all three Brünnhilde roles in the Bayreuth centennial Ring Cycle under Pierre Boulez and Patrice Chéreau. (This Grammy-winning recording is available in both audio and video versions.)
Jones entered a new phase of her career when at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, she gave her first performance of Turandot, a role she had learned from her former teacher Dame Eva Turner. She also took on the roles of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, the widow Begbick in Mahagonny, and the mother in Hänsel und Gretel. She also undertook the roles of both Elisabeth and Venus in Götz Friedrich's production of Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival in the 1970’s, and has also been credited with the unique achievement of having performed all three major female roles in Elektra on stage.
Jones also performed in concerts and Lieder recitals, television and radio broadcasts and participated in several film projects, including the epic television series, Wagner, in which she played the first Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld. She has also devised for herself a couple of one-woman music-theatrical shows - O, Malvina! and Die Frau im Schatten - which are inspired by real historical characters, namely, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Pauline de Ahna (wife of Richard Strauss). The soprano part in the Symphony No. 9, titled "Vision of Eternity", by Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott was written for, and premiered by, her.
In 2003 Gwyneth Jones made her debut as director and costume designer in a stage production of Der Fliegende Holländer in Weimar, Germany. She has also given master-classes for young singers and acted as an adjudicator in international vocal competitions, including the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. In June 2007, she created the role of the Queen of Hearts in the world premiere of Unsuk Chin's new opera, Alice in Wonderland, at the Bavarian State Opera. In February 2008 she sang the part of Herodias in Stephen Langridge's production of Richard Strauss' Salome at Malmö Opera in Sweden. She repeated this role in August 2010, alongside the Salome of Deborah Voigt, in a concert performance at the Verbier Festival in Verbier, Switzerland.
Gwyneth Jones was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1976 and was promoted to Dame of the British Empire (DBE) in 1986. She is also the recipient of numerous musical/cultural awards and honours from many different countries and organisations, including the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Golden Medal of Honour in Vienna, the Austrian Cross of Honour First Class, the Shakespeare Prize, and the Puccini Award. She is a Kammersängerin at both the Wiener Staatsoper and the Bavarian State Opera as well as awarded Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. She has also been conferred honorary doctorates by the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan. She is currently the President of the Wagner Society of Great Britain.
-- Throughout this page, names which are links refer to my Interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
© 1985 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded on the telephone on June 15, 1985. Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following year, and again in 1996. This transcription was made in 2017, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.