Bass  Robert  Lloyd

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


One of Britain greatest singers, Robert Lloyd became the Principal Bass at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1972. He has since sung an enormous range of repertoire with the company and is now their senior artist.

Robert Lloyd was the first British bass to sing the title role in Boris Godunov at Covent Garden and made history when he sang the role with the Kirov Opera in St Petersburg. He sings the great roles of his repertoire in Paris, Salzburg and San Francisco and for many years has had a particularly close association with the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

He has a vast discography of over seventy audio and video recordings. In the 1991 New Year Honours List, Robert Lloyd was created a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Robert Lloyd collaborated with the artist Pip Woolf and pianist Julius Drake in 1999 to produce a recital /exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art in Wales of Schubert's 'Winterreise'. This subsequently led to the production of a CD/book complete with paintings, drawings and his personal score of the music.

Robert Lloyd made his debut in Chicago as Sarastro in The Magic Flute in January of 1991.  He would later return for Don Diègue in Le Cid and also Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra

Between performances in that first season, I had the pleasure of meeting with the distinguished bass at his apartment.  While setting up the tape recorder, I explained the various purposes of the interview.  Besides including portions during broadcasts of complete operas on Sundays, I celebrated
“round birthdays” of my guests with special programs.  So I asked him for his birthdate (March 2, 1940, which he gave me accurately) and seemed amused by the idea . . . . . . .

Robert Lloyd:    It’s a very round number in my life
1940beginning of the War in England and that’s when I was born.

Bruce Duffie:    So now you are fifty, or almost at fifty-one.  Are you where you expected to be in your career?

RL:    I’m pretty well where I would have hoped to be, really.  I’ve done most of the roles that I want to do.  There are one or two which I’d still like to do, and one or two that I might venture upon, slightly foolhardily, maybe.  And I’m singing in all the greatest opera houses in the world, so I can’t really complain.  It worked out quite well.  For a bass, life is a good deal more orderly and straightforward than it is for young women, or for tenors.

BD:    Really?  Why?

RL:    Because we get more relevant the older we get.  We’re always playing these old men, gray bearded creatures I might say.  We’re fathers and priests, and symbols of authority.

BD:    Fathers, priests, and devils seem to always be the bass.

RL:    There’s only one devil, but I suppose there are several manifestations of Mephistophele, so that’s true, yes.  I always forget about him, but I never think of the Gounod Mephistopheles as the devil.  He’s rather a charming lad, I think.  [Laughs]

lloydBD:    Do you sing him?

RL:    Yes, I’ve done it.

BD:    Do you also sing the Boito?

RL:    No, I haven’t done that one.  I’ve done the Berlioz, but that’s really a concert piece.  I have actually the small part of Brander on stage in a staging in London, but for the Mephistopheles I’ve only done that in concert.

BD:    You like playing the Devil?

RL:    Oh yes, yes.  As I say, he’s rather a charming chappy.

BD:    Are you making him, perhaps, too charming?

RL:    Hmm.  I don’t think Gounod takes him terribly seriously.  [Both laugh]  I’m not too sure Gounod takes anything terribly seriously.  It’s very difficult to make him genuinely sinister.  Probably the way to play that Mephistopheles is in the old-style tradition, where they put spangles on their eyelids to make them flash in the lights, and just play it up, really camp it up into something rather sharp and brilliant.  To play for the heavyweight, lugubrious, sinister-ness doesn’t work.

BD:    So it’s right, then, that he actually loses in the end?

RL:    Oh, sure! Absolutely, yes.

BD:    Does it become a morality play, then?

RL:    I suppose it was designed to be something of a morality play.  That sort of thing wouldn’t have, I suppose, survived the censorship unless it had an element of morality about it.  I don’t think he could let the Mephistopheles win, not on the Victorian stage.

BD:    Should he win?

RL:    He seems to, doesn’t he, quite a lot?

BD:    He winds up with Faust, but not Marguerite.

RL:    I didn’t mean in the opera, I meant in life in general.  He seems to have quite a degree of success.

BD:    Hmmmm!  Should opera, then, be made relevant to preach to today’s society and maybe get them back on the straight and narrow?

RL:    It would be nice if we could find a medium where we could communicate something worth saying on the operatic stage.  It’s a very powerful medium.  Unfortunately, the composers seem to have lost their grasp of the audiences.  It seems to me that composers increasingly in this century have composed for one another rather than for their audiences.  I’ve been very impressed by the initiative of the Chicago Opera in this with their “Towards the Twenty-First Century.”  I think that’s a marvelous idea, really wonderful.  People tend to think of the 20th Century as a century of difficult compositions with strange and inaccessible compositions.  But in actual fact, some of the greatest pieces that we regularly perform are, in fact, 20th Century.  I mean, all the Puccini pieces...

BD:    But that’s very early on.

RL:    That’s right, and Bluebeard’s Castle, which is perhaps one of the most intelligent operas I’ve ever performed.  Peter Grimes is a sensational masterpiece.  There’s a lot of stuff there in the 20th Century, but somewhere in the middle we lost our way.  We didn’t communicate with the audiences properly.

BD:    Do you have some advice for composers who want to write for the human voice?

RL:    It’s a bit sort of cliché.  I’m not really able to give advice; I can only speak from my experience, and that is that I do believe that the human voice is an exceedingly exciting instrument.  It’s got so much opportunity for range, color, excitement and nuance, that it’s sad when a modern composer treats it as a percussion instrument or an instrument of the orchestra, not consulting the essential richness of color in the human voice.  It only has that color when it expands fully, when it’s being used fully and sonorously to its maximum.  With a great deal of modern music, you just can’t do it.  You can’t use the voice fully.  It’s being used as a staccato instrument, which I think denies its very nature.

BD:    So really you want the composer to exploit the powers of the voice more than they do?

RL:    I do, very much so, yes.  And of course, to some extent that means writing tunes.  [Laughs]  There’s nothing quite to compare with a tune.  It’s a bit like talking about novels or any art form really.  The form it takes is so important.  The essence of a good novel is the story line.  The characterization and the dialogue and all those other things are extremely important, but the story line is what really holds the audience.  That’s what we need in opera.  We need to look at opera for what it really is.  It’s a fantastic medium for conveying high-powered emotion through the human voice.  You’ve got to use the human voice to the maximum to realize its real nature.  That’s my feeling.

BD:    Are you optimistic about the future of opera?

RL:    I get little, maybe one or two glimmers of hope.  It’s been a bit of a dark period all the time I’ve been singing.  I’ve very much regretted the fact that I haven’t been able to find modern composers that I feel I can relate to.

BD:    Because you’d like to find someone to champion?

RL:    That’s right, absolutely.  I would like to feel like a creative artist.  I would like to take part in something new.  I would like to say something.  I would like to communicate important, urgent messages to my public, but it’s really not possible to do that.  It’s such a shame that the great issues of our day are not explored in opera.  Apartheid, nuclear holocaust, all the various holocausts of the last fifty years aren’t explored in opera.  These are tremendous subjects with a lot of the things that voices are good at expressing
like pain, joy and conflict.  So yes, I’d love to find some vehicle for that.

BD:    Are there not enough vehicles in what’s already been written of past problems, which may or may not have been solved already?

RL:    What they’re trying to do is reinterpret past operas to make them creatively relevant to the present by changing the period, by changing the costumes, by updating it as they call it, and that seems pretty unsatisfactory to me.  Sometimes it works.  Just occasionally it works sufficiently to make the whole process really interesting and not something you can dismiss out of hand.  But it works very infrequently, and it seems to deny very much the nature of opera.

BD:    But leaving it in the correct period with costumes and staging that would be completely relevant and completely straightforward for the piece, do you enjoy re-creating these pieces that have been around for a hundred or two hundred years?

RL:    Oh, sure.  Oh, absolutely!  They are wonderful things, and of course they don’t have to be completely in period.  I can quite see that to do, for instance, Rigoletto in medieval costumes, with the clown with his jangly bells and things.  But once you’ve seen it like that a few times, it does pall a little.  There’s a case for doing it like that from time to time, of course, because it has a kind of historical quality, especially in an environment where you’re not actually in touch very much with medieval history, like the United States.  It’s really quite important that you see things in period costume.  In Europe, though, it palls us after a while, but there is no need for it to be any specific period.  It just doesn’t have to be in Nazi costumes as far as I can see it.

BD:    In other words, if you’re going to do a Nazi opera, write a Nazi opera?

RL:    Precisely, yes.  I saw a performance of Rossini’s Mosè at the London Coliseum where people were going around with Tommy guns and wearing gray striped suits.  It didn’t line up with Rossini’s formal musical construction with lots of florid writing.  It just wasn’t consonant with the music in any way.

BD:    So everything has to agree — the colors, the staging, the music, the drama.  Everything has to be a unit for you?

RL:    Yes, indeed.  I think any director of opera has to listen very, very intently to the music and let his interpretation of the piece grow out of the music.  The problem that we run into a great deal is because there are a lot of opera directors nowadays who come from the straight theater, they tend to look only at the text, or at least predominantly at the text.  They construct their production edifice from the text.  Now you know as well as I know that a lot of texts in operas are pretty absurd and very limited.  It is in the nature of music that it releases the undertones and the overtones, the nuances and the colors and the emotions that go inside a very simple text.  Music makes any text much bigger than it really is.  I always think of the text as a kind of seed, and out of that the whole tree of the musical form grows.  But it’s only the starting point; it’s not something that you can put too much weight upon as it is, and that’s the problem with most modern directors.  They read only the text.

BD:    Where is the balance, then, between the music and the drama?

RL:    There’s no way I can generalize about that.  You have to take a specific example and start listening a lot to the music until it becomes part of your muscle structure.  Another problem that modern directors have is that a lot of them don’t quite understand how much the music becomes part of the psyche and the muscle structure and the reflex system of the singers.  Sometimes we turn up to rehearsals and we are being encouraged to do something in a particular way which runs counter to everything the music says to us.  That puts us under tremendous stress!  I mean real, real stress.  That’s real ulcer country when that happens.  [Laughs]  I’ve come to understand that’s partly because the producers don’t have that same actual physical reflex, a physical reaction to the music, because they don’t know the music so well.  The singer lives with the music for a year or more, and if you’ve done a role a few times then you’ve lived with it for many years.  Even if it’s new, you would have lived with it for several months.

BD:    And no matter what you’re doing, you’re still living with the same music!

RL:    That’s right, yes.  It has its own rhythm and its own shape, and it suggests movements to you.  You’re always reacting to the music as it presents itself.  The producer isn’t doing this; he’s standing outside the scene looking in, and that’s a source of an awful lot of difficulties.  I don’t think all this has quite hit the States yet, but with Peter Sellars it’s coming.  I think the opera world in the States is going to have a difficult time for the next few years.

BD:    Or are we going to skip it?  Are we going to see what it’s doing to Europe, and decide we don’t want this coming over?

RL:    It may be that you pick up the good bits.  That’s possible, yes.  That would be a very shrewd thing to do.  [Both laugh]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    When you’re on stage, are you portraying a character or do you actually become that character?

lloydRL:    Ah well, people vary on that.  My family tend to think I become the character, but I like to think I portray it.  I don’t know whether everybody has to work this way in order to get a good result, but the way I work is that I have to find the character.  I have to find the personality in myself at some stage during rehearsals.  King Philip I always think of as a tyrant who is a tyrant because he’s fundamentally a wimp.  He lashes out at everything in a rather uncontrolled fashion because he deeply distrusts his own real inner core.  So I look for those characteristics in myself and write it out from there.  By the time I arrive on the stage for the first night, I’ve discovered this character.  I’ve photocopied him, as it were; I can reproduce him at will.  But I don’t think at the time, on the stage on the first night, I’ve been King Philip.  I’m doing a duplicate version of something I discovered in rehearsal.

BD:    Now of course Philip is actually an historical figure.  Does your study process change when you’ve got someone you can really see and know in history, as opposed to a fictional character that’s made up out of some librettist
’s mind?

RL:    When I first started these lead characters, I had to make some decisions.  I started life as a historian myself, so I thought the serious and earnest and intelligent thing to do was to look at these characters historically to discover the operatic character.  But then I discovered that the operatic characters are so far from any sort of historical context.  [Both laugh]  Don Carlos, for instance, if I remember correctly, would be a ten year-old half wit rather than a forty year-old tenor if historical accuracy was being consulted.  So I tend to look at the period for background color, but not the historical identities of the characters because they’re misleading.  If you go along and try to do King Philip as you discover him, then it doesn’t work for you.  You have to actually look at the music and see what it says.  Listen to the music; start from there.

BD:    So, you have to do King Philip as Verdi and the librettist discovered him?

RL:    That’s right, yes.  They’re figments of the imagination, really.  They’re not genuine historical characters at all.  They’re so circumscribed by the mood Verdi happened to feel in that day.  He wrote tunes according to his feeling.  He didn’t write tunes according to his historical research on the character.

BD:    Coming back briefly to what we were talking about earlier, if he were to start to do an opera on Apartheid and you had to write a character of Mandela or somebody else involved in that whole movement, the people today would know enough about him that they would know when the character deviates from real life.  So you wouldn’t have that kind of expansion and expandable liberties.

RL:    That’s true, yes, but you would be writing now about Mandela from a point of view that knows Mandela reasonably from the media.  When Verdi was writing, he didn’t know Philip II.  He was at the same sort of distance from Philip II that we are, and that makes the difference.  In any case, I’m not sure that music is so good at doing pen portraits of people.  It creates emotional moods.  It creates the environment in which people happen.  A very good example is Boris Godunov.  I think it’s absolutely astounding opera.  The more I do it, the more I think it’s quite wonderful.

BD:    Besides the title character, have you also sung Pimen and Varlaam?

RL:    No.  I studied Pimen and understudied it once at Covent Gardens.  I got to know him quite intimately.  Varlaam doesn’t really interest me at all.  It’s not the sort of thing I do.

BD:    It’s got a fun song.

RL:    Yes.  [Both laugh]  It puts me in mind of a famous bass at Covent Garden.  I don’t know if he ever sang here — David Ward.

BD:    We know of him, but he never sang here.

RL:    He was a splendid gentleman, a really much-loved singer.  I remember one day he was asked to sing Rocco in Fidelio by the conductor Joseph Krips, and his reaction was very characteristic.  He said, “What, me play a peasant???”  [Both laugh]

BD:    He was all nobility. 

RL:    Yes.  Basses tend to fall into that frame of mind, you know.  Anything less than a king is a bit in for a dig.  No, the only person that did those three roles was Boris Christoff.  He created a kind of precedent that nobody could quite live up to because he only did it on record.  He didn’t do it in real life.

BD:    Right.  Occasionally, for instance, the American bass Paul Plishka alternates.  Some nights he’ll sing Boris and some nights he’ll sing Pimen.

RL:    It suits him to do that, but I don’t.  I don’t fancy myself as Pimen really.  Perhaps one day when I’m genuinely old
as opposed to just fifty, nearly fifty-oneI might be interested in Pimen.  But once you’ve played Boris, I think Pimen must be pretty uninteresting.

BD:    Boris has those five wonderful scenes, huge scenes on the stage.

RL:    Yes, but what I was thinking about him was that in a sense he’s not an accurate portrayal of a historical character either.  His historical evolution on the operatic stage has distorted the nature of Boris Godunov quite a lot.  The Chaliapin-esque tradition, pursued by Boris Christoff of making him into some sort of extraordinary ogre with a big, black beard, is not in any sense historical accuracy.  Nor in fact do I find it very accurately representing Mussorgsky’s music.  Mussorgsky makes him a much more sensitive character than the Chaliapin tradition makes him.  Boris was a very great man.  I think the analogy between Boris Godunov and Gorbachev is fabulous.  It makes fascinating study!  I went this year to Leningrad to sing Boris with the Kirov Opera.
BD:    Were you accepted?

lloydRL:    Well, I was obviously very nervous.  I didn’t know how they would accept me because I went as a bit of a package deal with the Tarkovsky production of Boris, which we did at Covent Garden.  I don’t know whether Andrei Tarkovsky’s a known character in the States, but he’s an icon.  He’s a real saint in Russia now, and he’s the doyen, really, of art movies throughout Europe.  He developed a style of art movie.  I’m a little out of my depth when talking about art movies, but it’s extremely literary and poetic.  It shows scant interest in the normal conventions of cinema, like moving the plot along, or having clearly identified characters and so on.  What he tries to do is to paint almost abstract paintings, or write obscure, abstract poetry on the screen.  It’s an extraordinary achievement, very compelling.

BD:    So transforming all this to opera is right up his alley?

RL:    Quite, yes.  Boris is the only opera he ever produced, and we were very lucky to be there because he died two years later.  Once he was dead he became a real icon.  When Gorbachev came along in the Soviet Union, Tarkovsky was reinstated as a great Russian hero, having been exiled for most of his working life.  He was given the Order of Lenin and turned into a great hero posthumously.  As a part of that process, they decided to take his production of Boris Godunov to Leningrad from Covent Garden, and I went with it.  Only me, nobody else.  It was all the Leningrad people except for me, and that was pretty, pretty daunting thing to do.  But they accepted me.  I was overwhelmed with it.  It was beautiful.  The opera was going to be toured around Russia after I finished with it, so there were five casts there all watching the rehearsals.  There were five Borises, sitting there with their leather blousons and their arms folded, watching me.  [Both laugh]  But I was really overwhelmed with the response.  Each of them came up to me and made quite long, generous speeches of praise.  I was really touched by it.  It was extraordinary!  In London, the style that I was working in that Tarkovsky had got out of me is something largely unknown in the Soviet Union.  They still act in a rather stylized, conventional fashion.  They strike poses on the stage.  They sing to the front.  They seem rather stilted and old fashioned in the way they perform, which is terribly surprising when you consider that Stanislavski was a Russian, and Chaliapin, upon whom Stanislavski based an awful lot of his writings, was also Russian.  Yet somehow they’ve got ossified in their acting style, and they were very, very surprised and very excited by what we were offering them. So I feel quite pleased with all that.  That was great.  I was most afraid, of course, that my Russian pronunciation wouldn’t pass muster, but it did.

BD:    I was going to ask you if you touched up your pronunciation, or made a few little corrections as you heard things.

RL:    I did a lot of work on it, actually.  The trouble is you only have one life, and you have to work.  Being an English speaker
and you Americans have the same problemswe haven’t any native opera, so we’re always performing in foreign languages.  Life for the Italians must be an absolute breeze, as you say, or doddle, as we would say.  [Both laugh]  They go around singing in their own opera in their own language in their own style and are made into great stars.  We have to sweat away at all these languages, and life’s too short to do them all properly.  So you cut corners, and it was Russian that I cut the corner on.  So I was doubly anxious when it came to going to Leningrad, but apparently I was fine.

BD:    If the populous could understand your words, then you’re all set.

RL:    Yes.  In fact there was speculation in the press as to whether I had a Russian mother, so I’m proud of that.

BD:    You’re making the analogy with Boris and Gorbachev.  Would it be wrong to build a production around that idea and have Boris with the little mark on the head?

RL:    Oh yes, sure.  Actually, let’s go back to that because that’s quite an interesting line of thought.  I had noticed the analogy with Gorbachev some years before, but I’d kept it all to myself.  Then I worked on Boris in Amsterdam with a director called Harry Kupfer, and he mentioned it en passant as an idea.  So I explored the idea a bit more.  But when we got to Leningrad and did our performance of Boris, it became very clear who this man was.  He wasn’t an old fashioned ogre with a black beard; he was a man really struggling to try and rule his country with a sensitive imagination and creative political skills.  People immediately noticed it.  The Russians saw it.  They said, “My God, this is Gorbachev!”  Then the analogies became very clear.  Boris says that he’s been in power for several years and everything was okay, but then suddenly, everything went wrong.  There was a problem in Lithuania, Boris says.  There was a problem in Poland.  Then there was pestilence, and you could read Chernobyl for pestilence.  Then there was famine, and if you talk about food shortages and distribution problems, you’ve got famine.  Then you’ve got religious uprisings, and throughout the Soviet Union now there are problems with ethnic religious groups like the Muslims.  So you’ve got in the opera Boris Godunov a portrait of Russia
not then, but always.  It’s a very, very fascinating subject.

BD:    I wonder if there’s someone in the politburo now who is a real Shuysky, who is going to come in and take over.

RL:    Well, for Shuysky, read Yeltsin.  Hmmm?  N’est-ce pas?  [Both laugh]  It’s fascinating.  When I was there, Gorbachev was in the middle of a big political crisis which, in the west, nobody knew about.  Being in Russia we could see it happening.  People were glued to their television sets throughout Leningrad, just as we were last week with the beginning of the Gulf War.  Everybody was going home and switching on to find out what would happen. That was happening in Leningrad because there was a political crisis which none of us understood.  They wouldn’t explain it to us, but there was some talk of corruption in high places.  I saw Gorbachev make a speech which went on for hours.  He spoke extemporaneously — apparently without notes, brilliantly!  I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he looked so capable and competent and, quite honestly, brilliant.  He was confronted with a huge hall full of the most grim-faced people imaginable.  They were exactly the Boyars that I knew from Boris Godunov.  For me it was a riveting experience.

lloydBD:    We have a Leningrad connection here in Chicago.  The Chicago Symphony and the Leningrad Philharmonic did a swap earlier this season.  Leningrad came here and Chicago went there.

RL:    Oh, that’s very good, yes.

BD:    Have you recorded any of Boris?

RL:    Again, it was a great stroke of fortune for me.  The BBC decided to take an interest in this trip to Leningrad, and they sent an outside broadcast unit.  Several great big wagons drove all the way to Leningrad, and they relayed the first performance live to London and to the whole of Europe and to the whole of Russia.  It was also recorded and it will be issued as a laser disc and a videocassette.  It’s coming out fairly soon, so it’ll be available in the shops.

BD:    Will there be a purely audio version also?

RL:    Yes, and there is some move afoot to broadcast it on PBS.  I don’t know whether that’ll happen, so that’ll be nice.  Last year was a good one for me because I also did Bluebeard’s Castle of Bartók.

BD:    On stage or in concert?

RL:    This was a film.  The best opera I’ve ever taken part in is Boris Godunov.  The best opera I’ve ever seen is Khovanshchina, also by Mussorgsky.  I think it’s absolutely brilliant.  It’s like a giant essay on historicism.  It’s really wonderful.  Then Bluebeard.  It is just so psychologically fascinating.  I was very fortunate the BBC made a film of it which was directed by Leslie Megahey, the head of music and arts.  He did very well with it.  He won the biggest European television prize, the Prix Italia, for it.  So that went down very well, and that’s also going to be issued on video here sometime in the future, I believe.

BD:    Good.  We’ll look forward to that.  I’m afraid I just wait for the fifth door and those huge C-major chords.

RL:    Yes.  [Laughs]

BD:    It’s the loudest thing I’ve ever heard in Orchestra Hall, and I’ve heard Bruckner and Mahler and Wagner there!  It just blew me away.

RL:    Yes, it’s wonderful.  The one that I like best is the watery one.

BD:    Ah...  bloop, bloop.

RL:    Bloop, bloop!  Yes, that’s right.  [Laughs]  It’s a piece which is eternally fascinating, very much the married man’s opera, I think.  What you do with that last scene, really, determines your approach to the opera.  Our producer decided that Bluebeard was, in fact, a kind of collector.  He had them almost, as it were, skewered to the wall like butterflies.

BD:    Stuffed and mounted?

RL:    Yes, that’s the sort of image.  They were very beautiful images, rather after the style of Klimt.  If I were put to it, I would probably say that I didn’t agree with that ending, but I then I wasn’t put to it.  I think it’s more psychological than that.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You are here in Chicago singing Sarastro, so tell me the secret of singing Mozart.

RL:    My goodness!  I don’t think that singing Sarastro is singing Mozart, really.  Sarastro is an exception.  Sarastro is very difficult to sing well.  It’s one of the most difficult of the Mozart roles for anybody to be convincing in.

BD:    Why?

RL:    It’s one of the most difficult ones to cast adequately because it requires something which most Mozart singers are not required to do
good old fashioned Italian bel canto.  Basses are not often asked to do that, especially on the low notes.  I think the only way to sing Sarastro is totally bel canto, and I discovered that by listening to Ezio Pinza.  He sang it in Italian, which it makes it much easier.  The problem with German is you’ve got so many consonants; how to get around in a word like nichtthere’s not a lot of vowels in there.  There’s an awful lot of consonants, and to get seamlessly from one vowel to another, as you have to in bel canto, takes an awful lot of work, an awful lot of practice.  You have to be a very dedicated Sarastro singer to actually master it.  Most basses that I know hate singing Sarastro because it seems terribly exposed.  There’s nowhere to hide.  You can’t cover up a bit of phlegm with a bit of heavy acting.

BD:    Is it a grateful role to sing, though?

RL:    It depends on how well you sing it.  [Both laugh]  That’s the truth of the matter.  You can’t act your way out of trouble.  If you don’t sing it well, they don’t clap so much.  If you sing it well, then they clap very well.  It’s a frightening role to perform, and it never stops being so.  I’ve sung it many, many times now.  I’ve probably sung is more than anything else, and it never gets any easier.  One gets better at it, probably, but it doesn’t get any easier.

BD:    Is it particularly difficult to go from singing to speaking?

lloydRL:    That doesn’t help matters, no, certainly, because to project, especially in a house the size of your American houses, you do have to speak extremely strongly.  You also have to pitch the voice very high in the tessitura in order to carry.  All the greatest big voices, speaking voices, have been tenors.  I did a radio program once about the way people use their voices professionally in non-singing ways.  I talked to evangelists and sergeant-majors — you call them Drill Sergeants
and politicians and people like that, all people who professionally use their voices.  The conclusion that I came to was that most of the greatest speaking voices for public oratory without microphones were tenors.  They had a tenor level of projection because in the old days they had to project extremely far.  There are references to John Wesley, the great British evangelist, talking to thirty-two thousand people, which is really, really incredible!  I spoke to the most famous open-air evangelist in England, Donald Soper, Lord Soper, who has been preaching on Tower Hill in the center of London for fifty years now every Sunday, in the open air.  I asked him how many people he could speak to in the open air and be heard, and he said a densely packed thousand, perhaps.  He boasted at the size of his voice.  So what John Wesley was like, God knows.  [Laughs]

BD:    He was thirty-two times bigger, obviously.

RL:    Either that or he wasn’t as honest as evangelists are supposed to be.  [Laughs]

BD:    There was a wonderful cartoon years and years ago in The New Yorker...  Gandhi is sitting there under his umbrella speaking to a huge throng and saying, “Now can you hear me
you boys in the back?”  [To see that cartoon, click here.]

RL:    [Laughs]  I spoke to a famous drill sergeant and he was clearly a heldentenor; there was no doubt about it.  He pitched the voice right up really high.  When speaking on a big stage here, a bass has to raise the voice to the top part of the tessitura.

BD:    How much is projection and how much is focus?

RL:    I think they’re synonymous, really.  If you have it fairly high in your register and it’s beautifully focused, then it will carry.  But you do have to put a bit of force behind it, and you’re using force in the high part of your voice.  Then you’ve suddenly got to sing “O Isis und Osiris.”  So the speaking doesn’t help, in answer to your question.

BD:    Do people expect that Sarastro, with these wonderful low Fs, then to speak in a round, low sound, and are they surprised when it’s high?

RL:    I think they are, yes.  But quite honestly, you can’t be heard if you mumble away [mumbles in German in very low register].  [Both laugh]

BD:    Maybe we should give you a throat microphone.

RL:    Well, that’s a thorny path, that is.  I heard that Domingo was saying he didn’t see why an opera singer shouldn’t from time to time be allowed to use microphones.  I think that’s a slippery slope, thin end of a wedge, which I don’t want to get into because once you get into microphones, then you lose some of the very basic elements of opera.  Th
e athleticism of the sheer physical energy of it, the sweat, and the color of an extended human voice is very exciting.

BD:    If it were done with a real professional at the controls, but if it’s just public address, then it won’t work at all.

RL:    Yes.  I know in certain places they do use what they call heightened sound, so that the ambience of the hall is more favorable to the voices than it would otherwise be.  I think that’s probably okay.  I’ll sort of accept that. [Laughs]

BD:    This, of course, leads us right into the question of recording.  Can you perform the same way in front of a microphone as you do in front of four thousand people?

RL:    No, absolutely not.  I’m not a friend of audio recordings.  I don’t like them at all.

BD:    [Surprised]  And yet you have made a number of wonderful ones!

RL:    Well, you have to.  That’s the way to a big career.  The problem with audio recordings is that the whole record industry has distorted my profession a great deal by making the voices that are most in demand not necessarily the personalities that are most interesting on stage.  Records also reduce the range of acceptable vocal sound.  Record companies seem to choose a particular type of voice to record, and there are many other sorts of voice which are equally valid, and not so listen to-able in a domestic context.

BD:    Because of their sound or their color?

RL:    Both.  For instance, a singer like Jon Vickers in the later part of his career had a voice of tremendous interest.  [See my Interview with Jon Vickers.]  In the theater it was thrilling beyond belief!  You just couldn’t believe that he was doing some of the things, but it was not a good voice to record in the later part of his career.  Such a shame that his excitement isn’t somehow available to us.  Voices for recordings seem to have a great deal of refinement and clarity, and they mustn’t have rough edges and no phlegm
many of the things that make any human voice really quite interesting.

BD:    Obviously they’ve selected you, so you must fit into at least some of that category.

RL:    Yes, to some extent.  I’ve made a lot of recordings but there are many more I would like to make.  But I would much prefer to become a well-known video performer rather than an audio performer because I think it’s more valued as an artistic form.  Once you’ve made a record
— after you go out there and sing it through four or five times, sometimes a whole take, sometimes a few bars at a timethen you have no control over what happens.  The recording engineer does everything else.  He balances the thing.  He decides how loud you’re going to be, how soft you’re going to be, how you’re going to stand out in an ensemble.  He can smother you with the orchestra if he wants to.  It’s an artifact of the recording engineer once you’ve done your bit, so you have no artistic control over it at all, and I find that very unsatisfactory.  Whereas on video, if you’re out there performing they can’t take that away from you.  If they can see what you’re doing, then nobody can take that away.  Even that can, of course, be edited in a way which can be helpful, but it can also be upsetting.  I noticed with the Boris video that there were one or two moments which I was very proud of as bits of internal acting, which were cut away from by the editor because he’d seen something else on the stage which was more interesting.  So even then, you see, you don’t have control.

BD:    Having said that about recordings, are you basically pleased with the recordings of your voice that have been issued?

RL:    The problem is that as soon as you’ve made a recording, you know you can make it better because the experience of having made it qualifies you to make it better.  I don’t think many recording artists are satisfied with anything they do.  They would like to do it again immediately.  Stop!  Hold the world!  I want to do it again.  [Laughs]

BD:    Then when you’re finished with that, do it again-again!

RL:    Yes, and for five to ten years afterwards I find I can’t bring myself to listen to them at all.  I think, “Oh, God!  Why didn’t I do that?”  But then, say ten or fifteen years later, you listen to it and think, “Oh!  That wasn’t too bad at all.”  [Laughs]  Did I really sound like that?

BD:    So you have to have confidence in what you’re doing?

RL:    Yes. You just have to do it and take your money, and hope that it’s going to be all right, really.

BD:    Do you enjoy it when people come backstage afterwards and say, “I liked your performance, and I really like the recording”?

RL:    Yes, that’s nice.  It is a great pity, though, that so much of an operatic career is determined by recordings.  It really is.  There’s no doubt at all that very few artists would sing at the Metropolitan Opera unless they’d first made records.  It’s the way things are nowadays.  It very often leads to poor casting, not necessarily at the Metropolitan Opera, but in opera companies generally.  People are selected for their famousness through recordings rather than for their ability to perform that particular role.

BD:    Do you sing differently from house to house, depending on the size of the house?

RL:    Yes, I think that is inevitable.  Your American houses do create problems for us, and of course the other way around.  They create problems for your American singers, too.  One of the things that we tend to notice about American singers when they come to Europe is that their vocal style is somewhat more grandiloquent than the Europeans.  It’s quite clear once you’ve sung in one of these opera houses why that’s so.  You do have to belt it out, not to put too fine a point on it.  You have to actually push out the sound in as great a quantity as you can to impress an audience as big as that.

BD:    And yet, you don’t have to push and strain.

RL:    Oh, no.  Certainly not.  But in a house like Covent Garden it really feels very intimate.  You can do almost anything you like with the voice there.  You can sing incredibly small.

BD:    How many seats are there?

RL:    2200.  In fact most of the bigger European opera houses are about the same size
Paris, Vienna, Munich, Berlin, London.  Leningrad was a bit smaller, but I think the Bolshoi is about the same.

BD:    Our houses then are nearly twice that size.

RL:    Yes.  In actual internal space
cubic capacitythey’re almost certainly twice the size of most of those houses.  In terms of audience capacity, maybe half again, but in order to get that amount of audience in you’ve got to have more actual area.  So they do seem enormous.  The only places I’ve sung in bigger than the American ones are in Seoul, Korea.  It’s an absolutely gigantic place!

BD:    Have you sung in open air, like in Orange?

RL:    Not in Orange.  I’ve sung in Aix-en-Provence, which is kind of half in open air.  You’ve got a cover to the stage, but the audience is in the open air.  I’ve sung in a park in San Francisco which was really quite an experience, but I haven’t sung in Verona or any of those big amphitheaters.  I can’t believe it’s really too artistic an experience.  If there’s a thread to the way I select work, I try to be sure that’s it is going to be as artistic as possible.  It’s not always possible in opera because people are interested in things other than the art.  They’re interested in volume; they’re interested in personality; they’re interested in glamour; they’re interested in wealth; they’re interested in social activity and social display.  All these things come into opera.  But as often as possible I choose something I think is going to be an artistic experience though that’s not always possible.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’re a bass and you are limited by the number of roles you can sing because of the tessitura and the amount of range that you have, but are you pleased with the characters that these roles offer you?

RL:    I do feel a bit limited sometimes, yes.  I’m glad I don’t have to play the tenor roles that are always the young lover.  I think that would be a very difficult thing to do especially as you get older.  We tend to say that basses become more relevant as we get older.  We put on less and less makeup as time goes by, and the tenors put on more and more makeup as time goes by.  That’s why they have such big fees, you know, to pay for the makeup.  [Gales of laughter all around.]  The baritones and tenors have some wonderful tunes, and we could do with a few more tunes, us basses.

BD:    Have you ever been tempted to do a baritone-type role?

RL:    I’ve done Don Giovanni which is bordering on that territory, and apparently it didn’t suit me very well.  So my agent doesn’t look for opportunities for me to do it.

BD:    That’s too bad.  I’ve heard bases and baritones do Don Giovanni, and I like the extra weight of the bass.

RL:    Yes.  I quite enjoyed doing it, but it didn’t go down too well.  I’m constantly tempted by Wotan and I think probably I’ll capitulate one of these days.  But I had a very shrewd old agent once who said, “Better to be a world famous bass than just another Wotan.”  I think there’s something in that.  If you sing Wotan and you’re really a bass, you can burn your boats, and there’s really no way back then to cantabile bass singing, which is really what I like doing. 

lloydBD:    Let’s stay with Wagner a little bit.  You’ve sung Gurnemanz, so tell me a bit about him.

RL:    That’s my next job at the Met, actually, to do Parsifal with the new production.  James Levine’s conducting, with Plácido Domingo and Jessye Norman.  It’s going to be quite an occasion.  [Ponders a moment]  I’m not sure there’s a great deal to say about Gurnemanz because he’s almost, in a sense, a non-character.  He’s more like a commentator or a voice off, in a way, telling the story several times over.  His own personality doesn’t emerge very much in it at all.  He’s an elderly man.

BD:    How old is he?

RL:    I don’t think it matters.  He just has to register as elderly in comparison with the other people around.  I’ve seen pictures of the very first Gurnemanz.  He had a gigantic cotton wool beard that came down almost to his waist.

BD:    In the first act, or just the third act?

RL:    That I don’t know.  There is the passage of time, but I’m not sure that chronology’s got too much to do with it. It’s more like the passage of the spirit rather than the passage of actual chronological time.  But what is interesting to talk about is the opera Parsifal, which in a sense is what Gurnemanz is about, because Gurnemanz expresses the opera.  He tells the story.  He sets the scene.  He narrates what goes on.   Not actually a great deal happens in the opera.  Most has happened before and during interval, which Gurnemanz explains.  It’s a wonderful part to sing because there’s some wonderful spasms of melody in it.  You feel as you’re performing it as though you’re afloat on a warm, rich, rather oily ocean of sound.  Especially the Good Friday music at the end is a wonderful experience.  You feel at the end of it totally spent because you’ve been there and pouring out sound for an awfully long time.  It’s true catharsis.  You’ve really purged yourself of your spirit by then.

BD:    Is the work an opera or is it a sacred play?

RL:    I spent a lot of time thinking about it before I performed it first.  I thought that I ought to turn up to the first rehearsal with some ideas about it.  Probably that was a mistake, because it meant that I had to spend an awful lot of time getting rid of my ideas and recharging myself with the ideas of somebody else.  But it was fun.  It was intellectual fun trying to work out what Parsifal was all about.  It’s a long time ago now.  It’s difficult to reconstruct the stages through which I went.  I went through stages of trying to identify with the characters in it.  There were moments in it that I absolutely recognized, that actually touched me right to the heart
like the moment that Parsifal shoots the swan and Gurnemanz tells him off.  He says, “Why have you shot this swan here, of all places, in this place where animals are sacred?” and Parsifal suddenly understands what he’s done.  It never crossed his mind that it was wrong to shoot swans, but as soon as Gurnemanz explains to him he’s cut to the quick.  He realizes it and he smashes his bow and throws it to the ground.  I absolutely identify with that because I went with my father shooting — what you would call hunting — wildfowl, geese and ducks in the marshes of Essex.  It was a very beautiful, melancholy, exotic sort of thing to be doing on those wild places, and I loved it.  I loved the experience of the early morning, and seeing the geese coming up over the marshes.  So I shot one and I couldn’t bear it!  There was this thing on the ground.  It wasn’t quite dead, and it was struggling and it was squawking and it was bleeding.  I had to kill it, finish it off with the butt of my rifle, and I hated myself for doing it.  It was a wonderful, exactly Parsifal moment in my life.  Then as time went on, I saw more and more moments like that in the course of the opera that I could identify with.  I thought, “Maybe this is what Parsifal is about.  Perhaps what you have to do is to find yourself in the opera.”  So I pursued that line of thought for a while, but I couldn’t tie it up.  It didn’t come to any sort of conclusion in my mind.  Then I met a producer, Filippo Sanjust, a man of extraordinary brilliance, who was the designer for a number of Visconti’s operas and films.   He never had the success as a director that he had as a designer, but as a personality, as an individual person, he was extraordinarily brilliant.  And he said, “Oh, Parsifal, that’s easy.  Everybody’s the same person in Parsifal.”  That set me thinking.  Could it be that these various charactersParsifal, Kundry, Gurnemanz, Amfortas, Klingsorall these are aspects of one person?  They’re elements of the psyche?  That’s an interesting idea.  Then I had the extraordinary fortune of making a film of Parsifal with Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, the maverick German film producer.  We discussed it a lot, and one day at breakfast he said, “Of course, Wagner is Parsifal.”  I said, “Do you mean the character Parsifal is Wagner?”  He said, “No, no.  Wagner is the opera.”  That made very good sense to me and has remained really, the core of my thinking about Parsifal ever since.  In actual fact, Parsifal is a kind of artistic autobiography where Wagner traces the development of his own search for his own personal grail, his really, and that was artistic maturity, full artistic self-expression.  It might be too offensive, or you could suggest that the moment he kisses Kundry is the moment he met Cosima.  That the meeting with Cosima opened up the most productive period in his life.  In the film with Syberberg, he did the very extraordinary thing after the kiss of changing the sex of Parsifal.  Parsifal was no longer a boy but now a kind of slightly androgynous girl.  So the suggestion there was that at that point Wagner discovered his anima, that the truly creative, lyrical element of his personality was discovered after he met Cosima.  Then he was able to complete The Ring and do Parsifal and all his mature things.

BD:    When Parsifal loses the boyhood and becomes, as you say, sort of partial woman, does he lose his sexuality or does he gain more sexuality?

RL:    In the film, neither of them have a great deal of sexuality because in the film you can use non-singers.  I was fortunate that he chose me to do the singing and the acting.  That was, I think, simply because he couldn’t find an actor willing to learn all that text and synchronize with the music.

BD:    [Laughs]  That’s right.  For the Amfortas, they had the conductor, Armin Jordan, act on screen.  [See my Interview with Armin Jordan.]

lloydRL:    Yes, that’s right.  That was a very shrewd move because the conductor knows the text and he looked very much like an Amfortas.  But he found these two young people.  [Photo at left]  I think he saw one of them in a restaurant and he saw the other one in the street and he said, “I must have them for the film.”  The boy was actually a good deal older than he looked, but he looked very unformed, terribly aesthetic... kind of beautiful but in a rather shapeless way.  It was much more like that on film than he was in real life.  And the girl had an asexual quality on film, a blandness, a sort of nothingness in the face, which was faintly reminiscent of one of those Renaissance Madonnas but not quite as pretty as a Renaissance Madonna without expression.  So the move from the boy to the girl wasn’t as long a step as you might have seen, but it was still pretty odd to hear Reiner Goldberg’s voice coming out of a girl.  [Both laughs]  That idea of the opera being Wagner was extended by the fact that the whole film took place on or inside the head of Wagner.  He’d constructed a gigantic death mask of Wagner out of concrete and plaster which took up the whole of the huge sound studio where we were working.  It could be divided into segments so that the chin could come away from the cheeks and the cheeks could come away from the forehead and so on, making kind of Grand Canyons in between these things so that people could move into the head of Wagner and go into a completely different environment.  You could go into the side of Wagner’s face and enter a woodland, some beautiful place.

BD:    Sounds a little bit like the Ring that they did at Bayreuth in 1960, which was a disk.  It started as a disk and then broke apart into all kinds of pieces throughout the cycle, and eventually at the end came back and was a disk once more.

RL:    Oh, yes.  Same idea.  It led to things like the Kundry, for some reason at some stage is in a pool of water and the pool of water is in the eye socket.

BD:    Tears?

RL:    Yes, that’s right.  The garden is obviously a very fragrant place full of flowers, and that’s just under the nostrils.  It’s a difficult film.  People do find it difficult, but maybe anybody listening to this might use what I’ve said as a key to understanding it a little more.

BD:    Exactly.  What other Wagner have you done?  You’ve done the Heinrich?

RL:    Yes.  I do that fairly often.  It’s not one of my favorites.  In the old days I did Fasolt in the Ring.  I liked Fasolt very much.  I thought he was a lovely chap.  He was the only genuinely nice person in the whole of the Ring cycle.

BD:    Then he gets bopped off right away.

RL:    That’s right, yes.  [Laughs]

BD:    Was it your choice or the producer’s choice to cast you as Fasolt rather than Fafner?

RL:    At the time I think it was inevitable that I would be Fasolt because my voice tended to be lyrical, and for Fafner you had to be able to bark.  We had Matti Salminen as the logical choice there because he’s such a wonderful, dark, strong bass.  He was tremendous; awe-inspiring!  As for other Wagner, I do Daland in The Flying Dutchman.  I do that quite a bit, too.

BD:    Is Daland a nice fellow or is he just an opportunist?

RL:    I worked it out with a producer in Munich.  Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten his name — very, very creative thinker.  We thought that Daland was probably not a very nice man.  He was really much too interested in the money.  He didn’t ask anything like enough questions as to who this man, the Flying Dutchman, was, and he was prepared to trade his daughter for the money really too quickly.

BD:    There’s nothing on the other side
that the daughter’s been around just a little too long and Daland has seen her be just a little bit too neurotic? 

RL:    [Laughs]  I think so, yes, but in that production it was done very much as though it were inside the psyche of Senta.  So she was presented as a girl who was totally dominated and obsessed with her father’s world.  Her whole world was full of pictures of ships and ships and seamen and ropes and all that, so when she saw this seaman, this ultimate seaman arriving, she immediately fell in love with this replacement for her father.  So Daland was played as a very dominant and domineering father.  I like to think of him rather as that Shakespearean character who could smile and smile and still be a villain.

BD:    Do you sing Wagner differently than the Verdi characters or Mozart characters?

RL:    I try to sing as much as possible always the same way.  With Daland I allow a certain roughness to come in during the first scene, but as much as possible I like to try and sing bel canto.  I’m sure that’s what Wagner wanted.  I’m sure that’s how Wagner perceived all his roles, with bel canto singing.  Unfortunately all these things have come to be performed with orchestras which are much too large, in opera houses which are much too big, and with conductors who want to build their reputations upon the loudness of their singers’ voices.  The whole thing’s become an awful competition for loudness.

BD:    Is there any hope?

RL:    Not a lot.  I think Wagner is going to go on ruining tenor voices.  He doesn’t do quite so much damage to basses, but he does a lot of damage to bass-baritones.  If only they could find an environment which they could sing more gently.  Mind you, I have sometimes wondered what sort of genius he was, who gave all that music to tenors in that tessitura.

BD:    He thought of them as characters rather than as human beings.  The Siegfried character as being just Siegfried, rather than a tenor who has to sing it.

RL:    Yes, yes.  I must say, it’s very nice to hear Domingo singing the Lohengrin.  I did it with him in Vienna recently and I look forward to the Parsifal because to hear an Italianate sound on the Wagner is really good.  I sometimes think that Wagner’s used as an excuse for lazy singing by some singers.  It falls into the hands of singers who don’t try hard enough at singing bel canto.  You hear someone like James Morris, who all his life sang as a lyric bass and then suddenly becomes a Wotan, and you hear magnificent Wagner singing without any sense of that Bayreuth bark.  That’s beautiful, wonderful singing.

BD:    You said you are thinking of essaying Wotan at some point?

RL:    I might, yes.

BD:    One or all three?

RL:    All three.  I could do the Rheingold with no problem at all, straight away.  The difficult one is the Siegfried.  But we’ll see how it goes.  I do most composers, really, from time to time.  One area which I’ve always wanted to do more of is the early music.  There’s a lot of very good bass stuff written by Monteverdi and Cavalli and people like this... beautiful, beautiful bass singing.

BD:    [Contemplating the early works]  You’d be a terrific Seneca.

RL:    Yes, I did Seneca.  That also is available on videocassette from Glyndebourne.  I enjoyed Seneca enormously.  I also did Neptune in Ulysses by Monteverdi at Glyndebourne.  That also is on cassette, and there’s a lot of Purcell which I would like to have a go at.  There are some beautiful Purcell songs.  Unfortunately we get pigeon-holed.  People think, “Oh, he sings Wagner or Verdi with the occasional Zoroastro.”  Then they think, “Well, he wouldn’t be interested in Monteverdi.”  But I am!  I would very much like to do that.  Also there comes a time when they think you sing too loud for those ancient instruments.  But that’s not necessarily so.  I can sing quietly.  [Laughs]

BD:    One last question.  Is singing fun?

RL:    It’s interesting you should ask that question.  I did a radio program I spoke of earlier, about the way people use their voices.  I was interested in why people sing.  I wondered if any research had been done into what makes people sing.  I wrote to the professor of psychology at Oxford University and asked him.  He wrote back and said that as far as he knew there wasn’t any research on that subject, but people had researched why birds sing.  Birds sing, apparently, for three reasons.  One is for sexual display, the second is for territorial advantage
marking out their territoryand the third is for the hell of it, because it’s fun.  [Laughs]  In answer to your question, singing is all those three things at various times in one’s career and at various times in one’s life.  I don’t think any great singer would be a great singer unless they were, at some stage in their career, interested in the sexual display element, and a lot of them go on being interested in that right through their careers.  The territorial advantage is represented in terms of money and travel and the power and fame that it gives.  But the for-the-hell-of-it element, the fun element, has got to be there, otherwise I don’t think you’re a genuinely interesting singer.  I’ve found that it’s got more fun as time goes on because the other two have become less important as I’ve got older.  Recently I was taking part in a sitzprobe.  That’s when the singers first meet the orchestra, and you go through it sitting down, stopping and starting and doing the difficult bits several times.  That’s the time that the singers actually hear the orchestra most intimately.  You’re sitting there right in the middle of the orchestra.  You’re right in the middle of this music!  You’re not on the stage, only half hearing it; you’re caught up right in the middle of it, and that’s when it’s at its most exciting.  All singers like the sitzprobe.  It’s the best time, and many times recently I’ve had the feeling that I’m really very privileged to be there in the middle of this music.  This is not given to everybody to do this.  You know, I’m not as young as I used to be.  I’m not going to be able to do this forever, so I’ve got to enjoy this.  I’ve really got to take this and relish it.  So it has become, in a sense, more... fun is perhaps not absolutely the right word, but I certainly do it more for the hell of it than I used to.

BD:    I hope you keep doing it
for the hell of it for a long time.

RL:    Oh, thank you.


© 1991 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded at his apartment in Chicago on January 22, 1991.  Sections were used (along with recordings) on WNIB two months later (during the broadcast of his Parsifal on Easter Sunday), also in 1995 and again in 2000.  It was transcribed and posted on this website in 2013.

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.