Manhattan came first, but a home debut fast approaches
Iestyn Davies, fast rising star of the opera world, was born in Yorkshire but moved away. David Denton talks to the singer on his return home.
“MY family left York when I was still a child, but whenever I came close to the city, even when I was just passing through on the train, I had this very strange feeling that I had to return to live here,” says Iestyn Davies.
“Then, three years ago, with my career well established, I did just that.”
For Iestyn Davies, his move north came at a time when he was fast becoming one of the most exciting newcomers on the international opera circuit, engagements stretching more than three years ahead as appearances were scheduled in prestigious concert halls and opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic.
Coming from a professional musical family, he had to spend some time away from York to be educated at a boarding school in Somerset where his aptitude as a singer was soon noted. He became a choral scholar in the world famous choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, followed by years he describes as living in the “busy world of concerts, broadcasts, recordings and tours”.
Nature dictates that life as a boy treble is limited, but he had the good fortune of a voice that took some time before adulthood, allowing him time to pass through transition and adjust towards studying the totally unrelated subjects of archaeology and anthropology in which he eventually graduated from university.
“Singing remained the thing I most wanted to do in life. I first tried to become a tenor but wasn’t very good, so I moved to the bass range and that was a disaster. It was only when I was messing about singing falsetto that people began to take notice of me,” he says.
“I was nothing unusual, every male is born with the ability to sing falsetto, even those with a deep speaking voice, but it can only be used in short periods before it becomes exhausted, and you would certainly be unable to project it into a large theatre.
“So you have to seek expert tuition and undertake the rigorous vocal training and strengthening of neck muscles that control the action that takes place in the throat. If you add all of that together, your high register is turned into a viable counter-tenor.
“Even then you use it with great care as it is very different