Rupert Christiansen interviews Jonathan McGovern for his New Faces column in The Daily Telegraph.
Who is he?
A prodigiously talented 26-year-old baritone, fresh out of the Royal Academy of Music, who looks poised for a brilliant career.
Where can I hear him?
He’s singing Schumann, Britten and Vaughan Williams at the Wigmore Hall on January 16. Later in the year, he’ll play Yamadori in Madama Butterfly at English National Opera and participate in concerts marking Kathleen Ferrier’s centenary. He’s also making his first recording, of Mendelssohn songs, with pianist Malcolm Martineau.
What makes him special?
Not just his beautifully focused and warmly virile voice, matched to great musical sensitivity, but also that rarest of attributes – an instantly winning and communicative personality.
Where does he come from?
Born in Surrey, he was an only child who spent a lot of time sitting on his own listening to music, especially Rakhmaninov. “I loved singing in the school choir,” he says, “but the performing bug really took a grip when I joined the National Youth Music Theatre. I made my Glyndebourne debut aged 12 in The Ragged Child.”
Who are his inspirations?
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. “Ever since I bought the CDs of his Schubert song cycles for £10 in a Godalming record shop, he’s been my beacon for the singing of lieder. And Simon Keenlyside, not least because he is one of the loveliest people ever.”
What are his ambitions?
“My dream role is Billy Budd. I love Britten’s music: it lies so well in my voice. I’ve just been singing Sid in Albert Herring at Aldeburgh with Felicity Lott, and I felt very proud singing some of his folk-song settings in Lille.”
He played county cricket for Surrey under-16s, and would like to keep up his game. “Unfortunately, the timetables for music and cricket don’t really mix.”
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