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Today’s Great Canadian Artist – Jon Vickers!

Today’s Great Canadian Artist – Jon Vickers! featured image

Jon Vickers was a Saskatchewan farm boy who became one of the great helden tenors of the last century. He was as tremendous an actor as he was a singer who gave 100 % commitment to his craft.

Jon and my mother Margaret Stilwell studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music with their teacher George Lambert (Papa). They sang many concerts together at Massey Hall with the Toronto Symphony and at Carnegie Hall.

Jon said to me 44 years ago when we went to see him at the Metropolitan Opera in New York city, during the intermission of La Forza del Destino by Verdi, “Don’t do it. Don’t become an opera singer. There are only a handful of singers out there having the career that I have. I’ve seen so many singers come and go here.” At the end of his performance that night we went back stage once again. He said to me, “You’re going to do it anyway aren’t you?” I said, “yes”. He said, “good for you. Good Luck!” I was 18 years old at the time.

Fast forward ten years in 1983 I was in London, England singing in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan at the Old Vic Theatre which had just been refurbished by the Mervish’s. Jon was singing Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. He invited our cast to see his dress rehearsal. I visited with him afterwards and thanked him for his powerful performance. His voice was strong, solid and grounded. He was an extraordinary musician who thoroughly embodied any role he performed. His voice was flawless and always in the centre of the note; a heroic tenor with a truly handsome, gorgeous sound.

What an inspiration: a Canadian Treasure!

Jean Stilwell

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