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Gavan Ring's Viennese Whirl

An Opera North mainstage favourite as a baritone, Gavan Ring makes his company debut as a tenor in our Viennese Whirl concerts in Leeds, Huddersfield and Hull at the end of December.

We caught up with him after a whirlwind year, as he looks forward to revelling in his new repertoire with the Orchestra of Opera North.

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On reaching new heights

Gavan: This year has been a rollercoaster! I literally finished up being a baritone in May, then my first ever concert as a tenor at the National Concert Hall Dublin was broadcast by RTÉ in Ireland!

Since then it’s been a year of firsts: my first staged role as a tenor [Casimiro in Bride & Gloom], tenor debuts in London, Dublin, Wexford and New York, my first Messiah as a tenor… and overall it’s going very well –  I’m very glad I made the change!

For Auld Lang Syne

Gavan: I’ve always wanted to do a Viennese New Year concert and I am beyond excited to be doing it with my favourite company in the world, Opera North. They have been so good to me, and so much of my success in making my transition from baritone to tenor is down to them.

Gavan Ring as Papageno in Opera North's 2019 production of The Magic Flute © Alastair Muir

We asked Gavan to tell us something about each of the selections from the classic tenor repertoire that he’ll be sprinkling in among the traditional waltzes, marches and polkas at the concerts…

Lehár: ‘Gern hab’ich die Frau’n geküßt’ from Paganini  ? »

Paganini tells the story of the legendary violinist’s romance with Napoleon’s sister, and was the first of six operettas written by the Austrian composer Franz Lehár for his compatriot, Richard Tauber, one of the greatest tenors of the last century.

Gavan: I think this song – ‘Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss’ – will be a bit of cheeky fun. As a baritone I played a lot of roles that interacted with the audience, so I think we’ll see a reprise of the character (but not the voice obviously) of that smart alec!

Brass section of the Orchestra of Opera North, 2017 © Justin Slee

Tosti: ‘L’alba sepàra dalla luce l’ombra’ ? »

Hailing from Abruzzo in southern Italy, Paolo Tosti overcame illness and poverty to find success as a song composer, eventually moving to England and becoming singing master to the Royal Family. Influenced by the folk music of his home region, his ballads of love and longing are gorgeous, melodic miniatures that somehow seem to contain as much emotion as a full-length opera.

Gavan: Tosti wrote this song and many more for the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, who incidentally started out as a baritone too!

Gavan Ring as Ping, Joseph Shovelton as Pang and Nicholas Watts as Pong in Opera North's 2017 production of Turandot © Tristram Kenton

Lehár: ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’ from The Land of Smiles  ? »

The Land of Smiles (1929) is the story of the doomed love of a Viennese countess for a Chinese prince. ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’ (‘You Are My Heart’s Delight’) gives a taste of the bittersweet atmosphere of his operetta. 

Gavan: This is another of the songs that Lehár wrote for Richard Tauber, who of course had the most amazing breath control – I adore this aria and can’t wait to perform it!

The Orchestra of Opera North in Huddersfield Town Hall © Justin Slee

De Curtis: Torna a Surriento ? »

If you haven’t heard a recording by Caruso or Pavarotti, you might recognise ‘Torna a Surriento’ from English language versions by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis, or even Meat Loaf. One of the finest examples of traditional Neapolitan song, it was written in 1902 by the native composer Ernesto De Curtis, whose brother Giambattista penned the intensely nostalgic lyrics.

Gavan: ‘Surriento’ reminds me of where I am from in Ireland – a beautiful coastal village on the Atlantic coast in County Kerry by the name of Cahersiveen. The idea of the sea inspiring so many emotions is something that resonates hugely with me… although we don’t get the same amount of sunshine in Kerry as they do in Surriento!

I’ve sung ‘Dein ist mein ganzes herz’ and ‘Torna a Surriento’ a number of times before (I used to sing ‘Torna a Surriento’ as a baritone – go figure!) Pieces that are so well known always bring a level of expectation but I am so thrilled to be able to sing this repertoire now, and sing it well, that I think myself, Paul and the orchestra will bring our own originality to them all!

Gavan Ring joins the Orchestra of Opera North under conductor Paul Daniel for Viennese Whirls at:

  • Leeds Town Hall (Sunday 29 December, 3pm)
  • Huddersfield Town Hall (Monday 30 December, 3pm)
  • Hull City Hall (Tuesday 31 December, 3pm)

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