Cher Public

Happy Birthday Dame Gwyneth Jones

La Cieca is delighted to congratulate Dame Gwyneth Jones, born November 7, 1936, on her diam0nd birthday anniversary. At 75, Dame Gwyneth is still active, both as the President of the Wagner Society of Great Britain and as a performer, scheduled to return to the Vienna State Opera in the spring of 2012 as Herodias in Salome.

Like many big-voiced singers, Dame Gwyneth is not always best served by studio recordings, and so La Cieca was delighted to hear from Andrew Whitfield of Opera Depot that in honor of the soprano’s birthday he has prepared a number of the soprano’s live recordings for release. Here’s a sample of prime Jones in Verdi:

D’amor sull’ali rosee

Andrew is partnering with in offering these recordings, which you may peruse (and order, if you wish) on’s special Dame Gwyneth Jones at Opera Depot page.

  • mjmacmtenor

    I heard Dame Gwyneth live in LA in around 1990 in Die Frau Ohne Schatten. Boy, was she LOUD! I was sitting in the balcony and when she sang a low G in chest (she started her career as a contralto!)I thought I had been run over by a truck. Live in the house, I never noticed any of the wide vibrato that could be annoying in her recordings. I also remember her from some great videos in the 70s and 80s that showcased her great acting (and terrific figure!). I most fondly remember a Rosenkavalier (she was elegance personified) and a Tannhauser where she played both Elizabeth and Venus. As Venus, she wore a skin tight leotard that left very little to the imagination (where was HD when we needed it). Who says all beautiful singers have to have tiny voices??

    • Camille

      Boy, WAS she loud! My fave of all the various and infinite apparitions of hers I chanced to catch her in. Fabulous she was, throwing the errant fishies back into the frying pan. It was October 1993, by the way.

      What a great Dame. There is nothing like one.

      • danpatter

        I have heard plenty of big-voiced singers in my day, including Nilsson, Farrell, etc. I adored Jones, saw in Turandot, the Ring, Parsifal and others. The loudest note I ever heard in my life was the high C she sang at the end of “Laggiu nel soledad” (Fanciulla del West) in Los Angeles. Stunning, brilliant and beautiful, just like Jones herself.

    • ardath_bey

      gwyneth who?




  • brooklynpunk


    …it’s songs like this that make me sad that I am not a full-blown F**kin Brit (ALTHOUGH -my granny and her family were from Leeds-VIA Warsaw….lol!)

  • arkansoprano

    I am so grateful to share a birthday with dames Gwyneth Jones and Joan Sutherland!

  • peter

    My favorite Brunnhilde (1989 Met Ring) and Elektra (SF 1991).

  • OpinionatedNeophyte

    Somehow same singer:

    • Oddly enough, I liked the “D’amor sull’ali” video you posted by not the audio posted by La Cieca. I think there was just too much white tone in that one for my tastes. The voice didn’t seem to be vibrating.

      Anyway, happy birthday to a unique and exciting singer!

  • No Expert

    And even more versatile than one might think

    • A fascinating recording though, again, I can’t say I care for Dame Gwyneth’s white tone. But oh my, this is an achingly beautiful duet. I don’t care if Monteverdi didn’t write it. It is one of the glories of opera.

  • grimoaldo

    Levine and the beautiful Dame Gwyneth raise the rafters at a gala in Vienna in 86 in In Questa Reggia which is one of the happy memories I have of the many roles I heard the great Dame sing live.
    Yes she is the number one “You had to be there” singer I think, what she did in the house is really not captured too well by recordings but I can also tell you that even in her heyday there were many London opera queens who could not STAND her.
    You will always have a special place in my heart Dame Gwyneth! Many happy returns!

    • Regina delle fate

      One of the reasons that some London opera queens couldn’t stand her “in her heyday” was that she often sang badly there, at least between about 1974 and 1982. I remember a very squally, screechy Salome in 1974 and I heard her Brünnhilde in two complete Rings two years apart -- in 1980, the voice sounded, tired, ragged, wobbly and she sang out of tune -- but she had just completed three cycles in Bayreuth; in 1982, when there was no Ring at Bayreuth, she was absolutely breathtaking, the voice gleamed, was steady and huge, and she hit every note bang in the middle. I -- and my companion -- could hardly believe this was the same singer we had heard in 1980. In the third of the 1982 cycles, she sang Sieglinde in London for the first time since the Solti years, and her voice was all over the place again, although there were some thrilling moments. I also remember her Elektra at the ROH which got very sniffy first night reviews, but I went to the third performance and she was the most exciting Elektra I had heard since Nilsson. She was hugely variable, and it was always a matter of luck which Gwyneth you would get on a particular night. Did she EVER cancel a performance? Whatever her faults, there is noone like her today for the Hochdramatischen, that’s clear. I’m not quite sure I buy the lovely woman stuff, however. I’ve been told by several singers who worked with her that she was not a good colleague, and privately badmouthed a lot of very great singers who sang her repertoire.

  • sfmike

    I was a super in that 1991 SF “Elektra” and actually suffered some hearing loss from the moment where Dame Gwyneth finally recognizes Orest, and sings his name full blast. We were cursed slaves acting like servile dogs around the returned prodigal son and she happened to sing the phrase right at my eardrum during one performance. Wow. The production, conducted by a baby-faced Christian Thielemann and directed by a young Andrei Serban, was one of the most exciting times at the opera ever.

    As for Ms. Jones’ live performances, you were never quite sure who was going to show up, the singer with a vibrato so large you could drive a truck through it, or the singer with the pinpoint laser beam voice. In any case, it was always HUGE, and she really was/is a goddess onstage.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      She’s one of the boys, although she’s one of the girls.

    • armerjacquino

      I love the way she can be at her best and her worst in the space of three and a half minutes.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Thanks for all the memorable performances! Happy Birthday to this very special artist and beautiful person. (I wish I could remember the name of Dame Gwyneth’s psychic advisor, whom I once met when she was accompanying the diva during an engagement at the MET. She has such a great name.)

    • Nerva Nelli

      “(I wish I could remember the name of Dame Gwyneth’s psychic advisor, whom I once met when she was accompanying the diva during an engagement at the MET. She has such a great name.)”

      Perhaps “Helga Dernesch”?

    • marshiemarkII

      Olga Stringfellows?

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Yes, I think so!

        Stringfellow was born in Auckland as Olga Elizabeth Brown. She was educated at the Otago Girls’ High School in Dunedin, and the Elam School of Fine Arts.

        In 1943 she was married (later divorced) and moved to the United Kingdom in 1949. After a time in journalism, with the Modern Woman and The Sketch, and as a columnist for the Scottish Daily Express, she became an author. Her published works include the historical novels Mary Bravender (1960), set at the time of the New Zealand Wars, and A Gift for the Sultan (1962), based on the true account of a Scottish woman captured by pirates, sold into slavery, and eventually becaming a wife of the Sultan of Morocco.

        Stringfellow was a recognised touch healer. She counted Middle Eastern princes and New York millionaires amongst her patients.

      • marshiemarkII

        I knew it was her, and I got to know her pretty well myself, until her death actually. She did like her vodka straight though :-)
        I’ve told many times how good friends the great Dame Gwyneth and Hildegard were! and Olga was close to both of them.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          Oh the stories I could tell. Thank you very much for reminding me of Olga.

        • marshiemarkII

          Yes the stories I could tell also :-)
          Do we know each other Quanto?

  • Buster

    An interesting Jones event next week:

  • Yugiri

    I always have had the greatest respect for Dame Gwyneth, who won the admiration of all when she came to Hong Kong for concert performances of Elektra in late 2005. (She was making her role debut as Klytemnestra.) A few days before the first performance, she slipped in the hotel sauna and banged her head against rough, stony wall, which left a long and nasty gash above just her left brow. She was taken to hospital immediately and more than 10 stitches were required.
    Many would have cancelled in the circumstances, let alone a soprano of in her 69th year (as she then was). But she courageously soldiered on and gave riveting performances that were highly praised by all local critics. Some actually considered her performance to be more impressive than that of Susan Bullock, who took on the title role in that run and who, in my view, did a great job at the time.
    As regards the accident and injury, Dame Gwyneth shrugged it off with grace and joked about it aftewards by saying that it probably had something to do with the curse of Agamemnon! .
    What a great and charming lady! Happy Birthday, Dame Gwyneth!