Gwynne Howell, one of the world’s leading basses, was born near Swansea. He obtained degrees from the University College of Wales and Manchester University before pursuing his vocal studies at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Recent North American engagements include Lulu for a return to the Metropolitan Opera, Dansker in Billy Budd, Benoit/Alcindoro in La Boheme for Houston Grand Opera, and Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro at Santa Fe Opera. In Europe, he has appeared in Gianni Schicchi for the Royal Opera, and Poppea for Welsh National Opera (televised and serialized by BBC Television). For the English National Opera, he sang The Croucher in the world premiere of The Silver Tassie by Mark Anthony Turnage, Bolkonsky in War and Peace, Schigolch in Lulu, Dansker in Billy Budd and King/Aida. He has appeared in Glyndebourne productions of Pelléas et Mélisande, Manon Lescaut, Don Giovanni, Figaro and Otello; and for Covent Garden as Schigolch in Lulu, Jake Wallace in La Fanciulla del West, Titurel in Parsifal, Old Convict in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and in the world première of The Tempest by Thomas Adès.
After several successful years with Sadlers Wells Opera, Gwynne Howell moved to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, where he has sung most of the major bass roles with the company in productions including Aida, Rigoletto, Ballo in Maschera, Luisa Miller, Don Carlos, Simon Boccanegra, Otello, Forza del Destino, Boheme, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin, Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, Parsifal, Tannhauser, Das Rheingold, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger, Die Zauberflöte, Khovanshchina, Boris Godunov, Norma, Fidelio, The Flying Dutchman, Katya Kabanova, Le Nozze di Figaro, Salome, Pilgrim’s Progress, Mathis der Maler, Palestrina (including a tour to The Metropolitan Opera), and Stiffelio.
Gwynne Howell has returned regularly as a guest to English National Opera, most notably as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, Banquo in Macbeth, Gurnemanz in Parsifal, and the title role in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Fidelio, Ariodante, and Khovanshchina. He also sang King Philip in a production of Don Carlos for English National Opera, in which he “brought the whole performance to life and raised it to a higher plane of artistry.”
Other operatic engagements have included King Mark (Tristan) conducted by Sir Reginald Goodall for WNO, Iolanta for Opera North, The Magic Flute and Ermione for Glyndebourne, the world première of Peter Maxwell-Davies’ The Doctor of Mydffai at Welsh National Opera, and concert performances of Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis and the LSO.
International performances have taken him to the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the major houses of San Francisco, Santa Fe, Toronto, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Paris, Geneva and Bruxelles.
Gwynne Howell has appeared all over the world with many leading conductors such as Abbado, Davis, Dorati, Barenboim, Boulez, Bernstein, Giulini, Muti, Maazel, Ozawa, Mehta, Levine, Haitink and Sinopoli. Since making his US debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Solti he has returned regularly for concerts with both that orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and also for concert performances of Oedipus Rex and Fidelio with Solti in Chicago, Bluebeard’s Castle with Ozawa in Boston and Oedipus Rex with the New York Philharmonic.
His many recordings include Mahler 8 with Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ballo in Maschera and Luisa Miller and Rossini’s Stabat Materwith Muti, Tristan with Goodall, the Messiah with Solti, and Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Kurt Masur. He has recently completed a new recording of Un Ballo in Maschera for Teldec.
In 1998 he was awarded the Commander of the British Empire CBE.