Tonight, when James Morris sings the role of Timur in Turandot, it will mark his 1,000th performance on the Metropolitan Opera stage. He made his house debut in 1971 at the age of 23 s the King in Verdi’s Aida.
His celebrated career at the Met has included three complete cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, both recorded for television and available on DVD all conducted by James Levine. He originated the role of John Claggart in the Met premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd and has repeated the role in each revival. Frequently performed roles at the there have included the title role in Der fliegende Holländer (new production), Scarpia in Tosca, The Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and the title roles in Don Giovanni and Boris Godunov.
“Forty six years and one thousand performances later, James Morris’ burnished bass is still delighting our audiences,” said General Manager Peter Gelb in his comments. “If the Met had a hall of fame, he would be enshrined there.”
Mr. Morris answered these questions in a recent interview with Playbill:
As you approach your 1,000th Met performance, what does this milestone mean to you?
It’s something that I never even thought about, and now that it’s happening, I just feel so lucky that I’ve had the Met as a home for all these years. The Met has always been the beacon in the world for opera companies, so to grow up in it like I have, it’s just been an amazing experience.
Do any moments in particular stand out?
Singing the title role in Don Giovanni in 1975 was definitely an early turning point for me. And of course, doing the complete Ring cycle with Jimmy Levine conducting was very important. Not to mention that when I was starting out, I had the chance to sing alongside so many of the artists I grew up idolizing – Robert Merrill, Richard Tucker, Roberta Peters, Cesare Siepi – the list just goes on and on.
How have you kept your voice in such great shape all these years?
I’ve been very fortunate with voice teachers, but more than anything, it’s about pacing, being careful about which roles you choose to sing, and listening to the seasoned singers tell you how to take care of yourself. When you’re performing with someone like Alfredo Kraus, in his 70s and jumping up on tables in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, you think, “I want to still be doing that when I’m that age.” I’m not jumping up on any tables, but I’m still singing.
We congratulate James Morris on this achievement and are delighted to have him return to Colbert Artists!