VERDI - Otello - Opera Australia


Opera Australia, Christian Badea, July 2014


The three main principals could hardly be better. As Otello, New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill is tireless and thrilling. It’s not the Italian-cum-heldentenor sound one often hears in the role. O’Neill has a tighter, lighter tone – more of an amplified spinto – but once the ear adjusts he’s crystal clear even from the very back of the set. This is a reading of enormous panache, considerable vocal nuance and some of the most exciting top notes you are likely to hear on an operatic stage today. How rare and enjoyable it is to sit back and enjoy a singer in such a demanding role in full confidence that he won’t fall at any of the numerous vocal hurdles. The phrase-shaping of which he is capable, despite the gruelling requirements of volume or tessitura, is remarkable. And I’ve never heard so many of the words in a live performance of the role. The rapturous ascent to the top note as he sings “scendean sulle mie tenebre la gloria, il paradiso e gli astri a benedir” in the love duet is spine-tingling and the top note on “della Gloria d’Otello”, in the farewell-to-arms is hair-raising. The first act dramatically defines him a little unsympathetically as a bit a strutter, but from second act onwards he inhabits the role with growing subtlety, rising to some tremendous scenes with his wife and a fine suicide. He hurls himself around with gay abandon, and manages some pretty spectacular tumbles for a man of his stature.” - Limelight Magazine, See more at: http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/live-reviews/opera-review-otello-opera-australia#sthash.118AHOUN.dpuf

“In Opera Australia’s revival of the 2003 Harry Kupfer production, these three central roles are played with burning conviction. Iago, the villain with all the tricks in the book, is perhaps the most demanding of all Verdi’s villains to sing, because he has such a vast repertoire of personas. Claudio Sgura changed in a second from lyricism to strength, from cajoling to shouting, from the friend to the conspirator, with a control that told the audience who was in charge of this opera. Lianna Haroutounian brought to the role of Desdemona a passionate innocence bodied forth in meltingly intense lyrical singing, for which she received a din of bravos at the curtain-call worthy of any Italian audience. The power of her cry of farewell to her maid Emilia (strongly portrayed by Jacqueline Dark) sent shivers through every member of the audience. And between them Simon O’Neill veered vertiginously between the vocal command of his first appearance as conquering hero, the tenderness of his first scene with Desdemona, the confused suspicion and the raging jealousy which later overcome him, and the utter defeat of the end. I have rarely heard such a convincing fusion of great singing and total character portrayal as in this performance of Otello, itself probably Verdi’s most successful opera in terms of theatre.” The Australian Stage. http://www.australianstage.com.au/201407076895/reviews/sydney/otello-%7C-opera-australia.html

“As for Otello, the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill commands from the minute he steps on stage. From his re-entry in Act 1 where he seeks to silence the fray ("Abbasso le spade!"/"Down with your swords!"), O’Neill’s vocal and physical presence never wavers. Taught the role by one of the great Otellos, Placido Domingo, and fresh from a season of Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera, it is with single-minded intensity that O’Neill’s Heldentenor pierces through the psyche of the beleaguered Moor.” The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/jul/07/otello-review-lead-performances-worthy-of-a-still-powerful-opera


“The story of ‘Othello’ from Shakespeare follows the Moor and his new Venetian bride who are destroyed by Iago, revenging his recent demotion in Othello’s troops. A huge statue of the god Atlas is the centrepiece to a steep staircase set on stage. New Zealand-born tenor Simon O’Neill brings the heavily burdened and insecure Otello to our shores, as well as explosive reactions and a superb command of the stage. His heroic tenor voice soars over Cyprus, through the Dame Joan Sutherland Theatre and to the cast spilling down the set in his initial ‘Esultate! L’orgoglio musulmano sepolto è in mar’. The early love duet ‘Già nella notte densa s’estingue ogni clamo’ between Lianna Haroutounian’s Desdemona and O’Neill’s Otello features finely blended lyricism. The balance between the vocalists and orchestra is here simply ‘edge of the seat stuff’, showing us the extra dimension opera adaptations have to offer. Also captivating are Haroutounian’s vocal outbursts and varied vocal colour as she fears jealous Otello. Her versions of the ‘Willow Song’ and ‘Ave Maria’ in Act 4 are exquisite, with stunning shifts in timbre and register. Her acting in other scenes is a fine portrayal of Desdemona’s innocence and panicked disbelief.” Sydney Arts Guide, http://www.sydneyartsguide.com.au/tag/simon-oneill/

“Simon O'Neill's entry as Otello resounded with robust force and he maintained a focused and energised strength with flaming colour to the sound throughout the whole of this demanding role. Anyone who feared Opera Australia might have traded singing quality for civility in releasing soprano Tamar Iveri from her contract after a controversial Facebook posting on gay rights can rest assured.” Sydney Morning Herald,
http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/opera/opera-australias-otello-shines-despite-late-replacement-of-controversial-soprano-20140706-zsxx3.html

“Acclaimed heldentenor Simon O’Neill blesses the Australian stage with his role debut as Otello. Beginning somewhat gently, O’Neill gives an expertly shaded rendition of the challenging role, the power of his voice increasing as the night unfolds. His thrilling high notes ring out with clarity. Presented as an imposing mountain of a man, O’Neill also gives a remarkable physical performance, bravely throwing himself headfirst down the stairs, in Otello’s despair, at the end of the act three. Becoming increasingly disheveled, O’Neill convincingly conveys Otello’s bubbling inner torment.” Simon Parris Chair,
http://simonparrismaninchair.com/2014/07/06/opera-australia-otello-review-sydney/

    VERDI - Otello - CD recording


“Any Verdi fan will covet this budget-price LSO Live Otello, made additionally exciting by Simon O'Neill having stepped into his title-role debut at short notice (but trained in it by Domingo, which must help). Of the many high points the "fazzoletto" (handkerchief) scene, in which the Moor's jealousy spills into madness, is especially forceful. Throughout, the turbulent orchestral writing is delivered with marvellous energy and flair. Some vocal ensembles momentarily succumb to heat-of-the-moment rough tuning, but this is a spellbinding account, thanks to O'Neill, Anne Schwanewilms's Desdemona and Gerald Finley's Jago, but above all to Colin Davis's warm, urgent but never forced interpretation.” Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 14 November 2010



“The two male leads are superb: Simon O’Neill’s is the most complete Otello since Domingo, and some of his grandest passages are deeply stirring.” Michael Tanner, BBC Music Magazine, December 2010



“‘the whole thing just feels so alive … the dramatic shape he [Davis] makes is so constant and clear and engaging, it just feels like everyone involved is participating wholly in the excitement of this piece of music theatre. It has that feeling of the excitement of discovery for him [O’Neill] and throwing himself at the part but with complete control and musicianship, and you couldn’t have a better pairing than him with Gerald Finley who is a tremendous singing actor and whose Iago is scary. They’re both absolutely terrific … The whole thing is tremendous. What you want in a production like this is the sense of it being live with the music theatre being generated on all sides and feeding back in and there’s such a presence about it. A wonderful recording and a wonderful testament of and to this opera and performance. It must have been wonderful to be at the Barbican and thank God you can get it on CD. And it does sound fantastic – the dynamic range they’ve captured is tremendous.” BBC 3 Radio CD review, 20 November 2010.



“Simon O'Neill is a real asset to the LSO, as is demonstrated by his repeated appearances with the ensemble. Incredibly, he performs the title role of Otello here as a stand-in. O'Neill's projection is phenomenal, and the power he can give to his upper register is staggering. His ideal range is perhaps a little higher than that of this role, and he doesn't quite have the authority of tone in the lower register. And were this a staged performance, he would surely have worked more on the vocal characterisation. But the dramatic deficiencies of this recording are not down to him, and the sheer finesse of his singing more than makes up for any lack of credibility.” Gavin Dixon, Classical CD review, 24 October 2010



“Rating: 4/5 Verdict: Kiwi tenor supremo takes the Heldentenor trail to Verdi's Venice. The successes of New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill on the opera stages and concert halls of the world continue apace. Best of all, back home, we are not dependent on reading the plaudits of Europe's critics; we can experience O'Neill's persuasive artistry for ourselves on DVD and CD. Who could resist the New Zealander's stirring Siegmund, singing at Ravello in 2008, alongside Waltraud Meier and John Tomlinson in Daniel Barenboim's take on Die Walkure, a performance regularly programmed on the Arts Channel? The latest O'Neill triumph, recorded from a number of concert performances of Otello at the Barbican Centre last December, finds the tenor melding Wagnerian heft and Verdian lyricism in the Italian composer's penultimate masterpiece. The release itself, on LSO Live, cements just how valuable the London Symphony Orchestra's own label has become in its 10 years of existence. Particularly here, as octogenarian conductor Sir Colin Davis undertakes his third Verdi excursion with the orchestra. O'Neill is the total Otello, from the full flurry of martial victory at the beginning of the work to the heartwrenching desolation of the opera's final scene. His Act III cat-and-mouse game with Desdemona is especially chilling. Early on, Finley's great Credo aria comes up with a predictable few minutes of terror, inspiring Davis and the LSO to some brilliant pyrotechnics, but the way in which the Canadian works with the other characters about him, particularly O'Neill's eternally trusting hero, is what opera and drama are all about.” William Dart, The New Zealand Herald, 27 November 2010


“La bonne surprise vient donc de la distribution vocale, qui compte parmi ses membres des artistes encore jeunes et relativement peu connus de l’industrie discographique. Tel est le cas en tout cas du ténor néo-zélandais Simon O’Neill – à ne pas confondre avec son aîné le Gallois Dennis O’Neill, lui aussi interprète du rôle d’Otello dans les pays anglophones au cours de ces vingt dernières années… –, qui constitue une véritable révélation. Ce jeune Heldentenor déjà bien connu du public new Yorkais possède en effet toutes les qualités pour faire une carrière fracassante : puissance, volume, sens de la nuance et du verbe, et surtout, qualité très rare chez ce type de gabarit vocal, un timbre encore clair ainsi qu’une facilité déconcertante dans l’aigu, ce qui change agréablement de tous les ténors barytonants (Heppner, Domingo…) qui se sont frottés au rôle du maure de Venise ces dernières années. La tessiture d’Otello serait presque un peu grave pour une voix qui ne demande, naturellement, qu’à s’épanouir dans l’aigu. L’interprétation, évidemment, aura encore le temps de mûrir...” Par Degott, Resmusica, 13 November 2010


    VERDI - Otello


London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis, 3 December 2009


“Simon O'Neill made a tremendous debut in the title-role, giving notice that he is the best heroic tenor to emerge over the last decade.” Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, UK, 9 December 2009



“The triumphant Moor then made his entrance – an eleventh hour replacement: New Zealander Simon O’Neill strode forward to deliver his celebrated vocal fanfare. So far, so very good – O’Neill has a real trumpet-toned top to his voice and like all true warriors he is fearless. And because so many famous exponents of the role – including Domingo – are firmly in the more baritonal heldentenor mould it was refreshing, no thrilling, to hear a young singer really nail those crazed top notes. His martial outburst in act two had splendid rigour. For sure O’Neill lacked the middle-voice heft and shrouded darkness for the harrowing third act monologue but he was not found wanting in any other respect, indeed his sensitive and expressive way with text truly brought a lump to the throat in the great final scene.” Edward Seckerson, The Independent, Uk, 4 December 2009



“a thrilling performance from beginning to end … an evening to treasure; not just for Davis’s contribution, but for an impressive debut from the young New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill. O’Neill mastered Otello’s many moods with a striking musicality and an eveness of tone throughout the range. He will go far, and promises to be the outstanding Wagner Heldentenor we have been longing far … the men, led by Gerald Finley’s totally convincing and committed Iago, were splendid”  Mail on Sunday (UK)



“And the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill, stepping in at 24 hours’ notice to tackle the title role for the first time in his life, gave an immense performance. If he can cultivate more tonal lustre to go with his typhoon-force top notes, he will make the Moor his own.” Richard Morrison, The Times, UK, 7 December 2009



“...the New Zealand-born Simon O'Neill was drafted in as a replacement. It was apparently his first attempt at what is one of the most cruelly demanding roles in the tenor repertoire, though you would never have guessed it. O'Neill sang tirelessly, with wonderful freedom and sustained intensity, even if purists might regard his sound as not an authentically Verdian one.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian, UK, 5 December 2009



“Verdi’s Otello has almost become a rarity since Domingo gave up singing the title role, so its inclusion in the LSO series of concert performances under Sir Colin Davis was most welcome, and all the more so when it was announced that, at extremely short notice, the young New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill had taken over from the ailing Torsten Kerl. My first exposure to O’Neill was as Florestan at the Proms this year, where he electrified the proceedings with his intense and accurate singing and vocal acting. Otello demands even more than Fidelio, and he rose to all the challenges, from a quite magnificently authoritative ‘Esultate!’ onwards. Not only does he have the volume that I crave from heroic tenors and rarely get, but he never gives the impression that his voice might run out, though there is still an element of dangerous living about it. It is tightly focused, very un-baritonal, but without any of the bleating tendency that often goes with those qualities. And, even more astonishing, O’Neill can, and quite often does, sing quietly, to ravishing effect. Much of Otello’s role is ruminative, introspective, and, though there are subtleties in it which we didn’t hear at the Barbican, there is every reason to expect that they will come.” Michael Tanner, The Spectator, 9 December 2009


“Otello was sung tonight by the New Zealander, Simon O’Neill, who has already made a great impression at the ROH as Siegmund and Lohengrin, and single-handedly provided true distinction of singing and utterance, as Florestan, in Barenboim’s otherwise grisly Fidelio at this year’s Proms. O’Neill has never sung Otello in public before: indeed, I am reliably informed that certain passages of the score involving ensemble work he has never even particularly looked at before (having no plan to sing the role until 2012); and that his one and only rehearsal of the whole work in effect took place before us this evening, with a fair amount of sight-reading involved. Under the circumstances, it would be only to be expected that certain things were not quite right, or that interpretative insight was perhaps lacking, or that in some measure the fearsome vocal demands of the role weren’t entirely met.

Except, they were, all of them. I heard both Vickers and Domingo many dozens of times in the role, and retain fond memories of Carlo Cossutta and James McCracken (ugly-sounding, but hair-raisingly elemental). I am not at all sure that Simon O’Neill doesn’t have, at least in some respects, the edge on all of them. For one thing, though clinging to his score like a limpet mine (not head-buried in it, but held aloft at chest height, which makes all the difference to communication) he was supernaturally accurate in his account, nothing crooned, fudged, approximated or reduced to Sprechstimme (I mean, when did you last – or ever - hear “Dio! mi potevi scagliar” actually sung as written?). For another, the voice, though absolutely not Italian-sounding, has a clean, clear, effortless clarion ring to it – think maybe James King, or Wunderlich – that struck me as plain thrilling. The opening “Esultate” was as rock-solidly focussed, powerfully projected as I’ve ever heard, not the usual honking bronze (if you’re lucky) but somehow more like silvery-blue tempered steel; and yet the plaintive tone required by the love duet, including an exquisitely floated, plumb-in-tune “Venere splende” at the very end was effortlessly, most beautifully forthcoming.

I suspect that, like most heldentenors, O’Neill’s very top is not exactly easy, sounding appreciably harder work on the Bs than the B-flats (which had really tremendous spin and ring on them). But that’s nothing unusual, and scarcely a problem in this of all roles (though I’d worry if I were him about the upcoming ROH Walther von Stolzings, a different and altogether higher-lying kettle of fish). But for what must be termed, purely factually, a first attempt at Otello under entirely unpropitious circumstances, I think it only fair to judge O’Neill’s performance as a triumph. What he will make of the role in future – indeed, in certain respects, what he can possibly bring to it that he hasn’t already apart from body make-up – I await with impatience. Perhaps the mad-dog sense of pain that Vickers had, or Domingo’s burnished, yet sneering sarcasm. We’ll see, and in short-order I sincerely trust.

A second bite of the cherry for the in-all-senses heroic O’Neill would seem an only too fitting reward. But even if he doesn’t get to sing, he can console himself, secure in the knowledge that he is the classiest cover in the whole history of opera, and that already, on the strength of what was for him a general run-through, he is an Otello in a thousand.” Stephen Jay-Taylor, Opera Britannia, 5 December 2009


“This was the second of two performances  recorded for the LSO Live label and LSO’s plans were disrupted by the sickness of the Torsten Kerl who was to have sung Otello but withdrew at the eleventh hour. Much to his credit, New Zealander Simon O’Neill agreed to sing the part despite never having sung it in public before and with no plans to add the role to his repertoire until 2012. The first performance seems to have gone well enough and I am sure he was more relaxed for this one. He was in excellent voice, and although physically he showed evidence of his exertions later in the evening,  his voice retained an almost perfect, and tireless, stentorian intensity throughout. There was also no lack of lovely Italianate musical refinements to savour in a heroic voice which has a pitch-perfect squillo-like top. This brilliance perhaps does not extent completely downwards through the voice yet,  but this is just quibbling. This was a significant role debut and Simon O’Neill has the possibility to reclaim Otello from the darker-hued tenors to whom we have become more used to hearing these days. O'Neill can - or soon will at least -  take us back to an earlier Golden Age and  the closest I’ve ever heard to his voice is Charles Craig's - very  good company to be in.   For a stage production O'Neill  will be undoubtedly be given coaching and direction and this will help him discover more of Otello’s inner demons: at the moment most of the Moor’s flashes of palpable temper come over as mere mild tetchiness. However, he did sing a deeply affecting ‘Niun mi tema’ which  punctuated his considerable achievement perfectly.” Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard,  6 December 2009


“Full marks then for whoever managed to secure the services of Simon O’Neill at the eleventh hour as his performance of the title role was a triumph. And considering that he has never sung the role, the Everest of the Italian repertoire, in public before makes his achievement all the more remarkable.

Quite what the performance would have been like with Kerl in the title role is obviously open to conjecture, but we were lucky to have a reading of such heroic stature as O’Neill delivered. His voice is not particularly beautiful or distinctive but by goodness he certainly knows how to give a performance. From his no-holds barred entrance, through to the sublime love duet which closes the first act, his voice was superbly controlled and where many more famous exponents of the role often resort to crooning, falsetto and other tricks to hide their vocal failings, O’Neill hit every note squarely, and his phrasing was faultless. He was tireless and still had plenty of mezza voce left for a quite heart-rending death scene. Watching him grow into the role over the next few years is a mouth-watering prospect as currently I can’t think of an Otello to touch him.” Keith McDonnell musicOMH.com, 3 December 2009


The evening’s most welcome surprise was the last-minute substitution of Simon O’Neill as Otello in place of an indisposed Torsten Kerl. With minimal rehearsal O’Neill took command: it is basically a tightly focused tenor with a heroic upper extension, which he controls with clean confidence and natural musicality. He may not be a Moor in the burnished Domingo mould, but his steely core is impressive and he fines it down where necessary.” Andrew Clark, The Financial Times, 6 December 2009


    WAGNER - Father and Son, Scenes and Arias

May 2010

WAGNER Father and Son – Scenes and Arias


It’s surprising that the idea for this disc hasn’t been tried before: Wagner tenor arias sung by fathers and their sons – Lohengrin and Parsifal, Siegmund and Siegfried. Everything has been carefully produced, with the featured artist supported by two international stars imported to sing only a few phrases each. Under a splendid young conductor, a technically expert orchestra is responsive to the music’s dramatic content, and tonally sumptuous.


This would all be for naught if Simon O’Neill’s voice weren’t worth getting excited about, but it most definitely is. Now in his late thirties, the New Zealander has obviously been highly disciplined in building his voice. He’s entering his prime with an instrument that sounds utterly solid (no strain and no wobble anywhere in this demanding programme), which is enhanced here by an obvious passion for Wagner. O’Neill’s highly personal, if somewhat effusive, note in the booklet mentions five distinguished musicians who have helped prepare him in Wagner repertoire. The hard work has paid off in the conviction and confidence displayed on this disc.


Is O’Neill a true Heldentenor? It depends on whose idea of a Heldentenor we’re talking about. It’s interesting how perceptions of this Fach have developed. Wagner tenors a century ago meant the rounded, velvety, heady sounds of Paul Franz or Jacques Urlus. A few decades later came Lauritz Melchior, with his astonishing baritonal lower register rising to a ringing top. Too often, however, we forget that there were also Max Lorenz and Set Svanholm, who sang their Wagner with slenderer, ‘pure tenor’ instruments whose brightness could carry over big orchestras. Later came the bronze-toned Jon Vickers, with that uniquely massive middle register of his. We then had René Kollo and Siegfried Jerusalem, who returned to the Lorenz/Svanholm mould.


Nowdays, the baritonal based Heldentenor seems exceptionally rare. The brighter, slimmer tenor sound is more commonly encountered, O’Neill being a typical example. When he begins this recital with Lohengrin, the sound strikes the ear as clean, easy, yet not especially beautiful, but perhaps that’s a matter of being so startled by the extreme clarity of the tenor’s textual projection that the timbre itself becomes almost secondary. Beauty does eventually make itself felt, especially as Parsifal and the older Siegfried. In the latter’s narration, O’Neill also proves himself an appealing, admirably vigorous story-teller.


O’Neill’s greatest asset in this programme is perhaps his ability to sustain vitality of utterance while maintaining a calm, unfettered flow of tone. This he shows as Lohengrin (even if the cumulative impact doesn’t yet equal the floated sweetness and mesmerizing nobility of Jonas Kaufmann’s recent version), but more memorably in the Parsifal excerpts. Returning to the Kollo/Jerusalem comparison: like those two, O’Neill is capable of genuine subtlety, but his basic sound appeals more than Kollo’s did and, unlike Jerusalem, he can pour it on at climaxes with no loss of tonal colour. Listen to this Siegmund’s cries of ‘Wälse!’ – a sound to give one real hope for the healthy future of Wagner singing.


Much I admire the New Zealand Symphony under Pietari Inkinen’s baton, did we need another recording of Götterdämmerung’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March? With renowned interpreters of Brünnhilde and Wotan already on hand, it would have been preferable to include the Walküre ‘Todesverkündigung’ scene or the Siegfried/Wanderer dialogue.


Fine engineering, texts and translation, plus a terrific programme note from the invaluable Mike Ashman. EMI should now record O’Neill in Tchaikovsky, Strauss or Janácek – there’s a great deal beyond Wagner that would be just right for this voice.

Roger Pines, International Record Review, May 2010.



METRO, London, UK, 20 May 2010

Heroic tenor Simon O’Neill has all the answers.

Warwick Thompson


Wonderful Wagnerian: New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill delivers an impressive performance.


In our opera round-up it was impossible not to sing the praises of New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill, who's made a wondeful recording of Wagner's Father And Son - Scenes And Arias. There are a handful of questions which perennially puzzle thinkers, such as: what is the meaning of life? How can we achieve happiness? And will we ever see a truly great Wagnerian Heldentenor in our lifetime?  But here’s an extraordinary thing. It turns out the answer to all three is the same. It’s Wagner: Father And Son – Scenes And Arias (EMI), a disc from New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill. Within only a few bars, O’Neill announces himself as a Wagnerian of the first order: his voice has a powerful and even baritonal range, a shining top register and heaps and heaps of power. And then, within a few more, you feel as if he’s helping you to rip the veil from the mysteries of the universe. Joy, pain, love and – yes – blissful happiness are all here in their inextricably intertwined form. One particularly pleasing quality of O’Neill’s performance is its Italianate lyricism, the way he makes Wagner’s phrases flow with a bel canto ease. Perhaps we have Tony Pappano, head of the Royal Opera, to thank for that, for it was at Covent Garden that O’Neill made a splash as Siegmund in the Ring Cycle a few years ago. Pappano was keen to help his singers develop the more lyrical aspects of the Wagner roles, and the result in O’Neill’s case is a gorgeous warmth and delicacy to his sound. His account of Winterstürme is one of the sweetest on disc. But when he needs to pack a Teutonic punch, the gloves come off. He holds the anguished cry of ‘Wälse, Wälse’ with its fortissimo top G for what seems like an eternity and the effect is electrifying. Pietari Inkinen conducts the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with great focus and there’s excellent support from Sir John Tomlinson as Hagen in selections from Götterdämmerung too. So it’s yah-boo-sucks to the philosophers – all the universal questions have now been answered.


BBC Music OPERA CHOICE, June 2010

Impressive Wagner

Michael Scott Rohan applauds Simon O’Neill’s aria disc


If the New Zealand-born and American-trained tenor Simon O’Neill hasn’t enjoyed the hype of some younger tenors, his career is all the more impressive, leading roles ranging from Wexford to the Met, Salzburg and the Proms, in Fidelio under Barenboim. At Covent Garden, since debuting in The Bartered Bride, he’s sung Lohengrin and Siegmund - roles featured here alongside ‘father and son’ Parsifal and Siegfried.


He has also ‘covered’ Siegmund for Placido Domingo (featured in a 2004 BBC documentary), and the comparison is by no means one-sided. His tone is more clean-cut, less rich and honeyed, silver to Domingo’s gold: his delivery is less passionate and charismatic, but still thrilling, and not without real character and verbal sensitivity. It helps that his German diction is far better, although as Lohengrin particularly he sounds overly careful, emphasizing consonants and voice-focusing pauses at the expense of the flowing line. He is much more fluent and involving as the Volsungs, although wisely he confines himself to Siegfried’s less stratospheric excursions.


He is lavishly supported here by his homeland orchestra under Pietari Inkinen, with a chorus and stellar soloists (Susan Bullock in rather mixed voice). Altogether, this recording, in good sound, is more than promising. I look forward to his forthcoming live recording of Otello delivered under the leadership of Sir Colin Davis.

PERFORMANCE           ★★★★★

RECORDING                 ★★★★★


Opera's marathon man; CLASSICAL

Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 18, 2010

David Mellor


At the risk of sounding like an old golf-club bore for whom everything was better decades ago, it is sadly true that Wagner singing isn't what it was. Especially with heldentenors tackling Siegfried, The Ring's ill-fated hero: they have to sing tirelessly hour upon hour through Siegfried and Gotterdammerung on successive nights. That's the vocal equivalent of running a couple of world-class marathons within a day of each other.

The Ring requires a different kind of voice and stamina to that required for tackling romantic stuff like Puccini, so most tenors who can make a living elsewhere won't take on Siegfried.


However, because Nature abhors a vacuum, someone has to do it. So, in recent times, a group of singers have made a living out of Siegfried, despite responding to Wagner's remorseless demands with little more than pitched yelling. But now, just as Siegfried himself emerged from a distant forest to save the world, so, from New Zealand, comes Simon O'Neill to bring back some much needed musicality to the role.


O'Neill, now nearing 40, has trained hard for his chance to be the Wagner tenor of choice for the world's great opera houses. He has an innate understanding of the words, and he sings with an accuracy and assured intonation not encountered since the retirement of the aptly named Siegfried Jerusalem.

O'Neill's voice might not be as beautiful as some great predecessors, but he is surely the saviour who will make it a pleasure to go to a live Ring again, despite the inanities of whichever glinty-eyed director has been chosen to distort the composer's intentions.


If you want to worship at this shrine, there are 80 minutes of generally joyous music-making on O'Neill's debut Wagner CD, Wagner: Father And Son (EMI,. [pounds sterling]12.99 inc p&p) ****, on which only the conducting of Pietari Inkinen is a bit tepid. O'Neill otherwise receives stalwart support from our own Susan Bullock and Sir John Tomlinson, and the excellent, full-toned New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.


My only criticism would be O'Neill employing the time-honoured but, to me, bad habit of spitting out some final consonants in the beautiful In Fernem Land from Lohengrin. Here O'Neill does not match Jess Thomas's ease of vocal production or beauty of tone, which can be heard in Rudolf Kempe's great recording of the complete Lohengrin, just re-released.


But then Jess Thomas was no Siegfried, despite being given the chance by Herbert von Karajan, whereas Simon O'Neill surely is. And he shows his mettle in two subtly delivered passages, full of understanding, from Siegfried, and then really comes into his own in Siegfried's final scene from Gotterdammerung, before Tomlinson's black-toned Hagen strikes him down.


O'Neill's CD also offers some of Siegmund from Walkure and a sizeable chunk of Parsifal. Riches indeed.

WAGNER SAVIOUR: New Zealand's Simon O'Neill


Das Opernglas May 2010


"  -  Simon O'Neill - one should note this name. Although the 1971 New Zealand-born has not as yet made many appearances in this country, aside from a once cheered Berliner Waldbühne concert of Walküre, Akt I under Daniel Barenboim, his biography, however, already includes Siegmund at the Royal Opera House and in the Metropolitan Opera. He will assume this role in Barenboim's Ring in Milan and Berlin, also Parsifal in Barcelona and Vienna, Cavaradossi in Berlin and Hamburg, and worldwide some further outstanding roles, including Siegfried. On his website is also listed the start of rehearsals for the new Bayreuth Lohengrin (Cover for Jonas Kaufmann?) as well as Parsifal in the regular Festival cast (entry without year date). One listens ever more intently to his Debut CD released through EMI, which contains a dramaturgically coherent programme of fathers and sons, that is to say Siegmund and Siegfried as well as Parsifal and Lohengrin.


Indeed Simon O'Neill does not disappoint. He effortlessly overwhelms each number, radiant top notes and a solid middle register display his enormous possibilities as a singer. Additionally one hears that he endeavours to achieve accurate articulation, which mostly does not appear to be learned by heart, but rather more "knowing" the content of the pieces. Despite these many attributes and remarkable vocal reserves, O'Neill's tenor sounds to me too sterile, too concerned with perfection and control. He forms the characters considered and skillfully, but he does not embody them in equal measure. Despite these objections this CD is more than the usual test of talent. Not to be underestimated is the contribution of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which under the direction of Pietari Inkinen plays an amazing Wagner and, despite some playing technique limitations, captivates the listener especially with the bravura pieces from Götterdämmerung as well as an exciting Brünnhilden-Erweckung (Siegfried)."


Simon O’Neill – diesen Namen wird man sich merken müssen. Zwar ist der 1971 in Neuseeland geborene Wagnertenor hierzulande noch nicht so sehr in Erscheinung getreten, von einem umjubelten Berliner Waldbühnenkonzert unter Daniel Barenboim einmal abgesehen (1. Akt) »Walküre«. Seine Vita beinhaltet aber bereits den Siegmund am Royal Opera House und in der Metropolitan Opera. Diese Rolle wird er auch in Barenboims »Ring« in Mailand und Berlin übernehmen, außerdem Parsifal in Barcelona und Wien, Cavaradossi in Berlin und Hamburg und weltweit etliche weitere herausragende Partien, einschließlich des Siegfrieds. Auf seiner Homepage ist zudem der Probenbeginn des neuen Bayreuther »Lohengrin« eingetragen (Cover für Jonas Kaufmann?) sowie »Parsifal« als reguläre Festspielbesetzung (Angabe ohne Jahreszahl).  
Umso gespannter lauscht man seiner bei EMI erschienenen Debüt-CD. Mühelos bewältigt er jede Nummer, strahlende Spitzentöne und eine solide Mittellage kennzeichnen seine enormen sängerischen Möglichkeiten. Er gestaltet die Charaktere überlegt und gekonnt, aber er verkörpert sie nicht im gleichen Maße. 


Markus Wilks (Bremen), Das Opernglas (May 2010, s.89)


July 02, 2010

By George Loomis

Scenes and arias from Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung

and Parsifal.

Simon O’Neill (Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegfried, Siegmund), Susan Bullock (Sieglinde, Kundry), John Tomlinson (Hagen), Thomas Grace (Gunther), NBR New Zealand Opera Chapman Tripp Chorus, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra / Pietari Inkinen.
EMI Classics 4 57817 2


The title Father and Son might suggest that this is a duet disc, but in fact father-son duets are nowhere present in these or any other Wagner operas. Rather, the arresting premise brings together fathers and sons who inhabit different operas: Parsifal and Lohengrin, Siegmund and Siegfried.

The fast-rising heldentenor Simon O’Neill has chosen a generous portion of music and sings it splendidly as he keeps the focus squarely on the four personages, notwithstanding his able guest performers. After ‘Winterstürme’ Susan Bullock is denied ‘Du bist der Lenz’; instead the music skips to a rousing ‘Siegmund heiss ich’. And in the eponymous Siegfried’s extended monologue before the final duet, the music breaks off just before the E minor-C major chord progression that signals Brünnhilde’s awakening – the moment people in the theater wait hours for.

No matter. It’s good to have the spotlight trained on other music for a change, especially when the singing is as clarion-voiced and insightful as O’Neill’s. Vocal strength in a Wagner tenor often seems to be prized above tonal beauty, so it is always a pleasure to hear Wagner sung with the vocal clarity and ring we expect from tenors in Italian opera. O’Neill’s voice is exceptionally bright and focused – here and there one wishes he might darken it a bit. But the singing is highly consistent and energized by dramatic involvement and excellent diction.

The Siegfried monologue shows the hero in an unusually sympathetic light – he learns the meaning of fear only when gazing on a woman – and O’Neill’s alert delivery conveys Siegfried’s alarm, agitation, vulnerability and, ultimately, re-found confidence. It fascinatingly pairs with the Götterdämmerung Act 3 narration, in which Siegfried recounts the same scene, and particularly so in his dying moments, when we hear the awakening chords we were deprived of earlier and the hero tenderly hails Brünnhilde in his final breath, all sung with genuine eloquence by O’Neill. The juxtaposition allows one to view Siegfried from a new perspective and, with the help of absorbing performances of the ‘Rhine Journey’ and the ‘Funeral Music’ from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Pietari Inkinen, a reasonably full one; yet we never hear a note from Brünnhilde.

The selections are presented in chronological order of composition, so that son Lohengrin and father Parsifal are separated by the Ring excerpts, which is fine, since only a few words from Lohengrin – decisively delivered by O’Neill – link the two operas. When it finally comes, O’Neill’s vivid, intensely felt ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ proves well worth the wait. The excellent recorded sound is favorable both to voice and orchestra


May 1, 2010

Simon O’Neill: Father and Son




Bleeding chunks of Wagner can make for awkward home listening. But clever programming and the ringing heldentenor of O’Neill make this opera recital less bloody than some. Gotterdämmerung receives the fullest treatment, following Siegfried from Rhine journey to death. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra beaver away persuasively, while O’Neill wrestles with father figures and magic swords in a voice powerful and noble. There’s some sunburn in the tone up on high, but no one’s perfect. Times Online, May 1, 2010




Heldentenor Simon O'Neill at the 2009 Proms. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou


The New Zealander Simon O'Neill (b 1971) is fast winning international recognition as a leading heldentenor, that rare breed of powerful, heroic tenor voice needed for German romantic opera, especially Richard Wagner. Here O'Neill builds on the familiar theme of father and son to present chunks from The Ring (he is particularly thrilling as Siegmund in Die Walküre), Parsifal and Lohengrin. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra gives a stirring account of Siegfried's Rhine journey and, as a bonus, two top British Wagnerians, Susan Bullock (as Sieglinde and Kundry) and John Tomlinson (as Gunther), contribute. This is an exciting calling card from a singer with every chance of a big Wagnerian future.



MusicWeb International

June 2010

Jim Pritchard


I have been fortunate during the longevity of my interest in Wagner performances to have heard most of the heroic tenors of recent generations live. These include the famous names of recent decades such as Jess Thomas, Spas Wenkoff, James King, Jon Vickers, René Kollo, Siegfried Jerusalem and singers of the present, such as, Peter Seiffert, Johan Bohta, Christian Franz and Ben Heppner. To make this list manageable I have had to edit out many other significant names, whilst peerless for me above all these distinguished names was Alberto Remedios, the British tenor, who showed you could sing a breadth of Wagner ‘leading man’ roles effortlessly, yet with vocal heft and Italianate lyricism. I stress the point that I have experienced these voices live – the best way to do it – as recordings - as we know - can cover up a multitude of vocal sins. Too many ‘best’ lists depend on hearing voices of the ‘golden age’ distilled by the recording process, ancient or modern.

What if anything has this to do with Simon O’Neill’s intriguing new CD? When I read that there is a currently a dearth of Wagner heldentenors it is mainly because there is a lack of truly great Wagner coaches and conductors willing to spend time nurturing new talent. Also there is the problem that if managements know a tenor can get through Siegfried that becomes all they are asked for. The young New Zealander, Simon O’Neill, is a great hope for the future; he already sings Lohengrin, Siegmund and Parsifal to much acclaim in international opera houses and is beginning to add some of the weightier Wagner repertoire soon such as Walther and, presumably, Siegfried.

In the CD booklet Simon O’Neill credits his teacher, Sir Donald McIntyre and his ‘Wagnerian team’ Lionel Friend, Anthony Negus and David Syrus for his ‘vocal development’ and ‘guidance through these roles’. These collaborators have extensive knowledge of Wagner performance and preparation and are a ‘coaching team’ to be treasured. Indeed I would have been happier had either Friend or Negus conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra rather than their young Finnish music director, Pietari Inkinen. While the playing of the New Zealanders is subtle and refined throughout, the quality of the accompaniment varied depending, I guess, on how exposed Maestro Inkinen has been to these works. The recording naturally will never allow Simon O’Neill’s vocal artistry to be swamped but, his Lohengrin remained rather earthbound when it should be seeking Monsalvat and although the final moments of Die Walküre were suitably incandescent, sadly Siegfried’s Rhine Journey seemed to be taking place on a mill pond rather than on the torrents of one of the world’s longest rivers.

Luxury casting gives us all-too-brief moments from John Tomlinson’s baleful Hagen and Susan Bullock sounding more at ease as Kundry than Sieglinde. This recording was made in concert and this may have had some effect on Simon O’Neill’s interpretations. Lohengrin’s ‘In fernem Land’, for instance, is perhaps a touch too darkly baritonal and, as hinted at above, too little is made of the sublime ‘von Himmel eine Taube’ moment, when his Lohengrin recently at Covent Garden had more radiance and the much brighter, steelier, sound that he employs here mainly for Siegfried. It might equally be a matter of this extremely talented tenor settling on his truer voice.

To a crowded catalogue of Wagner excerpts comes this important testament to the continuing development of this important new artist and something that will be interesting to come back to in future years when it becomes clearer how far Simon O’Neill’s star will rise. The concept of Wagner’s fathers and sons leads to the bloodiest of ‘bleeding chunks’ but seldom does the listener’s attention flag. O’Neill’s singing has radiance, drama and vigorous intensity. His impeccable diction is joined with an ability to overcome confidently all the vocal challenges from singing with softer tones for Siegfried’s ‘Selige Öde’ and his death to full-blooming top notes such as Siegmund’s ‘Wälse! Wälse!’ He sings securely, easily and lyrically in the upper register which makes all the Siegfried highlights possibly the best moments on this CD.

Jim Pritchard



Neue CDs | 12.04.2010 15:30 Uhr

Wagner: Father and Son

Richard Wagner: Father and Son - Szenen und Arien
Simon O'Neill, Susan Bullock, Thomas Grace, John Tomlinson
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Leitung: Pietari Inkinen

Vorgestellt von Sabine Lange


Sie haben Seltenheitswert - die wirklich glanzvollen, strahlenden Wagnerhelden-Tenöre. Die Partien des Lohengrin, Siegmund, Siegfried, Parsifal, Stolzing sind mörderisch in ihren Anforderungen - sie nicht nur zu bewältigen, sondern auch eindrucksvoll zu gestalten, gelingt nur einer Handvoll von Tenören pro Generation. Jetzt scheint ein neuer im Kommen zu sein: der Neuseeländer Simon O'Neill. Gerade hat er sein erstes Wagneralbum veröffentlicht: "Father and Son - Szenen und Arien".

Domingo ist begeistert

Die kraftstrotzenden Wälserufe des Siegmund in Wagners Walküre sind legendär - wie der knapp 40-jährige O'Neill sie singt, das kann das Herz eines Wagnerianers zum Schmelzen bringen. "Mein Lieblingstrack auf diesem neuen Album ist 'Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater' aus der Walküre - das ist unglaubliche Musik mit diesen berühmten Wälserufen, die man über das riesengroße Orchester hinweg singt", so O'Neill. "Den Siegmund werde ich in den nächsten Jahren an bedeutenden Häusern singen: an der MET, in London, in Mailand und in Berlin - und vielleicht kann ich es ja dann auch mal in Neuseeland tun."

Ob Siegmund oder Parsifal - der Tenor O'Neill hat das Zeug, Wagnerliebhaber zu begeistern. Er kann sich mühelos und strahlend über das Orchester hinwegsetzen, seine Stimme hat nicht nur Volumen, sondern auch Wärme und Farbenreichtum - was O'Neills Vorbild Placido Domingo zu schätzen weiß, der als Opernintendant immer auf der Suche nach neuen Talenten ist: "Die Stimme hat die Kraft für diese Heldenpartien, aber sie hat auch die Leichtigkeit und die Helligkeit, einen schönen Rodolfo oder Alfredo zu singen. O'Neill ist einfach mit einer wunderbaren Stimme gesegnet, auch mit einer guten Phrasierungskunst. Was ich für ihn tun kann, das werde ich tun - sei es an meinen Opernhäusern in Washington und Los Angeles oder sei es durch meine Empfehlung an andere Orte."

Ein blonder Charismatiker

O'Neill wird bereits an den bedeutenden Opernhäusern der Welt als kommender Star gehandelt. Er ist zweifellos ein blonder Charismatiker, allerdings liegen ihm nicht alle Wagner-Partien. Der Lohengrin führt ihn - jedenfalls auf diesem neuen Album - noch an seine Grenzen. Da klingt die Stimme eng und angestrengt. Und das Bemühen um die korrekte deutsche Aussprache hindert den freien Ausdruck.

Auf seiner Homepage vermerkt O'Neill, dass er im Sommer bei den Bayreuther Festspielen sei - Jonas Kaufmann debütiert dort in der neuen Lohengrin-Inszenierung von Hans Neuenfels. Sollte Kaufmann erkranken, könnte es wohl schneller als erwartet das Bayreuth-Debüt des Neuseeländers O'Neill bedeuten.




Simon O’Neill: Wagner Scenes and Arias

By Andrew Clark

Published: April 17 2010 01:09

Simon O’Neill
Wagner Scenes and Arias
EMI

O’Neill, the new heldentenor on the block, has sung pleasingly every time I’ve heard him – the latest being when he took over the title role of “Otello” at short notice in concert performances with Colin Davis and the LSO.

Here, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, he tackles Lohengrin’s “In fernem Land” and the gentler scenes from “Parsifal” and “The Ring” (no “Forging Song”). The voice is well captured: it may not be big but he uses it with precision and taste. The words come across clearly. What’s lacking is a sense of tension, freedom, abandon.


Simon O'Neill, Father and Son (EMI)
Rating: ****
Verdict: "New Zealand Heldentenor evokes the spirit of Bayreuth on home turf."


Simon O'Neill has found a neat concept for his new EMI album, Father and Son, focusing on the music of Lohengrin, son of Parzival, Siegfried, son of Siegmund and, finally, Parsifal, whose very lack of a father is a key element in his character.  So it's all in the family, then, reminding me that Wagner's sprawling oeuvre could be seen as the missing link between Ancient Greek drama and the small-screen sagas of Dallas and Dynasty in the 1980s.


O'Neill is in splendid form, a true Wagnerian heldentenor, heroic in tone and stamina. The first offering, In Fernem Land, is a thrilling taste of what is in store and O'Neill's voice positively glistens with the youth and vigour that these great roles need.


At the other end of the album, two extracts from Parsifal remind one of O'Neill's transcendent appearance in the title role of the opera in Wellington four years ago. Amfortas! Die Wunde! has the tenor drawing on a seemingly inexhaustible range of emotions as his character turns from the seductive ploys of Kundry.


It is here too that the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Pietari Inkinen is at its most splendid, from heady rushes of Wagnerian splendour to moments in which the orchestral texture is shot through with all manner of telling solos. English soprano Susan Bullock makes the most of two brief lines as the temptress Kundry, as does Sir John Tomlinson in his earlier turn as the power-hungry Hagen.


However fine the performances may be - and O'Neill is quite something, despite losing the occasional note in moments of extreme passion - the cutting and slicing of Wagner's scores leaves a lot to be desired. The brutal chopping up of Act One of Die Walkure is the most disruptive, especially when we are dashed from vernal enchantment in B flat major to macho sword antics in B minor.


This will be a popular disc and deservedly so - O'Neill has charisma and the NZSO's orchestral items are spectacular. One misfact annoys. This album is not the result of three concerts held in the Michael Fowler Centre last August as the booklet states but, as various photographs suggest, the product of recording sessions in the same venue.

William Dart



Simon O'Neill-Father and Son: Wagner Scenes and Arias

Extracts from Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and Parsifal,

With Susan Bullock (soprano), Thomas Grace (baritone), John Tomlinson (bass).

New Zealand Opera Chapman Tripp Chorus, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra,

c. Pietari Inkinen. EMI 5099945781759 (one CD)


When the New-Zealander Simon O'Neill stepped in as a last-minute replacement Otello with the London Symphony Orchestra last autumn, Michael Kennedy noted in these pages the 'beauty of his phrasing and the lyric introspection' that distinguished a performance 'marked by intelligent artistry'. A favourite of such esteemed Wagnerians as Daniel Barenboim, he already has a string of Lohengrins and Siegmunds behind him, and this new recital provides brief highlights of those roles, along with a foretaste of his Parsifal and Siegfried, soon to be tackled in the theatre.


While he's clearly classifiable as a Heldentenor, the main impression is again of an unforced, finely focused voice, with the type of well-schooled technical assurance and grace that's rare in this repertory. His singing is highly musical and beautifully phrased throughout, with the occasional judicious hint of portamento. Such virtues are not to be underestimated, but on the evidence of this disc O'Neill does not as yet have an instinctive feel for all the dramatic requirements of the Fach, and he fails to relax fully into the German language. This is less a problem in the ardent 'In fernem Land' that opens the recital, phrased smoothly and crowned by ringing top notes, and his delivery appropriate for the pure fool in the Parsifal extracts. He can only partly be blamed for what's lacking dramatically in the Ring extracts, some of which are far too short to constitute scenes or arias. In the diced-up snippets from Walkiire Act 1, for example, there's little chance of gathering dramatic momentum. O'Neill's elegant line in 'Winterstiirme' is undermined by little sense of growing rapture, then, before we jump straight into a heroically sung but dramatically underwhelming 'Siegmund heiss ich'.


Perhaps of greater interest is his Siegfried, which is thankfully served up in longer scenes. Whether O'Neill will manage such lyrical ease for' Selige öde auf wonniger Höh!' at the end of a long evening singing in the theatre remains to be seen, but the extract builds up tantalizingly to the moment of Brünnhilde's waking, only to jump disconcertingly into the 'Rhine Journey'. Then follows Siegfried's narration from Götterdämmerung Act 3, running through to his death and Funeral March. O'Neill negotiates these passages with ease, but could get a few tips in word-pointing from John Tomlinson, who contributes a peerlessly nasty Hagen-although let's hope he and Susan Bullock weren't shipped to the other side of the world just for these brief contributions. She provides a squally couple of lines as Sieglinde but is much better as Kundry (even though the Act 2 scene-starting at Parsifal's 'Amfortas! Die Wunde! stops before her 'Grausamer!'


Pietari Inkinen and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra provide perfectly adequate support, but surely, in a showcase for O'Neill, unexceptional accounts of orchestral extracts should have given way to fuller scenes featuring the tenor. Nevertheless, while this disc might represent bleeding chunk programming at its most insensitive, make no mistake: it is an important, highly impressive recital from an artist to watch. HUGO SHIRLEY, Opera UK, June 2010


    WAGNER - Lohengrin


Houston Grand Opera 30 October 2009


“Simon O'Neill's supremely confident Lohengrin heads a fine group of principals well equipped for the work's vocal demands.... O'Neill's golden tenor, with its easeful command and sweetness of tone, projects Lohengrin's superhuman nobility. That otherworldly goodness makes him a tad remote at first, but he rises to full power and expressiveness in his Act 3 scene with Elsa and his subsequent solo of legendary revelation.” Everett Evans, Houston Chronicle, 1 Nov 2009


“Simon O'Neill is thrilling in the eponymous role. He projects powerfully over the fullest orchestral textures with healthy tone and clear diction and is the quintessential stoic throughout the third act.” Marcus Karl Maroney, ConcertoNet


“The stars of HGO’s Lohengrin – apart from the orchestra and the chorus, that is – were first-rate, especially New Zealand’s Simon O’Neill in the title role. During the past three decades of opera, the dark, murky, emotive tones of Placido Domingo have come to rule the tenor roost, with most of his ilk proving unable to echo Domingo’s ringing top notes. No problem for O’Neill on that score. As is so often the case with the German language, the word “heldentenor” sounds as strong, as soaring as it’s meant to be.” John DeMers, Houston ArtsWeek, 16 November 2009.


“Simon O’Neill’s penetrating, clear tenor was pretty much thrilling in Lohengrin’s testing marathon, showing no terror even at the high attacks (like on “Heil dir, Elsa”) that trip up so many Swan Knights. Christine Goerke impressed mightily in her first Ortrud, with much tonal beauty at the base of the spikier writing and a large-scale gravitas in her approach most welcome in this deliciously evil diva role. We need more of O’Neill and Goerke in upcoming Met plans.” David Shengold, Gay City News, 13 November 2009


  BEETHOVEN - Fidelio

Royal Albert Hall, BBC Proms  20 August 2009


“...the start of Act 2 found Simon O’Neill’s focused Florestan rising securely to the challenge, moving in his initial hope and blazing in his vision, with laser-like top notes.” John Allsion, Opera

“...O'Neill gave a blazing account of Florestan's aria, confirming his place in the forefront of today's dramatic tenors.” Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, UK.


“Simon O’Neill sang Florestan with terrific ardour; his first, unaccompanied cry of “Gott! welch Dunkel hier”, stabbing out of the searingly dissonant Act II prelude, will long haunt the memory.” Richard Morrison, The Times, UK.


“Astonishing secure in the most demandingly high tessitura was Simon O’Neill’s Florestan. His cry of “Gott, welch Dunkel hier!” (“Oh God! How dark it is!”) seemed capable of penetrating the furthermost wall of the Albert Hall and his delirious vision of Leonore borne aloft to the strains of a serenading solo oboe really hit the spot.” Edward Seckerson, the Independent, UK.


“En Florestan, Simon O’Neill, avec les particularités d’une émission héroïque haut perchée qui donnerait au timbre une couleur un peu ingrate dans le grave, dispense de magnifiques nuances et triomphe de toutes les embûches d’un rôle réputé inchantable, avalant même la dernière page de son air avec un aigu libre et magnifiquement conquérant. Le point de convergence idéal entre vigueur et délicatesse.”Yannick Millon, Altamusica, France.


“Act Two was saved by the all-too-brief contribution of Simon O’Neill as Florestan: a true Heldentenor, he has the youthful lungs and vocal flexibility to get through the fearsome tessitura unscathed. He managed to begin to his ‘Gott, welch Dunkel hier!’ without any exaggeration of the opening word on a note that swelled gloriously from its very quiet opening to reach all the far points of the Royal Albert Hall. His voice was the most humane of the evening and he quickly passed through some Jon Vickers-like gruffness to employ his natural sturdy lyricism to good effect particularly for the delirium of the angelic vision of Leonore. In this concert context he sang the role as more noble and unbowed than someone weakened to the point of death.” Jim Pritchard, Sean and Heard, UK.


“Given Meier’s ideal performance in Act I, not to mention highly impressive contributions from Tomlinson and – small reservations aside - Kucerova, the bar was set high for Florestan’s entrance in Act II. Simon O’Neill rose to the challenge without even the faintest suggestion of strain. His heldentenor prowess seemed to cope effortlessly with everything Beethoven threw at it, from his long, declamatory high G on “Gott!” that opens his first aria, to the awkward chromaticisms at “Maass der Leiden” in the same aria, whose cabaletta has some fiendishly high writing, including several, sustained high B flats! Here is a singer who is truly in his prime, and it is very good news that ROH has engaged him for several Wagnerian roles in the near future.  “ Dominic Wells, Opera Britannica, 24 August 2009


    WAGNER - Lohengrin

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden  15 May 2009


"Simon O’Neill shares the role of the Swan Knight with Johan Botha in this series of performances....this was Simon O’Neill’s role debut and his tenor was fresh, true, firm and focused, with radiant high.... he was also more realistically capable of acting out his deep sympathy for Elsa and her plight. Considering the pressure of such a debut – and at Covent Garden of all places – Mr O’Neill is to be commended on his auspicious achievement. It is a portrayal that can only get stronger as it embraces more of Wagner's vision for this work." Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard, United Kingdom, 5 May 2009


    WAGNER - Die Walküre

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 25 August 2008

 

"In the Waldbühne it is immediately clear that not only does Simon O’Neill possess one of the most exciting tenor voices of his generation, but that he also knows how to manage it:  with his vocal energy and the charismatic luminous power of his sound this youthful Heldentenor unrelentingly impells not only his stage partner, Waltraud Meier, but also Daniel Barenboim and the exhausted orchestra. “Wes’ Herd dies auch sei / hier muss ich rasten” – already with his first sentence, with which the exhausted Siegmund seeks refuge in Hunding’s shack, he gives not only dark brown baritonal colours to the lower register, but allows at the same time a sense of energy and unrest, which betray that a flash of hope suffices to turn again the world-weary Wälsung into an energetic hero. And already here, at the musical ground zero of the action, O’Neill shows that he is able to do what only the greatest can:  with a couple of notes to reflect not only the current situation of a character, but also their past and the future, which is possible. Also with Siegmund’s tale of suffering is there always a good measure of seething fury as echo of battles withstood – alone in the gentle piano notes, which he dedicates to Sieglinde, the voice does not lose its electrifying powerbase. On the other hand, he clearly begins Winterstürme as almost a whispered poem, as if the hero dares himself for the first time to show the sensitive vulnerable core under his thick skin. Again and again the variety of facets and vocal colourings which O’Neill utilises fascinate without thereby losing sight of the vast expanse of the musical plot development. The notorious calls of “Wälse”, which O’Neill holds onto extra-long, become eruptions, which break new ground through potent excessive pressure. Of course there is with these “Wälse-Rufe” , he admits, always some show business but also with some superior musical meaning: “As I studied this section in London with Antonio Pappano, he taught me, that these notes must travel through the entire body. They must not in any event be sung straight, but rather they must rise up from the toes to the hair-ends, because Siegmund heaves the action onto another emotional level.” JÖRG KÖNIGSDORF


    SHOSTAKOVICH - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Opera Australia, Sydney, 5 March 2009

 

"Tenor Simon O'Neill sings the role of Katerina's faithless lover Sergei with immense strength and resounding clarity in his top register. He, too, has the measure of his character. For Sergei, Katerina is merely a source of sex and money on tap." Murray Black, The Australian, 5 March 2009.

 

    BARBER - Antony and Cleopatra

New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall, George Manahan, 21 January 2009

 

"Simon O'Neill was more thrillingly imperial as Caesar, his bright tenor glinting like a sword in the Mediterranean sun." Justin Davidson, the New York Magazine, 19 January 2009


"...tenor Simon O'Neill offered a luminous performance of Caesar's aria of regret at Antony's death" The Wall Street Journal, 21 January 2009


    WAGNER - Die Walküre

Hong Kong Philharmonic, Edo de waart, 26 September 2008

 

"Tenor Simon O'Neill as Siegmund left the audience in complete admiration of his extensive vocal colour and dramatic intuition." Sam Olluver, South China Morning Post, 30 September 2008

 

    MAHLER - Symphony no. 8

Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal

 

"The star soloist, however, was undoubtedly tenor Simon O'Neill. He has been singing some of the great Heldentenor roles in opera houses around the world and one can see why he is in such demand. In the Mahler Eighth he was heroic indeed but never lost his fine lyric sound." La Scena Musicale, 14 September 2008.


    WAGNER - Die Walküre

Berlin, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, 23 August 2008


"Simon O’Neill (Siegmund) gewinnt dem Metallgeschirr seines rasselnden Tenors wunderliche Strahlkraft ab. Seine „Wälse“-Rufe schleudert er rekordverdächtig lang und durchschlagend in den Orbit." Von Kai Luehrs Kaiser, Berliner Morgenpost, 24 August 2008


    MAHLER - Das Lied von der Erde

Glasgow, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, 24 April 2008


"Mahler's great Song of the Earth was out of this world, in several respects: for the power-driven heldentenor singing of Simon O'Neill, battering through Runnicles's explosively decisive and full-bodied accompaniment in the opening song" MICHAEL TUMELTY, The Herald, Glasgow, 28 April 2008


    WAGNER - Die Walküre

Strasbourg. Opéra National du Rhin, 18 April 2008


"The main reason to catch this Walküre, apart from Letonja, is Simon O’Neill’s thrillingly sung Siegmund. His acting could be better but such a clean-cut, powerful tenor should mean a full diary for a decade at least. A Siegmund of such steady, lyrical strength is rare indeed." Francis Carlin, The Financial Times, 21 April 2008


"A superb plateau magnifies the impact of this work. One should notice the amazing Siegmund of Simon O'Neill, whose fresh career is currently blossoming widely (after the Met in 2006, he will resume the role this season at Covent Garden). The timbre is of a splendid colour throughout the register, the voice flies to treble with a disconcerting ease, the forces are inexhaustible, the style is of the first order, with a perfect articulation, classy phrase and nuances. The silhouette of the New Zealander tenor is a bit heavy, but the persuasive engagement of the actor eclipses this handicap: in the wagnérian landscape, this is a revelation which we fervently hope will stay the distance." Francois Lehel, Opéra Magazine, June 2008


"Simon O'Neill was a Siegmund, who revealed absolutely no vocal limitations. Although he projected the Wälse-Rufe with immense intensity and in the dramatic climaxes went, otherwise, continuously to the full, he retained the ability to differentiated singing;  his brilliant achievement was somewhat clouded over and over again by defective German pronunciation." Das Opernglas, Germany, May 2008


"On gardera tout particulièrement en mémoire le premier acte car il fut absolument magnifique musicalement grâce aux trois chanteurs qui s’y illustrent. Entre eux, le Siegmund de Simon O’Neill est inoubliable et sans doute l’un des plus beaux Siegmund que l’on ait entendu depuis fort longtemps. Voix pointue sans être nasale (ce qu’est par exemple un peu trop Gary Lakes), homogénéité confondante avec un aigu qui semble à toute épreuve, ligne somptueuse, acteur investi et convaincant, tiendrait-on là LE ténor wagnérien de sa génération ? Ses engagements à Covent Garden et au MET le laissent présager en tout cas... Bravo à l’Opéra National du Rhin d’avoir trouvé un artiste d’une si grande valeur qui nous a offert une prestation absolument exceptionnelle et nous pesons nos mots." Pierre-Emmanuel Lephay, Forum Opera, 25 April 2008


"Between them, Siegmund Simon O'Neill is unforgettable and without doubt one of the most beautiful Siegmund that we have heard for a very long time. Voice pointed without being nasal (eg what a little too Gary Lakes), homogeneity with a daunting acute that seems foolproof, sumptuous line, invested and convincing actor, there would be THE Wagnerian tenor of his generation? Its commitments to Covent Garden and the MET suggest in any case ... Congratulations to the Opera National du Rhin to have found an artist of such great value that we provided a service absolutely exceptional, and we weigh our words." Pierre-Emmanuel Lephay, Forum Opera, 25 April 2008


"...la distribution, jeune, vaut pour la découverte du Néo-zélandais Simon O’Neill, Siegmund d’une superbe santé, timbré très haut, parfois nasal dans la vitesse du débit mais d’un réel héroïsme, d’aigu conquérant et d’une attention à bien chanter qui en font l’incarnation la plus probante de la production." Yannick Millon, Altamusica.com, 24 April 2008


"Der - auch körperlich - stämmige Heldentenor von Simon O'Neill glänzt als Siegmund durch unerschütterliche Stabilität und attraktive Gestaltung; der gebürtige Neuseeländer schaffte seinen Durchbruch vor reichlich zwei Jahren am Covent Garden." Eckhard Britsch, Mannheimer Morgen, 22 April 2008


"Comment enfin ne pas encenser le couple adultérin Siegmund-Sieglinde, campé par Orla Boylan et Simon O’Neill, les deux grandes révélations de la soirée. Peut-être moins à l’aise scéniquement que Charbonnet et Howard, ils n’en sont pas moins remarquables vocalement, pour ne pas dire impressionnants de facilité. O’Neill tout en puissance, donne un Siegmund rageur et épris de revanche sur la vie, prêt à tout pour vivre son bonheur à peine né avec sa sœur-amante, comme animé par un feu intérieur que rien ne semble devoir arrêter hormis la volonté des dieux. La Sieglinde de Boylan se voulait à l’opposé, tout en sensibilité, en féminité et surtout en dignité malgré la souffrance de la vie passée avec Hunding. Une fois les deux amants enfin seuls et libres de s’aimer pour un temps, la magie opére instantanément, le temps semble suspendu pour ne reprendre son vol qu’à la fin de l’acte I, qui nous semble une réussite rarement égalée. Enfin nous conclurons cette vue d’ensemble de la distribution vocale en précisant que tous font preuve d’une parfaite maîtrise de la langue de Goethe. Encore un autre point positif qu’il fallait notifier." Bertrand Balmitgère, ClassiqueInfo.com, 23 April 2008.


"Simon O’Neill mobilisierte für den Siegmund mit seinem kompakt glänzenden Tenor gewaltige Kraft." Prof. Kurt Witterstätter, Klassic.com, 21 April 2008


"Piuttosto diseguale anche la compagnia di canto con punte di eccellenza solo nel Siegmund dal bello slancio lirico di Simon O'Neill." Stefano Nardelli, Il giornale della Musica, 21 April 2008


"D’une distribution sans point faible émergent deux joyaux absolus. La surprise vient du fantastique Siegmund de Simon O’Neill. Ce chanteur d’origine néo-zélandaise possède en effet la vaillance du rôle – ses « Wälse ! » timbrés, puissamment projetés et longuement tenus ont tétanisé la salle – mais aussi des capacités de lyrisme qui lui autorisent un « Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond » très poétique. Avec de telles qualités, rien d’étonnant à ce qu’il soit déjà appelé par Covent Garden à Londres ou le Metropolitan Opera de New York dans ce rôle et celui de Lohengrin." Michel Thomé, ResMusica.com, 19 April 2008


     WAGNER - Die Walküre

The Metropolitan Opera, 9 February 2008

Review: Die Walküre, The Metropolitan Opera, New York


Heroic Tenor

"The big news, however, proved to be the remarkable Siegmund of Simon O'Neill, a tall, burly New Zealander who's been kicking around the house for some time as Placido Domingo's understudy and who had appeared only in the brief, unshowy duties of the High Priest in "Idomeneo."


I had heard O'Neill clean clocks in the tiny theater at Ireland's Wexford Festival, but this first Met leading appearance confirmed both the arresting size and pleasing tonal quality of his tenor. Completely at home in Wagner's idiom, he sang with a combined fervor and lyricism that made me hope the company has snapped him up for future appearances in roles like Parsifal, Erik, and Laca. O'Neill is a major asset, as other theaters seem to have grasped. Let's hope the current industry obsession with body type does not limit his New York career." David Shengold, The Gay City News, New York, 21 February 2008


    WAGNER - Parsifal

Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia 19 January 2008


A Roma la magia del Parsifal "Simon O'Neill, finalmente un Parsifal autentico 'heldentenor' come detta tradizione" Enrico Girardi, Corriere della Sera, 20 January 2008


"Il tenore Simon O'Neill e un Parsifal di buona musicalita e corretto an che se un tantino anonimo" Alfredo Gasponi, Messaggero Cronaca di Roma, 20 January 2008


"Simon O'Neill (Parsifal) e sicuro e squillante." Guido Barbieri, La Repubblica, 20 January 2008


    WAGNER - Die Walküre

Der Ring des Nibelungen, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 4 October 2007


"The singing varied from good to great. For my money, the star was Simon O'Neill as Siegmund. His tenor voice was heroic and burnished, and he looked young and virile. If he graduates to the role of Siegfried in the future, I hope I'm there to hear it." Warwick Thompson, Bloomberg, 11 October 2007


"For vocal radiance, however, they are overshadowed by O'Neill and Westbroek, who are perhaps a decade away from being a sensational Siegfried and Brünnhilde." Anna Picard, The Independent on Sunday, 14 October 2007


"Underpinned by this strong pulse from the pit, the cast was more than the sum of its parts: its members had been well-rehearsed, and there was no phoned-in routine. Siegmund and Sieglinde present much more grateful musical challenges, and both Simon O'Neill and Eva-Maria Westbroek seized them impressively: O'Neill's "Wintersturme" had unexpected tenderness, Westbroek's mad scene was heart-rending." Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 11 October 2007


"And it's there in the staging, too. As the strobe-strafed storm rages we discover Sieglinde in the grip of labour pains. Her phantom pregnancy comes on like a prophecy and points up the close proximity of her twin and soon-to-be lover Siegmund. She is the Dutch soprano Eva-Marie Westbroek, whose handsome middle voice has the essential womanly bloom, and he is a young New Zealander, Simon O'Neill, with a virile way with words and a top register of real bite. And how beautifully Warner plays up the chemistry between them: the static-like shock of the first accidental touch, the reassuring way she tastes the water before handing him the cup – a gesture of real intimacy." Edward Seckerson, The Independent, 8 October 2007


"Simon O'Neill, her Siegmund in Cycle 1, created a sensation. The sheer vocal splendour and amplitude he wielded, with a terrific steely edge to the sound, all but dismantled the Opera House. There is still the odd slightly raw high note, and the range of tonal colour is not very wide yet, but he is young, and what is missing will come. This Siegmund burned with rage at the continued injustice he had suffered, a born rebel, blazing with energy. He and Westbroek made very convincing twins, both tall, youthful and physically powerful." Katie Barnes, The United Kingdom Wagner Society, December 2007


"There are also many other fine performances. Simon O'Neill (Siegmund) and Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde) are new to this production and prove to be an intoxicating pair of lovers with a palpable level of chemistry between them. O'Neill's youthful voice sounds ardent when required, but he is also able to caress the lyrical passages, such as in Winterstürme, with a honeyed tone that adds poignancy and passion to his portrayal. At the other end of the scale his voice rings out heroically and he brings Act 1 of Walküre to a close with as much heldentenor ardour as you could wish for. Westbroek is his equal offering an intensely theatrical performance both vocally and dramatically. Her voice is dark in timbre, but it opens out most ravishingly at the top, offering vocal excitement that sends shivers down the spine." Michael Sinclair, The Opera Critic, 31 October 2007


"Pappano’s a superb accompanist of singers – unusually in Wagner, here they’re never drowned out. His approach was at its best with Simon O’Neill, a fresh-voiced Siegmund of intimate lyricism (Domingo takes over this week)." Martin Hoyle, Time Out London, 17 October 2007


"The Musical and dramatic performances were so tremendously affecting - Antonio Pappano was on stunning form in the pit, and Siegmund and Sieglinde (Simon O'Neill, pictured and Eva-Maria Westbroek) were the finest I've heard - that to give fewer than five stars would be churlish" Warwick Thompson, Metro, 8 October 2007


"As is often the case, of the two pairs of lovers it was the first match that proved most memorable. The fiery tenor of Simon O'Neill, debuting in the role of Siegmund (and replaced by Placido Domingo for the remaining cycles), rippled with youthful urgency, while Eva-Maria Westbroek's mesmerising Sieglinde was, for me, the production's most heartening surprise." Guy Dammann, The Observer, 14 October 2007


"...this is turning into a Ring full of startling individual performances. Simon O'Neill is an exemplary Siegmund, terrific of voice, and making the man's noble anguish genuinely palpable." Tim Ashley, The Guardian 6 October 2007


"There are terrific individual performances. Simon O’Neill is almost as good as a beefy, bedraggled Siegmund, especially when he adds a spoonful of honey to his turbo-charged tenor." Richard Morrison, The Times 6 October 2007


"The act can count on two high-octane lovers in the shape of Simon O'Neill (Siegmund) and Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde). O'Neill's tenor is more gruff than heroic or traditionally beautiful and his lower register never quite seems healthily produced, but he boasts a dangerous, clarion ring up above that greatly excites the ear; his sustained cries of Walse shoot into the hall like machine gun fire and his projection is tireless. Yet there is no suggestion of 'can belto' delivery here: the Winterstürme is sung with lied-like precision, a golden ring creeping into O'Neill's timbre to mirror the murmuring arrival of spring. The commitment from each performer is great, and the overall effect is of a very fine, if not flawless, performance. " Dave Paxton, MusicOMH.com 5 October 2007


"Given the thunderous, foot-stamping applause which greeted the final curtain of Die Walkure, you could imagine this was already the end of the complete cycle of Wagner's Ring. Instead, we are half way through an account which grows ever more gripping. This is an exceptional cast all round. The incestuous Siegmund and Sieglinde rival each other for vocal supremacy, Simon O'Neill a towering presence with pure, steely top notes, Eva-Maria Westbroek impassioned and rapturous." Fiona Maddocks, Evening Standard, 5 October 2007


"To make the whole thing work, the Royal Opera has corralled a dazzling array of performers. Simon O'Neill and Eva-Maria Westbroek are ideal as the star-crossed siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde." Michael Church, The Scotsman, 12 October 2007


"Some of the best moments in this Ring came from the interplay between the characters. There was strikingly good singing from Eva-Maria Westbroek and Simon O’Neill as Sieglinde and Siegmund, even if he is short on romantic warmth for his role." Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 12 October 2007.


    An Evening with the Stars

Christchurch Symphony, 16 August 2007


Review: Christchurch Symphony

"When a singer knows maestro Ricardo Muti as Ricky, you know he has reached the top. So it was with Simon O'Neill whose cheerful familiarity with the renowned conductor seemed not at all out of place, so superlative was his performance last night. Ombra Mai Fu, and duets from Carmen and Otello, were immaculate. Here is a true, natural tenor, clean and true throughout the range, with a strong top and so much horsepower in reserve you can hardly believe your ears.


Southern Opera's list of sponsors looks impressive and Christopher Doig's contacts are obviously good if he can bring opera's Roger Federer and Tiger Woods to Christchurch on the same night. Things look good for Carmen in October, and if the magnificent O'Neill can possibly be persuaded to perform a season here, then Southern Opera will have the hottest ticket in town." Timothy Jones, The Press, Christchurch, 17 August 2007


    BEETHOVEN - Fidelio

The Auckland Philharmonia, 10 August 2007


Review: Fidelio, Auckland Philharmonia

"Simon O'Neill as Florestan was particularly impressive in his prison aria; he sang heartbreakingly remembering better times. Reunited with Leonore in Act Two, he was irrepressible." William Dart, The New Zealand Herald, 13 August 2007


"Simon O'Neill gave an electrifying performance as the heroic Florestan. His rich tenor voice expressed the weary fortitude of the condemned man as well as the anguish of meeting Leonora in an engaging and poignant performance." John Daly-Peoples, The National Business Review, 17 August 2007


    Rome, the eternal city

The Auckland Philharmonia, 26 July 2007

 

"Tenor Simon O'Neill and soprano Erika Sunnegardh revealed their stellar status very early in Bellini's "Ah, crudele! In sen del padre". O'Neill laid out impressive Wagnerian credentials in Allmachtger Vater from Rienzi, as noble a prayer as any strife-torn nation could want. After interval, the singers returned with a selection from Puccini's Tosca. Once again the singers delivered a total performance, Sunnegardh dashing on stage to join the waiting O'Neill in the great Act I duet. The soprano was spine-tingling in her "Vissi d'arte" and, after a rapturous "E lucevan le stelle" from O'Neill, the two sang their hearts out until silenced by Puccini's 4am bell. The drama of these 36 minutes alone bodes well for the orchestra's Fidelio on August 10, when O'Neill and Sunnegardh promise to be a Florestan and Leonore to remember." William Dart, The New Zealand Herald, 30 July 2007


    BIZET - Carmen

Wolftrap Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, 28 June 2007

 

"Tenor O'Neill turned in a surprisingly robust performance as Don Jose, the opera's hapless hero, often regarded by opera aficionados as a wimpy guy unworthy of Carmen's attention. Not so here. Mr. O'Neill endowed his character with great complexity and gave him more authority with his substantial and well-supported instrument." T.L. Ponick, Washington Times, 30 June 2007


"O'Neill, like Graves, has a voice of undeniable impact when he's at his best. In an opera world that constantly laments a dearth of large voices, his thick, squillo sound is a rare thrill." Ronni Reich, The Washington Post, 30 June 2007


     BEETHOVEN - Fidelio

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 18 June 2007


"The clarion-voiced tenor Simon O’Neill was a formidable Florestan."

Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 15 June 2007


"Simon O'Neill's assumption of Florestan is monumental. He sings in but three of the ROH performances and captures the hallucinating loneliness of the character and, then, his burgeoning strength. O'Neill (who was a late replacement for Philip Langridge in a performance of the finale of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, conducted by Dohnányi, in the Gala Concert opening the refurbished Royal Festival Hall on 11 June) is a well-built chap and has a heroic voice to match. His desperate state and then his anticipation of liberation are especially well conveyed and his impressively ringing high notes proved to be the icing on the cake. He conveys Florestan as a 'good' man, and one can fully understand Leonore's attempts to find and rescue him; to do whatever it takes. ...anyone interested in 'heldentenors' and a successor to Ben Heppner might wish to hear O'Neill." Colin Anderson, The Opera Critic - 18 June 2007.


    PUCCINI - La boheme

New Orleans Opera, 25 April 2007


"As Rodolfo, tenor Simon O'Neill commanded the stage with a bold, lyrical voice that made each of his arias showstoppers. "Che gelida manina" rang out with crystalline purity; with the magnificent love duet "O soave fanciulla," O'Neill captured the audience's heart, as well as Mimi's. This Rodolfo, however, has more than just pretty high notes. There is a power in O'Neill's voice that places him firmly in heldentenor territory." Theodore P. Mahne, The Times-Picayune - 25 April 2007


    Bundaleer Forest Concert

South Australia, 24 March 2007


"ORGANISERS of the fourth Bundaleer Forest Weekend probably breathed a huge sigh of relief when threatening skies spared the event at the 11th hour. Luck, too, smiled kindly on this community-run festival in South Australia's mid-north. Somehow it managed to secure the first Australian appearance of one of the world's most successful young operatic tenors, New Zealander Simon O'Neill. He is a principal artist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and is about to sing the role of Siegmund there and at Covent Garden in London later this year. O'Neill turned in a series of stunning performances, of the kind that stay etched in the mind.


First came Handel's Ombra mai fu, heroic in grandeur and masterfully paced in a manner that held the audience breathless. Later solos from Puccini including Nessun Dorma, from Turandot, only confirmed that O'Neill has the hallmarks of greatness.


The quality of his voice is glorious, by turns dark and bright, but it was his ability to hold the big phrase with controlled, sustained power that brought tingles to the spine."

Graham Strahle, The Australian, 27 March 2007

 

     PREVIN - A Streetcar Named Desire

Theater an der Wien, 2 March 2007


"Herausragend ist Simon O'Neill als enttäuschter, braver Blanche-Verehrer Mitch." Salzburger Nachrichten - 2 March 2007


"Und Simon O'Neill durchschifft sogar die Klippen der verzehrenden Tenor-Arie stromlinienförmig sicher: Sein Mitch ist in all seiner Verklemmtheit die bemerkenswerteste Rollengestaltung des Abends" Die Presse, Wien - 2 March 2007


"Ehrliche Leidenschaft verströmte Simon O'Neills Mitch, der mit wunderschönen Kantilenen punktete." OÖ Nachrichten - 2 March 2007


      BEETHOVEN - Ninth Symphony

Orchestra di Sinfonica Giuseppe Verdi, 1 January 2007


"Piuttosto, la vivida espressivita del tenore Simon O'Neill"

GIAN MARIO BENZING, Corriere della Sera - 1 January 2007


    LISZT - Psalm XIII

American Symhony Orchestra, Avery Fisher Hall, 22 October 2006


"The Liszt, featuring a splendid New Zealand tenor named Simon O’Neill, is about as close to opera as the grown-up composer ever got. Wagnerian monologue and choral ex changes came and went in this series of dramatic episodes. The music, from 1863, was more various in mood and color than most of the later-dated pieces around it, and then there was Liszt’s rhapsodic coda — the product of a superior musical imagination that had “Tristan und Isolde,” which was composed in the late 1850’s, ringing freshly in its ears. The performances were all reasonable; Mr. O’Neill’s was exceptional." BERNARD HOLLAND, New York Times - 24 October 2006


"And what a soloist we had this day. Simon O'Neill has a ringing heldentenor that cuts right through the orchestra and easily resounds in the back row of the balcony. Barrel-chested and youthful, he could certainly step into a Siegfried or Siegmund role in the future. In fact, Liszt seemed to be influenced by his friend and son-in-law Wagner as he penned this dramatic scene." FRED KIRSHNIT, New York Sun - 24 October 2006


    MOZART - Idomeneo

Metropolitan Opera, September 2006  


"...Simon O'Neill (the high priest), made a strong debut" MARTIN BERNHEIMER, Financial Times - 2 October 2006


    MOZART - Die Zauberflöte

Vienna Philharmonic - Salzburg Festival, August 2006


‘Flute' Wins The Heart'. Once more, New Zealand's Simon O'Neill blew his tenor trumpet as one of the Knights. And, once more, he overwhelmed everything around him. You could barely tell that other singers, not to mention the Vienna Philharmonic, were making a sound as he was singing. But the voice is so splendid, you really don't mind. The guy on the glockenspiel wasn't bad either. JAY NORDLINGER, New York Sun - August 21 2006 


    WAGNER - Parsifal

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, March 2006


"O'Neill's glorious ringing voice, perhaps more Italianate in timbre than heldentenor-like, provided a highly distinctive colour." THE LISTENER, Peter Shaw, 1 April 2006


"In Simon O'Neill New Zealand has a world class Parsifal. It is hard to believe that he was singing the role for the first time, as his performance is already accomplished. He possesses a true Heldentenor voice, with a rich, warm baritone quality in the lower registers combined with a clarion, ringing top. He demonstrated a complete understanding of the text, moving from innocent fool to enlightened redeemer with effortless ease. This auspicious debut is surely the beginning of an illustrious career in this repertoire." THE OPERA CRITIC, Michael Sinclair, 21 March 2006


"Hugely impressive was Simon O’Neill in the title role. Although his gestural range was somewhat economical, it was still a heartfelt performance that captured the foolish innocence, suffering and regal serenity of this mysterious and saintly individual. Vocally, O’Neill was stunning, producing a Heldentenor sound that carried majestically. He was smooth and carefree with the flower maidens, solemn and powerful in his return as king, but also thrilled with a raw intensity that was particularly affecting in Parsifal’s defiance of Kundry." NZ SCOOP, 19 March 2006


"Simon O'Neill has thrilled us in Auckland singing everything from Puccini to Bernstein; as the young Parsifal, he reveals his potential to become a Heldentenor of international stature." NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 20 March 2006


A Splendid Parsifal

"Tenor Simon O'Neill's debut as Parsifal suggests a future Helden-tenor with a voice now of strength, distinction and penetration, though more in tune perhaps with Parsifal the naive fool than Parsifal the charismatic and wise leader." THE DOMINION POST, 18 March 2006


    SMETANA - The Bartered Bride

Royal Opera House Covent Garden, January 2006


"The main vocal interest was the house debut of the New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill as Jenik. As he showed in Susannah at Wexford last October, he has a beefy and at times rather old-fashioned sock-it-to-'em voice, which he controlled well, so that his impressive, ringing top notes never sounded coarse. In the love duet with Marenka, perhaps encouraged by the fluent woodwind playing which Mackerras obtained, he showed himself capable of real sensitivity, and he sang his Act 2 aria in her praise most affectingly. OPERA MAGAZINE, March 2006


"Simon O'Neill as Jeník was well cast, crafty and besotted, tending his cabbages and telling his beloved how much she meant to him. His many arias were all strong and true." MUSICAL OPINION, March 2006


"It's quite a sing. So, too, is Jenik, her true love, a tenor role with a hint of the heroic and the ability to spring some unexpected surprises above the stave. The young New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill is quite a find for this part, having both the ruddy robustness and Slavic brightness. He can perhaps work on making the phrasing more ingratiating but his reach is rafter-rattling." THE INDEPENDENT 11 January 2006


"...the promising New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill sang Jenik with ringing clarity and security." THE TELEGRAPH, 11 January 2006


"Simon O'Neill as a clarion-voiced Jeník" FINANCIAL TIMES, UK, 11 January 2006


"Susan Gritton makes a glorious Marenka, with a commanding if stentorian lover in the New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill's Jenik." THE OBSERVER, 15 January 2006


"Simon O’Neill making his Covent Garden début as Jeník is quite a Heldentenor discovery; He is definitely a future Walther and Siegfried." SEEN AND HEARD, 11 January 2006


"... well matched by tenor Simon O'Neill, making his Royal Opera debut in the principal role of Jenik. His huge, ringing tenor sound includes some spectacular trumpet-like notes; he also has a charming way with comedy." BLOOMBERG 10 January 2006


"The embattled lovers, Jenik and Marenka, are played by Simon O'Neill and Susan Gritton. O'Neill is all glamorously ringing high notes and bullish charm." THE GUARDIAN, 9 January 2006


"sung impressively by the New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill in his Covent Garden debut; O'Neill has the top notes and he certainly flaunts them" SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, 15 January, 2006

 

"A bohemian rhapsody "As Jenik, the New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill made a winning house debut, secure in high notes, with an unaffected brightness of tone." THE EVENING STANDARD, 9 January 2006

 

"In the New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill Mackerras has found an ideal Jeník. He will surely be a great Walther von Stolzing in Wagner's Meistersinger one of these days, as he has such a big yet lyrical voice." MUSICOMH.COM, January 2006.

 

"The leading lovers were admirably sung by New Zealand newcomer, tenor Simon O'Neill, with powerful tone." SUNDAY EXPRESS, 15 January 2006


"If Simon O'Neill is marginally less convincing as Jeník, this is more to do with the ambiguity in his nature as Karel Sabina's libretto presents it (is his bartering of Mařenka done out of selfless ingenuity, or is there an opportunist motive?) than in his actual singing – the high tessitura of the role being accommodated with little obvious strain. And, in his Act Two aria, O'Neill captured the emotional roundness of this long-lost heir-apparent who claims his birthright in decidedly meritocratic terms." THE CLASSICAL SOURCE 11 January 2006

 

"O'Neill revealing a big, raw-boned tenor voice that surely make him a terrific Puccinian one day." THE MAIL ON SUNDAY, 15 January 2006


     FLOYD - Susannah

Wexford Festival Opera, November 2005

 

"Simon O'Neill presented his exciting heldentenor credentials as her brother Sam" OPERA NOW, January 2006


"The best music came from the Irish tenor Simon O'Neill's splendidly sung Sam." THE INDEPENDENT UK, 27 October 2005


"...sung by O'Neill (a magnificent new tenor, as Susannah's brother Sam)....it speaks straight to the heart through music of uninhibited tonal simplicity and Pucciniesque fervour." THE TELEGRAPH UK, 28 October 2005


"The Irish-American tenor Simon O’Neill, soon to sing Jenik in The Bartered Bride and Siegmund in Die Walküre at Covent Garden, revealed a promising heldentenor" THE TIMES 30 October 2005


    MOZART - Die Zauberflöte

Salzburg Festival August 2005


"the New Zealander tenor Simon O'Neill - a Knight - who, gave more volume than he should have. Given the thrilling and gorgeous quality of his voice, however, you couldn't blame him." THE NEW YORK SUN, 10 August 2005


"Simon O'Neill and Günther Groissböck were a particularly strong pair of Men in Arms, their voices combining mellifluously during their short scene in Act 2" THE OPERA CRITIC 8 August 2005


"...den beiden Geharnischten (vokal exzellent: Simon O'Neill und Günther Groissböck)" "...the two Geharnischten (vocally excellent: Simon O'Neill and Günther Groissböck)" DIE PRESSE, Austria, 1 August 2005


 

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