John Boyden

John Boyden. Baritone, b Woodstock, Ont, 22 Nov 1935, d Stratford, Ont, 5 Dec 1982. In 1939 his family moved to Stratford. He began singing as a boy soprano and later joined the Elizabethan Singers and studied with their conductor, Gordon D. Scott.

Boyden, John

John Boyden. Baritone, b Woodstock, Ont, 22 Nov 1935, d Stratford, Ont, 5 Dec 1982. In 1939 his family moved to Stratford. He began singing as a boy soprano and later joined the Elizabethan Singers and studied with their conductor, Gordon D. Scott. During the inaugural Stratford Music Festival in 1955, he participated in masterclasses directed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. With her encouragement and a scholarship raised by Stratford citizens Boyden studied 1956-7 in London with Henry Cummings at the RAM. In the summer of 1956 he placed fifth in the international voice competition at Salzburg. In 1958 a Canada Council scholarship enabled him to study with Bernard Diamant and John Newmark in Montreal. On a scholarship from the Salzburg Mozarteum he was coached by Schwarzkopf and Erik Werba during the summer of 1961. He continued his studies with Diamant until 1963.

Boyden returned to the Stratford Festival in 1957 to sing the Canadian premiere of Gerald Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. In the Montreal premiere of Somers' opera The Fool (15 Mar 1959) Boyden sang the role of the King. Also in 1959 he made his Montreal recital debut for the Ladies' Morning Musical Club. After his Vienna recital debut at the Konzerthaus the Express (7 Nov 1961) referred to him as 'a singing poet from Canada'; it added: 'The last debut of an almost unknown recitalist who made a similar deep and strong impression took place about tenor years ago. At that time a young German baritone sang Winterreise in the same hall. His name was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. This time an equally young baritone, Canadian, sang an exclusively German program. His name is John Boyden. Comparisons come immediately to mind'.

In 1962 Boyden appeared at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, where he sang Schumann's Dichterliebe. He also made appearances that year with the New York Philharmonic and the TSO, and at the Vienna Festival. He made his New York recital debut 22 Apr 1963 at Judson Hall. Commenting on his interpretation of Schumann's Dichterliebe, the reviewer for the New York Herald-Tribune wrote: 'the work assumed the noblest kind of expression. Each song was conveyed with extraordinary sensitivity... It was lieder singing of consummate skill'. That same year Boyden sang the Christus in the NBC telecast of Bach's St Matthew Passion.

In Hamburg in May 1964 he gave a recital and sang in Monteverdi's Orfeo and Orff's Carmina burana. At the Vienna Festival he also gave a recital and sang in Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Bach's St John Passion. He returned to the Stratford Festival to sing Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Lois Marshall and Elizabeth Benson Guy. His other engagements in 1964 included appearances at the Caramoor Festival in New York State and with the Detroit and Pittsburgh SOs. Stanley Sadie stated in Opera on Record 2 (New York 1983) that Boyden sang Garibaldo on the 1964 recording of Handel's Rodelinda (3-West WST 320) 'with a lightness and fluency anticipating the authenticists of today'.

Boyden toured Europe in 1965, giving recitals in Amsterdam, Vienna, London, Berlin, Lisbon, Milan, and Munich, and performing with orchestras in Bern and Zurich. With John Newmark at the piano Boyden gave the US premiere, 18 Jan 1967 at New York's Town Hall, and the Canadian premiere, 19 Feb 1967 at York University, Toronto, of Britten's Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. In 1968, accompanied by the pianist Mikael Eliasen, he toured the USSR, performing in Leningrad, Moscow, Minsk, and other cities. He studied opera 1969-70 with Eugénie Ludwig. His career was curtailed by Hodgkin's disease in the early 1970s. Boyden made his final concert appearance at the Stratford Festival on 22 Aug 1970.


Further Reading

  • Goddard, Peter. 'A home-coming for John Boyden,' Toronto Telegram, 17 Aug 1970