Michael Burgess, popular singer, tenor, actor (born 22 July 1945 in Regina, SK; died 28 September 2015 in Toronto, ON). Raised in Toronto, Michael Burgess attended St Michael's Choir School and sang on CBC TV's Cross-Canada Hit Parade and Holiday Ranch. He studied for the priesthood before concentrating on English literature at the University of Ottawa. As Wally Burgess, in April 1967 he played Tony in the Orpheus Operatic Society of Ottawa production of West Side Story, directed by Berthold Carrière. Burgess made his professional debut in The Fantasticks (Edmonton 1968), but came to national prominence as Jean Valjean in the long-running original Canadian staging of Les Misérables (1989-92). Later, he was Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha (Edmonton 1992, Toronto 1993), and appeared in the musicalsTen Lost Years, Blood Brothers, The Fantasticks, and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. He created the role of Victor Frankenstein in the world premiere of Frankenstein . . . Do You Dream (Hamilton, 1 Nov 2003), and of Sound Man in Brian Finley's Rapunzel (Westben Arts Festival, 10 Jun 2005).
Opera and Concerts
Although without extensive opera training, Burgess sang his first opera role in 1974 (La Bohème, at Toronto's Dell cabaret theatre), and has sung for Dallas Civic Opera, Western Opera Theatre, San Francisco Opera, and Virginia Opera. As Captain Corcoran, he performed in HMS Pinafore for the Stratford Festival in 1981. He was tenor soloist in Messiah with the Bach Elgar Choir (1996), and MacHeath in The Beggar's Opera for Edmonton's Citadel Theatre (1995).
Perenially popular among show-tune aficionados for his solo pop concerts and soulful yet virile demeanour, Burgess has toured extensively in Canada (often accompanied by Doug Riley), and has performed with the Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg symphony orchestras and the Calgary Philharmonic. His signature song is "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables.
Recordings, Broadcasts, Accolades
Well-known as an anthem singer at sports events since 1984, Burgess became the first person to sing "O Canada" at a World Series baseball game (Atlanta, 1992). His first CD, A Place in the Sun (Attic, 1997), contained songs written by Robert Charlebois, Luc Plamondon, Amy Sky, and Roch Voisine. The 1993 television special, "Michael Burgess at Massey Hall," won a Gemini award. Burgess has appeared in non-musical roles on television (eg, "ENG" and "Street Legal") and in theatre.
The Vancouver Sun praised Burgess's "intense performance" as Jean Valjean: "Burgess is exquisitely moving when he sings the show's one beautiful song, 'Bring Him Home' . . . ." (26 Jul 1990). Maclean's said, "Burgess is an affecting Valjean: a solid masculine presence whose soaring spirit is captured by a pulsing tenor" (27 Mar 1989). Burgess holds the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.
The Arcadians. 1993. EMI/West End Angel ZDM 7243 5 65068 2 4
A Place in the Sun. 1997. Attic ACD 1479
The Huron Carole. 1998. Tomali Records TRLC 486008
Angels in the Snow. 1998. Attic ACD 1514
HMS Pinafore. 1999. CBC Home Video CBG972102 (DVD)