Tenor Lloyd Strauss-Smith turns 90

Tenor Lloyd Strauss-Smith turns 90

07.02.11 South African tenor Lloyd Strauss-Smith, who in his lifetime has shared the stage with singers such as Kathleen Ferrier, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Janet Baker, Leontyne Price and Sir Geraint Evans, celebrated his 90th birthday in Cape Town last week.

Strauss-Smith, one of South Africa’s early opera exports, spent close to 20 years in the United Kingdom during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time he enjoyed an illustrious career as professional opera singer, performing with some of the greatest conductors of the time, including Sir Adrian Boult, Sir John Pritchard, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir David Willcocks and composers such as Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gina-Carlo Menottie and Nono Rota. Strauss-Smith also became recognised and respected as a role model for young South African singers working abroad, beating a path previously unknown to local artists.

He appeared with orchestras such as the Philharmonia, the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Philharmonic orchestras.

On his return to South Africa he continued performing as soloist in many oratorios and finally ploughed back in South Africa as singing teacher, first as Senior singing teacher at the South African College of Music of the University of Cape Town and then privately at his home, until finally retiring in 2010.

Strauss-Smith was born in Lichtenburg in the then Eastern Transvaal on 31 January 1921.

The following is an extract from Volume IV of the 1986 edition of South African Music Encyclopedia (J.P. Malan, ISBN 0 19 570311 1).

Lloyd Strauss-Smith’s extremely musical family included:  a grandfather who conducted church choirs;  an aunt, Violette Cowie (stage name: Violette Noveni) who sang with the Leonard Rayne Opera Company in South Africa and with others in Australia and India;  and an uncle who was a soloist at municipal concerts in Johannesburg.  His own career started at fifteen with Aimée Parkerson who spotted the potential of his voice.  After two years’ training he made his professional debut.  The Second World War intervened, and six years later, after demobilisation, he joined John Connell’s National Opera Company and sang tenor parts, for example in Lohengrin (1945).

In 1947 he went to London, where he was to stay, with brief interruptions, for twenty years.  There he took roles in more than eighty operas, mostly produced for radio.  They included many works by moderns, including British premieres of works by Schönberg, Reizenstein, Dallapiccola, Fricker, and Frank Martin.  Two were television firsts: Menotti’s The Saint of Bleeker Street and Nino Rota’s I Due Timidi in which he sang the principal role. Other activities include some 200 broadcasts of songs and oratorios, appearances with leading orchestras and at the 1965 Glyndebourne Opera Festival, and visits to the continent. He sang the tenor part in Bach’s B minor Mass at Naarden in Holland, when Kathleen Ferrier interpreted the contralto arias (1951).

In South Africa he sang the part of Eisenstein in PACT’s 1966 production of Die Fledermaus. The next year he took roles in The Bartered Bride and Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  Since 1967 he has lived in Cape Town and taught (until 1978) at the College of Music.  He has often sung in concerts and opera productions put on by CAPAB and the College of Music.

Acknowledging contributions by Barry Smith and Deon Knobel.

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