Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
A childhood and adolescence in boys and youth choirs gave me such wonderful musical and life experiences. A local music festival competition offered me one of the top prizes for adult soloist just when I was accepting university places for chemistry. I decided to put the science on hold a give myself a three year horizon. If things did not happen within that frame, I’d reclaim the science. Here I am still pushing back that horizon.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My high school band director had a tremendous ferocity but absolute passion for music. He said anybody could achieve great things as a musician. My earliest choir director in Ottawa instilled a sense of high standard, hard work but also looking at the world at large, and art in all its forms. My hero as a young baritone was Dietrich Fischer Dieskau. I was given fantastic opportunity to sing in the English cathedral environment for five years thanks to Sir David Willcocks. Then I was introduced to the world of bel canto and the art of Edita Gruberova, Piero Cappucilli, and the great Lieder singers of the past generations, by a fellow singer who has become my teacher the past decade.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Developing from a choral singer to a professional soloist was the greatest challenge and took many years. It finally took support from Glyndebourne to find a teacher and circumstance to carve out that path. The other challenges have been personal, the discipline and sacrifice to become a craftsman.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I have had great pleasure in recording some lesser known repertoire in recital with Julius Drake and contemporary works with orchestra. I am glad to have had opportunity to work with living composers such as John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Mark Anthony Turnage. It is an honour to work with such great artists.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I am never completely satisfied with performances, but I am always happy to return to works that I have performed in the past.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Generally, in the opera world, it is more to do with geographic needs – and the repertoire is generally varied. I have a wide range of interest, and mostly it is about diary slots. I made a miscalculation one year with Wagner’s Hans Sachs followed by Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I loved them both, but my voice was a bit confused. This year, I will sing the same role in three different opera houses, that is a matter for rejoicing and a calm spirit!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I am very lucky to have performed in the most beautiful venues: the Wigmore Hall for recitals, Vienna’s Musikverein for concerts, and many wonderful opera houses: Glyndebourne and Covent Garden feel like “home”.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I love whatever I am currently performing. Listening tends to be choral music, or great symphonies… however, I am learning the entire nursery rhyme canon again.
Who are your favourite musicians?
My colleagues. No-one else really understands the journeys we have made to do what we do.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
It might be singing Monteverdi’s Beatus vir while still a choirboy, my first experience with an orchestra and that joyful, life-enhancing music.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Keep loving what you do, and remember that very few people are doing what we do. Be curious about everything, because what love and life you experience will become part of your music making.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Healthy and singing as best I can, perhaps enjoying a combination of performing and promoting young singers.
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you enjoy doing most?
Having a free day with the family
What is your present state of mind?
Full of things to do! Occupied with travel and learning challenges, but seeking ways to spend more time with my loved ones.
Gerald Finley is currently appearing as Scarpia in Tosca at the Royal Opera House