Born: April 18, 1942; Died: August 20, 2013.
Richard Angas, who has died aged 71, was a British bass singer of such impressive height and presence that opera companies, when planning a new Ring cycle, were bound to think of him as their latest Fafner, the giant in Das Rheingold who is later transformed into the dragon in Siegfried. In fact, in 1967, the fledgling Scottish Opera was the first company to extend this invitation to him. He was, at the time, just 25 years old. To play the role, he wore four-inch lifts that increased his height to 6ft 11in and a rubberised suit that made him look like a gigantic Michelin man.
Though his voice was not yet quite as big as it later became, and nobody would yet have nicknamed him Richard Loudenboomer, he was - alongside William McCue's kindlier portrayal of Fasolt, the other giant - a menacing sight, and when he clubbed Fasolt to death in the final scene the audience reaction was strong. Sadly, he did not reappear in revivals of Peter Ebert's production, but he had already made his operatic debut in Glasgow singing Lodovico in Verdi's Otello, and he was back in Scotland to sing Cato in the Stirling premiere of Iain Hamilton's The Catiline Conspiracy, the first of four new Scottish operas commissioned by the company.
Born in Esher, Surrey, the son of a chartered accountant, Angas studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London before moving to Vienna for a year as a pupil of Erik Werba. He won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship in 1965 and, in the same year, the Richard Tauber Memorial Prize.
In Scotland, he made several appearances at Ledlanet, John Calder's small opera house in Kinross-shire. Though he did not join English National Opera until 1980, he made up for the delay by becoming principal bass for 30 years. His star role with the company was as the Mikado in Jonathan Miller's famously racy Gilbert and Sullivan production, a scintillating rehearsal for which can be viewed on YouTube. In this, once again thickly padded, he sways and pirouettes in front of the rest of the cast with the lightest footed, most perfectly timed expertise.
Though most of his triumphs were in character parts, ranging from Jupiter in Offenbach's Orpheus In The Underworld to the sadistic doctor in Berg's Wozzeck at Covent Garden, they were appearances that stuck in the memory. And though he clearly loved traditional comedy, he was not averse to severe modernity - Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask Of Orpheus, Aribert Reimann's Lear, Britten's Curlew River, Henze's We Come To The River, and (last year) Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream were all works that profited from his presence.
He collapsed while rehearsing the role of Swallow in Britten's Peter Grimes for Opera North, and died soon afterwards in hospital. He is survived by his wife, the mezzo-soprano Rosanne Creffield, whom he married in 1967, and by his son.
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