Rockwell Blake

born 10 January 1951 Plattsburgh

Picture of Rockwell Blake

Rockwell Blake singsLa Cenerentola: Yes, I shall find her, I swear it
In RA format

Already from his high school days, Blake studied voice with local teacher Renata Carisio Booth, and he also achieved a doctorate in music. When joining the Navy, he sang in a choir and a smaller ensemble there, soon as a soloist. He got his first operatic roles at Golovsky and at Michigan Opera, and in 1975, he was already a soloist in Carmina burana at the Salzburg Festival. In 1976, he sang Lindoro in Washington D. C., which was kind of a breakthrough (though not his debut, as often claimed); in the same role, he made his Met debut in 1981. Already in 1979, he had arrived in New York (at the City Opera), scoring huge success as Comte Ory. He specialized in Rossini, and from 1983 performed regularly at the Rossini festival in Pesaro.

He sang in lots of important places: Chicago, Pittsburgh, at the San Carlo in Naples (repeatedly), in Genova, Rome, Ravenna, Bologna, Venice, Palermo, Torino, Parma, Aix-en-Provence, Nice, Bordeaux, at the Paris Opéra, Toulouse, at the Monnaie in Brussels, in Liège, Lisbon, Santiago de Chile, Hamburg, Munich, at the Vienna Staatsoper... He retired in 2005.

Interviews with Blake showed a smart, ironic person, and he never sang beyond the limits of his slim and not very big voice. His earliest (live) recordings are quite spectacular: fantastic coloratura, and an absolutely extraordinary top. It didn't last. By the time when he recorded his first recitals (1988 and 1989), the coloratura was still outstanding, but the cantilena already left a lot to be desired, both in terms of style and of (brittle) sound. When I first heard him in 1993 at the Vienna Staatsoper, my expectations were nonetheless great, and my disappointment even greater. By that time, he could only sing coloratura; everything else, including his laughably peacocky stage behaviour, made him the classic tenore da circo, a circus act, plus he got hoarse every now and then. A few years later again, he sounded very precisely like a duck, or perhaps like Stefan Zucker, and he wobbled, too. That stage of his career is documented on numerous Youtube videos, which get nonetheless a host of comments by zealous followers who think Blake was the greatest tenor of the Milky Way galaxy.

Reference 1: Kutsch & Riemens, reference 2, reference 3

I wish to thank Tom Silverbörg for the recording.

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