William Olvis

12 February 1928 Hollywood – 27 November 1998 Redlands

Picture of William Olvis in Madama Butterfly
Madama Butterfly

Picture of a William Olvis' poster
Olvis was born in Hollywood and reared in Glendale. Olvis was educated at USC and Occidental College, Olvis set out to become a lawyer but became interested in music instead.

Earning the Atwater Kent Award, a major prize for voice, in 1949, he decided to make singing his career. He studied at the Music Academy of the West, then in Los Angeles, and later won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Rome.

Olvis first gained national attention in 1954 when he was hired to replace Mario Lanza in the film "Deep in my heart", the story of composer Sigmund Romberg. In the movie, he sang the serenade from the 1924 operetta The student prince.

The developing tenor later sang the lead in "Song of Norway" on Broadway and toured with the stage company.

Olvis made his debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 1953 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a pops concert highlighting the music of "Showboat".

Olvis, at the beginning of his career, sang the part of the governor in the world premiere (October 29th, 1956) of Candide at the Colonial Theater in Boston. In 1957, Olvis sang a small part in Die lustige Witwe at the City Opera in New York.

When Olvis sang in concert in 1958 at the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, a Times critic praised the tenor's vocal range: "The Olvis voice is a fledgling heldentenor with an amazing lower register, a rich, robust instrument, yet one that can shave itself down to engaging softness."

During the 1958/59 season, Olvis made his debut at the Met in Die Zauberflöte (Zweiter Priester). Olvis sang at the Met until 1963 and then again 1966–68. At the beginning, he sang small parts, then major roles in German and Italian operas. His repertory included among others: Steuermann, Narraboth, Ismaele, Malcolm, Radames, Pinkerton, and José.

During that time, he made guest appearances in opera houses in the USA, such as Boston in 1961.

1963–66, he was member of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf-Duisburg. Olvis also made guest appearances with the Staatsoper Hamburg and the Staatstheater Karlsruhe. In Germany, Olvis sang roles in German and Italian operas: I due Foscari, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo, Tosca, Turandot, Ariadne auf Naxos, Der fliegende Holländer (Erik), Cavalleria rusticana, and Die Fledermaus (Eisenstein).

1965/66, Olvis sang in Bordeaux (Carmen, 1965), at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1966), and in Bayreuth (Erik and Froh, 1965).

After disappearing from view for several years, Olvis resurfaced from 1971 to 1974 singing baritone roles. For example at the Theater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen: Tonio, or the four villains in Les contes d'Hoffmann.

After returning to California, Olvis continued to make special appearances. In 1988 at the Long Beach Opera, Olvis sang in Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (Jupiter, a tenor role). The same year, he sang in quartet with Anita Protich, Jacalyn Bower and James Patterson at a Pacific Symphony concert in Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, launching the Orange County Centennial.

His repertory also included: Grigorij, Cassio, Barinkay, Apollo (Alceste by Gluck).

Olvis recorded for Columbia-CBS (Candide), RCA (Malcolm) and Händel Society (Judas Maccabaeus).

Olvis died at his home in Redlands from throat cancer.
Reference 1: Los Angeles Times
Reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

William Olvis sings Der fliegende Holländer: Mit Gewitter und Sturm
In RA format

William Olvis sings The student prince: Overhead the moon is beaming
In RA format

William Olvis sings Songs of Norway: The legend
In RA format
I would like to thank Tom Silverbörg for the recording (Der fliegende Holländer).
I would like to thank Ross Halper for the recordings (Songs of Norway, The student prince).
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the poster.

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