Jonathan Stewart VickersCC (October 29, 1926 – July 10, 2015), known professionally as Jon Vickers, was a Canadian heldentenor.

Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he was the sixth in a family of eight children. In 1950, he was awarded a scholarship to study opera at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1957 Vickers joined London’sRoyal Opera House, Covent Garden company. In 1960 he joined the Metropolitan Opera. He became world famous for a wide range of German, French and Italian roles. Vickers' huge, powerful voice and solid technique met the demands of many French, German and Italian roles. He was also highly regarded for his powerful stage presence and thoughtful characterizations.[1]

In 1968 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. Vickers received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, in 1998.[2]


Vickers studied with George Lambert at The Royal Conservatory of Music[3] and sang professionally in Canada from the early- to mid-1950s. His internationalCAREER began with his 1957 Covent Garden Riccardo in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. He continued to appear there into the 1980s, putting his personal stamp on the roles of Énée in Berlioz's Les Troyens, Radamès in Verdi's Aida and theTITLE role in his Don CarlosHandel's Samson, Florestan inBeethoven's Fidelio, Tristan in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Canio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and the title role in Britten's Peter Grimes.[4] Some critics praised Vickers' Tristan as the best since Lauritz Melchior's.[5]

He debuted at the Bayreuth Festival in 1958 as Siegmund in Die Walküre and sang Parsifal there in 1964.[3] Later negotiations with Wieland Wagnerconcerning appearances as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung ceased on Wieland's death in 1966. His debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1960 was Canio inPagliacci.[6] He appeared at the Met for 22 seasons in 280 performances of 17 roles, including Florestan in Fidelio, Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre, Don Jose in Bizet's Carmen, Radamès in Aida, Erik in Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, Herman in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades, Samson in both Handel's opera and Saint-SaënsSamson et Dalila, theTITLE role of Verdi's Otello, Don Alvaro in Verdi's La forza del destinoPeter GrimesTristan und Isolde, Laca inJanáček's Jenůfa, Vasek in Smetana's The Bartered Bride, and the title role in Wagner's Parsifal, giving his farewell in 1987.[6]

Among Vickers' more notable recordings were Les Troyens, singing the part of Énée (Aeneas), with Sir Colin Davis in 1978,[7][8][9] and a legendary and controversial 1958 recording of Handel's Messiah with Sir Thomas Beecham.[9][10][11]

Although scheduled to sing Tannhäuser at Covent Garden in the late 1970s, Vickers dropped out, claiming he could not empathize with the character,[12] and that the opera itself was blasphemous in nature.[4][13] He sang Nerone in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea at the Paris Opéra, and Alvaro in La forza del destino at the Met (1975). His roles also included Don Carlos, Andrea Chenier, Herod in Salome, Giasone in Medea (with Maria Callas in the title role), Pollione in Norma[9] and rarely heard parts such as Cellini in Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini,[14] Ratan-Sen in Roussel's Padmavati and Sergei in Shostakovitch's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.[8] Many critics praised his interpretation of Verdi's Otello,[15] which he recorded twice: in 1960 with Tullio Serafin and 1973 with Herbert von Karajan. Vickers also was a long time collaborator with American pianist Richard Woitach.[16][17]

Vickers further sang at the 'home' of Italian opera, Milan's La Scala, as well as in the major opera houses of ChicagoSan FranciscoVienna, and at theSalzburg Festival. He retired in 1988.[18]

Personal life and deathEdit

Vickers was born into the musical family of William, a teacher, and Myrle (nee Mossop). As a youth he sang in his father's church and his initial intention was to study medicine. He worked on a neighbour's farm and acquired the muscular stature that characterized him. During a semi-professional production his leading lady made a recording of his voice and sent it to The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He auditioned there with Every Valley Shall be Exaltedand with the offer of a scholarship his musicalCAREER was born.[19] In 1953 he married Henrietta (Hetti Outerbridge). They had five children. After her death, in 1991, he married Judith Stewart in 1993.[19] Vickers died of Alzheimer's disease on July 10, 2015 in Ontario.[20][21]


Vickers' voice was recorded in dozens of performances, including:[8]

Opera recordingsEdit

Concert recordingsEdit

Recital recordingsEdit