Bryn Terfel has revealed the heavy personal price he has had to pay as one of the world’s most famous operatic stars.
The singer admitted his family life has suffered immeasurably because of the stresses and strains of maintaining a relentless schedule that sees him performing globally to sell-out crowds on some of opera’s biggest stages.
He has recently separated from his wife of more than 30 years, childhood sweetheart Lesley and while the bass baritone paid tribute to the mother of his three sons, he has ruled out a reconciliation
Terfel told the Sunday Telegraph: “She can nothing wrong in my eyes – my beautiful ex-wife. We were together over 30 years and I wouldn’t change a thing. I would never be where I am if it wasn’t for her. There were times I was away from birthdays, marriages, funerals.”
The much in-demand bass baritone’s diary allows him barely a day off in the next five years and his constantly packed schedule has put incredible pressure on his home life – especially as a father. Terfel even missed the birth of two of his sons due to his touring commitments.
“You can’t have that back – but I made sure I was home when the third child was born,” he said.
The performer, whose singing career was launched when he won the Lieder Prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989, attracted criticism when he withdrew from appearing in the Ring Cycle at Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 2007 because his youngest son, then six, needed an operation.
“I would do it again,” he stated. “I knew that I would go back and sing the Ring Cycle in Covent Garden, and if they didn’t want me I would go somewhere else.
“If one of your children is hurt, that’s what you do. When people write negative things, you wonder if they understand the intricacies of family life. It wasn’t just about him, it was about the other two (sons) and looking after them.”
Terfel said that the break-up of his family has been difficult. While they’re still based at the family home in Bontnewydd, near Caernarfon – close to his own parents’ home – the singer has spent months touring.
“Even going through what I’m going through now, you give everything inside you. I was close to tears yesterday on stage,” he confided. “It’s just all the love around you. Everybody is so nice and supportive.”
Bryn Terfel launches new company to support emerging classical music talent
The 47-year-old’s career however remains undimmed. Terfel recently celebrated 20 years with his record label by creating a new company to develop emerging classical talent in Wales and beyond.
The international performer and Berlin-based label Deutsche Grammophon – with which he has signed a new, exclusive, long-term recording agreement – have launched Snowdonia Records.
It will nurture young singers and instrumentalists involved in choral work, with the first projects set to be announced next year.
And Terfel is also preparing to release the most ambitious studio album to be released by the label.
“I’m very excited, at this stage of my career, to get really involved in finding and nurturing new talent,” he said.
“I want to help give young artists the opportunity to record – the same opportunity I was given when I myself joined Deutsche Grammophon over 20 years ago.”
Terfel is renowned for supporting young singers and musicians, and each year the Urdd Eisteddfod hosts the Bryn Terfel Scholarship.
And after receiving an honorary doctorate from Bangor University in 2012, he revealed that he would be presenting a string of fellowships in his name to singers of the future. But his latest project is thought to be the first time a classical artist has worked on such a venture with a major label.
The announcement comes ahead of Terfel’s latest album release on Deutsche Grammophon – the most ambitious studio album to be made in the label’s 115-year history, involving 360 choir members, 150 orchestral musicians, two guest singers, a conductor and a soloist.
Homeward Bound, which will be launched this autumn, features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The project reunites Terfel with the Salt Lake City choir a decade on from his first appearance at its annual Christmas concert.
Highlighting the strong Welsh connections with the choir – some of the founding members in the mid-19th century included Welsh immigrants – the new album features folk songs, hymns, spirituals, popular classics, and new songs, including Faith’s Call, written especially for Terfel and the choir by royal wedding composer, Paul Mealor.