26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Bio of a Complex and Difficult Personality
As the author of a Jussi Bjorling biography that was never published in this country, I empathize with the task that faced Jeannie Williams. How can you make the bare details of a career interesting when you get no cooperation from the subject or his family? Then again, where do you draw the line and decide if a negative anecdote is unfair or probably untrue? Williams'...
Published on January 16, 2000 by madamemusico
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair and almost kind Bio by a nosey gossip columist
Folks, this man is my hero. As an artist he is near pearless. Anyone who loves great acting can find inspiration if not enjoyment in Opera from seeing or hearing the great singing actors of our history like Callas, Gobbi, and most especially Jon Vickers. Watch his live performance as Peter Grimes under Colin Davis and you will see what I mean.
Now to the...
Published on May 16, 2005 by J. Janacek
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been Better Had Vickers Participated,
The author of this book makes it clear that while Jon Vickers and family did not interfere with the writing and publication of this bio, neither were they of any service to the author.
Because of that, the book ends up being not much more than a running tally of the what roles Vickers sang when and where. I'm sort of surprised that so many noted music critics find this book to be a model of what a singer's bio should offer.
I met Jon Vickers on a couple of occasions, and he was always smiling, humble and polite. I also knew more than a few opera singers who had run ins with him, and who found his Christian prosthelytizing backstage to be insensitive, overbearing, uncalled for and unwanted.
As Vickers is now reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's, the opportunity has passed for him to add his personal thoughts to any future bios.
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that needed to be written,
The author provides a warts and all portrait that nonetheless conveys her great respect and admiration for her subject. The catalog of performances is encyclopedic, but is useful in placing certain live recordings in context for his early career development. I was lucky to have heard him in most of his leading roles at the Met during the late 60s and 1970s. Reading how singers experienced sharing the stage with him, confirmed that I was not alone in feeling that this was an artist who always went out on a limb with the emotional intensity he invested in his roles. For many, including myself, he is one of a handful of great singing artists of the last century.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic biography of a great artist,
This review is from: Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life (Paperback)
It is refreshing to find a detailed, accurate review of the life and career of one of the great artists of the last century. Vickers was an interesting, unusual man as well as a splendid interpreter of music.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting enigma,
Reviewing this book is frustrating. As a biography, it is very well written and as close to objective as humanly possible. This is no drooling, glossy fan book altho Ms Williams is certainly a fan of Mr Vickers (as I have been for many years). The paradox comes as we read of Mr Vickers nasty temperament that hides behind a cloak of being so "religious" while showing numerous instances of public rudeness to colleagues as well as to his public by signing contracts he had no intentions of fulfilling (such as his Tannhauser). If a truly great artist and human being as Lauritz Melchior frankly admitted the role of Walther lay too uncomfortably high for him, why couldn't Vickers admit the role of Tannhauser was too difficult for him. Instead he hides behind a hypocritical excuse of "religion" or "morality." How moral is Siegmund, one of hsi signature roles, who runs off with his sister (who is married to another character) AND has a child with her? Ms Williams shows us that Vickers was quite similar to a composer her served so well, Richard Wagner - a genius but a lousy person.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critic's Comments,
By A Customer
CRITICS' COMMENTS on Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life
Peter G. Davis, music critic, New York magazine, formerly of The New York Times:
""Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life ranks among the most impressive books I have ever read about an individual singer . ...If the man himself remains an intriguing enigma, that in no way lessens the achievement of this objectively written, painstakingly researched, immensely readable biography."
Antony Peattie, BBC Music Magazine:
"This major new biography gives an unusually full picture of the man, his voice, and his career ... One of the best studies of a singer that I have ever read."
Patrick J. Smith, Opera News:
"Jeannie Williams has done an excellent job in bringing back memories of an extraordinarily vivid singer."
"In this remarkably even-handed, unauthorized account, Williams engagingly depicts the conflicting aspects of a great artist's personality and howthey shaped his career."
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Watching a street sweeper can be fascinating.,
The other day I watched a man sweeping the street where I live and it was fascinating. He took such care, and made great attention to all the little details. I was watching a great artist at work. I doubt if there is a book about him though. My point is, [if you've got this far], should these folk, like Vickers, Callas - certainly, Joan Sutherland, and to a lesser extent Rita Hunter, et al, be examined quite so thoroughly from the point of their human attributes? I mean, I'd like to be able to sing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, but I don't have a voice. I think I'm a nice person, though I do get hate mail for my reviews. So, again, another point, should we expect Vickers to be able to do what he did night after night and still be a nice person?
Dare I say it? I don't want to get too close to people whose performances I've enjoyed, because I have the idea that they may not be very pleasant people. Likewise, I have no real desire to read about their appalling behaviour. These people are only singers for heaven's sake. They need keeping in line, whether it's by Rudolf Bing, Joe Volpe, John Tooley or Wolfgang Wagner. Vickers had a great career, but like so many singers, including Callas, Bjoerling, di Stefano, Corelli, Christoff right down to Rita Hunter, once the personality disorder gets in the way of the talent you may as well not bother.
It's sad really, because there's no-one like Vickers around today. [I mean, I live in a city that thinks Andrea Bocelli is a great artist, but who am I among so many?] The fact that Britten walked out on Vicker's Peter Grimes tells me more about Britten than it does about Vickers. I would have taken it as a compliment.
Maybe more people should be like me: Go the performance, applaud the performer and don't bother to peer behind the little bushes they are hiding behind.
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Jon Vickers: A Hero's Life by Jeannie Williams (Paperback - May 31, 2007)