The tenor David Wilkinson was born at Rochford Hospital and grew up in Thorpe Bay. He was
educated at Thorpe Dene School and then at Clark’s College which was in Victoria Avenue.
He was always interested in music – his mother sang – but his father didn’t like music at all and
didn’t encourage him.
He is a Founder Member of Opera North, the award-winning national opera company based
in Leeds which was established with the aim of opening up opera and music for everyone
and to champion diversity in artists, repertoire and audiences.
M.T-T David, how did you become an Opera singer?
By accident! After I left Clark’s - which I had never wanted to attend as they didn’t
have a music department – I started an electronics course. During studies one
afternoon, I heard a singer from along one of the corridors. Thinking I could possibly
do better, I left the electricians and joined the musicians.
My first paid performance, in 1966, was Bach’s St John Passion at a church in
Southend. I still have the cheque!
M.T-T the press at the time referred to David’s voice as “sounding remarkably like a
top-rate Italian tenor”.)
M.T-T. What would you have been doing otherwise?
Acting. There is a lot of acting involved in an operatic performance anyway.
M.T-T Who is your favourite composer?
Wagner. I feel that his music suits my tenor voice.
What is your favourite Opera/piece of music?
Staying with Wagner, I would say The Mastersingers of Nuremburg.
M.T-T. Is there anything that you would like to have done but not had the opportunity to
Yes, I would like to have performed Winterreise (Winter Journey). It’s a song cycle for one
(tenor) voice and piano by Franz Schubert and is a setting of 24 poems by German poet
Wilhelm Müller. It is, however, very sad and you would need counselling after!
M,T-T David, you have performed at so many of the world’s great opera houses and
concert halls, what is your favourite venue (at which you have appeared)?
La Fenice, the opera house in Venice. I was in a performance there in the winter of
1995 and the Company put me in charge of finding a Venetian Bar that served
Guinness. Although that may have seemed impossible, I was, of course, successful
and enjoyed free Guinness on my colleagues for the rest of our stay.
After we left, La Fenice burnt down......
M.T-T What is your favourite place?
Not at all opera-related, I really like Henley-on-Thames. Whatever the time of year, I
find it an extremely relaxing place to visit.
M.T-T Who is your favourite singer?
Maria Callas. There really is no one like her. I am also a fan of the Italian tenor Franco
M,T-T. What do you think of Classical Music now?
I prefer the older composers, but although I find some new classical music rather
pretentious, it is certainly very interesting. And of course there are some wonderful
singers around like Alfie Boe and Kathryn Jenkins.
M.T-T. What have you done since Opera?
I have been teaching both individuals and workshops. But when a woman phoned
me and asked if I could make her daughter sing like Amy Winehouse, I thought it was
time to give up!
M.T-T Do you have any regrets?
Not professionally. But unfortunately a Stroke has left me with extremely impaired
eyesight and I cannot watch concerts on TV anymore. I also tend to lose my bearings
a lot and end up in some strange places, but fortunately have kept my sense of
M,T-T What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for performing Schubert’s Winterreise and then
drinking 10 pints of Cider. (I’m cutting down......)
M.T-T. What do you like most about Southend?/What is its biggest asset?
I love the Estuary. I used to sail out there.
Thank you. MELANIE TYLER-THOMAS