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Walter Widdop


The operatic tenor Walter Widdop was born on Sparkhouse Lane, Norland on 19th April 1892, the son of John Henry Widdop.

He left school at the age of 12 and started work as a mill hand at Greetland, and later at Washer Lane Dye Works.

He learned to read music at the age of 21.

He began singing in a local church choir. He studied singing with Arthur Hinchcliffe. He joined the choir of the St James's Church, Halifax. He gained 10 first prizes in the 11 competitions which he entered before World War I. He served in the Army during World War I.

He began singing professionally late in life. Realising his abilities at the age of 30, he spent much time and money in training his voice.

He studied singing in Halifax with Arthur Hinchcliffe. He later studied in London under Charles Victor, Dinh Gilly and Signor Colli.

He came to the notice of Percy Pitt of the British National Opera Company. In Autumn 1923, he made his operatic début as Radames in Aida with the British National Opera Company in Leeds.

He studied the rôles of Wagner's operas. In early 1924, he made his Covent Garden début as Siegfried. He became the best English Wagnerian heldentenor of his day, and he was a successful singer in Händel oratorios.

In 1929, he created the rôle of Bagoas in Eugene Goossens's opera Judith, directed by the composer.

He made many recordings for HMV.

He married Emily Whiteley of Elland.

Children: (1) Pauline who married Major Denis Spooner of Tor Dene, Chagford; (2) daughter.

He travelled widely.

During World War II, he entertained the troops with tours of South Africa, Canada and the Middle East. He gave concerts to the occupation troops in Germany and Austria.

In the 1940s, he lived at Bowers Hall, Barkisland when his London home had been bombed.

He sang at the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games in London.

In July 1949, shortly before his death, he sang the lead in Parsifal with Sir Adrian Boult at the Royal Albert Hall.

On 5th September 1949, he sang the Farewell from Wagner's Lohengrin at a Promenade Concert. He collapsed in his dressing room immediately afterwards and died the next day at his home in Hampstead, London

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Revised 11:27 on 2nd March 2014 / mmw132 / 7