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The Student Prince; life & soul.

Byline: Jenny Longhurst

Jenny Longhurst talks to Cardiff-based tenor Wynne Evans who makes his debut for the Welsh National Opera this season in Leonore.

CARDIFF-BASED tenor Wynne Evans, makes his debut as a member of the Welsh National Opera Company this season and exclaims: "I'm the one who gets the chick."

As a teenager Wynne, who plays Jacquino in the new production of Leonore, was a Mario Lanza addict smitten by the likes of The Student Prince.

"The first CD I ever bought was Mario Lanza at Christmas, " he said.

"I just loved everything about it and the way it bridged that gap between musicals and opera."

Now, at 28, he has developed a style of his own with a voice nurtured in Dennis O'Neill's front room.

After serving his student time at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London Wynne, who spent six months as a carpet fitter before embarking on the theatrical life, was in for a rude awakening.

"Going into opera can put you in cotton wool, " he said.

"You can sit in college thinking oh yeah, I'm going to be the next Pavarotti and become quite arrogant about it all."

Talking to him with his enthusiasm and ready smile, it's hard to believe he did his share of youthful "stropping around, " as he calls it.

"Then I took stock and thought nobody lives or dies depending on whether you sing or not."

Looking back, he reveals; "my singing at the time was awful."

That's when he approached his idol, the celebrated Welsh tenor, Dennis O'Neill to beg for some lessons.

"I rang him up and he said he didn't teach.

"I nagged and nagged and nagged him until one day he told me to come round.

"I thought I'd cracked it but he said I'd have to start all over again.

"Studying with him has made a tremendous difference."

As his technique improved, Wynne's voice blossomed and though he has made guest appearances with the WNO before, this is the first time he has signed on the dotted line for an 18 month contract.

Wynne was brought up surrounded by the smell of greasepaint. His parents ran the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen and his older brother Mark, also an opera singer, started taking him to see big shows at the Swansea Grand from the time he was 14.

"We always went to see the WNO in Swansea, so it's really odd being in the Company now."

He's also done his share of queuing all night at Covent Garden for tickets for Pavarotti.

He tested out his early voice in youth clubs before going on to sing with the British Youth Opera where met his wife, Tanwen.

She was a French horn player who has turned to teaching and they're expecting their first baby in November.

Wynne always knew he wanted to sing, "except when I was about six and I wanted to be an ice cream man."

His spell as a carpet fitter, six months between A levels and starting music college, has made him useful around his house in Llandaff North.

But apart from that, he has shunned holiday jobs and part time work, preferring to focus on centre stage.

"People always say get something to fall back on but I felt it was never an option.

"I think as soon as you decide to do that, that's when you know it's not for you.

"You have to be totally committed."

He is looking forward to his role as Jacquino and explains: "he works in the prison and he's got the hots for the chief warden's daughter.

"She doesn't want to know because she's fallen in love with Fidelio who is really a woman.

"It works out for him in the end. It's a typical tenor role except I don't have to fight any baritones in the middle."

The WNO autumn season at the New Theatre from September 12 - October 6, opens with a new production of Beethoven's Leonore.

It's a passionate story of human drama that centres around good, evil and one woman's love and struggle to save her husband.

The production has been masterminded by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser and is their fifth opera for the Company. Revivals of the sentimental Puccini tragedy La Boheme, The Barber of Seville, the all time favourite by Rossini and Beatrice and Benedict, make up the rest of the season.

For tickets call, 029 2087 8889.

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TENOR Wynne Evans.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 8, 2001
Words:747
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