Singing was far more pleasurable, and aged 8 he joined the choir school of St John's College Cambridge with George Guest, where he remained for six years. He described this as "an incredible start in my musical life", but one that he did not enjoy in other ways. "We toured all over the world - Japan, America, Australia. No holidays.
Recordings all the time. And professional little shits at nine, you know. I wouldn't advocate it for children." "Best place for the child is in the home." However, Simon credits Guest with teaching him “almost everything I know as a musician”. “He’d tell us stories to kindle our imagination and would dramatise an anthem by getting us to imagine we were marching to Jericho with our trumpets.
His feeling for words is what set me on my path as a singer.” There are several recordings of him singing treble solo with the choir, try Ceremonial music by Purcell, or the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" (on Simply Christmas). When he left St John’s Simon moved to Reed's school in Cobham where he completed his A-levels, and during school holidays he spent time as a warden with the Royal Society for Protection of Birds. As a teenager "I knew most European bird songs", he says. His professional debut as a baritone was in 1987 (and not 1988 as is usually stated) at the Hamburg Staatsoper where he sang Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro. Being a house baritone in Hamburg introduced him to some realities of life on stage, " The day I arrived I was walking around the set in jeans. The next day I was on. I had to make it or sink..." “I did 12 Counts in Figaro there, never meeting the conductor, and there'd be different Countesses you'd only recognise her by the costume.
But nothing ever frightened me after that, so it was useful.” Simon spent 18 months in Hamburg performing in roles ranging from the count to a transvestite in a German Cabaret ("deeply depressing"). In 1989 he was lured to Scottish Opera where he stayed until 1994, performing as, among other roles, Marcello (La Boheme), Danilo (The Merry Widow), Harlequin (Ariadne auf Naxos), Guglielmo (Cosi fan Tutte), Figaro (Barber of Seville), Billy Budd, Papageno (Zauberflöte) and Belcore (L'elisir d'amore). “It was fantastic training for me, couldn’t have been better”. During this period he made debut performances at The Royal Opera House, (1989 singing Silvio), English National Opera (Guglielmo), Welsh National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Geneva, Paris, and Sydney. In an interview with the Scotsman he says that he learned his trade over five years in leading roles in Scotland, and he feels a "huge debt of gratitude" to the company. He sang for Glyndebourne for the first time in 1993 and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1996. Read more on Last.fm.
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