Obituary: Bass-Baritone Norman Stanley Bailey Dies at 88

By Nicolas Quiroga

British opera bass-baritone Norman Stanley Bailey has died at the age of 88 in the city of Rexburg, Idaho. 

Bailey was born on March 23, 1933 in Birmingham, England and after an early career in Austria and Germany, he settled in England and became a major player with the English National Opera. From there, he emigrated with his parents to South Africa after the Second World War where his talent was immediately recognized at the University of Rhodes. He would go on to study Theology and on the advice of his singing teacher, he changed permanently his major to singing. He ultimately received vocal training at the Vienna Academy of Music.

He debuted in 1959 at the Vienna Chamber Opera. He then linked up with the Landestheater Linz until 1963 and then became a member of the Deutsche Oper Am Rhein. He appeared in the lead roles of “Rigoletto,” “Nabucco,” and “Simon Boccanegra” and the distinctive timbre of his voice could unfold to evoke anger, tenderness, contempt or passionate fervor.

He was a lover of Wagner’s opera and performed roles in the original language and in English, for which he had to undertake a special study. For several years he tackled Italian lyrical roles, bringing his musical intelligence and his imposing vocal and dramatic presence. His voice was often described as baritone, although he gravitated towards the bass-baritone repertoire.

He received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire Award for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Sir Charles Santley Award, was an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Rhodes, and won the Sir Reginald Goodall Memorial Award.