Peruvian opera superstar Juan Diego Florez is considered by those who consider such things as the best tenor on the planet and certainly the most sort after at the world’s finest venues since making his international breakthrough in 1996 at the age of 23 at the Rossini Festival in the Italian city of Pesaro (Rossini’s birthplace) as the leading tenor in MATILDE DI SHABRAN. He made his Covent Garden debut a year later as Count Potoski in the Royal Opera’s world premiere concert of Donizetti’s ELISABETTA.
Standing ovations are the norm when he performs. The Telegraph’s opera reviewer Rupert Christiansen calls him the “Roger Federer of Opera… an exceptional virtuoso with an immaculate technique, who has enjoyed an exemplary career, free of scandal or disaster and marked by sound decisions, vocal consistency and a serious commitment to a charitable foundation back home.”
Coincidentally he said Roger, a fellow Rolex Ambassador, inspired him along with Pavarotti and incidentally he also likes to play a bit of tennis. Juan Diego has just finished his latest Covent Garden engagement, performing the title role of the Royal Opera’s third revival of Massenet’s WERTHER, described by The Guardian’s Tim Ashley as “hugely moving as the obsessive romantic.” He kindly signed and dedicated my sketch at the Royal Opera House.
One of my favourite singers with her distinctive ‘bluesy contralto’ ( yes, I did research this) voice is Alison Moyet and her debut solo album ‘Alf’, which I had on a cassette tape in 1984, that wore out through excessive play in my native New Zealand, where it not only went to No 1, but reached platinum eight times over, with memorable singles such as ‘Love Resurrection’, ‘All Cried Out’, and ‘Invisible’. It also climbed to the top spot in a number of countries, including the UK, where it reached quadruple platinum and won Alison her first of three Brit Awards. ‘Alf’ was Alison’s punk-era nickname.
She also released a single, ‘That Ole Devil Called Love Again,’ not featured in ‘Alf’, which went to No 2 and remains her highest charting UK single. Alison’s nine studio albums and three collaborations have all charted in the UK Top 30 and have sold over 23 million copies worldwide with over 2 million singles sold.
Alison has also appeared on the London stage. She made her West End debut as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in CHICAGO in 2001 and again in SMALLER opposite Dawn French at the Lyric Theatre.
She kindly signed my montage sketch at London’s Royal Festival Hall last week where she was performing for the Michel Legrand tribute.
Another legendary violinist returned to London this year. Pinchas Zuckerman was both soloist and conductor in an all-Beethoven concert at the Royal Festival Hall in March with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
After being discovered at the age of fourteen by Isaac Stern and Pablo Casals on their tour of Israel in 1962, Pinchas moved to the US to study at the Juilliard School, tutored by Isaac and Ivan Galamian, making his New York debut a year later. Since then his celebrated International career encompassing nearly six decades has seen him become one of the worlds leading violists, violists and conductors, working with some of the major orchestras with over 110 recordings which have garnered 21 Grammy nominations, winning two. He was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his performance in Isaac Stern’s 60th Birthday concert at the Lincoln Centre. Pinchas has won numerous other accolades, including the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan in 1983.
In July this year Classical-music.com conducted a poll of 100 leading players to list the 20 greatest violinists of all-time. Pinchas was 12th.
He kindly signed and dedicated my drawing at the Royal Festival Hall.
Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, self taught Mark Knopfler’s career as lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, followed by nine solo albums and nine film scores, including LOCAL HERO, THE PRINCESS BRIDE and THE COLOUR OF MONEY, has resulted in excess of 120 million album sales, four Grammys and three Brit awards among other accolades. His songs such as ‘Money For Nothing’, ‘Sultans of Swing’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘Walk of Life’ have become standards.
Dire Straits was formed in London in 1977. The name referred to the band members’ initial financial situation, but they went on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They disbanded in 1988, regrouping in the nineties for five years. Their trademark sound was produced by the frontman’s unique fingerpicking and laconic singing style influenced by Bob Dylan. Dire Straits spent 1,100 weeks on the UK album charts ranking fifth all time. Their 1985 album ‘Brothers in Arms’ was the first album to sell more than a million copies on the CD format, eventually reaching 30 million.
What’s equally cool is that Mark has an asteroid, 28151 markknofler and a species of dinosaur, that lived 65 million years ago, Masiakasarus knopfleri named after him. While left-handed, he plays the guitar right-handed.
Mark embarked on supposedly his last tour earlier this year. Entitled the ‘Down The Road Wherever’ tour, it included two nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May where he kindly signed my drawing for me.
One of the world’s most beloved tenors, Roberto Alagna returned to London’s Royal Opera house for his 100th Covent Garden appearance in the title role of Giordano’s greatest opera, ANDREA CHENIER. Born in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois fifty-six years ago to Sillian parents, Roberto was discovered singing for tips in a pizzeria. Largely self-taught, he switched to opera and made his professional debut as Alfredo Germont in LA TRAVIATA with the Glyndebourne touring company, a role he would sing more than 150 times throughout his illustrious career.
He won the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice completion in 1988, making his Royal Opera debut in 1992 as Rodolfo in LA BOMEME and has been a popular regular ever since. In 1995 Roberto won the Olivier Award for his performance as Romeo in ROMEO ET JULIETTE, which catapulted him to International prominence. He was appointed a chevalier de la legion d’honueur in 2008.
I left this drawing at the ROH, of Roberto as Don Jose in the Metropolitan Opera’s most recent production of Bizet’s CARMEN, which he kindly signed and returned.
Rita Moreno was born Rosa Dolores Alverio Marcano 87 years ago in Humacao, Puerto Rico. In a career that has spanned seventy years, she is one of only fifteen artists to complete the EGOT; winning all four of America’s competitive entertainment awards, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, honouring achievements in television, recording, film and theatre, often referred to as the ‘grand slam’ of American show business. She is also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.
Rita has won two Emmy Awards, the first in 1977 for her appearance on an episode of THE MUPPET SHOW, and her second, the following year for her guest role on THE ROCKFORD FILES. Her Grammy was for THE ELECTRIC COMPANY Album in 1972. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Anita in the film adaption of Leonard Bernstein’s and Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking Broadway musical WEST SIDE STORY and a Tony for Best Featured Actress as Googie Gomez in THE RITZ at the Longacre Theatre in 1975.
I sent this sketch of Rita to her home in California a few weeks ago, and it came back signed and dedicated.
Described as both a ‘national and international treasure’, Jamaican-born British R&B and soul singer, songwriter and actress Ruby Turner returned to the equally legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho earlier this month for a sold-out run. In recognition of her 30 year career the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors presented her with its prestigious Gold Badge for her contribution to British music in 2009. Over the three decades she has released twenty albums, including her 2007 double album ‘Live At Ronnie Scott’s’. Apart from her music, Ruby is also a very accomplished actress, with an impressive list of stage and screen appearances, including A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, CARMEN JONES, SIMPLY HEAVENLY and FAME in theatre and films LOVE ACTUALLY, JEWEL OF THE NILE and HOTEL BABALYON.
Ruby signed a profile ink portrait I sent to her when she performed at the Auckland Town Hall in New Zealand way back in 1995, which I posted in December 2013. This is my updated 4B pencil sketch, which Ruby kindly signed for me at Ronnie Scott’s on 6 February.
“Her technique and command over the instrument are breathe-taking, her playing being fully devoted to the music”, is how the German newspaper Nene Westfalische described Korean violist Hyeyoon Park.
Born in Seoul in 1992, she began to play at the age of four and made her orchestral debut five years later in her hometown with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. During her teens Hyeyoon emerged as one of the most promising violinists of her generation and an artist of outstanding style and virtuosity, winning the prestigious London Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2011 and First Prize and two special prizes at the 58th ARD International Music Competition in Munich as a 17 year-old, the youngest person in the history of the competition.
Hyeyoon signed my portrait sketch after a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall a couple of weeks ago.
Robbie Williams reunited with his former TAKE THAT band mates, Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald for a rare, one-off performance on the opening night of Tim Firth’s jukebox musical THE BAND, which features their songs, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 4 December last year. The evening was a Charity Gala where they raised £500,000 for Sir Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Christmas appeal.
TAKE THAT had 12 singles and eight albums reach number one in the UK, winning eight Brit Awards. The musical tells the story of five women who were best friends as teenagers and huge fans of THE BAND. Twenty-five years later four of them reunite to see their favourite group perform. After its world premiere in Manchester in 2017 and a UK and Ireland tour the musical took up residency in London’s West End over the festive season.
Robbie left the band in 1995 to launch his hugely successful solo career, becoming the UK’s best selling solo artist. All but one of his 11 albums reached number one in the UK, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame after being voted the ‘greatest artist of the 1990’s.’ He has received a record 18 Brit Awards. Robbie briefly returned to the band in 2010 for a stadium tour. Their subsequent album ‘Progress’ became the second fastest-selling album in UK chart history and the fastest-selling record of the century at the time.
Robbie signed my drawing for me at the Theatre Royal’s stage door after they had rehearsed late in the afternoon. He popped out for a ciggy and a siggy.
Hans Zimmer was listed as one of the Top 100 Living Geniuses by the Telegraph in 2007. Since 1980 the 61-year-old German composer has created the scores for over 150 films, including RAIN MAN, GLADIATOR, INCEPTION, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, earning 11 Academy Award nominations and winning for Original Score for THE LION KING in 1995. He has also collected four Grammys, three Classical Brit Awards and two Golden Globes. He has been nominated for another Grammy at this Sunday’s ceremony for his BLADE RUNNER 2049 score.
“My father died when I was just a child and I escaped somehow into my music and music has been my best friend,” he said in an interview with the German radio station ZDF in 2006. His work is notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Hans is head of film music at the Dreamworks Studios and collaborates extensively with other composers through his own company and studio based in Santa Monica, California. In November 2017 a mainbelt asteroid discovered by Polish astronomers Michal Kusiak and Michal Zolnowski was named ‘Hanszimmer’.
Hans signed for me at the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala Screening of WIDOWS at the Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square last October.