Blue Plaque Remembers Opera Giant
One of the greatest opera stars of all time has been celebrated by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque on the Cilfynydd house where he was born.
Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992) was the world's greatest bass-baritones of his generation and is recognised as one of the most famous opera singers of all time. A passionate Welshman, who captured the hearts of all who saw him perform, his popularity and charisma transcended his opera audiences and he had a memorable impact on all those who met him.
The first British singer to enjoy major success abroad and a pathfinder for many subsequent performers of today, Sir Geraint was noted for his superb acting ability and particularly his portrayals including Figaro, Leporello, Papaegeno and probably the most famous, Falstaff. He sang more than 70 different roles in a career that lasted 36 years.
At a special ceremony held at Pontypridd High School, a glittering array of famous singers, sportsmen, politicians and academics paid tribute to the great man himself. The choirs of Cilfynydd Primary School, (where Sir Geraint was educated), Pontypridd High School and also students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – of which he was President – entertained the audience.
Baritone Jan Capinsky and accompanist Rhiannon Pritchard were introduced by Hilary Boulding, Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Jan then entertained the audience with a selection of Mozart's operatic arias that were favourites of Sir Geraint.
Guest speakers included Welsh opera star Jason Howard who travelled from his home in Canada to share his touching memories of Sir Geraint and the massive influence he had on his career. Fellow singer, soprano and radio presenter Beverley Humphreys, who is now the High Sheriff of Mid Glamorgan, remembered with great fondness the long friendship she had enjoyed with him.
Sir Geraint's widow, Lady Brenda Evans their sons Alun, Huw and respective families joined Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Robert Smith to unveil the plaque which was later placed on 55, William Street, Cilfynydd where he was born.
Compere for the event, Dean Powell, also read a series of special messages from Sir Geraint's former colleagues to the packed hall of friends and famil. These included Dame Joan Sutherland, Owain Arwel Hughes, Dennis O'Neill, Marilyn Horne, Robert Lloyd, Ryland Davies, Lord Howe, Roy Noble, Iris Williams, Glyn Houston and members of the Welsh Heart Research Institute of which Sir Geraint was such a major supporter.
The audience itself included the Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cllr Russell Roberts and Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning Cllr Eudine Hanagan. Also present was British Empire and European Flyweight champion Dai Dower, historian Professor Dai Smith, entertainer Wyn Calvin, broadcaster Dewi Griffiths, former Pontypridd MP Dr Kim Howells, concert pianist Bryan Davies, Conductor of Cor Meibion Pontypridd Jonathan Gulliford and Conductor Emeritus of Treorchy Male Choir, John Cynan Jones.
Cllr Smith said: "Today we acknowledge the huge debt of gratitude owed to this master of the human voice with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to the memory of the late great Sir Geraint Evans.
"Sir Geraint was an inspiration to all who knew him and world with him. He was one of Wales's greatest musicians of all time and his artistry was recognized throughout the world, not only as a great singer but also for his phenomenal theatrical gift.
"His contribution to the world stage remains unequalled and we remember with great admiration not only a world-class singer, but someone who was a great ambassador for Wales and very proud of his upbringing in the community of Cilfynydd."
Lady Brenda, Alun and Huw Evans joined Cllr Smith to unveil the plaque to a thunderous standing ovation. The plaque was later transported to the house where Sir Geraint was born on William Street to be placed on the wall outside.
William Street is known as the birthplace of not only Sir Geraint Evans, but also his brother-in-law Glyn Davies who played international rugby for Wales; fellow opera star Stuart Burrows and Home Secretary Lord Merlyn Rees.
For almost three years Rhondda Cynon Taf Council's Libraries & Museums Service has been working closely with various voluntary organisations and individuals to determine 30 sites in the county borough as yet unrecognized for their historical background with the placing of a Blue Plaque
Due to £49,200 of Heritage Lottery funding, the project has set out to identify icons, events and buildings, culminating in the placing of blue plaques to commemorate their history and culture.