Gidon Saks is in demand internationally for his highly acclaimed interpretation of many bass-baritone roles, shining in particular with the Wagner and German repertoire. Over the span of his successful career to date, his signature roles have included Bluebeard, Nick Shadow The Rake’s Progress, Claggart Billy Budd, Kaspar Der Freischütz, and Hagen Götterdämmerung.
In the 2016-17 season, Saks will return to the role of John Claggart in Britten Billy Budd in David Alden’s production at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and for his house debut at the Bolshoi Opera. He also reprises the role of Bottom in Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in Beijing, and the title role in Bartok Duke Bluebeard’s Castle with Concerto Budapest and András Keller, opposite Petra Lang as Judith. Saks will close the season with performances of Offenbach Les contes d’Hoffman for the Royal Danish Opera.
Saks’s “fierce, emotionally ripe performances” (Financial Times) in the title role of Bluebeard’s Castle were recently seen at Komische Oper Berlin under the direction of Calixto Bieito, in Mariusz Trelinski’s production at Teatr Wielki, at the Concertgebouw under Peter Eötvös, at the Festival de Opera de Coruña, and in the production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser for Angers Nantes Opera. As Nick Shadow The Rake’s Progress he has performed at Opéra National de Paris, Staatsoper Berlin, and Edinburgh International Festival. Last season Saks sang his first Bottom in Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bergen National Opera, Gyges in Zemlinsky Der König Kandaules at Opera Vlaanderen in a new production by Andrij Zholdak under Dmitri Jurowski, and King of France in Calixto Bieito’s new production of Aribert Reimann Lear under Fabio Luisi for the Opéra National de Paris. Previously for the Opéra National de Paris, Saks has sung John Claggart in Britten Billy Budd, a role he also recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, which won a Grammy Award for the Best Opera Performance.
Equally in demand on the concert platform, Saks has performed Creon Oedipus Rex and Hermit Der Freischütz with the London Symphony Orchestra (both recorded for LSO Live); King Marke Tristan und Isolde at Festival de Opera de Coruña; König Heinrich Lohengrin with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with some of the most distinguished conductors of our time including Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Donald Runnicles, Sir Neville Marriner, Daniel Harding, Sir Andrew Davies and the late Sir Colin Davis.
Other operatic highlights include Fasolt Das Rheingold and Hagen Götterdämmerung for La Fenice (which won an Abbiati Award); Gaspard Le Freyschutz for Opéra Comique and the BBC Proms; Villains Les contes d’ Hoffmann and The Pilgrim’s Progress at Covent Garden, Scarpia Tosca at Bregenz Festival; Kaspar Die Freischütz and Don Pizarro Fidelio for Staatsoper Berlin; Enrico Anna Bolena for Oper Köln; Boito’s Mefistofele for De Nederlandse Opera; Don Pizzaro for Canadian Opera Company, Seneca L’incoronazione di Poppea for La Monnaie, Filippo Don Carlo in Geneva and Palermo; Fafner Siegfried, Hunding Die Walküre, Daland and Musiklehrer Ariadne auf Naxos for Washington National Opera. Saks has also created several roles including George Moscone in Stewart Wallace Harvey Milk directed by Christopher Alden (Houston, New York City and San Francisco). Earlier in his career he performed numerous major roles for English National Opera, Scottish Opera and Welsh National Opera. While with the Canadian Opera Company Saks as an ensemble member he sang Rochefort Anna Bolena with Dame Joan Sutherland, Wurm Luisa Miller, Bluebeard and Boris Godunov.
He can also be heard in earlier recordings include Abbot Curlew River(Philips) with, the Gravedigger in Weill Silbersee (BMG), the title role in Handel Hercules under Minkowski (Deutsche Grammophon) and Saul with Rene Jacobs, which won a Gramophone Award.
Saks was born in Israel and brought up in South Africa. He trained at the Royal Northern College of Music, University of Toronto and subsequently Zurich Opera Studio. He was a visiting Professor of Voice at the Conservatoire of Ghent in Belgium. Offstage he is a dedicated director/designer and teacher.
Title Role in Bluebeard’s Castle
Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Festival d'Aix-en-Provence at the Beijing Music Festival
Claggart in Billy Budd
Bolshoi Theatre of Russia
Villains in Les contes d’Hoffman
Royal Danish Opera
Claggart in Billy Budd
Deutsche Oper Berlin
Title role Duke Bluebeard's Castle
Mephisto La Damnation de Faust
Claggart Billy Budd
Bottom A Midsummer Night's Dream
Traveller / Elderly Fop / Old Gondolier / Hotel Manager / Hotel Barber / Leader of the Players / Voice of Dionysus Death in Venice
Enrico Anna Bolena
Title role / Leporello Don Giovanni
Title role / Almaviva La nozze di Figaro
Don Alfonso Così fan tutte
Papageno Die Zauberflöte
Title role Don Quichotte
Seneca L'incoronazione di Poppea
Title role Boris Gudonov
Nemeses Les contes d'Hoffman
King of France Lear
Kecal The Bartered Bride
Title role Sweeney Todd
La Roche Capriccio
Nick Shadow The Rake's Progress
Filippo Don Carlo
Fiesco Simon Boccanegra
Wurm Luisa Miller
Title role Attila
Title role Falstaff
Fasolt Das Rheingold
Heinrich der Vogler Lohengrin
King Marke Tristan und Isolde
Kaspar Der Freischütz
Gyges Der König Kandaules
The Master-at-Arms was sung by Gidon Saks with a terrifying, pitch-black voice that was nevertheless capable of a wealth of nuance.
He’s a brilliant artist. He’s a stage animal. He’s naturally theatrical... he showed a mind-boggling range of styles, from full-bore operatic plumminess to idiomatic mastery of American musical genres. He also has good looks, charisma and a rich voice that can buffet you with gravelly thunder but that he can also scale down to a wistful thread ...he showed that he can easily handle the upper register...