Praised for his “fierce, emotionally ripe performances” (Financial Times), which offer a “wealth of nuance” (Opera), Gidon Saks is renowned for his interpretations of the dramatic bass-baritone repertoire. His signature roles include Bluebeard, Nick Shadow The Rake’s Progress, Claggart Billy Budd, Kaspar Der Freischütz, Pizarro Fidelio and Hagen Götterdämmerung. He is a regular guest in many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses including Deutsche Oper Berlin, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Komische Oper Berlin, Opéra National de Paris, Staatsoper Berlin, Bergen National Opera, and Washington National Opera and Teatro La Fenice. In the 2021/22 season, Saks returns to Deutsche Oper Berlin as Hagen in Götterdämmerung.
Recent highlights include King of France in Calixto Bieto’s production of Reimann Lear with Opéra National de Paris; Pangloss in Bernstein’s Candide with Bergen National Opera; John Claggart in multiple productions of Britten Billy Budd, including by David Alden and Annilese Miskimmon; his first Orest in Elektra for Bordeaux; the title role in Robert Carsen’s production of Battistelli’s Richard III for La Fenice (winner of the Abbiati Prize for best production in Italy); the Villains in Offenbach Les contes d’Hoffmann for the Royal Danish Opera; reprising the role of Bottom in Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence at the Beijing Music Festival; and the title role in Bartok Duke Bluebeard’s Castle with both Teatro La Fenice and Concerto Budapest and András Keller, opposite Petra Lang as Judith.
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.
Saks can be heard in recording, including Abbot Curlew River (Philips); the Gravedigger in Weill Silbersee (BMG); the title role in Handel Hercules conducted by Minkowski (Deutsche Grammophon); Saul with Rene Jacobs, which won a Gramophone Award. Saks has also recorded John Claggart in Britten Billy Budd with the London Symphony Orchestra, which won a Grammy Award for the Best Opera Performance, and Schoenberg Gurrelieder with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Susanna Mälkki.
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...