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A portrait photograph of Bryn Terfel

16 Surprising Facts about Bryn Terfel

Terfel is one of the world’s best-selling classical artists, with 15 best-selling solo albums and enough awards to fill up a trophy cabinet and then some. Here are 16 surprising things you might not know about opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel.


  1. He is nearly two metres tall! Terfel is 6'4".
  2. He grew up helping out on the family farm in Wales, where his father ran sheep and cattle.
  3. Terfel studied with actor Rhys Ifans (Hugh Grant's adorable, disgusting housemate in Notting Hill) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He is a big fan of Ifans' work.
  4. He came 2nd in the 1988 Cardiff BBC Singer of the World Competition, his first big international competition. The winner? Another superstar baritone, the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
  5. Already successful in the United Kingdom, Terfel became hot property on the international stage after performing the grisly role of John the Baptist in Salome at the Salzburg Festival in 1992.
    A photograph of Bryn Terfel in concert

    Sir Bryn Terfel in concert. Photo: supplied.

  6. He's famous for singing a huge variety of music, from the biggest roles in opera to Welsh folk song and Broadway classics. "I'm all about feathering my cap in different careers, and in different styles of music." Terfel told The Independent in 2002. 
  7. Terfel is at home in musical theatre as well as opera. He's a particularly menacing Sweeney Todd.  His star turn as the demon barber opposite Emma Thompson as Mrs Lovett at the Lincoln Center in 2014 generated  the opera singer a new legion of fans. The pair performed it again with the English National Opera in 2015.
  8. Always keen to collaborate with other musicians, Terfel even performed with legend Van Morrison in Cardiff in 2016. The pair preformed 'The Beauty of the Days Gone By' and 'Oh Shenandoah!'. His latest album includes a series of duets with stars like Emma Thompson, Danielle de Niese, Katherine Jenkins and Joseph Calleja.
  9. Terfel can perform light and heavy roles with equal facility. He’s at home performing Mozart and Wagner, an unusual combination for opera singers who usually specialise in one or the other (or graduate from Mozart to Wagner).
  10. As his career developed, Terfel resisted the temptation to sing big roles before he was ready. He often worked his way up the cast list: starting with smaller roles before taking the lead. (e.g. Ford before Falstaff, Masetto and then Leporello before Don Giovanni).
    A photo of Bryn Terfel in concert

    Sir Bryn Terfel in concert. Photo: supplied.

  11. Terfel always carries honey in his bag, in case of voice emergency!
  12. You'll find steak on Terfel's table before a long Wagner performance, but during the show, Terfel keeps it light with fruit or soup.
  13. Terfel has three teenage sons with his ex-wife Lesley and a young daughter with his new partner, harpist Hannah Stone.
  14. He's performed for crowds of more than 70,000, but Bryn Terfel still gets nervous. He says his debut in front of the notoriously critical audience of La Scala in Milan was nerve-wracking. "I have never ever felt such nerves in my entire life. Shaking like a leaf, dry mouthed and humbled beyond belief," he told the Yorkshire Post.
  15. Terfel's first opera recording was with three of the greats: a bit part in Adriana Lecouvreur where Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti performed the leads, conducted by Richard Bonynge. While Pavarotti left before the recording was finished, Terfel says he'll never forget listening to the great tenor warm up. Sutherland described Terfel as a "truly great performer."
  16. He never travels without his Welsh Rugby Union jersey.
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