Leon Berger (baritone) has taken major guest roles with the main companies: Morales in Carmen for the Royal Opera House, Alberich in The Ring Cycle for Welsh National Opera, Short Convict in Janacek’s From the House of the Dead for Scottish Opera, Kromow in The Merry Widow for New Sadler’s Wells and the title role in Don Pasquale for Pavilion Opera. With touring companies he has sung over 100 operatic parts and favourites include Figaro, Gianni Schicci, Falstaff, Belcore, Marcello, Guglielmo, Bartolo, Rigoletto, Renato, Escamillo and Peachum. His singing career has taken him to Barbados, Bermuda, India, Malta, USA, Canada and most countries in Europe.
Leon is particularly well-known for the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire, having performed lyric and patter roles in all the Savoy operas (including Thespis and The Grand Duke) for many companies including G & S For All and The Magic of D’Oyly Carte; he is also a regular guest principal at the International G & S Festival held annually at Buxton. He has performed the Judge and Dick Deadeye under Carl Davis and the Liverpool Philharmonic, and appeared opposite Paula Wilcox and Ian Lavender in Hollywood Pinafore at the Barbican. Leon is also in demand for his shows based on the life of George Grossmith, the Victorian actor and comic singer who starred in the original productions. He has made two CDs of Grossmith’s material A Society Clown and The Grossmith Legacy on the Divine Art label and recently featured on a BBC2 documentary about Grossmith to accompany the new TV adaptation of The Diary of a Nobody.
All the standard oratorio roles (Messiah, Elijah etc) are in Leon’s repertoire, and he was recently invited to perform Vaughan-Williams’s Five Mystical Songs and Mozart’s Requiem in Boston USA. He gave the premier of Tomorrow…? by Peter Skellern at the Royal Albert Hall in 2001 and recently gave the first performance of Re-Creation by David Perkins at Holy Trinity, Guildford.
In addition to the two Grossmith CDs mentioned above, other recordings include cast albums of The Merry Widow, Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, Cox & Box, Ride Ride!, Sullivan’s The Masque At Kenilworth, Gilbert’s His Excellency, two BBC series—Lives Of Jesus (for which he wrote the lyrics) and Millennium—and the children’s opera Joe Carpenter & Son.
On the West End stage Leon has starred in both musicals and plays: the London premier of Pacific Overtures (English National Opera), the American Reporter in Chess (Prince Edward Theatre), Lansdale in Allegro (Barbican), Art O’Malley in Out of this World (Barbican). Provincial theatre roles include Sam in Trouble in Tahiti, Jazz Preacher in Mass, and Jud Fry in Oklahoma. Latterly he undertook a three-month tour of Italy as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and recently played the part of Alfred Barker in the play Land of Liberty.
Leon was for several years a collaborator with the late Donald Swann, performing in several of his operas; he is now archivist and editor of his music, including the Flanders & Swann Songbook. He is currently writing the authorised biography of Michael Flanders and for EMI has produced a new four-CD box-set Hat-Trick: Flanders & Swann, the Collector’s Edition as well as several documentaries for BBC radio. He has written extensively on English light music, including specialist publications, CD liner notes and several entries in Grove’s Dictionary of Music & Musicians. He has directed and designed many shows including: Die Fledermaus, Gilbert & Sullivan at War, The Pearl Fishers, Cox & Box, The Gondoliers, Don Pasquale, The Merry Widow, Ruddygore and Orpheus in the Underworld.