It is with sadness that we record the death on 27 April 2019 of the Society’s first and much respected Life Member, the fine singer and eminent teacher Joseph Ward OBE. Latterly Joseph was a voice teacher at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, and he contributed much to the Society with talks, especially in the early years, introducing members to young singers, historic recordings and memories of famous singers – always with his partner, repetiteur John Woods. He shared a birthday, 22 May, with Richard Wagner and Laurence Olivier.
Joseph started his concert and operatic life as a treble, and developed vocally as a baritone, touring with the Carl Rosa Opera in the 1950s and creating roles in several Benjamin Britten operas – the role of Billy Budd was sung under the baton of the composer. In the1960s, Joseph became principal baritone at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, before transitioning to be the resident tenor at that opera house. His introduction to Australia was with the Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Company as principal tenor.
Joseph’s prowess as a teacher and director brought him to the Conservatorium in Brisbane in the early 1990s to direct Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd – a production that is still talked about by those who saw it and those then-singer-students who are proud to list it on their CVs. Another memorable production for the annual Con opera was Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress, a work in which he had sung as a tenor in the original recording.
Students he has taught are too numerous to mention, but a notable Brünnhilde is Jane Eaglen – Joseph was her only teacher. Recent students such as Rosario La Spina and Kang Wang are making international careers as opera singers.
[Our thanks to Jennette Johnstone for many details of Joseph’s remarkable career.]