Born: November 22, 1935 - Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
Died: December 5, 1982 - Stratford, Ontario, Canada
The Canadian baritone, John Boyden, was born in Woodstock, and his family moved to Stratford. He began singing as a boy soprano and later joined the Elizabethan Singers and studied with their conductor, Gordon D. Scott. During the inaugural Stratford Music Festival in 1955, he participated in master-classes directed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. With her encouragement and a scholarship raised by Stratford citizens he studied in 1956-1957 in London with Henry Cummings at the Royal Academy of Music. In the summer of 1956 he placed fifth in the international voice competition at Salzburg. In 1958 a Canada Council scholarship enabled him to study with Bernard Diamant and John Newmark in Montreal. On a scholarship from the Salzburg Mozarteum he was coached by Schwarzkopf and Erik Werba during the summer of 1961. He continued his studies with Diamant until 1963.
John Boyden returned to the Stratford Festival in 1957 to sing the Canadian premiere of Gerald Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. In the Montreal premiere of Somers' opera The Fool (Mar 1959) he sang the role of the King. Also in 1959 he made his Montreal recital debut for the Ladies' Morning Musical Club. After his Vienna recital debut at the Konzerthaus the Express (November 1961) referred to him as 'a singing poet from Canada'; it added: 'The last debut of an almost unknown recitalist who made a similar deep and strong impression took place about tenor years ago. At that time a young German baritone sang Winterreise in the same hall. His name was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. This time an equally young baritone, Canadian, sang an exclusively German program. His name is John Boyden. Comparisons come immediately to mind'.
In 1962 John Boyden appeared at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, where he sang Schumann's Dichterliebe. He also made appearances that year with the New York Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and at the Vienna Festival. He made his New York recital debut in April 1963 at Judson Hall. Commenting on his interpretation of Schumann's Dichterliebe, the reviewer for the New York Herald-Tribune wrote: 'the work assumed the noblest kind of expression. Each song was conveyed with extraordinary sensitivity... It was lieder singing of consummate skill'. That same year Boyden sang the Christus in the NBC telecast of J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244).
In Hamburg in May 1964 John Boyden gave a recital and sang in Monteverdi's Orfeo and Orff's Carmina Burana. At the Vienna Festival he also gave a recital and sang in Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn and J.S. Bach's St John Passion (BWV 245). He returned to the Stratford Festival to sing Aeneas in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Lois Marshall and Elizabeth Benson Guy. His other engagements in 1964 included appearances at the Caramoor Festival in New York State and with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Stanley Sadie stated in Opera on Record 2 (New York 1983) that Boyden sang Garibaldo on the 1964 recording of George Frideric Handel's Rodelinda (3-West WST 320) 'with a lightness and fluency anticipating the authenticists of today'.
John Boyden toured Europe in 1965, giving recitals in Amsterdam, Vienna, London, Berlin, Lisbon, Milan, and Munich, and performing with orchestras in Bern and Zurich. With John Newmark at the piano Boyden gave the USA premiere, January 1967 at New York's Town Hall, and the Canadian premiere, February 1967 at York University, Toronto, of Benjamin Britten's Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. In 1968, accompanied by the pianist Mikael Eliasen, he toured the USSR, performing in Leningrad, Moscow, Minsk, and other cities. He studied opera 1969-1970 with Eugénie Ludwig. His career was curtailed by Hodgkin's disease in the early 1970s. Boyden made his final concert appearance at the Stratford Festival in August 1970.