The Welsh bass Gwynne (Richard) Howell, obtained degrees from the University College of Wales and Manchester University before pursuing his vocal studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. At the RNCM, he sang Leporello in concert and Hunding, Fasolt and Pogner on stage.
In 1968 Gwynne Howell joined Sadlers Wells Opera, making his debut as Monterone in Rigoletto, and playing, among other roles, the Commendatore, Colline and the Cook in The Love for Three Oranges. He made his Covent Garden debut in 1970 First Nazarene in Salome. Since moving to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 1972, he has sung most of the major bass roles with the company in productions including Aida, Rigoletto, Ballo in Maschera, Luisa Miller, Don Carlos, Simon Boccanegra, Otello, Forza del Destino, Boheme, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin, Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, Parsifal, Tannhauser, Das Rheingold, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger, Die Zauberflöte, Khovanshchina, Boris Godunov, Norma, Fidelio, The Flying Dutchman, Katya Kabanova, Le Nozze di Figaro, Salome, Pilgrim's Progress, Mathis der Maler, Palestrina (including a tour to The Met, New York), and Stiffelio.
Gwynne Howell is a familiar and popular figure in Britain's musical life, is one of the world's leading basses. He has a huge and varied repertoire and has been a member of the Royal Opera in London for twenty-five years. He has returned regularly as a guest to English National Opera, most notably as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, for the title role in Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle (which earned him enormous critical acclaim), Gurnemanz (with Sir Reginald Goodall), Banquo (Macbeth), Fidelio, Ariodante, and Khovanshchina. In 1992 he sang King Philip in a new production of Don Carlos for English National Opera - "Then the magic happened - on his earlier entrance Gwynne Howell as Philip II had sung everybody else off the stage. Now, in his wonderful aria of lamentation, he brought the whole performance to life and raised it to a higher plane of artistry". Other operatic engagements have included King Mark (Tristan) conducted by Sir Reginald Goodall for WNO, Iolanta for Opera North, The Magic Flute and Ermione for Glyndebourne, the world premičre of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Doctor of Mydffai at Welsh National Opera, and concert performances of Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Gwynne Howell's extensive international career in opera has taken him to the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Toronto, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Paris, Geneva and Bruxelles. He enjoys a highly successful concert career and has appeared all over the world with many leading conductors such as Claudi Abbado, Colin Davis, Antal Doráti, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Leonard Bernstein, Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel, Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, James Levine, Bernard Haitink, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Kleiber. Since making his USA debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Georg Solti he has returned regularly for concerts with both that orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and also for concert performances of Oedipus Rex and Fidelio with Georg Solti in Chicago, Bluebeard's Castle with Seiji Ozawa in Boston and, most recently, Oedipus Rex with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Recent engagements include for Welsh National Opera Poppea (televised and serialized by BBC Television); for English National Opera The Croucher in the world premiere of The Silver Tassie by Mark Anthony Turnage, Bolkonsky/War and Peace, Schigolch/Lulu, Dansker/Billy Budd and King/Aida; for Glyndebourne productions of Pelléas et Mélisande, Manon Lescaut, Don Giovanni, Figaro and Otello; for Covent Garden Old Convict in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and the world premiere of The Tempest by Thomas Adés, which he also sang in Santa Fe in 2006. Future engagements include Dansker/Billy Budd in Houston, Bartolo/Le nozze di Figaro in Santa Fe, and Jack Wallace/La Fanciulla del West and Schigolch /Lulu for Covent Garden.
In 1998 Gwynne Howell was awarded the Commander of the British Empire CBE.
Gwynne Howell's many recordings include Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ballo in Maschera and Luisa Miller and Rossini's Stabat Mater with Riccardo Muti, Tristan with Goodall, the Messiah with Georg Solti, and L.v. Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Kurt Masur. Recently he has completed a new recording of Un Ballo in Maschera for Teldec.