The Welsh soprano (and mezzo-soprano), Gwyneth Jones, studied music at the Royal College of Music, London, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena as well as the International Opera Studio in Zürich.
After making her professional debut in 1962 as a mezzo-soprano in Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, Gwyneth Jones was engaged by the Zürich Opera House. She soon discovered that her easy top range could enable her to sing soprano roles and she switched to the soprano repertoire from around 1964, her first major soprano role being Amelia in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.
Gwyneth Jones came to prominence in 1964 when she stood in for Leontyne Price as Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Her career then developed rapidly, and she met with success as Aïda, Leonore in Fidelio, Desdemona in Otello, Elisabeth in Don Carlos, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Cio-cio-san in Madama Butterfly, Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Médée in the Italian version and Tosca. From these, she gradually proceeded to heavier roles like Minnie in La fanciulla del West, Chrysothemis in Elektra, Salome, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Senta in Der fliegende Holländer, Kundry in Parsifal, both Venus and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Helena in Strauss's Die ägyptische Helena, Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos and Sieglinde in Die Walküre. She has appeared frequently at almost every major opera house in the world, including the Wiener Staatsoper, the Zörich Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the San Francisco Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Paris Opéra, and many others.
Gwyneth Jones' large-scaled, powerful dramatic soprano voice, unusually robust vocal stamina, stage presence and acting abilities were widely admired, although she also faced criticism for the wobble that her voice developed in the 1970ís and which afflicted some of her performances. Nonetheless, she could still be remarkably secure and tonally rock steady beyond the age of 60. One of her most noted achievements was her interpretation of Brünnhilde in the Bayreuth centennial production of Der Ring des Nibelungen under Pierre Boulez and directed by Patrice Chéreau, a performance preserved on both video and audio discs. The recording won a Grammy in 1983.
Later in her career (from 1980 onwards), Gwyneth Jones undertook the title role of Elektra as well as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, the Dyer's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten and Turandot. While best known for her work in the Wagner-Strauss-Puccini repertoire, her versatility enabled her to take on other roles, such as Poppea in L'incoronazione di Poppea, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow and Norma. Starting from the 1990ís, other than the aforementioned parts, she went on to sing Widow Begbick in Mahagonny, Ortrud in Lohengrin, the Woman in Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung, Kostelnicka in Jenůfa, Kabanicha in Káťa Kabanová, the Woman in Francis Poulenc's La voix humaine, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Gertrud in Hänsel und Gretel, Herodias in Salome and Klytemnästra in Elektra.
Gwyneth Jones made roles that exemplify the Wagnerian/heavy dramatic soprano fach, such as Brünnhilde, Isolde, Elektra, the Dyer's Wife and Turandot, part of her core repertoire, and performed them throughout the 1980ís and 1990ís. She once famously undertook the roles of both Elisabeth and Venus in Götz Friedrich's production of Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival in the 1970ís, and has also been credited with the unique achievement of having performed all three major female roles in Elektra on stage.
Gwyneth Jones also performed in concerts and Lieder recitals, television and radio broadcasts and participated in several film projects, including the epic television series, Wagner, in which she played the first Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld. She has also devised for herself a couple of one-woman music-theatrical shows - O, Malvina! and Die Frau im Schatten - which are inspired by real historical characters, namely, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Pauline de Ahna (wife of Richard Strauss). The soprano part in the Symphony No. 9, titled "Vision of Eternity", of Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott was written for, and premiered by, her.
In 2003 Gwyneth Jones made her debut as director and costume designer in a stage production of Der fliegende Holländer in Weimar, Germany. She has also given master-classes for young singers and acted as an adjudicator in international vocal competitions, including the 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Despite her advancing years and the extraordinary demands of her chosen repertoire, she remains an active performer on the stage, taking on various soprano, mezzo-soprano and even contralto roles with vocal authority and dramatic conviction. In June 2007, she created the role of the Queen of Hearts in the world premiere of Unsuk Chin's new opera, Alice in Wonderland, at the Bavarian State Opera. In February 2008 she sang the part of Herodias in Stephen Langridge's production of Richard Strauss' Salome at Malmö Opera in Sweden. She repeated this role in August 2010, alongside the Salome of Deborah Voigt, in a concert performance at the Verbier Festival in Verbier, Switzerland.
Gwyneth Jones was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1976 and was promoted to Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1986. She is also the recipient of numerous musical/cultural awards and honours from many different countries and organisations, including the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Golden Medal of Honour in Vienna, the Austrian Cross of Honour First Class, the Shakespeare Prize and the Puccini Award. She is a Kammersängerin at both the Wiener Staatsoper and the Bavarian State Opera and she has been made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. She has also been conferred honorary doctorates by the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan. She is currently the President of the Wagner Society of Great Britain. She has a daughter, Susannah Haberfeld, who is a mezzo-soprano.