Popular baritone and lieder singer with remarkable diction
Derek Hammond-Stroud, who has died at the age of 86, was a popular and highly regarded baritone who enlivened the British lyric stage for several decades in a variety of roles. His remarkable diction enabled him to shine in patter roles of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and he featured prominently in that repertoire throughout his career. But he also brought that asset to the landmark Sadler's Wells productions of Wagner under Reginald Goodall, delivering colourful, accomplished performances of the roles of the querulous town clerk Beckmesser in The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and of the scheming dwarf, Alberich, in The Ring of the Nibelung.
Born in London, he attended Salvatorian college, Harrow, and went on to study at the Trinity College of Music and abroad with Elena Gerhardt and Gerhard Hüsch. He made his debut in 1955 in Haydn's Orfeo ed Euridice, a concert performance at the St Pancras Festival that marked the British premiere of the work. At the same festival he made his stage debut two years later as Publius in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. He then joined the Sadler's Wells company (subsequently English National Opera) in 1961, distinguishing himself in such roles as Dr Bartolo in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Melitone in Verdi's La Forza del Destino, Rigoletto, Papageno in The Magic Flute and a succession of character parts in Offenbach and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
To all these roles he brought an animated delineation enhanced by his trademark diction. His acting skills were also brought into play here: the hangdog expression and furrowed brow of his Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado – to take just one example – contributed to an amusing portrayal.
Gilbert and Sullivan roles formed the backbone of his frequent appearances at the BBC Proms. Between 1968 and 1988 he featured in 31 performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas there, with appearances also in Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict, Britten's Gloriana, Walton's Façade, Stravinsky's Renard, Verdi's Macbeth and La Forza del Destino, and Johann Strauss's Der Zigeunerbaron. His exemplary diction was a distinguishing feature too of his Beckmesser and Alberich for Sadler's Wells. During the rigorous coaching sessions for the former with Goodall, Hammond-Stroud gradually became aware, as he once told an interviewer, that the conductor identified himself with the frustration and anguish of the town clerk, treated with much derision by the populace. The singer's task was thus to project a tragic rather than a comic character.
Hammond-Stroud's Alberich was also richly drawn, deploying incisive enunciation that could nevertheless be varied to dramatic effect. When Alberich cursed the gods for robbing him of the ring, for example, Hammond-Stroud was able to combine vocal colour and verbal distortion to convey the scorn and twisted hatred of the character.
After making his Covent Garden debut in 1971 as Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier – a role in which he succeeded in combining oleaginous deference and self-satisfaction to devastating effect – he sang frequently with the company throughout the following two decades.
Glyndebourne audiences enjoyed his appearances in this period and his debut at the Metropolitan, New York, once again as Faninal, launched a career in the US too, leading to appearances in San Diego and Houston, as well as such prominent houses as the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, and the National Theatre, Munich. The classic Met production of Der Rosenkavalier, in which he starred alongside Tatiana Troyanos, Kiri te Kanawa and Kurt Moll (with Luciano Pavarotti in the cameo role of the Italian Singer), was filmed for American television in 1982.
Hammond-Stroud was also an accomplished lieder singer, appearing regularly on the concert platforms of London, Vienna and Amsterdam. A performance of Schubert's Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall in 1979, memorable for its sentient projection of the text, was finally released on CD in 2002.
In 1987 he was appointed OBE.
• Derek Hammond-Stroud, baritone, born 10 January 1926; died 14 May 2012
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