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Song in his heart

08 May 2012

Basso buffo: Jonathan Veira sips tea as Don Pasquale in Donizetti’s opera of the same name on a Glyndebourne tour in 2011 ROBERT WORKMAN

Basso buffo: Jonathan Veira sips tea as Don Pasquale in Donizetti’s opera of the same name on a Glyndebourne tour in 2011 ROBERT WORKMAN

JONATHAN VEIRA is a singer of many parts who throws himself with equal ebullience into operatic basso-buffo roles, gospel music, Songs of Praise, or in his one-man show. His warmth and exuberance shine through in Finding My Voice: Playing the fool and other triumphs, a collection of amusing anecdotes loosely woven around his professional and family life (Monarch, £9.99 (£9); 978-0-85721-169-9).

Veira is a north-London boy who was brought up among Plymouth Brethren. His childhood revolved around singing with his family in churches and old-people’s homes (they were known as the Veira von Trapps), and learning long passages from the Bible by heart, but he was bullied at school, and his salvation lay in an inspiring diminutive Scottish music teacher. He writes warmly of a series of influential musicians who brought him successively to playing guitar in a Christian band and arranging music for Graham Kendrick before starting his operatic career.

Aficionados of Glyndebourne will remember Veira’s magnificent stage presence as Falstaff or as Don Pasquale, and Finding My Voice takes the reader behind the curtain to entertain with stories of humorous mishaps in the operatic world. He rarely name-drops: these are self-deprecating anecdotes that reveal more about how he approaches his roles than about the operatic stars with whom he sings.

Besides being an amusing raconteur, he teaches us about the sheer hard work of memorising parts in numerous languages and the sense of duty and loyalty that he feels. The book is peppered with his insights, such as “It is far better to be reliable and very good than unreliable and brilliant,” and, after his recovery from serious illness, “Make the most of the time that you have, today.”

Most of all, Veira is a good storyteller, and this book reveals the man and his music in and beyond the opera house in a very engaging way.

Jane Harris-Matthews

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