The Canadian tenor, Richard (Charles) Margison, was born to a musical family. His adoptive mother is a pianist and his father a printer and part time violinist/ baritone. He attended public and high school in Saanich BC. He began to sing as part of a "folk" duo, performing Gordon Lightfoot songs in coffee houses in Victoria, augmented by a few choir solos. At this stage he very much "pooh poohed" opera as far "too stuffy" an art form to catch his interest. The folk partnership eventually split up and he decided to apply to the University of Victoria as a mature student. The University would not take him in the music performance programme, as he showed "no promise"! At this point (age 22) he met a particularly gifted voice teacher named Selina James and took his first voice lesson! This was the first time that he had ever considered any sort of classical singing career. He began singing Italian art songs; he began to go to and enjoy opera, and he came to realise that he had a voice for it. Richard then studied at the Victoria Conservatory, received his diplomas and took part in school operas and productions. He also apprenticed with the Edmonton Opera Company, which resulted in performances all over Alberta for two years, while doubling as the company truck driver!
Leopold Simoneau and his wife Pierrette Alarie created a fine arts summer programme in Victoria called "Opera Piccola". They were the first front ranking Canadian recording artists to take Richard Margison under their wing. He boarded with the Simoneaus for four or five years and improved both his vocal technique and his golf swing. The next important figure to recognise Richard's ability was Irving Guttman, of the Vancouver Opera. He became Richard Margison's mentor, saw his potential and included him in small comprimario roles - culminating in the role of Lensky in Eugene Onegin in 1986. This was the main stage setting where people first began to take notice of him. He did some "second casting" followed by Tosca in 1986 or 1987.
Richard Margison began his career with appearances with the leading opera companies in Canada including the Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Opera, Calgary Opera, National Arts Centre, L'Opera de Montreal, Edmonton Opera and Manitoba Opera. His roles there have included Riccardo in Ballo, Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte, Tito in La Clemenza di Tito, Rodolfo in La Bohème and the title role in Werther. He made his American stage debut in 1990 in the title role of Charles Gounod's Faust with the Houston Opera. In the 1991-1992 season, he made his debut with the Oslo Opera as Riccardo in Ballo and in Santiago as Nadir in Les Pecheurs de Perles. He appeared with the Vancouver Opera singing his first performances of Don Jose in Carmen and made a triumphant European debut with English National Opera in 1989 singing his first performances as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera. Max Loppert in Opera Magazine said of his performance: "Certain opera-history parallels came to mind: 32 years earlier, a young Canadian tenor named Jon Vickers made his debut with the Royal Opera in the same role, and soon swept on to wider fame. The two are not similar in build and personality, but the younger singer's ability to grip the stage with his presence from his first moment to last and the appealingly full, honest, unforced quality of his substantial lyric tenor certainly made one wonder if a similar career progression might be in view."
Since this triumphant debut Richard Margison has made many international debuts of great importance. He made his Royal Opera, Covent Garden debut in 1992 as Cavaradossi in Tosca and then returned in 1994 as Don Jose in Carmen. He bowed at the Theatre Royale de la Monnaie in Brussels as Don Jose in a new production of Carmen in the fall of 1993 and bowed at the Flemish Opera as Riccardo in Ballo followed by concert performances of Foresto in Verdi's Attila. He made his German operatic debut in Stuttgart as Don Jose and debuted in the same role at the Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona, as well as at the Vienna State Opera. He was first heard in Hamburg as Manrico in Il Trovatore in the fall of 1994 and has also appeared at the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Cavaradossi.
Richard Margison made his San Francisco Opera debut in the fall of 1992 in the title role of Verdi's Don Carlos, a role he first sang in 1992 for the Victoria State Opera where in 1994 he returned for his first performances as Manrico in Il Trovatore. In recent seasons he has also debuted with the Metropolitan Opera, appeared with the Washington Opera, Welsh National Opera and in Oslo as Riccardo in Ballo, in Vancouver and in Toronto as Rodolfo in La Bohème. In the 1994-1995 season he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and returned to the San Francisco Opera for Faust in Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele. He also appeared in a new production of Il Tabarro in Hamburg where he also sang in Tosca, Il Trovatore and Madama Butterfly. He returned to Brussels for a revival of Ballo.
In the 1995-1996 season Richard Margison appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Don Jose in Carmen. He was heard in Hamburg in Tabarro, Butterfly and Trovatore and sang Madama Butterfly for the San Francisco Opera. He made his Dallas Opera debut as Manrico in Trovatore and then debuted at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich as Riccardo in Ballo. He returned to Vienna for Il Trovatore and added the role of Dick Johnson in Puccini's La Fanciulla del West to his repertoire in a new production by Robert Carsen for the Flemish Opera. He recorded the title role in Don Carlos for Philips under Bernard Haitink and also appeared in concert in London under Bernard Haitink in the role. In the summer of 1996 He sang his first Radames in Aida for the Victoria State Opera. He made his debut with the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1997 as Pollione in Norma. He returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Radames in Aida and added two new roles to his repertoire: Calaf in Turandot with the San Diego Opera and the title role in Ernani with Opera Orchestra of New York. He sang his first Bacchus in a new Ariadne auf Naxos under Pappano in Brussels and returned to Munich as Don Jose in Carmen.
Richard Margison opened the 1997-1998 San Francisco Opera season in Tosca and returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Manrico in Il Trovatore and as Calaf. He returned to London for concert performances with the Royal Opera of Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele under Bernard Haitink and made his stage debut in Amsterdam in a new production of Tosca conducted by Riccardo Chailly that was taped for television. Margison returned to the Bavarian State Opera in Tosca and to Hamburg in Turandot. He also performed Trovatore for the Vancouver Opera. He appeared in concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Das Lied von der Erde and with the Ottawa's National Arts Center Orchestra in George Frideric Handel's Messiah. He launched the 1998-1999 season with performances of Calaf with the San Francisco Opera -- he reprised the role with Michigan Opera Theatre. He sang Faust in Mefistofele in Chicago and Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera, the Australian Opera and the Canadian Opera Company. He appeared in the title role of Don Carlo with L'Opera de Montreal, in Das Lied von der Erde with the Montreal Symphony and sang solo concerts in Vancouver, Calgary, Kitchener and Hamilton, Canada.
In the 1999-2000 season Richard Margison returned to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Faust in Mefistofele and Radames in Aida. He returned to the San Francisco Opera for Un ballo in maschera and to the Netherlands Opera for Tosca. He performed the title role of Ernani with Radio VARA. He appeared as Manrico with the San Diego Opera, Pollione in Seville and will appear as Radames in Amsterdam. He also debuted in two new roles in concert; Enzo in La Gioconda with the Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall and Florestan in Fidelio with the Vancouver Symphony. In the summer he debuted in Torre del Lago as Cavaradossi. During the 2000-2001 season he debuted the role of Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met. He also appeared with the Metropolitan Opera as Calaf in Turandot. In Genoa he could be heard in the title role of André Chénier. In San Francisco and San Diego, he appeared as Radames in Aida. In November, he performed in concert with the Canadian Opera Company's Orchestra in Toronto's Massey-Roy Thomson Hall.
Richard Margison is acknowledged today as one of the most acclaimed tenors on the international scene. He is also a much sought after concert artist, and has appeared frequently as soloist with orchestras and has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and at the Ravinia Festival. He has also performed with Bryn Terfel at his opera gala at the Faenol Festival in Wales. He debuted in Brussels in 1992 in Verdi's Requiem.
His first CD "Great Romantic Duets of French Opera" appeared on the CBC SM 5000 label in 1987, partnered with Lyne Fortin and the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec. His most recent release is an all-Verdi recording on CBC Records. He has also recorded Lanza (Warner Music), a recording made for the film on the life of Mario Lanza, in which he sings the title role. Other recordings include Verdi's Don Carlo with the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Bernard Haitink (Philips) and Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi (Deutsche Grammophon). He has made three recordings with Richard Bradshaw and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra: a solo album of French and Italian Arias (CBC Records), Rarities by Rossini and Verdi, with Gary Relyea (CBC Records) and Aria, une sélection de Radio-Canada with Anita Krause, Wendy Nielson and Gary Relyea (CBC Records). He is also a featured artist on the Millennium Opera Gala recording released by CBC Records.
Richard Margison was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001. He shares his home in Toronto, Canada with his wife, opera director Valerie Kuinka and his daughter Lauren, a budding opera singer.