Baritone superstar Gerald Finley has garnered acclaim in all the major Mozart baritone roles. Yet he has also achieved high praise for the many difficult contemporary roles he has created, among them: J. Robert Oppenheimer in Adams' Doctor Atomic, Harry Heegan in Turnage's The Silver Tassie, the title character in Picker's Fantastic Mr. Fox. If you suspect there is a hole in Finley's repertory, there isn't. He has sung the title role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Marcello in Puccini's La bohème, and many others from late 19th and early 20th operas. Moreover, Finley has appeared in concert and recital in a vast array of works by Handel, Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Ives, Britten, Maxwell-Davies, and more. He has appeared at major operatic and concert venues around the world. Not surprisingly, Finley, whose rich voice is usually classed as bass-baritone, has made numerous recordings for several labels.
Finley was born in Montreal, Canada, on January 30, 1960. He was a chorister at St. Matthew's Church in Ottawa and then with a large variety of other choirs around the Ottawa area. He enrolled in the music program at the University of Ottawa but soon moved to England to study at Cambridge University (King's College), and London's Royal College of Music. In the early years of his career, he sang with the Cambridge Singers, and then, from 1986-1988, with the Glyndebourne Opera. In 1989, Roger Norrington cast him as Papageno in a production of Die Zauberflöte, and the following year, Finley toured in the role with the Glyndebourne company. Finley's career was soon in meteoric ascent, with notable debuts at the major opera houses, including at the Met as Papageno (1998). With all his success, Finley also took chances, singing the role of Jaufré Rudel in Kaija Saariaho's L'amour de loin at its premiere in 2000 at the Salzburg Festival. Among Finley's more acclaimed recordings is his Songs by Samuel Barber, on Hyperion, which won a Classic FM Gramophone Award in 2008 as Best Solo Vocal Recording.
As his voice deepened in middle age, Finley has expanded his repertory into Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin, which he sang at Covent Garden in 2008), Wagner (he played Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger at the Glyndebourne Opera in 2011), and Verdi (playing Falstaff with the Canadian Opera Company in 2014-2015). In 2015, he gave the premiere of Saariaho's True Fire, which was dedicated to him. Finley's recorded repertory likewise expanded, with an album of Shostakovich songs in 2014 and one of works by Einojuhani Rautavaara the following year in which he was a soloist. In 2016, Finley issued Sibelius: In the Stream of Life, an album of Sibelius songs, mostly arranged for baritone and orchestra. He has continued to record for Hyperion but has also appeared on the Ondine and Chandos labels. In 2020, Finley was featured on a recording of Janácek's The Cunning Little Vixen, with the London Symphony and Simon Rattle, as well as a recording of songs by Peter Lieberson, with the Finnish Radio Symphony under Hannu Lintu.
Finley became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2014 and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2017.