My husband, Clifford Grant, who died at the age of 91, was an opera bassist known for many roles with Sadler’s Wells Opera, Covent Garden Opera, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne, San Francisco Opera and the metropolitan and Australian opera houses.
Cliff was born in Randwick, Sydney, to Patrick (“Pomp”) Grant, a commercial artist, and Rotha (née Millar). After graduating from St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney, he studied at the Sydney Conservatorium and began his singing career with the New South Wales Opera and the Victorian Opera.
After being “discovered” by Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge in 1965, he joined the Joan Sutherland / JC Williamson Opera Company in Australia as solo double bass. Later that same year, he traveled to London to audition for Sadler’s Wells Opera (later English National Opera) where General Manager Stephen Arlen immediately offered him a solo double bass contract.
He made his “Wells” debut as Da Silva in Verdi’s Ernani. During the period 1965 to 1976, he sang several of the most well-known bass roles, including Padre Guardiano in The Force of Destiny; Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville; Seneca alongside Dame Janet Baker in the title role in The Coronation of Poppea; Sarastro in The Magic Flute; and Fafner, Hunding, and Hagen in Goodall’s Ring Cycle at NWE.
Cliff was a manager’s nightmare – loud, laughing and chatting at times so loud in his dressing room that he missed his call and ran onto the stage in panic, throwing his gum at the back of the set. He would pick it up carefully on the way home.
I met him for the first time in 1969 at ENO when, as assistant manager, I had the task of holding his legs from the top of a very high structure, in Don Giovanni, with nothing to help. stabilize it than a wobbly pole. Cliff was afraid of heights.
He returned to Australia in 1976, where he joined the Australian Opera, playing lead roles until his retirement in 1990 to run his own art gallery in Sydney.
I met him by chance in Sydney in 1991, and we got married a few months later. Cliff played his last opera role with Opera North as Alvise in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda in 1993.
We lived in London for nine years and returned to Sydney in 2000. Cliff was awarded the OAM (Order of Australia Medal) in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List 2008 for his services to the performing arts.
Cliff was also a talented artist who organized several solo exhibitions in London and Sydney. He designed and built magnificent extensions of his house in Glebe.
We separated in 2008, but remained good friends and never divorced. He is survived by me, Victoria, Suzie and Richard, the children of his first marriage to Jeanette (née Earle), which ended in divorce, and his grandchildren, Stefan, Lily-Grace, Benji and Jessica .