Renowned opera star hasn't forgotten roots
A PEMBREY-BORN singer set to perform in the final of the Singer of the World contest has spoken of his sudden rise to fame.
And with high hopes of coming out on top, Gary Griffiths revealed he has not forgotten the musical maestro who set him on course for a life on stage.
Looking back, Gary, 29, said his singing career took off in 2009 after he won the gold medal at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
"I signed with an agent in London and I had some offers of work from some UK-based opera companies," the former St Michael's School student said.
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"I decided to stay at the Guildhall for a further two years to complete the opera course there.
"While on the course I auditioned for the head of Welsh National Opera, John Fisher.
"He gave me the role of Guglielmo in Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte there and then.
"I couldn't quite believe it and soon the offer grew into a proper contract with more roles included."
Gary explained that after finishing at the Guildhall in March 2011, he started to get to grips with his new venture.
"It's quite a large role and very challenging," he said.
"But it was the right role for me to start with at my age."
From there, he took on the role of Masetto in Don Giovanni, followed by Claudio in Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict.
And he has just finished a run of La Boheme, in which he played the role of Schaunard.
"It's probably my favourite opera of all time," he said.
"The music and story are very much at one with each other.
"Next year I will represent Wales in Cardiff Singer of the Year after winning the Welsh Singers Competition this year.
"This has always been a huge ambition of mine and I'm really looking forward to next year."
But before competing against other highly acclaimed singers, Gary will return to the role he started with at the Welsh National Opera — Guglielmo in Cosi fan Tutte.
"It's quite nice to have the chance to be in the production again, I enjoyed it so much last time," he said.
Gary's contract with the WNO comes to an end in December, and he plans to work with Scottish Opera, as well as having his European debut at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.
But even with his career taking him around the world, Gary has not forgotten his roots. "Looking back I don't think I'd be where I am now without the experience of WNO," he said.
"It has been a wonderful training ground for the profession and it will hopefully stand me in good stead for the future.
"And I can't ever forget where it all started — with John Hywel Williams of Llanelli.
"His encouragement in the early stages of my singing gave me the confidence to take it further."