Christopher Purves
Christopher Purves

Christopher Purves

About Christopher Purves

The English bass-baritone Christopher Purves has performed operatic roles from the Baroque to contemporary repertory, and he has sung choral music at the Proms and other major venues. His background is unusual in that it includes a substantial career in popular music with the doo wop/jazz vocal group Harvey & the Wallbangers. Purves was born October 11, 1961 in Cambridge, England. He shared with many other classical performers the background of boy chorister and choral scholar at King's College, Cambridge. He majored in English at King's College and, after graduating, joined Harvey & the Wallbangers in 1983. In that group he not only sang bass but also played the trumpet. He left the group as it was dissolving in 1987 and performed for a time as a freelance experimental vocalist, also taking on gigs as an additional vocalist for the best-selling chorus the Sixteen. In the '90s, Purves began to find roles with touring opera companies. He told Rupert Christiansen of the Telegraph that he had received valuable advice from director Claire Venables while working on a production of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen: "Stop trying to pretend to be someone you’re not. Just do nothing." From 1997 onward, he had recurring roles with Britain's Opera North company; his association with the Sixteen and its director, Harry Christophers, led to solo vocal appearances under top early music vocal conductors such as Philippe Herreweghe and Richard Hickox. He has performed John Tavener's 140-minute Apocalypse at the Proms with the City of London Sinfonia. In later years, Purves has essayed major operatic bass and baritone roles including Alberich in Wagner's Das Rheingold (at the Houston Grand Opera) and Verdi's Falstaff. He appeared in the 2010 film musical Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy). He was heard as Figaro on a 2004 Chandos recording of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and in the 2010s has released two albums of Handel's bass (or "Base") arias with the early music ensemble Arcangelo and director Jonathan Cohen; the second volume appeared in 2018. ~ James Manheim