Michael Wakeham as Giuseppe in The Gondoliers

Michael Wakeham (1958-61)

[Born Exeter 3 Jul 1934; died 31 Mar 2011]

Baritone Michael Wakeham's first professional engagement was as a lay clerk at Chichester Cathedral. A chorister, understudy, and small part player with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from February 1958 to June 1961, he played Second Citizen in The Yeomen of the Guard beginning in March 1959 when John Reed was filling in for Peter Pratt, then assumed the role on a full-time basis in May of that year when Pratt left the Company. Wakeham added the role of Annibale in The Gondoliers in August 1959, and Antonio in the same opera in April 1960. He also filled in for Reed on occasion as the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe during the 1959-60 season. He may be heard in his dual roles of Antonio and Annibale on the D'Oyly Carte's 1961 recording of The Gondoliers.

After two seasons with the Company, Wakeham left to persue a career as free-lance concert artist. He also had engagements with Scottish Opera, the Handel Opera Society, Opera de Camera, and the English Bach Festival, and was a frequent broadcaster with Radio 3.

While his tenure with the D'Oyly Carte was brief, Wakeham's Gilbert & Sullivan career took off some years later. In 1972 he hooked up with Donald Adams and Thomas Round. He filmed seven operas that year with "Gilbert & Sullivan for All"--Trial by Jury (as Counsel for the Plaintiff), H.M.S. Pinafore (as Captain Corcoran), The Pirates of Penzance (as Samuel), Iolanthe (as Strephon), The Mikado (as Pish-Tush), The Yeomen of the Guard (as the Lieutenant of the Tower), and The Gondoliers (as Giuseppe). As a founding member of a group called the London Concert Artists, Wakeham participated as their soloist in the Bandleader CD recording "Gilbert & Sullivan with Band and Voice" in 1988. He also sang Florian in Princess Ida, First Yeoman in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Lord Dramaleigh in Utopia Limited in the 1989 BBC2 series of the complete Gilbert & Sullivan operas. Between 1984 and 1992 he performed frequently with the London Savoyards as the Counsel in Trial, Bill Bobstay in Pinafore, Samuel, Pish-Tush, and the Lieutenant.

Apart from Gilbert & Sullivan, Wakeham was an established radio performer who appeared regularly in such programs as "Friday Night is Music Night," "Among Your Souvenirs," and "Melodies For You," and took part in the BBC International Fesival of Light Music. He worked with numerous opera companies and filmed the roles of Silvio in I Pagliacci and Figaro in The Barber of Seville. He appeared in all the major concert halls including London's South Bank and Barbican Centre, and sang abroad in Holland, Belgium, Italy, the U.S.A., and aboard the QE2.

He was the brother of D'Oyly Carte chorister Margaret Wakeham and was briefly married to D'Oyly Carte soprano Margaret Smith. His subsequent marriage to soprano Anne Stuart has been far more enduring. She too has performed in Gilbert & Sullivan with the London Savoyards, Gilbert & Sullivan for All, and in numerous concert venues. She has also appeared in London's West End in Charlie Girl and Phantom of the Opera. Together, Anne and Michael have forged a successful partnership in concerts, recordings and their own series for BBC Radio--"The Magic That is Music." They have also appeared in caberet on the QE2 and for the Royal Caribbean line.

Wakeham was awarded the "Royal Victorian Medal" by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year's Honors for 2002 for his services as a Gentleman of The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy.

Page modified April 1, 2011 © 2001-11 David Stone