The Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel, CBE (born November 9, 1965) is one of the best-known contemporary opera and concert singers. The bass-baritone is much admired for both the quality of his singing as his charismatic stage presence. Initially, Terfel was associated with the roles of Mozart, particularly Leporello, but he has expanded his repertoire to include heavier roles, including Wagner.
Terfel was born Bryn Terfel Jones in Pantglas, North Wales, the son of a farmer (he knew of another singer named Bryn Jones, so Terfel chose Bryn Terfel as his professional name). Terfel had an interest in and talent for music from a very young age. A family friend taught him how to sing, starting with traditional Welsh songs. After winning numerous competitions for his singing, Terfel moved to London in 1984 and entered the Guildhall School of Music, from which he graduated in 1989. He came in second behind Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the Cardiff BBC Singer of the World Competition the same year.
In 1990, Terfel made his operatic début as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte at the Welsh National Opera, and later in the same season he sang the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, a role with which he made his debut with the English National Opera in 1991.
Terfel made his United States début as Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera. In 1992, he made his Royal Opera House, Covent Garden début as Masetto in Don Giovanni, with Thomas Allen in the title role. Terfel's international breakthrough came when he sang Jochanaan in Strauss's Salome at the 1992 Salzburg Festival. Terfel went on to make his début as Figaro at the Vienna State Opera. That year, he also signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and returned to the Welsh National Opera to sing Ford in Falstaff.
In 1994, Terfel sang Figaro at Covent Garden, and made his Metropolitan Opera début in the same role. He also sang Mahler's Eighth Symphony at the Ravinia Festival under the baton of James Levine. In 1996, Terfel expanded his repertoire to include Wagner, singing Wolfram in Tannhäuser at the Metropolitan Opera, and Stravinsky, singing Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress at the Welsh National Opera.
In 1997, Terfel made his La Scala début as Figaro. In 1998, Bryn had a recital at Carnegie Hall which included works by Wolf, Fauré, Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, and others.
In 1999, Terfel performed in Paris the title role of Don Giovanni for the first time. That year, Terfel also sang the title role in Falstaff at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Starting in 2000, Terfel started the Faenol Festival near Snowdonia in Wales. Billed as "Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival," it turned into an annual music festival featuring internationally famous opera singers as well as popular Welsh artists. In the same year he released We'll Keep a Welcome - The Welsh Album, an anthology of favorite traditional songs.
In 2003, Terfel became a Commander of the British Empire, receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales.
Back surgery in 1994 and 2000 prevented Terfel from performing several scheduled events.
Terfel married his childhood sweetheart, Lesley, and they have three children: Tomos, Morgan and Deio Sion. They live near Caernarfon.