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Bryn Terfel, opera's friendly superstar

November 20, 2010 |  9:00 am

BrynI don't know how celebrities can stand to be in public. I suppose being flattered by strangers is a rush for a while. But at some point the intrusions have got to be incredibly tiresome.

In classical music there is no bigger celebrity than Bryn Terfel. But if the Welsh singer has bargained away a part of his private life, he doesn't show any signs of strain about it. Recently when I interviewed him, sitting in the public square in the Lincoln Center, about his upcoming recital at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, I could only admire his graciousness at dealing with an admiring stranger.

In an odd coincidence, Terfel had just been telling me about singing with a harp accompanist when an elderly Taiwanese man walked up to him.

"You have the opportunity to come to Taipei?" the man asked.

"Taipei? I'd like to, some day," Terfel replied.

"My daughter is a harpist," the man announced. He went on to detail her career -- attending Juilliard, winning a Fulbright scholarship, performing at Carnegie Hall -- when Terfel gently said to him, "We're in the middle of doing an interview. I'd love to talk to you but we have to finish it."

The man nodded and handed Terfel a business card. "If you need a harpist," he said. "And if you have the opportunity to come to Taipei, please e-mail. My name is Shing Jyi."

"Thank you very much, Shing Jyi," Terfel said.

As Shing Jyi walked away with a giant smile, Terfel said to me, "He looks ready to climb the mountains, doesn't he, with his hat and his coat? And how proud was he of his daughter? That was brilliant, amazing."

For a profile of the charming, down-to-earth bass-baritone, click here.

-- Kevin Berger

Photo: The singer in the Metropolitan Opera's Wotan new production of Wagner's "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre."

Credit: Brigitte Lacombe / Metropolitan Opera