Nash, Heddle

William Heddle Nash, English tenor, 1894 - 1961

(photograph by courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)

Biographical notes:

Heddle Nash was born on 14 June 1894 at Deptford, a suburb of London and was soon detected to sing in the Choir of Westminster Abbey. In 1914, he won a scholarship at the Blackheath Conservatory but was not able to take it up because Worldwar I intervened. He was wounded, but nursed back to health by the girl whom he was to marry and with whom he was to have two sons (one became a distinguished baritone). After war he finally studied with Marie Brema at the Blackheath Conservatory. At a time Nash worked with a theatre of marionettes where his voice was only heard from the orchestral pit (!). The company was based in Rome and the young singer  had the opportunity to study with the famous Italian dramatic tenor Giuseppe Borgatti. It was at the Teatro Carcano in Milan where Nash had the opportunity to replace an undisposed tenor in the role as Almaviva. It was a big success for the young tenor. Back in London in 1925, he quickly was engaged by the Old Vic Theatre to sing many of the more lyric tenor roles (all in English!). Engagements with the British National Opera Company followed. It was in 1929 when he appeared at Covent Garden for the first time. He became a favorite artist there, much acclaimed as Don Ottavio, Tamino, Pedrillo (to Tauber’s Belmonte), Rodolfo, David in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (one of his finest roles on stage), Duca, Almaviva, Roméo, etc. Nash was also a very fine interpreter in operettas by J. Strauss and Millöcker. Finally, he was one of the greatest English oratorio and concert singers (Messiah, The Dream of Gerontius (Elgar), Jephta, Serenade to Music (Vaughan Williams). His partners on the stage included singers such as the wonderful Maggie Teyte, Richard Tauber, Dennis Noble, the superb contralto Muriel Brunskill, Florence Easton , Dennis Noble and Lisa Perli (alias concert soprano Doris Labbette). Nash’s last operatic appearance took place in 1957. He continued to perform on the concert platform, singing in  Handel’s Messiah only a few months before his death in 1961.


Recordings: (selection)

Arias and Songs 1926 - 1931 (Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, Gounod, Thomas, Verdi, Leoncavallo, Puccini, The Gondoliers, The Bohemian Girl, Balfe)


‘Serenade’ (Arias by Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni, Bizet, Gounod, Rossini, Delius, J. Strauss, Lehár and songs)


La Bohème - Act 4 (Beecham 1935/Perli (Labbette), Andreva, Brownlee,     R. Easton, Alva). Faust (Beecham 1930/Licette, R. Easton). Arias and songs


Elgar - The Dream of Gerontius, etc.


Elgar - Vocal and Dramatic Music Vol. 3


Gounod - Faust (Beecham 1930/Licette, Vane, Brunskill, Williams, R. Easton)


Massenet - Manon (Robinson 1939/broadcast/Teyte, Noble, Walker, Henderson)


Mozart - Così fan tutte (Busch 1935 live/Souez, Helletsgruber, Eisinger, Domgraf-Fassbaender, Brownlee)


Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro (Busch 1935 live/Henderson, Rautavaara, Mildmay, Domgraf-Fassbaender, Helletsgruber)


Vaughan Williams - Serenade to Music, etc.


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol 3



England produced a number of fine lyric tenors in the years between the First and Second World War : Tudor Davies, Evan Williams, Walter Midgley, Webster Booth, Richard Lewis, and Heddle Nash. He is undoubtedly my favorite English lyric tenor on records.

His is an outstandingly beautiful and sweet-toned voice. In many of his recordings you can hear a singer with a sure grasp of technical principles, but also with the ability to sing with a remarkable spontaneity, quite a rare combination in (English) singers.

His recordings in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and in Handel’s Jephta are unsurpassed. There are many fine records. One of his famous 78s is the Serenade from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. In the following aria you can enjoy the “soft-grained” quality of the voice, his excellent breathing technique, and not to forget, his fine mezza voce and the marvelous head tones!

  Mi par d’udir ancora  sung in English  (Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles / Bizet / HMV 1944)


Heddle Nash as Rodolfo


My warmest thanks to Charles B. Mintzer