In the space of just 15 years, South African-born tenor, Colin Lee established himself as one of the leading tenors in the bel canto repertoire. With his La scala début in 2014, in the title role of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, Colin became only the third South African tenor in history to have sung at all of the 5 major opera houses in the world.
Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Colin attended the world renowned Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School as a young boy. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, Colin moved to London in 1994 and commenced private vocal studies with the renowned Welsh tenor, Jeffrey Talbot.
Colin’s international career was defined by certain bel canto roles which brought him to the attention of opera houses and the opera public around the world. In particular he made his own, the role of TONIO in Laurent Pelly’s production of La fille du Regiment at the Royal Opera House (ROH). Another role in which Colin excelled was ALMAVIVA in Rossini’s ever-popular Il barbiere di Siviglia. Since his role début in this opera as a young artist at English National Opera (ENO) in 2003, he went on to sing the role over 80 times in opera houses around the world, most notably at ROH, Metropolitan Opera House, Opéra de Paris, Vienna State Opera and Berlin State Opera.
After his initial successes in the lighter Rossini roles, Colin tackled more recently the dramatic Rossini repertoire. In 2009 he sang the role of ORESTES in Ermione, recording and performing it in concert for Opera Rara – the recording went on to win the prestigious Gramophone Award for Best Opera Recording on its release in 2011. This led to collaboration with René Jacobs in 2010 at the Theater an der Wien where he performed the role of ARGIRIO in Tancredi. Following this success he made his début in the role of RODRIGO in La donna del lago at Paris Garnier, alongside Joyce Di Donato in the role of ELENA and Juan Diego Floréz as GIACOMO V, a role he reprised with the same cast at ROH in 2013. In March 2013 he sang the role of ELVINO in La sonnambula at the Bolshoi Opera, in a new production by Pier Luigi Pizzi – the first production of the opera at the Bolshoi since 1892.
Colin has also sought opportunities to explore roles outside the mainstream tenore leggierobel canto repertoire. In 2011, with the encouragement of René Jacobs, Colin ventured into French Baroque repertoire for the first time when he sang, to great acclaim, the challenging travesty title role in Rameau’s Platée for De Nederlandse Opera. In the same year Colin returned to his city of birth and made his house début as ALFREDO in Cape Town Opera’s production of Verdi’s La traviata. During this time Colin had the pleasure of singing his first song recital in over 10 years accompanied by the outstanding South African pianist Albie van Schalkwyk. In 2013 he returned to Cape Town to sing in concert the role of EDGARDO in Lucia di Lammermoor under the baton of Maestro Richard Bonynge, with his South African opera colleagues Pretty Yende and George Stevens. In 2014 Colin sang the title role in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at the Tchaikowsky Concert Hall in Moscow, to critical acclaim, become one of the few tenors to sing the roles in the original high key at modern pitch.
Colin enjoyed a decade-long relationship with the recording label Opera Rara during which time he has participated in 11 recordings for the label. Most recently he recorded the role of GERARDO in Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro which was released in June 2013 to glowing reviews.
Colin retired from professional singing at the end of 2014 citing personal family reasons.