23rd March 1933 - 15th September 2021

Norman Bailey, world-renowned Opera Singer and resident of Teton Valley for over 28 years, passed away, aged 88, in Rexburg in the early hours of Wednesday 15th September.

He was one of the most successful British opera and concert singers of the 20th Century.

Born in Birmingham, UK on 23rd March 1933; his family moved to South Africa in 1947. He attended Rhodes University, originally studying Divinity but changing to Music on the advice of his singing teacher after only 2 lessons.

Performing Career.

Starting in Austria and Germany, Norman's career as a Dramatic Baritone - Helden Bariton - took him to virtually every major opera house in Western Europe, as well as North and South America. This included English National Opera (30 productions), The Royal Opera House, London (17 major roles), The Metropolitan Opera, New York, (5 productions), La Scala Milan (two), Bayreuth Festival (three) and Vienna State Opera (five), Paris Opera (two), Hamburg (several times) and Berlin State Opera, Chicago Lyric (two), Washington, D.C., Sydney and Melbourne Opera House, as well as the Glyndebourne Festival, to name just a few.

Wagnerian and Italian Opera.

Norman's international career was built essentially on the operas of Richard Wagner, where, significantly, he sang Hans Sachs in "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" at the Bayreuth Festival (the Mecca for Wagnerians).

However, he was no stranger to Italian opera, and was pleased with the symmetry that he not only sang thirteen Wagnerian roles throughout his career, but also sang in thirteen operas by the Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi.

He is perhaps most famous for his stage portrayal and recordings of:

Hans Sachs in Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg"

· Conductor Reginald Goodall with Sadler's Wells Opera Orchestra in English (1968)

· Conductor Georg Solti with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in German (1976)

Wotan in Wagner's "The Ring Cycle"

· Conductor Reginald Goodall with English National Opera Orchestra (1973-76)

The title role in Wagner's "Der Fliegende Hollander" (The Flying Dutchman)

· Conductor Georg Solti & The Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra in German (1977)

· For Television, BBC Studios Production, with producer Brian Large. (1975)

Conductor David Lloyd Jones with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

This BBC Two recording made television history as the first studio production of an entire Wagner opera.

The title role in Verdi's "Macbeth".

· For Television, BBC Studios Production, with producer Brian Large. (1977)

Conductor Robin Stapleton with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

He also recorded albums of German Lieder, Ballads and Sacred Songs and other English Song.

There are also videos of various stage production.


Whilst continuing his performing career, Norman Bailey built up a sizable teaching studio and taught for several years at the Royal College of Music, London, but, after moving to Teton Valley, joined the adjunct staff at BYUI - Brigham Young University, Idaho.


He was awarded the title of "Commander of the Order of the British Empire" (CBE) by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

The same year he won the Sir Charles Santley Award.

He became an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in 1981.

He received an honorary doctorate from Rhodes University in 1986.

In March 2020, he travelled to London to receive the Sir Reginald Goodall Memorial Award for outstanding service to Wagner and his music from The Wagner Society of London.

He intended to stay a few weeks, then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and he remained in the UK for six months until he could no longer stay away from his beloved dogs, Rocky and Chichi.


Religion always played an important role in Norman's life. He was baptized under the Salvation Army Flag, went to Methodist Sunday School in Middlesex, England, and, at University, studied Theology with the intention of becoming a Presbyterian Minister. However, whilst still a theological student, his mother paid for Norman to have singing lessons, and only after his second lesson was asked by his teacher, Annie Hartman, if he had ever considered becoming a professional singer. Thereafter, a new chapter opened up in Norman's life which led to his performing the biggest operatic roles on the most prestigious opera houses of the world, instead of preaching from a pulpit.

Baha'i Faith.

Norman was a member of the Baha'i Faith for 65 years, after hearing about it on a concert tour of Southern Africa in 1955/6. He was pleased to have seen the membership grow to many millions worldwide.

Marriage and Family.

Norman met his first wife, Doreen Evelyn Simpson at university. They had two sons, Brian and Richard and a daughter, Catherine. They have, in addition, five grand-kids Michael, Robyn, Lucas, Delara, Shadeh; two great-grand daughters, Izzie and Evie; as well as one great-grandson, David, by the marriage of his grandson, Michael.

Divorce and Subsequent Second Marriage.

In 1980, after nearly twenty-five years of marriage, Doreen and Norman agreed on an amicable divorce. Two years later, Norman met the highly successful singer, Kristine Frances Ciesinski when performing Wagner's opera "Mastersingers" in Cincinnati. U.S.A. and they married in 1983. Kris tragically died in an aviation accident whilst flying a glider over the Tetons in June, 2018. They had been married and together for thirty-five years.

He is also survived by his sister-in-law opera singer, Katherine Ciesinski and brother-in-law Raymond Ciesinski and both their families.


Norman will be sorely missed by friends, family, students and colleagues.

In preparing this obituary, we found this quote from one of his colleagues back in 1977 which has been echoed by many people down the years:

"He has a beautiful voice. He's a fine person, a lovely, incredibly modest colleague, a performer who really communicates to you on stage."