«One of the world's finest operatic tenors, Philip Langridge, has died aged 70. Tributes were led by the Royal Opera and the composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, who called him a "unique artist-musician" who left "a large hole in the world's music".
Langridge appeared on all the world's great stages after his career began at Glyndebourne in 1964, in Richard Strauss's Capriccio. Before being taken ill he was on stage over Christmas at the Met in New York, enthusiastically baking children as a dragged-up Witch in Hansel and Gretel.
Langridge's repertoire was strikingly varied, but he also became closely associated with the works of Janacek, the big Britten roles such as Aschenbach and Peter Grimes and contemporary work, in particular Birtwistle.
He sang regularly at Covent Garden and the Coliseum but was in demand all over the world. The Royal Opera's director of opera, Elaine Padmore, said: "It was a huge shock when we heard very recently that Philip had cancer, and more so when we heard how quickly we were going to lose him.
"His intelligence, his humour, his wonderful voice and superb musicianship, his compelling presence on stage, the many roles he made his own – his Loge here is etched in the memory, and Lulu only last season – all these come to mind, together with the obvious pleasure he felt at singing in Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, directed by his son Stephen. All these wonderful things about Philip will be sorely missed as well as his broad smile and great storytelling."
Birtwistle said: "I first encountered Philip Langridge in the 1960s as a member of the John Alldis Choir along with John Tomlinson. Since then I have had a more or less continuous working relationship with him which ended in his last Wigmore Hall recital, when I wrote a song for him. He was a unique artist-musician and his death leaves a large hole in the world's music."
Langridge was born in Hawkhurst, Kent. Over the years he has often been called the natural successor to another outstanding English tenor, Peter Pears, the partner of Britten, albeit a distinctive one.
He leaves a widow, the mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, and four children from his two marriages.»