“Good morning, you’re my film star” – with these words, Adrian Müller, Gwyneth Jones´s second husband, woke up his wife one morning in 2011. He had just learned that Dustin Hoffmann wanted to cast her in his directorial debut Quartet, as a petulant opera diva in an artists’ retirement home.

The role is a double challenge for Jones: firstly, even in her mid 70s, Dame Gwyneth is not yet thinking of retiring, and secondly, she is everything but petulant; with her gentle speaking voice, she gives more the impression of an amiable British lady.

But she naturally accepts the role, since never in her life has Jones shied away from an acting challenge. On the operatic stage, she is pure untamed expression. This has even earned her the nickname “the animal,” as she herself mentions, not without pride. Since expressiveness is always more important to her than “only” producing beautiful notes – a fact that some people never forgive her for, with few singers being more sharply criticized. But her fans are all the more faithfully devoted to her, with many following her for decades throughout the whole world.

© Ulla Pilz, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • Born in 1936 in Pontnewynydd, Wales. Begins singing in children’s and church choir

  • Studies in London, Siena, and Zürich. Due to the dark timbre of her voice, she is initially given mezzo parts

  • Debut at the Zürich Opera during the 1962/63 season; since then Switzerland has been her adopted home, and she also speaks perfect German

  • Already in the mid 1960s, she is celebrating her first international successes at such venues as La Scala, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Grand Opéra Paris, and Covent Garden. She soon becomes a regular guest at the Met and a longtime ensemble member of the Vienna State Opera

  • From 1966–1990, Gwyneth Jones is practically a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival, where she eventually sings almost the entire Wagner repertoire

  • 1986 named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, after which her correct form of address is “Dame Gwyneth”

  • Among her countless honors, the well-read singer is especially proud of the Shakespeare Prize and two honorary doctorates from Welsh universities

  • Now eighty years old, Gwyneth Jones is still on the opera stage, singing the countess in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame

Did you know?

  • Gwyneth Jones´s parents died young: her mother when she was three years old, her father one hour before she learned that she had been accepted to the London College of Music

  • To earn money during her studies, she works as a secretary and serving hamburgers

  • Jones makes opera history as Brünnhilde in Patrice Chereau’s Centenary Ring. But together with her colleagues, she gains firsthand experience of how Bayreuth’s Wagner devotees are not to be trifled with, reporting of death threats and a woman who spits in her face

  • Dame Gwyneth Jones is known as a rehearsal fanatic, hates lack of concentration during work, and seeks to reinvent everything each time

  • Today she turns her attention to the next generation of singers, but regrets that many of them take on dramatic roles too early. She herself waited ten years to sing certain roles, and even twenty for Elektra

  • Jones has hardly ever cancelled for health reasons throughout her entire career, and frequently fills in for colleagues who have fallen ill. One of the most spectacular instances was when in Die Frau ohne Schatten, she sang not only the Dyer’s Wife, but also the Empress, sight reading the latter part while singing it offstage