Willard White was born in Jamaica, where he commenced his musical training at the Jamaican School of Music and then went on to the Juilliard School in New York.
Since making his debut with the New York City Opera he has sung regularly at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, English National Opera, San Francisco, the Opera Houses of Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, and at the Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Festivals. Willard White’s huge repertoire includes the bass-baritone roles in operas by John Adams, Bartok, Monteverdi, Handel, Henze, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Debussy, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Messiaen and Gershwin. His performances include Golaud/Pellйas and Mйlisande and Tchйlio/The Love for Three Oranges in Amsterdam and San Francisco, where he also sang the title-role in Messiaen’s St. Franзois d’Assiseand Nekrotzar in Le Grand Macabre, a role he also performed last season at the Teatro dell’opera, Rome and at the Salzburg Festival; Mephistopheles/Faust, Marke/Tristan & Isolde,Bluebeard/Bluebeard’s Castle and Barbe-Bleue/Ariane et Barbe-Bleue at the Bastille; the Peter Sellars productions of The Rake's Progress (Nick Shadow), Oedipus Rex and John Adams’s El Niсoat the Chatelet. With English National Opera his roles have included the title-role in Stein Winge’s production of The Flying Dutchman, Kutuzov/War and Peace, Khovansky/Khovanshchina and Mephistopheles/La Damnation de Faust, which he also sang last season at the Grand Thйвtre de Gйnиve, and with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, in Tokyo and at the Gulbenkian in Lisbon and with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Charles Dutoit.
At the Aix en Provence and Salzburg Easter Festivals Willard White sang Wotan / Wanderer in the new production of the Ring with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He also sangBluebeard’s Castle with the Orchestre d’Ile de France, at the Liceu, Barcelona, and with the London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at the Barbican; the title-role/Boris Godunov for Welsh National Opera; and El Niсo with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester in Berlin under Kent Nagano, and in Los Angeles, New York and London.
He sings regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where his roles have included; Klingsor/Parsifal, Bluebeard/Bluebeard’s Castle, The Four Villains/Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Fotis/The Greek Passion and, most recently, Timur/Turandot. At the Metropolitan Opera, New York, his roles have included Golaud/Pellйas et Mйlisande, Ferrando/ Il Trovatore and Water-Sprite/Rusalka.
Willard White is also much in demand for concerts and recitals throughout Europe, the USA and in the Far East. He sings regularly with the world’s major conductors and orchestras, including the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Hallй, Royal Philharmonic, Concertgebouw, La Scala, Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestras and he has appeared as soloist many times at the BBC Proms, including the Last Night of the Proms, the Proms in the Park and A Child of our Time at the First Night of the Proms.His new concert programme “Robeson Re-Explored”, performed with a small group of versatile musicians and string quartet, follows upon the huge success of the first programme, “An Evening with Willard White – a tribute to Paul Robeson,” which was performed at Festivals throughout the UK, in the USA and in Reykjavik, shown on BBC television and issued on CD. His latest CD My Way was released on the Sony label.
Engagements in the 2009/10 season include the title-role in the new production of Henze’s El Cimarron with the Royal Danish Opera; Mephistopheles/ La Damnation de Faust with the London Symphony Orchestra under Gergiev at the Barbican and with the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole du Toulouse; Gorianchikov/From the House of the Dead with the Metropolitan Opera, New York under Esa-Pekka Salonen and at La Scala, Milan under Daniel Harding; Bluebeard/Bluebeard’s Castle in Valencia and Madrid; and concerts and recitals across Europe, including performances of his new programme “Robeson Re-Explored”.
Willard White was awarded the CBE in 1995 and he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2004.