THE great-nephew of one of Wales’ greatest singers is to sing with Bryn Terfel at this summer’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
Thirty years ago Terfel was inspired and helped by the legendary Sir Geraint Evans and now Berwyn Pearce, 26, is also hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sir Geraint, his great-uncle, and carve out a musical career.
His big break comes this July after being called in as a late replacement for one of the starring roles in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the curtain-raiser to this year’s Eisteddfod in Llangollen on Monday, July 7.
Terfel heads a star-studded cast which also includes tenor Wynne Evans, aka Gio Compario of the Go Compare TV commercials, and top soprano Shan Cothi.
Taking the role of the young sailor, Anthony Hope, who falls in love with Todd’s daughter, Johanna, is Pearce, a Welsh-speaker from Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd, home village of Sir Geraint, a miner’s son who died in 1992.
He was a star of the Royal Opera House and, like Bryn Terfel, a bass-baritone who performed in the great opera houses of the world in roles such as Falstaff and Figaro.
Terfel, who sang at Sir Geraint’s memorial service, said: “He was an inspiration to young Welsh singers like me and he helped me when I first started out.
“It’s fantastic that I may now also be able to help Berwyn along the way as well and I’m really looking forward to it.”
It had looked a case of so near and yet so far for Pearce, a teacher at a primary School in Gwent, who had been short-listed for the role of Anthony at auditions in Cardiff.
He reached the final auditions but just missed out to another young tenor, Tom Hier, from Merthyr, who has had to drop out because of final year college commitments at the Guildford School of Acting.
Now he’s got his chance and he’s thrilled at the prospect: “I’m over the moon,” he said: “I’ve come off the bench and got my chance.
“I got down to the last two and didn’t get the part and that was worse than getting turned down in the first round but then I was told that the part was mine because Tom couldn’t make the main rehearsals.
“My family are absolutely thrilled, especially my mum (Jane Pearce) who is the daughter of Sir Geraint’s sister. She’s like all mums, she takes things harder than I do and she’s more excited when things go well.”
Pearce, a graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, remembers visiting his famous great-uncle at his holiday home in Aberaeron before his death in 1992. He said: “I remember him as an elderly man when we went to visit but I was very close to my Auntie Brenda, Uncle Geraint’s widow, and his family.
“I’m so chuffed for them really and one of the first people we rang was Uncle Huw, Geraint’s son and I’m hoping he’ll be coming to see me in the performance.”
He added: “It’s a brilliant opportunity. I played the part in college and I’d always wanted the chance to do it again because it’s one of the best musicals there is.”
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim. is set in 19th century London and tells the story of the crazed barber who murders his clients and supplies the bodies to his accomplice, piemaker Mrs Lovett.
Sweeney Todd will be the curtain raiser to six days at Llangollen which begin on Tuesday, July 8, with this year’s concerts featuring Dutch jazz diva Caro Emerald, American tenor star Noah Stewart, a new work by composer Karl Jenkins, the Cape Town Opera, the Choir of the World competition on Saturday night and legendary British rockers Status Quo closing the event on Sunday night.