Simon Keenlyside is a leading British baritone, concert and recital singer. His voice is distinguished by its warmth, with the ability to take on an edge for dramatic lines. As a student at Cambridge he studied zoology, but went on to study singing with John Cameron at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. While studying there, he sang the leading male role of Lescaut in Puccini's opera Manon.
His professional debut was with the Hamburg State Opera in 1988, as Count Almaviva in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. After that, he was engaged as a member of the Scottish Opera, where he remained until 1994. During that period he was praised for his appearances as Britten's Billy Budd, Rossini's Figaro, Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème, Danilow in Lehar's The Merry Widow, Belcore in Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, and Mozart's Papageno.
He debuted at Covent Garden in 1989 as Silvio in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and subsequently as Guglielmo in Mozart's Così fan Tutte. The years 1995 - 1997 saw him make major debuts: At Glyndebourne in 1995, again as Guglielmo, and as Pagapeno under Riccardo Muti at La Scala. In 1996 he appeared at the Metropolitan, again as Belcore, and in San Francisco in 1997 as Debussy's Pelléas. He made a strong impression singing the title role in a revival of Ambroise Thomas' once ubiquitous opera Hamlet, one of the few late Romantic operas wherein the title role is for a baritone. He was praised for having captured the inward struggle of Shakespeare's most complex protagonist.
He has since appeared in Paris (Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Guglielmo in Così fan tutte), at La Scala in Milan (Count Almaviva) in Le Nozze di Figaro led by Muti. The San Francisco Opera provided his U.S. opera debut in 1993. He also worked in Sydney and Berlin (title role, Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Geneva (title role, Hamlet), Ferrara (title role of Don Giovanni) under Claudio Abbado, and at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (Marcello in La Bohème) under Bernard Haitink, as well as Guglielmo, Belcore and Count Almaviva. He also returned to La Scala (Die Zauberflöte, Gluck's Armide) and to Paris (Dandini in La Cenerentola, Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades), and in 2000 made his Vienna State Opera debut (La Bohème), and sings the title role of Monteverdi's Orfeo in Brussels.
He joined the "authentic performances" movement in opera in 1998-1999, when he toured with conductor Rene Jacobs as Monteverdi's Orfeo. Other acclaimed roles are Yeletsky (Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades), Mercutio (Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Wolfram, Dandini (Rossini's La Cenerentola), and Ned Keene (Britten's Peter Grimes).
He frequently appears on the concert stage with such orchestras and conductors as the Israel Philharmonic under Mehta, The Chamber Orchestra of Europe the Berlin Philharmonic with Abbado, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Rattle, the London Symphony Orchestra led by Davis, and with Boulez and the Vienna Philharmonic. He has sung recitals in the leading European cities and festivals, and in New York.
On recordings, he has sung the parts of Don Giovanni and Ned Keene. For the Hyperion label he was selected to sing five volumes of their remarkable project to record the complete Lieder of Franz Schubert, and also recorded a two-disc set of Robert Schumann songs, the complete Odes and Welcome Songs of Purcell, a role in Chabrier's incomplete opera Briseis, the Duruflé Requiem, and the complete Purcell realizations by Benjamin Britten. Furthermore, both the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Critics Circle named him Singer of the Year in 1995.