Kirkop’s debut (in Cav. Rusticana) took place at the Radio City Opera
House, Hamrun, in 1945. Following this, he sang in a staggering
60 roles during the next 5 years, in Malta and Italy.
During 1949-50 he performed with such as Caniglia and Gobbi in
concerts in Italy. In the 1950s he began to accept invitations
from Covent Garden (“Boheme” and “Rigoletto”), the BBC, and in
USA (Hollywood Bowl concerts). This last move presented him with a
role in Paramount’s “The Vagabond King” (1956) with Kathryn Grayson
(directed by Michael Curtis). The NBC Opera Company appointed him as
one of its leading tenors (1957) with whom he travelled the country,
and one consequence of this link was the TV film (1958) of “Rigoletto”
with Kirkop as the Duke of Mantua (with Igor Gorin as an excellent
Rigoletto) for which he had the ability, looks and bearing.
He retired in 1960.|
The voice is warm, smooth (occasionally reminiscent of Bergonzi / Sullivan / Melton),
with a Mediterranean enthusiasm. He uses a few aspirates to get by,
alongside good breath control, intonation and diction. One of his
best features is the ability and readiness to fine down the voice at
the end of phrases. The low end of his voice is well founded;
the top range exists.
Whilst one may include him in the ‘Class B’ listing, he can produce
startling performances (e.g. ‘Vesti la giubba’, ‘O dolce mani’)
that compete with the best; ‘pirated’ examples of Kirkop in
‘Boheme’ show excellent acting with others, much vocal shading and
delightful use of words.
He never sounds as though he is just ‘going through the motions’.
A tenor worth hearing.
Keith A. Shilcock