The story of singer Paul Frey's entry into the world of music is the sort that should inspire almost anyone who has ever felt even the hint of a notion about exploring a hidden talent. Born in Heidelberg, Ontario, in 1941 to a Mennonite family, he sang in a church quartet as a boy, but even with the encouragement of his teachers to pursue music, he followed a more conventional path for his life -- he made a living driving a truck, eventually owning his own company, and also played hockey. As he told the story in a film by Werner Herzog, there came a point in the early '70s where Frey fractured his hip during a game and found himself laid up for weeks. During that time, a friend gave him a Mario Lanza record to listen to, almost as a gag gift; instead, Frey was fascinated enough by the late screen legend's singing that a whole new chapter in his life opened up. Where his musical boundaries as an adult had previously been described by the work of Elvis Presley, he suddenly became fascinated by opera. He took up serious voice study, sold his trucking company, and earned a scholarship to the University of Toronto Opera School. He took the music courses he needed to fill the gaps in his education, and in 1976 was engaged to sing Werther opposite Maureen Forrester in a concert production. Two years later, he made his formal operatic debut singing Werther at the Stadttheater Basel, Switzerland; he also sang Fidelio and The Bartered Bride that year, in what became a long-term engagement. And in 1985, he was first offered the chance to sing Lohengrin at Bayreuth, which he declined because of his obligations to the Basel company. A year later, however, he replaced an indisposed Peter Hoffmann as Lohengrin at Mannheim, where he was heard by Wolfgang Wagner, who engaged him to sing at Bayreuth, where he made his debut in 1987. He later repeated the role in subsequent years, including two productions under Werner Herzog. That same year, in addition to working at all of the major opera houses in Europe, Frey made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Bacchus in Ariadne Auf Naxos; a year later he replaced Plácido Domingo as Lohengrin at Covent Garden. Most of Frey's career has been spent in Europe, and he resided in Switzerland since the 1970s. In addition to essaying numerous established roles appropriate to his heldentenor range, he has also had the relatively rare chance, in the modern musical world, to create an operatic role as Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the 1994 Berlin premiere of Jost Meier and George R. Whyte's The Alfred Dreyfus Affair.
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