December 09, 1996 12:00 PM

A’r rhyw noswaith hyfryd Hwyrach weld rhyw dieithryn…

THAT WAS HOW BRYN TERFEL SANG the song as a lad in his native Wales. These days, the opera star’s rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” has no less of his famous Welsh zest but a bit more accessibility. Terfel performs the song—and 19 other Rodgers and Hammerstein show tunes—in English on his new CD, Something Wonderful. “I wanted to sing songs that people could react to, that would make them laugh or cry,” says Terfel, 31. “They hit the spot.”

And they have enlarged his audience. Since exploding onto the music scene five years ago, Terfel (pronounced Tair-vel) has become the most sought after bass baritone in opera, performing alongside superstar tenors like Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. Still, popular music did pose its challenges, and veteran Broadway conductor Peter Howard, who helped teach Terfel the songs on the new CD, had to contend with the Welshman’s penchant for rolled r’s. At first, says Howard, “Bryn sang, ‘Don’t you hurrrry with the surrrry with the frrrringe on top,’ and we went over it and over it. But he has a remarkable ear and eventually got it just right.”

Terfel’s ear for music developed early on his family’s sheep farm in tiny Pantglas, Wales. By 3, he was performing in local singing contests, and at 18, he won a scholarship to London’s Guildhall School of Music. Terfel still keeps an apartment in London with his wife, Lesley, 30, and their 2-year-old son Tomos. But it is to their home near Pantglas that the 6’3″ singer goes to put his fame in perspective. “When I go back to Pantglas,” he says, “they wouldn’t accept me if I changed. And if they won’t accept me, nobody else will.”

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