Bell toured Israel in 1961 and the USSR in 1963. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1959, sang with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein 28 Sep 1962 in the inaugural concert of Lincoln Center's Philharmonic (Avery Fisher) Hall, and appeared there in 1963 in a concert performance of Strauss' Intermezzo with the Concert Opera Society. He took up European residence in 1964 to fulfil a three-year contract with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. There he sang leading roles in operas of Mozart (Don Giovanni, Almaviva), Wagner (Wolfram, Amfortas, Kurwenal), and Gounod (Méphistophélès). He also appeared with other European opera companies and orchestras under the direction of Krips, Sawallisch, Barbirolli, Klemperer, Knappertsbusch, and others.
Bell sang most of the standard recital, oratorio, and opera repertoire. Noted for his proficiency in contemporary music, Bell was Alfred in the 1973 British premiere of Von Einem's The Visit of the Old Lady at the Glyndebourne Festival and Catiline in the premiere in 1974 of Iain Hamilton's The Catiline Conspiracy at the Scottish Opera. He also sang the title role in the 1969 British premiere of Dallapiccola's Ulisse on the BBC, and sang in 1974 in a BBC Symphony Orchestra performance of Henze's Der Vorwurf conducted by the composer. Also in 1974 he sang Schafer's cantata Brébeuf with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In 1975 he made a second tour of the USSR under the auspices of the Canada Council. His 1976 recording of Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King for Dutch television was repeatedly broadcast in Europe (although it was never shown in Canada). Bell sang its Canadian premiere in 1974 at the Vancouver New Music Festival and performed it many times under the composer's direction in Europe and on a 1980 Australian tour with the composer's ensemble The Fires of London.
Bell sang in concert with all the major Canadian orchestras. He returned to Canada to live in 1976 and settled in Ottawa in 1977 as Community Artist at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa on grants from the Canada Council, including funds which enabled him to spend September 1977 in Newfoundland studying folk songs. He was the Prince in the premiere (Guelph Spring Festival 1977) of Derek Healey's Seabird Island, and the First Soldier in the premiere (Toronto 1977) of Harry Somers' Death of Enkidu. In 1982 Bell began teaching voice at the University of Calgary; he was made full professor in 1991, and continued to teach there as of 2003. He sang in COMUS Music Theatre's 1983 production of Schafer's Ra and in the Calgary Philharmonic's 1987 performance of Gregory Levin's Spiral Staircase. In 1988 he sang Applebaum's Inunit and Fleming's Our Mind Was the Singer with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and premiered Quenten Doolittle's Hornby Songs for the Calgary New Music Society. In the 1990s, in addition to performing, he regularly gave master classes and adjudicated for music festivals and other competitions.
Bell formally retired as a performer in 1994, but continued to sing occasionally in Calgary. At the University of Calgary, Bell conducted research into such pedagogical issues as vocal acoustics and laryngeal function, and was a founder of the Vocal Arts Acoustical Research Group.
Author Harvey Chusid, Betty Nygaard King
Bach St Matthew Passion. Collegiate Chorale, Transfiguration Church Boys' Choir, New York Phil, Bernstein conductor. 1962. 3-Col Master M3S-692
Beethoven Songs. Newmark piano. (1962). RCI 200
- Symphony No 9. BBC Chor, London SO, Krips conductor. 1960. 8-Everest London Festival Ed SDBR-6065/Everest 3110/6-SONIA Classic CD-74901/5-Bescol CD-9
- Symphony No 9. Cleveland O and Chor, Szell conductor. 1961. 2-Epic BSC-112/7-Epic BSC-150/CBS Odyssey MBK-42532 (CD)
- Symphony No 9. Rotterdam Tonkunst Choir, Rotterdam Phil O, Fournet conductor. (1975). 2-Living Library LL-501
Donald Bell and Charles Foreman. Beckwith Four Love Songs-Johnston Folk Love Canadian Style- Schumann Dichterliebe. Foreman piano. 1991. UC-CD9101 Unical
Bissell Folk Songs of Canada: Six Maritime Folk Songs from sets 1 and 2. Helmer piano. 1971. CBC SM-168
Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, Opus 52. Vronsky piano, Babin piano.1959. Cap SG-7189/Sera S-60033
First Performance, Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts: Beethoven Missa Solemnis 'Gloria' - Vaughan Williams - Mahler. New York Phil, Bernstein conductor. 1962. 2-Col Legacy L2S-1008
Fleming - Dargomiszhsky - Tosti. Bartlett piano. 1972. CBC SM-259
Haydn - Barber - Beckwith - Beethoven. Newmark piano. 1969. CBC SM-111
Herrmann Wuthering Heights. Elizabethan Singers, Pro Arte O, Herrmann conductor, Bell bar (Heathcliff). 1964. 4-Unicorn UNB-400/4-Pye CSCL-30173
Purcell - Strauss - Mussorgsky. Newmark piano. Ca 1967. CBC SM-33
Scarlatti - Monteverdi - et al. Newmark piano. 1968. CBC SM-87/A of D SDD-2161
Serenade: Donald Bell Sings Schubert and Loewe. J. Wustman piano. 1961. Col Master MS-6343
Stainer The Crucifixion. Leeds Phil Choir, Bardgett conductor. 1961. Angel S-35984/EMI SRS-5154
Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music. New York Phil, Bernstein conductor. 1962. Col MS-7177
Wagner Die Meistersinger. Bayreuth Fest O and Chor, Leinsdorf conductor, Bell (Night Watchman). 1959. 5-Melodram MEL-592
Walton Belshazzar's Feast. Philharmonia O and Chor, Walton conductor. 1958. Angel S-35681/EMI SXLP-30236/3-EMI HMV SLS-5246
Thompson, Leslie. 'Donald Bell - a stranger at home,' Music, Jun 1981
Dawson, Eric. 'Canadian baritone bids tuneful farewell,' Calgary Herald, 18 Sep 1994
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