Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Bryn Terfel

LONDON — As a world-famous bass-baritone, he won't exactly be leaving on a high note.

But Welshman Bryn Terfel may retire from the opera in three or four years, the singer suggested in an interview published Thursday, saying his voice was as polished as it was ever going to be.

Terfel, 42, was quoted as telling the Daily Telegraph that he wanted to be applauded for his performances, not for how he used to sing.

"This is the best time for the voice," Terfel was quoted as saying. "But I've always set 45, 46 as a kind of denouement to my career. I've sung with some glorious singers and sometimes you applaud them for things they've done in the past instead of living that moment of what you've just heard. I don't want to fall into that category."

Terfel rose to prominence after winning the Lieder Prize in the 1989 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and is especially well-known for his sonorous renditions of Figaro and Falstaff.

He was honored by the British queen in 2003 for services to opera and was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music in 2006, but he shocked the Royal Opera in London when he pulled out of what was due to have been his first performance in Wagner's complete Ring cycle last year.

He cited a "particularly stressful family situation" — a son's finger had been severely injured — for dropping the highly anticipated show.

Although The Telegraph reported that Terfel had already dropped Salzburg and Chicago from his schedule, fans in New York may still be able to catch him before he draws the curtain on his operatic career. Terfel said he can't wait to tackle the Metropolitan Opera's production of the Ring cycle, which begins opening in 2010 and won't be performed fully until 2013.

An e-mail and phone call placed with Terfel's agent was not immediately returned late Thursday.