John Tomlinson


John Tomlinson

Born in Accrington in 1946, John Tomlinson read Civil Engineering at Manchester University before studying voice at the Royal Manchester College of Music and with Otakar Kraus. He made his professional debut as a chorister at Glyndebourne in 1970 and initially made his name as a Handel singer, working regularly with Trevor Pinnock and John Eliot Gardiner among others. It is as a Wagnerian, however, that Tomlinson is best known today: after exploring bass roles such as Fafner, Hunding and King mark with Reginald Goodall, he made his debut at Bayreuth in 1988 and sang there for 18 consecutives seasons, most famously as Wotan in the Barenboim Ring Cycle.

His non-Wagnerian repertoire includes Baron Ochs, Bluebeard, Claggart and Boris Godunov and he has created numerous roles in contemporary operas, most notably the title-roles in Birtwistle's The Minotaur and Gawain. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1997 for his services to music and was knighted in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

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Wagner: Die Walküre: Act 1

Wagner: Die Walküre: Act 1

René Kollo (Siegmund), Eva-Maria Bundschuh (Sieglinde) & John Tomlinson (Hunding)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Klaus Tennstedt

This recording features former Principal Conductor and Music Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the late Klaus Tennstedt, whose tenure with the LPO was characterised by his specialism in German repertoire.

Released from the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s archives for the first time, Wagner’s Die Walküre is one of the world’s most popular operas. Heard here, Act 1 is often performed alone in concert; it is a rich concentration of human love, loyalty and blood ties, packed full of thrilling music, revealing Wagner’s assured grasp of orchestral colouring and musical opulence.

This concert performance is vividly brought to life by Klaus Tennstedt and three of the greatest exponents of these roles in recent times – René Kollo, Eva-Maria Bundschuh and John Tomlinson.

The three soloists featured on this release are especially known for their Wagnerian roles; René Kollo sang Erik in The Flying Dutchman at Bayreuth in 1970; Eva-Maria Bundschuh also sang roles from Senta in The Flying Dutchman through to Venus in Tannhäuser. John Tomlinson performed for eighteen consecutive seasons at the festivals of Bayreuth.

This recording marks the sixteenth release with Klaus Tennstedt on the LPO Label since it was established in 2005; his first was a 1992 recording of orchestral excerpts from Wagner operas released in May 2005.

This recording is taken from live concert performances at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall on 7 and 10 October 1991.

“this 1991 concert performance still sweeps you away, such is the beauty of the LPO’s playing, and such is Tennstedt’s command of dynamics and passionate engagement with Wagner’s music at the zenith of its mastery.” Sunday Times, 6th November 2016

“The chief cause of ecstasy is the inspired playing of the LPO, whose intensity is electrifying: the opening storm is enough to show what we can expect, and despite the broad tempos – this is one of the slowest performances I have heard – tension doesn’t resolve until the last off-beat chord” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016 ****

“Kollo, Bundschuh and Tomlinson, if not ideal, catch the excitement of Tennstedt’s conducting in this 1991 live recording.” The Times, December 2016

“The secret of this long-lost performance lies in its casting: three singers who, together with their conductor, are compelling storytellers in music…Tennstedt makes sure that everyone playing or singing is given cannily judged musical time. His phrasing is both attentive to the drama and in parts spaciously luxuriant, although a forward pulse is never lacking…a well-worked triumph for its intelligent and experienced performers” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“Tennstedt certainly gives it a compelling sense of sweep and cohesiveness in an account that is distinguished by a refreshing lyrical generosity and some fabulous playing from the LPO.” Opera, January 2017

“Tennstedt conjures an intensity and concentration from his devoted players that belies the physical challenges he was facing. Recommended.” Classical Music, December 2016 *****

“It is a unique example of Tennstedt’s way with a complete act of Wagner, and as such it is indispensable.” MusicWeb International, 14th February 2017

LPO - LPO0092



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Michelangelo in Song

Michelangelo in Song


Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22

transposed for bass voice by David Owen Norris


Suite on verses by Michelangelo Buonarroti, for bass & piano, Op. 145

Wolf, H:

Songs (3) on poems by Michelangelo Buonarroti

When the name of Michelangelo comes up in conversation it is usually in connection with such undisputed masterpieces as the statue of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (the original now in the Accademia gallery), or the legendary ceiling dome of the Sistine Chapel at the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. What fewer people might know is that Michelangelo also wrote a great number of poems, including madrigals and sonnets, some of which were set to music by such illustrious composers as Benjamin Britten, Hugo Wolf, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

The internationally acclaimed bass Sir John Tomlinson and pianist David Owen Norris have performed these songs at their Michelangelo evenings on many occasions. At these events the sixteenth-century Michelangelo is portrayed by Tomlinson in updated form, as a nineteenth-century painter in his workshop, looking over his old papers and poems, and reliving each one in turn. The singer explains that the idea was inspired in part by his many years of playing historical characters on the opera stage, and partly by his seeing, at a London exhibition in 2010, the actual pieces of paper upon which the sculptor himself had written out some of his poems – an encounter he describes as ‘Extraordinary!’

Shostakovich felt strongly that Michelangelo’s poetry transcended its Italian roots to have a universal appeal, and that it embraced ‘profound philosophical ideas, humanism, and penetrating reflections of love and art’. For the Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti, the composer selected eight of Michelangelo’s sonnets and three other poems, all in Russian translations, covering the principal subject areas of wisdom, love, creativity, death, and immortality.

The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo was the first song-cycle that Britten composed specifically with the voice of his partner, Peter Pears, in mind. At the time, Britten was consciously broadening his musical horizons in an attempt to free himself from his English roots. He did this in part by setting foreign-language text to music. The resulting love songs recorded here are passionate, ecstatic, almost evangelical in tone.

Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo, based on poems about the joy and pain of love and youth, and the brevity of life, were among the last compositions written by Hugo Wolf, before his descent into mental illness. He had originally envisioned that these settings would become the beginning of a large-scale portrait of the poet, but sadly this project never materialised.

“With the experience of a long operatic career, and a voice still richly intact if understandably at times a little weathered, Tomlinson brings drama and wisdom to the feelings expressed here.” The Observer, 8th September 2013

“a sort of King Lear-style meeting of voice and repertoire, especially in the Wolf and Shostakovich cycles...Rhetorical moments go fairly well, the Wolf songs having particular authority.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2013

“Few basses have the right inky-black colour [Shostakovich] imagined...Tomlinson does, and he chills the soul...Owen Norris, sometimes overpedalling in the earlier songs, brings a special focus to extraordinary accompniments...The sound captures the velvet that still sometimes envelops the wear and tear of his voice.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 ****

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Handel: Hercules

Handel: Hercules

John Tomlinson (Hercules), Sarah Walker (Dejanira), Anthony Rolfe-Johnson (Hyllus), Catherine Denley (Lichas), Jennifer Smith (Iole), Peter Savidge (Priest of Jupiter)

Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner

Full-tracklists and synopses in English, German and French

“By any standards the performances are highly professional and immensely skilful, directed with great spirit, played with excellent discipline on period instruments, sung with vigour and feeling by chorus and soloists alike...Sarah Walker's noble interpretation of Dejanira dominates the set, sung with power, intense but unexaggerated feeling, sure technique, high intelligence.” Gramophone Magazine, June 1983

“Gardiner's vital performance of Hercules, using authentic forces, conveys superbly the vigour of the writing, its natural drama; and the fire of this performance is typified by the outstanding singing of Sarah Walker as Dejanira...Refined playing and outstanding recording quality make this extremely welcome at mid-price.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

DG Archiv Opera! - 4779112

(CD - 2 discs)


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Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on the 25th & 30th April and 3rd May 2008.

John Tomlinson (The Minotaur), Johan Reuter (Theseus), Christine Rice (Ariadne), Andrew Watts (Snake Priestess), Philip Langridge (Hiereus), Amanda Echalaz (Ker), Rebecca Bottone, Pumeza Matshikiza, Wendy Dawn Thompson, Christopher Ainslie, Tim Mead (Innocents)

The Royal Opera Chorus & The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Antonio Pappano (conductor) & Stephen Langridge (stage director)

This world premiere of a gripping new work by composer Harrison Birtwistle and librettist David Harsent, commissioned by The Royal Opera, brings the monstrous, Greek mythological character to the stage. John Tomlinson stars as the Minotaur, part man, part beast, trapped in his labyrinth and constrained by his bloodthirsty role there, longs to discover his true identity and his own voice. Athens must pay a blood sacrifice to Crete and among the innocents is Theseus, who has come to challenge the violent Minotaur, but who also attracts the attention of Ariadne, half-sister and keeper of the monster; it is with her help he succeeds. Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.

‘Thanks to a superb cast and impeccable playing under Antonio Pappano, the evening is a glittering success. …what Birtwistle has done is give us one opera inside another. The outer one is strident and earthbound; the inner one – ending with the Minotaur's Caliban-like dying aria – burns with visionary fire.’ The Independent

Extra features:

Documentary: ‘Myth is universal'.

Illustrated synopsis & cast gallery.

Running time 175 mins

Region code All regions

Video codec: AVC/MPEG-4

Disc size: BD50

Picture format 1080i High Definition / 16:9

Sound format 2.0 & 5.0 PCM (TBC)

Menu language EN

Subtitles EN/FR/DE/ES/IT

“This opera, premiered at the Royal Opera last April, seems to me to be a masterpiece, of the kind that one feels the greatness of before one has a complete understanding of it. …the Minotaur is a terrifying and pained figure. This performance is the climax of John Tomlinson's career, in a part written with his huge, gravelly voice in mind. The other compelling figure is Ariadne... Christine Rice, bearing the weight of exposition and of suffering, uses her wonderfully rich mezzo to stunning effect.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2008 *****

“The filming reinforces the strengths of Stephen Langridge's tightly controlled, potently expressive production in an economical yet atmospheric setting, with the whole ensemble totally engaged in the drama's dark enterprise. Repeated hearings underline that, in the end, this tragedy is the more convincing for the way its turn towards pathos does not involve any false consolation.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2009

“Birtwistle's latest large-scale music drama, written for Covent Garden, is a quite different experience on DVD: what might have been planned by composer and stage director to be witnessed from a distance is shown in unsparing close-up. But this seething, monumental reinvention of one of the most disquieting Greek myths – with a pithy libretto by David Harsent – is neither betrayed nor diminished by this excellent film. Only in its final stages does the opera's focus shift decisively to the doomed Minotaur from the scheming Ariadne, and the drama's most essential point is that this Ariadne – as different from Strauss's as Birtwistle's Orpheus is different from Gluck's – is in her own way as much of a monster as the half-man/half-bull. These demanding roles are projected with maximum musical eloquence by Christine Rice and Sir John Tomlinson, no doubt because – as Rice makes clear in the absorbing 30-minute documentary that accompanies the performance – what is demanding is also intensely rewarding to singers prepared to commit themselves to a steep learning curve. Equal commitment is evident in Johan Reuter's Theseus, the conventions of heroic posturing given new depth and relevance in text, music and vocal acting alike. We see little of Antonio Pappano and his orchestra, but the excellent sound never lets us escape the inexorable magnetism of the instrumental continuum.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2009

Finalist - DVD

GGramophone Magazine

DVD of the Month

Blu-ray Disc

Region: all

Opus Arte Royal Opera House Collection - OABD7052D



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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah

(on authentic instruments)

“One of the freshest and most exciting Messiahs on CD reconciling 'authentic' practice with the work's undoubted scope for grandeur. Superb soloists.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2006 *****

“Pinnock [more than his rivals] balances his period instruments to give a satisfying body to the sound. There is weight too in the singing of the bass soloist, John Tomlinson, firm, dark and powerful, yet marvellously agile in divisions. Arleen Augér's range of tone and dynamic is daringly wide” Penguin Guide, 2010 ****

Early Music

DG Archiv Originals - 4775904

(CD - 2 discs)

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Mozart: The Magic Flute

Mozart: The Magic Flute


Die Zauberflöte, K620

Sung in English (translation by Jeremy Sams)

Barry Banks (Tamino), Rebecca Evans (Pamina), Elizabeth Vidal (Queen of the Night), Simon Keenlyside (Papageno), John Tomlinson (Sarastro), Majella Cullagh (First Lady), Sarah Fox (Second Lady), Diana Montague (Third Lady), Lesley Garrett (Papagena), John Graham-Hall (Monostatos)

Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, New London Children’s Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras

“No work makes better sense in the vernacular than Mozart's concluding masterpiece. The composer and, assuredly, Schikaneder would have approved of giving the work in the language of the listeners, and when you have to hand such a witty, well-worded translation as that of Jeremy Sams, it makes even better sense. Sir Charles Mackerras has always been an advocate of opera in English when the circumstances are right.
As ever, he proves himself a loving and perceptive Mozartian. Throughout he wonderfully contrasts the warmth and sensuousness of the music for the good characters with the fire and fury of the baddies, and he persuades the LPO to play with a lightness and promptness that's wholly enchanting, quite the equal of most bands on the other available versions.
In no way is his interpretation here inferior to his German one on Telarc; indeed, in the central roles of Tamino and Pamina the casting for Chandos is an improvement, and Keenlyside is fully the equal of Thomas Allen on the Telarc set. Keenlyside's loveable, slightly sad, very human and perfectly sung Papageno is at the centre of things. Rebecca Evans's voice has taken on a new richness without losing any of its focus or delicacy of utterance. Everything she does has sincerity and poise, although her diction might, with advantage, be clearer.
The recording is fine apart from an over-use of thunder and lightning as sound effects. Anyone wanting the work in English needn't hesitate to acquire this set, the first-ever on CD.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Of all repertoire operas, none gains more than The Magic Flute from performance in the language of the audience. Musically, the performance is hard to fault. Articulation is light and buoyant, tempos mobile yet never driven or inflexible, textures sharp and transparent. Rebecca Evans, a richer-toned Pamina than usual, movingly portrays her development from ingénue to woman 'worthy to attain the light'. ...Simon Keenlyside is a marvellous Papageno, innocent, vulnerable and funny without clownishness. Barry Banks... sings a positive, un-wimpish Tamino. With his rugged, rolling bass John Tomlinson creates a formidably imposing yet humane Sarastro, while Elizabeth Vidal atones for some cloudy diction with fiery, bang in-tune performances of the Queen of the Night's arias. ...this new performance, beautifully recorded, with a modicum of well-judged sound effects, catches the work's fairytale wonder, solemnity and fun as fully and delightfully as any, irrespective of language.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2005 *****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2005

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - June 2005

Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3121

(CD - 2 discs)


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Britten: Peter Grimes

Britten: Peter Grimes

Jon Vickers (Peter Grimes), Heather Harper (Ellen Orford), Norman Bailey (Balstrode), Elizabeth Bainbridge (Auntie), John Dobson (Bob Boles), Forbes Robinson (Swallow), Patricia Payne (Mrs Sedley), Phillip Gelling (Ned Keene), John Lanigan (Horace Adams), John Tomlinson (Hobson), Marilyn Hill Smith (First Niece), Anne Pashley (Second Niece)

The Royal Opera, Colin Davis, production by Elijah Moshinsky

“Colin Davis...proves an inspired interpreter, taut in control as well as warmly expressive, drawing vividly atmospheric playing from the orchestra to supplement the brilliantly effective sets, minimal but wonderfully evocative in their dark picture of the Borough.” Penguin Guide, 2010 ***

DVD Video

Region: 2,3,4,5

Format: NTSC

Warner Classics Warner Vision - 0630169132

(DVD Video)


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Bartók: The Wooden Prince & Cantata Profana

Bartók: The Wooden Prince & Cantata Profana


Cantata Profana 'The Nine Enchanted Stags', BB 100, Sz. 94

John Aler (tenor), John Tomlinson (baritone)

Chicago Symphony Chorus

The Wooden Prince

Presto CD

DG - 4358632

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Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Sung in English (translation by David Lloyd-Jones)

John Tomlinson (Boris), Stuart Kale (Prince Shuisky), Clive Bayley (Varlaam), Joan Rodgers (Xenia), Susan Parry (Feodor), Yvonne Howard (Old Nurse), Matthew Best (Pimen)

Opera North Chorus, English Northern Philharmonia, Paul Daniel

“John Tomlinson has made the part of Boris his own, and this generous, 75-minute selection of excerpts from Boris Godunov is highly recommendable, even when compared with current Russian versions of Mussorgsky's masterpiece.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3007



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100 Best Relaxing Classics

100 Best Relaxing Classics

Various Artists (musicians), Hélène Grimaud (piano), Stephen Kovacevich (piano), Andrew Keener (producer), Steven Isserlis (cello), Mike Clements (tonmeister), Leif Ove Andsnes (piano), Katharine Copisarow (executive producer), Simon Rhodes (tonmeister), Yuri Egorov, David R. Murray (producer), Youri Egorov (piano), Mark Vigars (tonmeister), Andrew Swinnerton (oboe), Christiane Baumann (soprano vocals), Paavo Järvi, National Male Choir of Estonia (vocals), Camilla Tilling (soprano vocals), Alexandre Tharaud (piano), François Eckert (producer), Gerard Lesne (counter-tenor vocals), Giovanni Scaramuzzino (mandolin), Nicolas Bartholomee (producer), John Aler (tenor vocals), Hans Richter-Haaser (piano), Choeur de l'Orchestre de Paris (chorus), Samson François (piano), François-René Duchâble (piano), Veronique Gens (soprano vocals), Bernarda Fink (contralto vocals), Mikhail Pletnev (piano), Nikolai Lugansky (piano), Wilhelm Hellweg (producer), Jean Chatauret (engineer), Diana Damrau (soprano vocals), Daniel Barenboim (piano), Suvi Raj Grubb (producer), Johann Nikolaus Matthes (tonmeister), Anne Queffélec, John West (producer), Anne Queffelec (piano), Jacqueline du Pré (cello), Ronald Kinloch Anderson (producer), Ronald Kinloch Anderson (produced by), Sir John Barbirolli (lead vocals), Jacqueline Du Pre (lead vocals), London Symphony Orchestra (lead vocals), Maria Callas (soprano vocals), Michel Plasson (vocals), Jean-Philippe Collard (vocals), Paul Tortelier (cello), Yehudi Menuhin (violin), Sharon Isbin (guitar), Steve Barnett (producer), Mike Hatch (tonmeister), Tasmin Little (violin), Martin Roscoe (piano), Tzimon Barto (piano), Mikhail Rudy (piano), Véronique Gens/Roger Vignoles, Daniel Zalay (producer), Roger Vignoles (piano), Nelson Freire (piano), Kun Woo Paik (piano), Truls Mork (cello), Arne Akselberg (producer), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), Dawn Upshaw (soprano vocals), Barbara Hendricks (vocals), Borodin String Quartet, Misha Milman (cello), Borodin Quartet (string quartet), Christian Zacharias (piano), Michael Stille (producer), Hartwig Paulsen (engineer), Karine Deshayes (mezzo-soprano vocals), Natalie Dessay (soprano vocals), Fabio Biondi (violin), Frédéric Briant (Musica Numeris) (tonmeister), Alain Lanceron (executive producer), John Fraser (producer), Ian Watson (organ), Stuart Eltham (tonmeister), Richard Amner (harpsichord), John Tomlinson (bass vocals), Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano vocals), Lella Cuberli (soprano vocals), Martha Argerich (piano), Michel Legrand (piano), Sally Matthews (soprano vocals), Philharmonische Virtuosen Berlin, Jane Gilchrist (soprano vocals), Simon Gibson (organ), Fergus Thirwell (vocals), Andrew Davis (organ), Delphine Haidan (mezzo-soprano vocals), Etienne Collard (producer), Walter Legge (producer), Dr. Michael Stille (EMI) (producer), Michel Portal (clarinet), Cherubini-Quartett (string quartet), Etiénne Collard (engineer), Boris Berezovsky (piano), Nicholas Angelich (piano), Frédéric Briant (engineer), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Frank Braley (piano), Gautier Capuçon (cello), Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Maxim Vengerov (violin), Itamar Golan (piano), Pierre Laniau (guitar), Sam Landman (vocals), Nicole Tibbels (soprano vocals), Marat Bisengaliev (mezzo-soprano vocals), Catrin Finch (harp), Nikolaj Bloch (guitar), Sally Herbert (violin), Libera (vocals), Robert Prizeman (chorus), Tönu Kaljuste, Paul Schaefer (piano), Peter Rostal (piano), George Martin (produced & engineered by), Chloë Hanslip (violin), David Groves (producer), Tony Harrison (producer), Arne Akselberg (tonmeister), Simon Foster (producer), Sean Lewis (tonmeister), Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano), Jean-Philippe Collard (piano), Bruno Rigutto (piano), Eric Macleod (producer), Tini Mathot (producer), Adriaan Verstijnen (remixer), Adriaan Verstijnen (engineer), Libera (chorus), Ian Tilley (producer), Fiona Pears (violin), Annette Isserlis (production), Guy Johnston (cello), Jo Cole (cello), Simon Woods (producer), Christopher Hooker (oboe), Duke Dobing (flute), Edward Saklatvala (tenor vocals), Thomas Harries (tenor vocals), Simon Kiln (engineer), Aldo Ciccolini (piano), Tim Handley (producer), Jordi Savall (viola da gamba), Ton Koopman (harpsichord), Martin Sauer (producer), Anne Decoville (remixer)

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Gulbenkian Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Il , David Zinman, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Antonio Pappano, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Michel Corboz, Paavo Jarvi, Bernard Labadie, Sir Neville Marriner, Gérard Lesne, Fabio Biondi, Bernard Haitink, Istvan Kertesz, Eugene Ormandy, Nikolaus H

Warner Classics - 2564649731

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