Singers on Singing :
Sir John Tomlinson

Singers on Singing: Sir John Tomlinson

The weight, range, and dynamic impact of Sir John Tomlinson’s voice and the intensity, power and deep intelligence of his vocal and acting characterisation have made him one of the most sought after operatic basses of the last several decades. His huge range of repertoire comprises German, Italian, Russian, French, Hungarian and English roles in operas extending from Cavalli to Birtwistle via Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Strauss, Schoenberg, Offenbach, Massenet, Saint-Saens, Debussy, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Bartók and Britten – just to mention a selection. Starting his stage career at the English National Opera in 1974, he consolidated the basis of a broad early repertoire there before branching out internationally, widening his range of parts further all the time, and making an extremely powerful impression around the world. Some of his most celebrated appearances have been at the Bayreuth Festival where he sang for eighteen consecutive seasons. In particular his Wotan in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen at Bayreuth was historically acclaimed.

In late 2004, he recorded an interview about his life, which commenced in the North of England in 1946, and career, and the following year this was incorporated into a documentary feature about him which was aired as a programme in two parts. The operas he discusses and the recordings that are played as illustrations are listed below.

–Jon Tolansky

Listen to the documentary immediately below (in two parts)


Jon Tolansky

Musical excerpts included in this feature:

  • Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!” from Die Walküre (Wagner)
  • “Die Frist ist um” from Der Fliegende Holländer (Wagner)
  • “Der Wonne seligen Saal” from Das Rheingold (Wagner), with mezzo soprano Linda Finnie
  • “Als junger Liebe” from Die Walküre (Wagner)
  • “Fürchte des Felsens Hüter!” from Siegfried (Wagner), with tenor Siegfried Jerusalem
  • “Hier sitz’ ich zur Wacht” from Götterdämmerung (Wagner) [EMI recording]
  • “Hoiho! Hoihohoho!” from Götterdämmerung (Wagner) [EMI recording]
  • “I heard your honour” from Billy Budd (Britten)
  • “Handsomely done, my lad” from Billy Budd (Britten)
  • “Master-at-Arms and Foretopman” from Billy Budd (Britten), with tenor Philip Langridge and baritone Simon Keenlyside
  • The Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky), with Chorus of Opera North & Choristers of Leeds Parish Church
  • “Skorbit dusha” from Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky), with Chorus of Opera North & Choristers of Leeds Parish Church
  • “Dovol’no” from Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky)
  • “Nyisd ki, Judit” from Bluebeard’s Castle (Bartók), mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter

Related Resources


Singers on Singing: The Performer’s Perspective


Singers on Singing: Sir John Tomlinson discusses Wotan


Singers on Singing: Singing Britten

Part of

Singers on Singing: Great Artists in Conversation