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John Tomlinson



British bass John Tomlinson sings Doctor (Wozzeck) for The Royal Opera in the 2013/14 Season. In the 2012/13 Season, Tomlinson celebrated 35 years performing with The Royal Opera. His recent roles for the Company have included The Minotaur, Hunding and Hagen (Der Ring des Nibelungen), Veit Pogner (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, following his many acclaimed performances as Hans Sachs), General (The Gambler), King Marke (Tristan und Isolde) and Gurnemanz (Parsifal).

Born in Lancashire, Tomlinson read civil engineering at Manchester University and studied singing at the Royal Northern College of Music. He made his Bayreuth Festival debut in 1988 as Wotan (Der Ring des Nibelungen) under Barenboim, and sang at Bayreuth every year from 1988 to 2006. He has sung for English National Opera, at most of the leading opera houses in Europe, for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and for the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Munich and Glyndebourne festivals. Along with the main Wagner roles for bass and bass-baritone, his repertory has included Boris Godunov, Bluebeard, Baron Ochs (Der Rosenkavalier), Golaud (Pelléas et Mélisande), Claggart (Billy Budd), Philip II and the Grand Inquisitor (Don Carlo), Méphistophélès (Faust), the four villains (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Boris Ismailov (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) and Moses (Moses und Aron). He created the roles of Green Knight (Gawain) and The Minotaur for Harrison Birtwistle at The Royal Opera.

Tomlinson’s discography includes CDs of works by Handel, Mozart, Wagner and Stravinsky and DVDs of The Minotaur, Parsifal and Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Upcoming productions

  • Moses und Aron

    Cast as Moses

    Welsh National Opera perform Schoenberg's unfinished masterpiece.

  • Tristan und Isolde

    Cast as King Marke

    Christof Loy brings intense insight to Wagner’s story of illicit love, told through music of thrilling power.


News and features

  1. Watch: John Tomlinson on his approach to performance

    Watch: John Tomlinson on his approach to performance

    The British bass gives a masterclass on the nuances of the human voice.

  2. Watch: Insights into Parsifal

    Watch: Insights into Parsifal

    A masterclass from legendary Wagnerian John Tomlinson, a musical introduction from Antonio Pappano, and the creative team on their production.

  3. Your reaction: Wozzeck

    Your reaction: Wozzeck

    What did you think of Keith Warner's production of Alban Berg's dark and tragic opera?

  4. Watch: Ryan Wigglesworth on The Minotaur

    Watch: Ryan Wigglesworth on The Minotaur

    The British conductor and composer speaks about Harrison Birtwistle's mythical opera.

  5. Q&A: John Tomlinson

    Q&A: John Tomlinson

    The legendary operatic bass answers your questions on Wagner, what inspires him, and the pressures of opera.

  6. The Minotaur: A thrilling sonic labyrinth

    The Minotaur: A thrilling sonic labyrinth

    Harrison Birtwistle's operatic take on the Ancient Greek myth returns to The Royal Opera.