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Watch: John Tomlinson on his approach to performance

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

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

26 February 2014 at 5.24pm | Comment on this article

Legendary operatic bass John Tomlinson recently gave a vocal masterclass to an ROH Insights audience.

‘The most beautiful [performance] is the most simple, the most natural, and the most human; but that takes a lot of strength and experience,’ John told presenter Suzy Klein of his approach to performance, during the interview that followed the session.

‘Nobody is perfect. Ideally you need to have perfect fluency in the language, a perfect vocal technique, a wonderful theatrical presence and acting ability, and great musicality with your ears wide open so that you’re not just singing notes – you’re singing notes which are in the chord. You have to tune into the chord in the orchestra. If you sing a B-flat, every B-flat is slightly different.’

John came from a musical family and realized very young that he was in possession of an incredible voice: ‘I was made aware of it by my school friends in assembly. We used to sing hymns in those days. Everybody looked and said, “My God, what is that noise!?”. I’m the youngest of five and they all sang at the piano every evening. I was the littlest, so I had to make a louder noise than everyone else!’

The bass also spoke of the importance of language coaching, particularly his idiomatic grasp of German, which has informed his acclaimed Wagner performances over the years, marrying to stunning effect with the composer’s musical intentions: ‘You’re learning all the time. It’s all about naturalness. Every vowel should be natural. Simplicity and purity are very important in the projection of the voice. If you’re not quite singing the right vowel it will be lost.’

John Tomlinson will perform in WNO’s Moses und Aron at Covent Garden on 25 and 26 July 2014. General booking opens on 8 April 2014.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

26 February 2014 at 5.24pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged advice, by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, John Tomlinson, Moses und Aron, Production, singer, singing, vocal

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