Operatic bass John Tomlinson speaks to Suzy Klein about what makes his voice special, how he prepares for a role and looks back over his career to date.
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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.