Anthony Rolfe Johnson

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Anthony Rolfe Johnson, CBE (born 5 November 1940; died 21 July 2010) was an English operatic tenor. He was especially famous for singing the music of Monteverdi, Mozart and Benjamin Britten. He sang many of the operatic roles which Britten had written for Peter Pears to sing.

Life[change | change source]

Anthony Rolfe Johnson was born in Tackley in Oxfordshire. When he was a child he enjoyed singing, but did not think of taking it up as a career. He started to work in farm management. Then, in his late twenties, he decided to study singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He started his singing career by singing in operas in the chorus and in small roles at the Glyndebourne Festival between 1972 and 1976. His first big operatic part was Vaudémont in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanthe in 1973 with the English Opera Group. Then he sang the part of Albert Herring in Britten’s opera.

In 1978 he joined English National Opera. He sang several roles in Mozart and Monteverdi operas, then he sang the Male Chorus (a solo part) in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Aschenbach in Death in Venice. Later he sang the title role in Peter Grimes. He sang in opera houses all over the world, including including the English National Opera, Royal Opera House, La Monnaie in Brussels, La Scala, Milan, the Metropolitan Opera, New York, the Vienna State Opera, and the Paris Opera.

Rolfe Johnson sang other music besides operas. He sang in several oratorios, and he sang the role of Evangelist in J. S. Bach's St John Passion and St Matthew Passion, as well as in Britten’s War Requiem. He also sang on the concert platform, and he gave recitals of Lieder. He helped to found a group called “The Songmakers’ Almanac” who sang classical songs. .

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992.

He died of Alzheimer's disease on 21 July 2010.

References[change | change source]

  • ”Anthony Rolfe Johnson” – obituary in The Independent, 29 July 2010 viewspaper p. 9