University of Cambridge

The combination of word and music, whether in the genre of song, opera, or sacred and secular choral repertoires, has for centuries been a vehicle for some of humanity’s most profound aesthetic experiences as well as a topic of enduring scholarly fascination.

The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Vocal Music provides an unparalleled opportunity for world-ranking figures to explore, through lectures, masterclasses, colloquia and performances, the many facets of vocal art.

The Visiting Professorship in Vocal Music has been made possible by the generous support of the Mercedes T Bass Charitable Foundation, and is hosted by King’s College, Cambridge.

Sir John Tomlinson 2014-2015

Sir John Tomlinson is an English bass who has sung with all the major British opera companies. For sixteen years was a fixture at Bayreuth, where he performed leading roles in each of Wagner‘s epic works.

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.

As the inaugural Visiting Professor  in Vocal Studies, Sir John began with a recital entitled Michelangelo in SongAccompanied by David Owen Norris, Tomlinson presented aspects of Michelangelo’s poetry through the work of three composers; BrittenWolf and Shostakovich. In the second event of the series, Sir John was joined by the Wagnerian, Patrick Carnegy to discuss the role of Wotan, during which he sang a selection of musical episodes to illustrate the character arc of Wotan’s journey through the Ring.

Tomlinson concluded his series with a discussion on The Construction of the Role of the Minotaur. For this event he was joined by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, a composer with whom he has worked with on many occasions. In addition, their conversation was chaired by Professor Jonathan Cross, who quizzed Birtwistle on the reasons he chose Tomlinson to be the lead in his operas The Minotaur and Gawain.


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