Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Jul 3, 2016

Edward Johnson (Tenor) (August 22, 1878 Guelph, Ontario, Canada † April 20, 1959 Toronto, Canada)

Already as a child he belonged to the "Fife- and- Drum-Band", then he studied piano and sang at the choir in University of Toronto. He began his vocal education with Mrs. von Feilitsch in New York and then went to Europe, where he became a pupil of Vincenzo Lombardi in Florence. In 1908 at the New York Broadway Theatre he sang the part of Niki in the American première of the operetta "Ein Walzertraum" by Oscar Straus. He made his debut in 1912 under the name Edoardo Di Giovanni at the Teatro Verdi in Padua in ‘’Andrea Chénier’’ of U. Giordano. He had a huge success in Italy and was engaged  in 1914 by La Scala, where he also appeared as Folco in P. Masccagni’s ‘’Isabeau’’ and Walter in A. Catalani’s ‘’Loreley’’ (1916). Here he created in 1914 the part of Parsifal in the Italian première. Till 1919 he belonged to the most successful tenors of La Scala. At the Teatro Costanzi of Roma he appeared in 1913 in the premiere of the opera ‘’Uguale Fortuna’’ of Vincenzo Tommasini. He appeared in this time in several other opera premieres: on 20. 3. 1915 at La Scala in ‘’Fedra’’ of I. Pizzetti, in 1914 at the Teatro Costanzi in Roma in "L'ombra di Don Giovanni" of Alfano, on 3. 11. 1918 at La Scala in ‘’La Nave’’ of I. Montemezzi, in 1918 at the Teatro Costanzi in ‘’Maria di Magdala’’ by Vincenzo Michetti. He sang in the Italian première of G. Puccini’s ‘’Gianni Schicchi’’ on 11. 1. 1919 at the Teatro Costanzi in Roma (as Rinuccio). He was successful at the leading Italian operatic stages also as Siegfried and Tannhäuser. In 1916 he made guest appearances at the Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires, in 1917 at the Teatro Real in Madrid. In 1923 he appeared with the British National Opera Company at the Covent Garden as Faust of C. Gounod. In the 1919-1922 seasons he was active at the Chicago Opera, where he made his debut as Loris in ‘’Fedora’’ of U. Giordano. In the 1922-1935 seasons he had a successful career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he made his debut as Avito in ‘’L'Amore dei tre Re’’ of I. Montemezzi. Also here he sang in different opera premieres: on 17. 2. 1927 in "The King's Henchman" and on 7. 2. 1931 in ‘’Peter Ibbetson’’, both of Deems Taylor, on 10. 2. 1934 in ‘’Merry Mount’’ of Howard Hanson; in 1930 he appeared in the première of N. Rimsky-Korssakov’s ‘’Sadko’’. He sang in 1925 the part of Pelléas in C. Debussy’s ‘’Pelléas et Mélisande’’ in the first performance of this opera at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1935, after the sudden death of Herbert Witherspoon, he became general  manager of the Metropolitan Opera. Since 1950 he lived in his hometown Guelph, however, took an interest in the music life of his native country and worked at the University of Toronto lessons. Lit.: R.Mercer: ' The tenor of his time ' (Toronto, in 1976).      

Chronology of some appearances

1912 Padua Teatro Verdi Andrea Chenier (Andrea Chenier)
1913 Roma Teatro Costanzi Uguale Fortuna (Don Piero)
1914 Milano La Scala Parsifal (Parsifal)
1915 Milano La Scala Fedra (Ippolito)
1916 Roma Teatro Costanzi Andrea Chenier (Andrea Chenier)
1917 Roma Opera La Fanciulla del West (Johnson)
1918 Roma Teatro Costanzi La Fanciulla del West (Johnson)
1919 Roma Teatro Costanzi L’Amore dei tre re  (Avito)
1920 Chicago Opera  L’Amore dei tre re  (Avito)


Columbia, Milano 1914
Andrea Chénier (Giordano): Un dì all'azzurro spazio D17537 74743
In a Persian Garden (Lehmann): Ah, moon of my delight 502 74758
O come with me in the summer night (van der Stucken) A1673 42198
Parsifal (Wagner): Il Santo Graal A5630 74741
The garden of sleep (de Lara) 502 74746
Andrea Chénier (Giordano): Sì, fui soldato D17537 74744 

Victor, Camden NJ 1919-11-06
Her bright smile haunts me still (Wrighton) 64839 B23459 

Victor, Camden NJ 1919-11-07
Fanciulla del West (Puccini): Una parola sola AGSB63 C23460 

Victor, Camden NJ 1920-03-05
Fanciulla del West (Puccini): Ch'ella mi creda 64886 B23461 

Victor, Camden NJ 1920-03-06
Because you're here (Rice) 64970 B23760  

Victor, Camden NJ 1920-06-18
Just that one hour (Eville) 64946 B24170
Fedora (Giordano): Amor ti vieta 64905 B24171 

Victor, Camden NJ 1925-04-22
I'll see you in my dreams (Jones) 1087 BVE32533  

Victor, New York 1928-06-07
Lassie o' mine (Walt) 4088 BVE24173
O Canada (Lavallée) (w. male qt: Croxton, Kinsey, Hart & Lawrie) 24005 BVE45612 

Victor, New York 1928-06-08
Louise (Charpentier): Depuis longtemps  9293 CVE45615 

Victor, Camden NJ 1928-06-11
Bohème (Puccini): Che gelida manina 29002 CVE45265
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Vesti la giubba 29002 CVE45266

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