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Tomlinson initially studied civil engineering, graduating BSc from the University of Manchester, before moving to the Royal Northern College of Music, also in Manchester, where he studied singing with Patrick McGuigan. He also studied in London with Otakar Kraus, Rupert Bruce-Lockhart and Moya Joel-Tomlinson, whom he married in 1969.

Between 1970 and 1974 Tomlinson sang at the Glyndebourne Festival in the chorus and in small parts such as The Murderer / Macbeth (1972), the Cameraman / Der Besuch der Alten Dame (1973) and Silvano / La Calisto (1974). In addition during 1971 and 1973 he appeared with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera Company, where his roles included Colline / La Bohème (1972) and Banquo / Macbeth (1973). At the same time he appeared with Kent Opera, singing Seneca / L’incoronazione di Poppea and Leporello / Don Giovanni.

He joined the English National Opera (ENO) in 1974, making his debut as The Monk / Don Carlo. The range of Tomlinson’s roles with ENO was extensive and included Talbot / Maria Stuarda, Sparafucile / Rigoletto, Fiesco / Simon Boccanegra, Padre Guardiano / La forza del destino, Bluebeard / Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, Méphistophélès / Faust, King Mark / Tristan und Isolde, Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Fasolt / Das Rheingold, the four villains / Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Baron Ochs / Der Rosenkavalier. He also sang extensively with ENO’s sister company, Opera North, notably as Philip II / Don Carlo and in the title roles of Boris Godunov and Attila.

Tomlinson’s debut at the Royal Opera House, London came in 1977 as the Fifth Jew / Salome. To date he has sung in excess of 200 performances with the Royal Opera Company, where his major roles have included Wotan / Der Ring des Nibelungen, Hagen / Götterdämmerung, Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Gurnemanz / Parsifal, Borromeo / Palestrina, Timur / Turandot, Don Basilio / Il barbiere di Siviglia, Green Knight / Gawain, Theseus / The Minotaur (both by Birtwistle), King Fisher / The Midsummer Marriage, Claggart / Billy Budd, the title part in Boris Godunov, Boris Ismailov / Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the Gounod Méphistophélès and the Doctor / Wozzeck. In 2012 he celebrated his thirty-fifth year of singing with the company.

At the Bayreuth Festival Tomlinson first appeared in 1988 as the Rheingold and Walküre Wotan, adding the Siegfried Wanderer in 1989. He sang at Bayreuth for eighteen consecutive seasons, with other roles including King Mark and Gurnemanz. He has appeared extensively throughout Europe, notably in Berlin as Hagen at the Deutsche Oper and as Sachs, Wotan, Hagen and Gurnemanz at the Berlin State Opera. Festival appearances have included Rocco / Fidelio at the Salzburg Easter Festival (1990), Dr Bartolo / Le nozze di Figaro at the Salzburg Festival (1991) and Arkel / Pelléas et Mélisande at Glyndebourne (from 1999).

His debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York took place in 1991 as Moses / Moses und Aron; later roles there included Gurnemanz, Fafner / Der Ring and Hagen. Other international appearances have included the opera companies of San Francisco, San Diego, Paris, Munich and Vienna.

Tomlinson possesses a vivid bass voice and his performances are notable for their intense physicality and deep characteristation, generating great dramatic power. His discography is vast, indicating his place at the forefront of British singers of his generation.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).

Role: Classical Artist 
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