Johns made a late debut: in 1967, as Rodolfo at Lake George Opera in Saratoga Springs. The
same year, he went to Germany, where he stayed for more than a decade: 1967–71 Bremen, 1971–75 Mannheim,
1975–79 Cologne. He also sang a few tiny parts at the 1968 and 1969 Bayreuth Festival editions (he returned for one
single performance in a main role in 1987, as Stolzing). As a guest, he sang a lot at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (through the
mid-1980s) and the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff. His main fare in those years was Italian opera: Duca, Rodolfo, Radames,
Otello. Over time, he developed more and more into a Wagnerian, or generally a specialist for the dramatic German repertory.
Important house debuts included the Rome Opera (1976 in Il bravo by Mercadante, a difficult part), the Lyric Opera
Chicago (1976, Hoffmann; he was to return several times until 1985), Teatro San Carlo in Naples (1977, in Medea in Corinto
by Simone Mayr), Metropolitan Opera New York (1979, Don José; he would return time and again until 1993), the Paris
Opéra (1985, Tristan), La Scala (1986, Bacchus) and Covent Garden (1987, Kaiser in Die Frau ohne Schatten).
In the 1980s, he sang primarily around the USA: other than the Met and Chicago, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston,
Baltimore; with excursions into Canada and to Buenos Aires (Teatro Colón) and Santiago de Chile. But he traveled also to
Europe, not only to the major theaters mentioned above (Paris, London, Milano), but also to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg,
Toulouse, Marseille, Orange, Bologna...
A thoughtful and erudite man, he was well acquainted with historical singing and historical singers. He retired to Switzerland.
Source for the pictures (worth reading the
interesting long interview with Johns!)
Reference 1, reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens, reference 3