Until he was 29, Rolfe Johnson was a cow farmer not far from Glyndebourne, without even knowing there was an opera festival. Then
his singing in the church choir let to four years of vocal studies at the Guildhall School in London. From 1972, he was a
chorister, singing also small solo parts, at the Glyndebourne Festival (now he knew!). His first major role was
Vodemon with the English Opera Group in 1973. By 1975, he was a lead tenor also in Glyndebourne (Lenskij), and in 1978, he made
his English National Opera debut as Tamino.
He sang a lot of concerts (oratorio in particular), for instance with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, Chicago
Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic or the Cleveland Orchestra, conductors including Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado,
Simon Rattle, John Eliot Gardiner, Pierre Boulez, Kurt Mazur, Bernard Haitink, Carlo Maria Giulini, Seiji Ozawa, Antal
Doráti, Colin Davis...
On stage, he appeared at Covent Garden, the Met, La Scala, the Salzburg Festival, Vienna Staatsoper, the Scottish Opera, Paris
Opéra, in Tokyo, Barcelona, Geneva, Amsterdam, Palermo or Munich. His specialties, other than oratorios by Händel,
Bach or Haydn, were Mozart (Idomeneo in particular) and Britten (he had trained with Peter Pears). He was also a conductor.
He had to give up his career after he developed Alzheimer's.
Reference 1 and picture source, reference 2: Kutsch &
Riemens, reference 3: Bach Cantatas, reference 4, reference 5, reference 6: The Guardian, 22 July 2010