Anthony Rolfe Johnson was one of the most honest singers around – about his voice, for example: ‘It’s not large, but powerful and compact, full of energy, and that’s a great weapon.’ I’d go further – his singing is virile, ardent, but there’s also immaculate musicianship, a wonderful sense of timing, that seduces the listener. And his total immersion in every character he’s ever interpreted, from demanding operatic roles to the simplest ballad in a Songmaker’s Almanac recital, means that each performance is a new delight – to him and to us. I’ll never forget his performance in Monteverdi’s Return of Ulysses at English National Opera: intensely moving and an unobtrusive masterclass in Monteverdian style. Listen to his CD In Praise of Woman (on the Helios label: CDH 55159) – every song lit up by his unique blend of passion, tenderness and sheer beauty of voice.
In his own words: ‘At five o’clock I stop work and become a father – I don’t believe in being the star singer who just “visits” home.’
Greatest recording: George Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad, Hyperion CDD 22044