Edward Johnson

Biography

Born: August 22, 1878; Guelph, Ontario, Canada   Died: April 20, 1959; Guelph, Ontario, Canada  
Although more often remembered as a general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Edward Johnson was a tenor of some distinction, having received acclaim both in Europe and in New York long before his administrative appointment. As a singer, his ability to master both lyric and spinto roles was appreciated and he was called upon for several significant premieres. The musicianship and thoroughness in preparation evidenced during his singing career Read more helped him guide the Metropolitan Opera through the economic vicissitudes of the Depression years and the subsequent loss of many European artists due to WWII. During his years as manager, many American singers began important careers. Johnson's musical interests were evidenced at an early age as he participated in church choirs and sang numerous solo performances. His father had intended that Johnson pursue a career in law, but during his first year at Toronto University, he was called upon to substitute for a soloist unable to appear for a choral concert. Told that he had an exceptional voice and ought to cultivate it, Johnson left for New York to undertake serious study. Johnson was recommended for a production of Oscar Straus' Waltzertraum, was chosen for the tenor lead, and found himself making 700 dollars per week, most of which he saved. Once the run was completed, Johnson declined several handsome offers to instead travel to Italy to complete his training with Vincenzo Lombardi, Enrico Caruso's vocal coach. After making his debut as Edoardo di Giovanni in a 1912 Padua production of Andrea Chénier, the tenor found himself on the pathway to stardom. Within two years, he began a half-decade association with La Scala by singing Parsifal under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. During his tenure there, he gained recognition as one of the country's foremost tenors, succeeding in roles ranging from lyric to dramatic. Following the death of his wife, Beatriz da Veiga, Vicountess d'Arniero, Johnson made his formal American operatic debut with the Chicago Opera Company in 1919. He remained there until 1922, singing roles such as Loris in Fedora (in which his "Amor ti Vieta" drew a prolonged ovation) and a real curiosity: conductor Gino Marinuzzi's Jacquerie (not a success). In 1922, Johnson was summoned to the Metropolitan Opera, where he presented himself for his November 16 debut as Avito in L'amore dei tre re. Critics were impressed by his good looks, dignified bearing, and for a voice deemed by W.J. Henderson as "moderately good." Shortly thereafter, Johnson showed the versatility that would make him so highly valued when, in Puccini's triptych, he repeated both the intensely dramatic Luigi in Il tabarro and the youthful Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi he had sung in the world premieres. He later sang Pelléas (reportedly his favorite role) in the Metropolitan's first production, as well as tenor protagonists in La Vestale, Sadko, I Pagliacci, Fra Gherardo, The King's Henchman, Peter Ibbetson, and Merry Mount (the latter's three all premieres). Named Metropolitan Opera assistant general manager in 1935, Johnson was made general manager upon the death of Herbert Witherspoon just two months later. His cautious approach helped the company survive the Depression years, while his cultivation of young American singers was both immediately necessary and artistically fruitful in the long term. While delegating some responsibilities, Johnson took personal interest in these artists. After retiring in 1950, Johnson became board chairman at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music. Read less
Browse 1-13 of 13 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Fitzwilliam Virginal Book Vol 1 / Pieter-Jan Belder
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94303 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Bull,  Giles Farnaby,  Martin Peerson,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  Pieter-Jan Belder
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  • 2.
    Shakespeare - Come Again, Sweet Love / Daniel Taylor
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 72722 Release Date: 06/28/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Edward Johnson,  Robert Jones,  Thomas Robinson  ... 
    Performer:  Daniel Taylor,  Emma Kirkby,  Elizabeth Kenny,  Jacob Heringman  ... 
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  • 3.
    The Walsingham Consort Books / Denecker, Hamilton, La Caccia
    Label: Ricercar   Catalog: 275 Release Date: 02/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Daniel Bacheler,  Anonymous,  John Bartlet,  Edward Johnson  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Denecker,  Susan [Soprano Vocal] Hamilton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Caccia
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  • 4.
    Awake, Sweet Love... / James Bowman, Miller, King's Consort
    Label: Helios   Catalog: 55241 Release Date: 08/14/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Dowland,  Thomas Campion,  John Danyel,  Alfonso Ferrabosco  ... 
    Performer:  James Bowman,  David Miller
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
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  • 5.
    Gentlemen Of The Chapel Royal / Peter Dijkstra, The Gents
    Label: Channel Classics   Catalog: 6013 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Parsons,  Thomas Weelkes,  William Byrd,  William Cornysh  ... 
    Performer:  Benjamin Bakker,  Siebe Henstra,  Niec Van der Meulen,  Robert Kuizenga
    Conductor:  Peter Dijkstra
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Gents,  Diapente Viol Consort
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  • 6.
    The Triumphs Of Oriana - Morley, Etc / King's Singers
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 82 Release Date: 10/31/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Milton,  Edward Johnson,  Thomas Morley,  John Lisley  ... 
    Performer:  Stephen Connolly,  Philip Lawson,  David Hurley,  Paul Phoenix  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Singers
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  • 7.
    Madame D'amours - Cornysh, Etc / London Musica Antiqua
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 44 Release Date: 03/29/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Francisco de la Torre,  William Cornysh,  Anonymous,  Mattias Gascogne  ... 
    Performer:  Philip Thorby,  Jennie Cassidy,  John Bryan,  Alison Crum  ... 
    Conductor:  Philip Thorby
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Antiqua of London
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  • 8.
    The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book / Byron Schenkman
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2638 Release Date: 10/21/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Philips,  Giles Farnaby,  Giovanni Picchi,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  Byron Schenkman,  Maxine Eilander
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  • 9.
    Gentlemen Of The Chapel Royal / Peter Dijkstra, The Gents
    Label: Channel Classics   Catalog: 18902 Release Date: 02/11/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alfonso Ferrabosco,  Thomas Tallis,  Robert Parsons,  William Byrd  ... 
    Performer:  Siebe Henstra,  Niec Van der Meulen,  Robert Kuizenga,  Benjamin Bakker
    Conductor:  Peter Dijkstra
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Gents,  Diapente Viol Consort
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  • 10.
    Elisa Is The Fairest Queen / Quintessential Ensemble, Et Al
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 686 Release Date: 09/24/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Anonymous,  William Byrd,  Claude Gervaise,  John Wilbye  ... 
    Performer:  Elizabeth Pallett,  Raphael Mizraki,  Stephen Wallace,  Timothy Massa  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  QuintEssential Sackbut and Cornet Ensemble
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  • 11.
    The Queen's Goodnight - Dowland, Etc / Charivari Agréable
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 20 Release Date: 09/24/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Johnson,  Orlando Gibbons,  Tobias Hume,  Anonymous  ... 
    Performer:  Susanne Heinrich,  Kah-Ming Ng,  Lynda Sayce
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Charivari Agréable
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  • 12.
    Court Jesters: Tudor Minstrel Music
    Label: Griffin   Catalog: 4013 Release Date: 02/27/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  William Cornysh,  Anonymous,  Anthony Holborne  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sirinu
    CD: $13.99
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  • 13.
    What Then Is Love? / Cohen, Boston Camerata
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 23417 Release Date: 05/18/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Morley,  Thomas Campion,  Thomas Vautor,  Robert Johnson  ... 
    Performer:  Joel Cohen,  Olav Chris Henriksen,  Emily Walhout,  Lynn Tetenbaum  ... 
    Conductor:  Joel Cohen
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Camerata
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