Review: Sir John Tomlinson Masterclass, Linbury Theatre

Posted on 10, Jun, 2015 in Uncategorized

Sir John Tomlinson in fine Voice and Spirit…

Review by Richard Butler

The evening was broadly split into three sessions:

1. Mezzo Wagner Master-class (Erda)

2. Heldentenor Wagner Master-class (Parsifal)

3. Talking with Sir John

During both class sessions we saw Sir John with pupils run through various Wagner pieces. Sir John focussed heavily on technique and support: Open throat, support from below, legato, bright sound and sing as you would speak were all covered in fine detail from the Master and demonstrated to great effect (by him). Sir John is the master of fine legato and to hear that “the voice” is still in fine fettle is indeed good news. Sir John even managed to show our Tenor pupil how to sing a High G at the end of long phrase. Oh, to be a Basso Profundo/Baritone (if there is such a thing).

What was most surprising was the degree of quality legato phrasing missing from our professional pupils. At times during the evening one wondered if the pupils had missed various sessions at the Guildhall/RCM! Both pupils are young in respect of their Wagner careers but even so, one would expect that if they studied Mozart or Verdi at some stage during their training they would have covered this most fundamental aspect. That said, part of the beauty of the master-class is to see the development of the pupil with a master watching over and guiding. This particular evening, in my opinion, saw a greater development of the pupils than I had ever witnessed before. Sir John was firm without being cruel, obviously immensely knowledgeable without seeming to overpower and was engaging throughout. I will be astounded if we don’t see these two pupils hitting the major stages within the next 5 years and, if they recall this evening, they will have total command of their words, tone and vocal shapes.

The final session was given over to Sir John giving us an insight into his Wagner life. Given he was THE Wotan for so many years this was the highlight of the evening for many in the crowd, I’m sure. What a life to have lead, singing with some of the very best Wagner exponents over his career has produced many memories, and he conjured some of them up for us, in the same way as his amazing Wotan conjured up Erda earlier in the evening! Sir John’s parting shot was to affirm his clear enjoyment of the master-class and that he would continue to give back in this way for as long as he was able. 

Let it be many many years please, as his wealth of knowledge and control of his own instrument as well of those of his pupils can only be good for the future Wagner listener. Three cheers Sir John!