Opera Scotland

Michael Langdon Suggest updates

Born Wolverhampton, 12 November 1920.

Died Hove, 12 March 1991.

English bass.

Michael Langdon was one of the most successful British singers of the post-war generation, enjoying a particularly high reputation for his interpretation of Baron Ochs, which he sang in most of the great houses.

Langdon studied in Vienna with Alfred Jerger and with Maria Carpi in Geneva. He continued his training in London under Otakar Kraus and joined the chorus at Covent Garden in 1948, becoming a principal bass in 1951. He remained attached to the Royal Opera House throughout his career, During the fifties he sang a large number of small roles, and created parts such as Alfred in The Olympians, Lt Ratcliffe in Billy Budd, Apollyon in The Pilgrim's Progress, Recorder of Norwich in Gloriana and He-Ancient in The Midsummer Mattiage. In 1958 the Covent Garden company mounted a ground-breaking production of Don Carlos, directed by Visconti and conducted by Giulini. Michael Langdon sang the Grand Inquisitor at fairly short notice (following the sudden death of Giulio Neri) and had a great success that led to many larger parts.

Equally adept at serious and comic characters, over the next few years Langdon performed leading roles in operas by Mozart, Verdi, Wagner and others. These included Osmin, Don Basilio, Daland, Hagen, Raimondo, Count Ribbing, King of Egypt, Pistol, Kecal, Varlaam, Méphistophélès, Bottom and Frank in Die Fledermaus. He was particularly associated with the part of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, singing it at the New York Met, San Francisco, Paris Opéra, Vienna State Opera and many of the major German houses. Other Strauss parts included Count Waldner in Arabella and the Tutor in Elektra.

His first visit to Scottish Opera was for the last two performances of Der Rosenkavalier in 1971, and he sang Ochs at every subsequent performance of the Besch production. Langdon also sang Don Pasquale, a coveted role he had never been asked to sing elsewhere, as well as Raimondo and Varlaam, two parts he had frequently sung in London. He also created the title role in Thomas Wilson's Hermiston at the 1975 Edinburgh Festival.

He retired from singing in 1977, had a successful career as a teacher, and was the Founder Director of the National Opera Studio in London. His autobiography, Notes from a Low Singer, was published in 1982.


Langdon's recordings include Claggart in Britten's 1968 recording of Billy Budd, as well as the 1966 TV production. He also recorded (sadly only excerpts) from Der Rosenkavalier, preserved with Scottish Opera in 1974.

Roles in Scotland

Alfred a night watchman in Lavatte's house
Olympians 1950
Mr Ratcliffe Second Lieutenant
Billy Budd 1952
Tosca 1952
Cesare Angelotti former Consul, now a political prisoner
Tosca 1952
King of Egypt
Aïda 1952
Aïda 1953
Salome 1952
Pilgrim's Progress 1952
Pilgrim's Progress 1952
Count Horn a conspirator (Tom)
Masked Ball 1953
Ferrando captain of Di Luna's guard
Trovatore 1953
Calkas High Priest of Pallas Athene
Troilus and Cressida 1955
Peter Quince a carpenter
Midsummer Night's Dream 1961
Ochs Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau
Rosenkavalier 1971
Rosenkavalier 1974
Rosenkavalier 1978
Don Pasquale a wealthy, elderly bachelor
Don Pasquale 1972
Don Pasquale 1973
Don Pasquale 1976
Don Pasquale 1977
Osmin the Pasha's overseer
Entführung aus dem Serail 1972
Varlaam an itinerant monk
Boris Godunov 1974
Raimondo Bide the Bent, the Ashtons' chaplain
Lucia di Lammermoor 1974
Lord Hermiston Lord Justice Clerk
Hermiston 1975

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