Opera Scotland

George London Suggest updates

George Burnstein.

Born Montreal, 30 May 1920.

Died Armonk, New York, 24 March 1985.

Canadian bass-baritone. administrator and director.

George London had an important career especially as an interpreter of leading Wagner roles at Bayreuth and the New York Met. In 1960 he sang the title role in Boris Godunov in Moscow,, recording the work with the Bolshoy three years later. His voice declined rapidly in the mid-60s, after which he concentrated on management.

He trained in Los Angeles, making his debut in 1941 at the Hollywood Bowl, as Dr Grenvi in La traviata. Initially he concentrated on work in concerts and musicals. However in 1949 Karl Böhm gave him a contract, and his European debut followed in September that year as Amonasro at the Vienna State Opera. Appearances followed quickly with Glyndebourne (at the Edinburgh Festival) and La Scala.

1951 was the year of his debut at the Met, where he sang until 1966. London appeared frequently at Bayreuth between 1951 and 1964, as Amfortas and Dutchman. His Wotan, directed by Wieland Wagner, was first seen in Cologne in 1962-4, and was scheduled for Bayreuth the following year, but he withdrew when his vocal troubles began. His non-Wagner roles included Mozart (Figaro, Count Almaviva, Don Giovanni), Musorgsky (Boris), Bizet (Escamillo), Puccini (Scarpia) and both Berlioz and Gounod versions of Méphistophélès.

Career as administrator/director

London was an administrator at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC from 1968, later at the Opera Society of Washington DC. He also directed Juillard students in The Magic Flute in 1971, end mounted the first Ring cycles in Seattle and San Diego from 1973.


His recordings include Count Almaviva Le nozze di Figaro (conducted by Leinsdorf); title role Der fliegende Holländer (Dorati); Wotan Das Rheingold (Solti); Wotan Die Walküre (Leinsdorf); Amfortas Parsifal London (Knappertsbusch); title role Boris Godunov (Melik-Pashayev) and Mandryka Arabella (Solti).

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