Icelandic tenor, Kristjan Johannsson has established himself as the new leading dramatic tenor of our time with his mesmerizing performances of Italian and French opera. His strong, secure and vibrant singing has made him especially popular in Verdi, Puccini and the verismo operas, as well as in heroic French roles. He has been hailed for his singing at the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Teatro alla Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Arena di Verona, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt, among others.
Born in Akureyri, Iceland to a musical family, Mr. Johannsson did not begin his musical studies until he was twenty years old, working at first at the College of Music in his native city with Mr Kristjan Johannsson urdur Demetz. He then went to live in Italy to pursue additional vocal training, attending the Conservatorio Nicolini in Piacenza and later taking further private study from the renowned teacher Ettore Campogallilani and from the legendary tenor Ferruccio Tagliavini, establishing a firm knowledge and command of true Italian style.
Kristjan Johannsson made his operatic debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème at the National Theater of Iceland and he quickly attracted the attention of major opera houses in Great Britain and Italy.
In Milan he auditioned for Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who for many years had been music director at the city's fabled La Scala, and made his debut there under the baton of the venerable Maestro in Verdi's I due Foscari in 1988, returning to perform there in the following season in productions such as two revivals of Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur starring Mirella Freni, and The flying dutchman conducted by Riccardo Muti in 1990. His debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago took place in 1989 in Tosca, and he has returned frequently to this theatre to sing Mefistofele, Turandot, Aida, Un Ballo in maschera and Andrea Chénier.
Vienna first heard him in Tosca in 1991, and he has appeared there frequently in subsequent seasons in Manon Lescaut, Andrea Chénier, Aida and Il Trovatore.
His Metropolitan Opera debut took place in 1993 as Manrico in Il Trovatore, and he has returned to the Met each following season, first for Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana and in 1994 and 1995 as Radamès in Aida, and in the Met "Opera in the Parks" special outdoor concert performances of Aida in 1996, Gustavo in Un Ballo in maschera and Turriddu in Cavalleria Rusticana in 1997.
His Royal Opera House, Covent Garden debut was in Aida in 1994.
In the 1998/99 season Kristjan Johannsson appeared in the Turandot production with the Teatro Comunale in Florence under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta in Peking, at Munich's State Opera with his debut as Adorno in Simone Boccanegra and in performances of Il Trovatore. He returned to Vienna's State Opera to perform in Il Trovatore and Otello, to Hamburg's State Opera with Cavalleria, Pagliacci, Turandot and Otello and sang at Zurich's Opera House in the revival of Fanciulla del West. This season also included the new production of Samson et Dalila (his debut) in Venice.
The 1997/98 season continued the rapid upward swing of the vivacious tenor's career, with important performances in major opera houses around the world, a prominent Aids Gala Concert in Berlin. Mr. Johannsson began the season with performances of Turandot at the Met, during which he also sang for an Aids Gala on November 1st at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. With one of his best-loved roles, Calaf in Turandot, he returned to Vienna in November and December. In 1998 he started with a new production of La Gioconda in Genoa in March and April and with Aida at the State Opera of Dresden, after which the tenor sang special guest performances of Otello in Georgia, C.I.S. the Deutsche Oper welcomed him back for another signature role, Il Trovatore, in the spring of 1998, and in July Kristjan Johannsson returned to the Opernhaus Zürich for a new production of the dramatic, crowd-pleasing Puccini opera La Fanciulla del West. Immediately after Zürich he appeared at La Scala in Milan in Manon Lescaut.
Johannsson's future season includes many prestigious appearances in signature roles such as Gabriele in Simon Boccanegra, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Luigi in Il Tabarro, the title role in Otello and Radames in Aida. The Icelandic tenor sings throughout the world, from Munich, Vienna, and Zürich to Tokyo, Florence, the Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera.
The 1996-97 season was extremely important for Kristjan Johannsson's career.
First of all he performed Otello in a new production in Bologna, and returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago in October 1996 as Luigi in a new production of Puccini's Il Tabarro and the Ardis Kranik Opera Gala. Following these prestigious engagements, the Icelandic tenor was once again a featured guest at the Richard Tucker Gala in October.
Mr. Johannsson then performed two concerts in Zürich in early January before returning to the Metropolitan Opera to perform Cavalleria Rusticana and Un Ballo in maschera between January and March, 1997. He also performed Manrico in Il Trovatore, a role in which he was applauded by critics and opera lovers alike, in Berlin, Hamburg and Bilbao. The energetic, powerful tenor then performed in a gala Aida in Wiesbaden and in special concerts in Oviedo and Gijón, Spain, before returning to the Vienna Staatsoper to sing roles of Manrico in Il Trovatore and Radames in Aida in June, 1997. He reprised the latter ro
In the 1995-96 season in addition to his Aida as part of the well-loved "Parks" series and Andrea Chénier in Chicago, Kristjan Johannsson sang in the Richard Tucker Gala Concert in Lincoln Center which was televised on the PBS network. He appeared in a special concert of the Berlioz "Requiem" in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and with the Hamburg Opera in Il Trovatore and both Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, which were received with particular critical acclaim. The burly singer then returned to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in a new staging of Il Trovatore and sang in concert performances of Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila with the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg, followed by performances with the Torre del Lago Festival in a new production of Turandot, and with the Arena di Verona in Aida.
Kristjan Johannsson's repertoire encompasses all of the major Italian roles including Verdi's Otello, Ernani, Rigoletto, Traviata, Il Trovatore, Un Ballo in maschera, Simon Boccanegra, Forza del Destino, Don Carlo and Aida, Puccini's Manon Lescaut, la Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, Tabarro and Turandot and such Verismo works as Catalani's La Wally, Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, Giordano's Fedora and Andrea Chénier, Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Zaza. In the autumn of 1996, he sang his first Otello in Bologna.
Johannsson can be heard on the Naxos release of Aida as well on a special album of Italian songs recorded with the London Symphony and an album of Italian arias with the Hungarian State Orchestra. Video releases featuring Johannsson include Madama Butterfly in Ken Russell's production and in the Arena di Verona presentations of Aida and Cavalleria Rusticana, and the 80th Anniversary of the Arena Gala with Placido Domingo, Leo Nucci, Cecilia Gasdia, Neil Shicoff, Maria Chiara, and others.
Johannsson recently received great success performing Canio and Turiddu in the performance of Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci at the Teatro Verdi of Trieste, where he has been invited to perform in I Cavalieri di Ekebu by Zandonai and Luisa Miller by Verdi next season.