Artist Profile: George London, Supreme Bass-Baritone Lives On Through Recognized Foundation

By David Salazar

You might have heard of the famed George London Foundation, which is renowned for providing support for young singers.

That Foundation was established in 1971 by the great bass-baritone George London, who was born on May 30, 1920.

London grew up in Los Angeles, California, and had his big break in 1945 when he was called upon by Antal Doráti to replace Hungarian bass Mihály Székely in the first concert of then-newly reorganized Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

He actually spent the greater part of 1947-48 performing in a trio alongside Frances Yeend and Mario Lanza and was then engaged by the Vienna State Opera. From there he was in all the great theaters, including the Bayreuth Festival and Metropolitan Opera, where he performed 270 performances in a wide range of repertoire. He led the American premiere of “The Last Savage” in 1964 and also became the first North American artist to take on the title role of “Boris Godunov” at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

His career spiraled in the mid-1960s when he was found to have a paralyzed vocal chord. While he did get treatment, he realized that his voice would never reach the standards he had set for himself. Thus, he decided to cut his singing career short at age 46. He would die less than 20 years later at age 64.

Signature Role

The bass-baritone was renowned for five roles that he repeatedly performed. They included the title roles in “Boris Godunov” and “Don Giovanni,” Wotan in “Die Walküre,” Scarpia in “Tosca,” and Amfortas in “Parsifal.” These roles were his bread and butter, representing some of the greatest triumphs throughout his career.

Watch and Listen

Here is a taste of his Wotan interpretation in “Die Walküre.”

And here he is in “Tosca” alongside Renata Tebaldi.

And here is a taste of London in South Pacific’s “This Nearly Was Mine.”


Opera Wiki