Obituary: Tenor John Dobson Dies at the Age of 92

By Francisco Salazar

On May 14, 2023, tenor John Dobson died at the age of 92.

Born on Nov. 17, 1930, in Derby, he was the son of Mary and Mervyn Dobson, a garage owner and motor engineer. In the 1950s he made his living for a while as a jobbing singer. He later went to study at Guildhall School of Music with Norman Walker and in Italy with Giovanni Inghilleri. He went on to make his debut in Bergamo in 1956 as Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” and later took on the role of Alfredo in “La Traviata” and Rodolfo in “La Bohème.” After his Bergamo debut he returned to Britain to sing with the New Opera Company and at Glyndebourne.

After performing multiple leading roles he ended up portraying comprimario roles. In 1959, he made his Covent Garden debut as Faninal’s Major Domo in “Der Rosenkavalier” and in 1962, he created the role of Paris in Michael Tippett’s King Priam. With the Royal Opera he sang more than 2,000 performances in 90 roles before retiring in in 1995. Among his most popular roles were the courtier Shuisky in Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” and the police agent Spoletta in “Tosca;” he performed the latter role alongside eight different Scarpia’s including Tito Gobbi, Peter Glossop, and Geraint Evans in Puccini’s “Tosca.”

Other celebrated roles by Dobson included Mime and Loge in Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” David in “The Mastersingers of Nuremberg,” Melot in “Tristan and Isolde,” Goro in “Madama Butterfly” and Pang and the Emperor in “Turandot.”