“Johnson, elegant yet intense, is impeccable.”
- Tim Ashley (The Guardian) on La Traviata, English National Opera
Born in London, acclaimed tenor Ben Johnson enjoys a varied career as a singer, conductor, teacher and artistic director. He is the Festival Director of Cambridge Summer Music, founder and Chief Conductor of the Southrepps Sinfonia as well as joint Artistic Director of the Southrepps Classical Music Festival. He is a professor of singing at the Royal College of Music in London.
He represented England in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2013 and won the Audience Prize. A former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and 2008 winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award, Johnson was formerly an English National Opera Harewood Artist and a Wigmore Hall Emerging Talent.
Much in demand in concert, recital and opera, he has worked with some of the worlds greatest conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Andris Nelsons, Vladimir Jurowski, Marin Alsop, Sir Mark Elder, François-Xavier Roth, Edward Gardner, Frans Brüggen, Sir Andrew Davies and Sakari Oramo. He enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with the late Sir Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, performing a wide ranging repertoire that included the Evangelist in Bach's passions through to the Passio of Arvo Pärt. He has made several appearances at the BBC Proms, performing at the Last Night in 2017, and has performed in most of Europes great concert halls as well as Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall in the USA.
As a dedicated recitalist, Johnson performs regularly with Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Tom Primrose, Louis Schwitzgebel and James Baillieu. With Graham Johnson he has given several performances at Wigmore Hall, the Klavier Festival Ruhr in Germany, Aldeburgh Music, and the duo have recorded songs by Poulenc for Hyperion Records and a disc of sonnet settings for Champs Hill. Baillieu accompanied his acclaimed debut album of the Britten Canticles with Signum Records and a Rosenblatt Recitals disc of English song (as well appearing together in two live Rosenblatt Recitals). He also features on Malcom Martineau's recorded surveys of Britten and Fauré. In 2020 he was invited by Maria João Pires to perform Schubert with her in Portugal. Most recently he has enjoyed collaborating with the British pianist Martin James Bartlett. They have given many performances of recitals that link the song and solo piano repertoire, and bring such a programme to London's Wigmore Hall this January. He also performs regularly with guitarist Sean Shibe, together completing an extensive and much acclaimed tour with Music Network Ireland in 2019.
Johnson's close relationship with English National Opera has included two celebrated runs as Alfredo in Peter Konwitschy's La Traviata, Tamino in the British premiere of Simon McBurney's Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, directed by Rufus Norris and a notable debut as Nemorino in Jonathan Miller's L’elisir d’amore. He recently returned to play Earl Tolloller in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe which gained considerable critical success. Other recent operatic highlights include Eisenstein Die Fledermaus and Don Ottavio Don Giovanni, both for Opera Holland Park, Don Ottavio for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Opéra National de Bordeaux, Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Night's Dream for Bergen National Opera, Oronte in Alcina with The English Concert on a world tour, Bénédict in Béatrice et Bénédict for Chelsea Opera Group, Carlo in Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco for Buxton Festival Opera, directed by Elijah Moshinsky, the Novice in Billy Budd at Glyndebourne, and Martin in The Tender Land by Copland at Opéra de Lyon.
Highlights of the 19/20 season included Nebuchadnezzar in Britten's The Burning Fiery Furnace for Scottish Opera and a return to one of Johnson’s trademark roles, singing Tamino in Die Zauberflöte on an extensive tour with Welsh National Opera. He also be performed Don Basilio (Le Nozze di Figaro) with the Grange Festival and Britten's Serenade with English Chamber Orchestra. He returns to the Grange Festival in 2021 to perform the role of Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream and sings Eumete in Montiverdi's Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria for Longborough Festival Opera.
He recently performed in Beethoven's Fidelio with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski, Mozart's Requiem with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (also under Jurowski) and with Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, and Bliss's The Beatitudes with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded for Chandos Records. Previous highlights include Nielsen's Springtime in Funen at the BBC Proms, Britten's War Requiem on Remembrance Sunday under Marin Alsop at the Royal Festival Hall, Tippett's A Child of Our Time with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri for Festival de Saint-Denis, several performances and tours of Beethoven's Symphony No.9 with the CBSO and Andris Nelsons as well as with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Royal Northern Sinfonia, Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette with Bergen Philharmonic, Bach's Christmas Oratorio with BBC Scottish Symphony, Evangelist in St John and St Matthew Passions with the RTÉ National Symphony; St Matthew Passion with The Bach Choir and Residentie Orkest, Bach's Magnificat and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius with Britten Sinfonia, and Messiah with the Academy of Ancient Music and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed Mendelssohn's Lobegesang with the Gulbenkian Orchestra, Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Residentie Orkest and at the BBC Proms.