Edward Johnson

22 August 1878 Guelph – 20 April 1959 Guelph

Edward Johnson sings Manon Lescaut: Ah Manon, mi tradisce

Edward Johnson sings O Canada (Lavallée)
In RA format

Edward Johnson sings Pagliacci: Vesti la giubba
In RA format
Young Johnson gave his first concerts as an amateur in his native Canada, and was soon encouraged to study singing. He did so in New York, and around 1900, he had a first career as a supporting artist in concerts of operatic celebrities like Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Lillian Nordica or Louise Homer. Johnson hesitated before accepting the offer for his first lead tenor role because it was an operetta: the North American premiere of Walzertraum in Philadelphia (6 January 1908), immediately followed by a series of performances at Broadway Theater in New York City. It was such a huge success that Johnson could afford to go to Paris for further studies, and later to Florence.

Under the name Edoardo Di Giovanni, he made his debut in Padova as Andrea Chénier, on 10 January 1912. For the next seven years, Edoardo Di Giovanni had a splendid career in Italy, above all at La Scala and at Rome's Teatro Costanzi. He specialized in novelties, and was both Italy's first Parsifal (Milano, 1914) and Italy's first Rinuccio (Rome, 1919); he also sang in a lot of world premieres: Uguale fortuna by Vincenzo Tommasini (Rome, 1913), L'ombra di Don Giovanni by Franco Alfano (Rome, 1914), Fedra by Ildebrando Pizzetti (Milano, 1915), Maria di Magdala by Vincenzo Michetti (Rome, 1918), La nave by Italo Montemezzi (Milano, 1918). When his wife died in May 1919, Johnson went back to North America.

From November 1919 and for three seasons, he sang opera in Chicago (debut role: Loris), and from 1922 to 1935, he was a member of the Metropolitan Opera (debut role: Avito in Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re, one of his most famous parts). He was the Met's first Pelléas in 1925, and he was cast in the world premieres of The king's henchman by Deems Taylor (1927), Peter Ibbetson, again by Taylor (1931), and Merry Mount by Howard Hanson (1934). He gave his last performance in March 1935 as Pelléas, only to become the Met's new general manager two months later, for no less than 15 years.

Reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

I would like to thank Anton Bieber for the Manon Lescaut recording and label scan.
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recordings (Pagliacci, O Canada).

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