Tomlinson, John


Born in Lancashire, John Tomlinson studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music and with Otakar Kraus.

He sings regularly with The Royal Opera and English National Opera and has with all the major British opera companies. He appeared at the Bayreuth Festival for eighteen consecutive seasons from 1988, as Wotan, the Wanderer, King Marke, Titurel, Gurnemanz, Hagen and Holländer. He has also appeared in Berlin (Deutsche Oper Berlin and Berlin Staatsoper), Geneva, Lisbon, Stuttgart, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York, Pittsburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, Bologna, Florence, Tokyo and the Glyndebourne, Orange, Aix-en-Provence, Munich and Salzburg festivals. His repertory includes Hans Sachs, Heinrich der Vogler, Baron Ochs, Leporello, Claggart, King Fisher, Méphistophélès (Gounod's Faust), the Villains (Contes d'Hoffmann), King Philip (Don Carlos) and the title roles in Oberto (which he also directed), Attila, Mosè in Egitto, Le nozze di Figaro, Boris Godunov, Moses und Aron and Duke Bluebeard's Castle.

In 1993, he won a Grammy Award for Bartok's Cantata Profana and in February 2007 he was honoured with the Special Award at the Laurence Olivier Award Ceremony. He was awarded a CBE in 1997 and Knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2005.

Angel, Marie


Marie Angel is one of today’s most thrilling dramatic sopranos. Born in Pinnaroo, South Australia, Marie trained at the Adelaide Conservatorium with Donald Munro. She is known for the versatility of her voice, her stage presence and her extraordinary ability to move audiences.

As a soprano, as well as having performed operas in the classical repertoire she is also known through contemporary classical composers including Mauricio Kagel, Bruno Maderna, Michael Tippett, Harrison Birtwistle, Philip Glass, Louis Andriessen, Michael Nyman, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, and John Cage. She has appeared in films by Peter Greenaway and has participated in the recording of the opera Facing Goya, by Michael Nyman. She has also performed with the Michael Nyman Band as a vocalist at some of his concerts.

Marie's career highlights include revolutionary work as a founder member of the Opera Factory, in London and Zurich, singing the roles of Poppea (Monteverdi), Iphigenia (Gluck), Fiordiligi, Donna Anna, the Contessa Almaviva, and Pretty Polly (Birtwistle); the latter leading to her collaborating with Sir Kenneth MacMillan (Seven Deadly Sins). Seeking further challenges she created the roles of Morgan le Fay in Birtwistle’s Gawain (ROH), Esmeralda in Rosa (Greenaway and Andriessen, Netherlands Opera), Ingrid in Esmee (Lovendier, Holland Festival), Cixi in Hotel de Pekin (Jeffs, Nationale Reisoper) and Soprano 2 (Facing Goya, Nyman).

Howells, Anne


Anne Howells made two notable debuts as a mezzo-soprano while still in her mid-20s: as Erisbe in Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at Glyndebourne, and as Flora in the Visconti/Guilini Traviata at the Royal Opera House. She continued to sing regularly at both of these houses throughout a career which took her to almost every major opera house and concert hall in the world. These include the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Opera houses of both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the four Parisian opera houses, the Grand Opera of Geneva, the Salburger Festspiele, the Vienna Staatsoper, the Carnegie Hall and the Musikverein of Vienna.

Directors with whom she worked include Peter Hall, Nicholas Hytner, John Schlesinger, Jean-Pierre Ponelle, Gunther Rennert and John Copley. Conductors included Colin Davis, James Levine, Georg Solti, Silvio Varviso and Andre Previn.

She accompanied the Royal Opera on three tours: As Ascanius in Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini and Annius in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito at La Scala Milan, and Despina in Così fan tutte in Japan. She sang Helen in Tippett’s King Priam in the Royal Opera’s tour to the Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens.  Anne also took part in many other contemporary operas: Cathleen in Nicholas Maw’s Rising of The Moon at Glyndebourne, at the Royal Opera as Lena in Richard Rodney Bennett’s Victory, Ophelia in Searle’s Hamlet, Thea in Michael Tippett’s Knot Garden, and Lady de Hautdesert in Harrison Birtwistle’s Gawain.

Image Credit: 

Francois Le Roux

Le Roux

François Le Roux began his vocal studies with François Loup at the age of 19, later studying under Vera Rosza and Elisabeth Grümmer at the Opéra Studio, Paris; he has won international competitions in Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro. He was a member of the Lyon Opera Company from 1980-985, since when he has been a guest artist at all major European opera houses and festivals.

His wide repertoire covers the Mozart baritone roles, and a range from the Italian repertoire (Figaro, Dandini, Malatesta, Marcello) to Baroque opera - including the title roles in Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Ulisse, Campra's Tancrède, and Rameau's Castor et Pollux (Pollux) at the Aix en Provence Festival. He has also appeared in contemporary opera, notably as Henze's Der Prinz von Homburg in Munich conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, and has taken the title roles in world premieres of Birtwistle's Gawain at Covent Garden, Von Bose's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers at the Schwetzingen Festival and Georges Boeuf’s Verlaine Paul in Nancy and Marseille.

In addition to numerous operatic recordings for EMI, Erato, and BMG-RCA, Le Roux has released several highly acclaimed discs of the French song repertoire for EMI, REM, Hyperion and DECCA-Universal.

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Howarth, Elgar


Elgar Howarth (b. 1935) studied music at Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his first study was composition. His conducting career began in the early 1970s and since then he has appeared regularly with all the leading British orchestras both in the concert hall and in the recording studio.
His operatic achievements cover a wide repertoire and include the world premiere of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the Stockholm Royal Opera, followed by productions of the same work in Hamburg, Paris and London. In 1985 he made his debut at Covent Garden with King Priam which he later performed with the same company at the Athens Festival. For Glyndebourne he has conducted The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Nigel Osborne's The Electrification of the Soviet Union and Birtwistle's The Second Mrs Kong and The Last Supper. He conducted the world premiere of Birtwistle's Gawain at Covent Garden in May 1991 and the revivals in 1994 and 2000.

In addition to conducting English Northern Philharmonia from 1985-1989 he appears frequently with the sister company, Opera North (where he was music advisor from 1996-99).

He retains an interest in composing especially, as a former trumpet player, for brass instruments. His works are much recorded, particularly on Decca.

The Royal Opera Chorus

The Royal Opera Chorus
The Royal Opera Chorus was created in 1946 for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II. Known then as the Covent Garden Opera Chorus, it first appeared during December the same year in Purcell's The Faery Queene, staged together with Sadler's Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet). Its first full-scale opera production was Carmen in January 1947. Since then the chorus has been the backbone of The Royal Opera, performing in an average of 20 productions each season, in a wide repertory ranging from Baroque through to newly commissioned works. The chorus is frequently augmented by as many as 60 freelance singers when larger productions are mounted.
Image Credit: 
Catherine Ashmore

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House was founded in 1946 on the reopening of the Opera House after World War II. The Orchestra plays for nearly all performances given by The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet on the main stage of the Royal Opera House, under Music Directors Antonio Pappano (The Royal Opera) and Barry Wordsworth (The Royal Ballet). The Orchestra also gives occasional concerts. Performances have included Britten’s War Requiem and Verdi’s Requiem under Pappano in London and Birmingham in 2009, a concert of works by Wagner, Liszt and Bartók at the Vienna Konzerthaus in March 2010, and the chamber version of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde at Cadogan Hall in February 2011. In September 2010 the orchestra took part in The Royal Opera’s acclaimed Japan tour, performing Manon, La traviata and Handel’s Messiah.
Image Credit: 
Johan Persson


Harrison Birtwistle: Gawain

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Artists include

Marie Angel soprano  Morgan le Fay
Anne Howells mezzo soprano  Lady de Hautdesert
Francois Le Roux baritone Gawain
John Tomlinson bass baritone The Green Knight / Bertilak de Hautdesert
Penelope Walmsley-Clark soprano Guinevere
Richard Greager tenor Arthur
Omar Ebrahim baritone The Fool
Alan Ewing bass Agravain
John Marsden tenor Ywain
Kevin Smith countertenor Bishop Baldwin

The Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Elgar Howarth conductor

Birtwistle's fascination with myth and ritual has influenced many of his works and this opera, its libretto by David Harsent, is based on the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with a plot featuring castles, eerie nocturnal apparitions, evil magical powers, amorous entanglements and a singing decapitated head.

This production of Gawain for the Royal Opera House, recorded by BBC Radio 3, was supported by the Arts Council of England, The Friends of Covent Garden, The John S Cohen Foundation and The Po-Shing Woo Charitable Foundation. It was originally released on Collins Classics.



GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 1996 (Originally released on Collins Classics)

'Howarth and his fine cast (John Tomlinson, Francois Le Roux, Marie Angel) provide a definitive experience.' The Financial Times

‘Tomlinson’s emotionally charged, rich-toned account is a tour de force. The opera’s final climax is truly terrifying’ Opera Now

‘Everything is first rate: the source – medieval epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; Harrison Birtwislte – composer and master of orchestration; skilled librettist David Hersant; a stellar cast; the Royal Opera Orchestra under Elgar Howarth; excellent sound; and comprehensive notes.’ The Whole Note

‘Birtwistle’s score is unforgiving and dense, forever undulating beneath the libretto like a plate tectonic, spewing forth a lava of accents when he necessitates the prominence of the brass percussion to accentuate the dramatic moment.’ Edge on the Net

‘High expressionist, high modernist and quite compelling. Certainly it is one of Birtwistle’s major offerings. The Royal Opera performance is exceptional.’ Classical-Modern Music Review

‘John Tomlinson is sonorous and imposing in the dual roles of the Green Knight and Bertilak; whenever he is singing he is the centre of attention. […] expertly done with no weak links, Elgar Howarth keeps a firm hand on the tiller. […] These performers make an excellent case for the Birtwistle’s difficult yet fascinating opera.’ International Record Review

‘On NMC, John Tomlinson as the Green Knight has peerless authority and you can hear his every word.’ Gramophone

‘There’s a deep, grainy quality to his [Tomlinson’s] voice that catches the sorrow and cynicism of the Green Knight perfectly. […] Another strength of this recording is the weirdly intense vocal sound of Marie Angel as the scheming Mogran le Fay, which lends a glint of strangeness to the doom-laden atmosphere. […] As for the orchestral playing, it catches both the dark and fatalistic quality of the score and its moments of beauty.’ BBC Music Magazine

‘[…] une réelle aventure musicale, tantôt ténébreuse et sombre mais non dénuée d’humour et d’ironie. […] La musique est d’une invention croissante, démultipliée.’ ClicMag

‘The orchestra is superb in its relentlessness, especially the terrifying tubas and brutal percussion. The sound of the Green Knight’s axe is graphic – a deadly swishing, whistling sound. The recording, originally on Collins, production from 1994, is vivid and spacious’ American Record Guide

'thanks to the enterprising NMC label, Birtwistle's blistering score here comes vividly across especially when all concerned throw themselves into it so wholeheartedly.' Classical Music Magazine


Thanks to the trusts and foundations that have supported this release as part of NMC’s Anniversary Opera Series:

The John S Cohen Foundation
The Finzi Trust
The Nicholas John Trust
The Monument Trust
The N Smith Charitable Settlement
Surrey Square Trust

and to the donors who contributed through NMC’s 25th anniversary Opera Appeal including:

Jonathan Goldstein
Paul Henderson
Martyn Leighton
Robert McFarland
John Summerscales
Moya & John Tomlinson

Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


This recording of the revised production of Gawain contains the shortened version of the Turning of the Seasons section and was recorded live by BBC Radio 3 on 20 April 1994 at the performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was originally released on Collins Classics.

DAVID GALLAGHER Producer for BBC Radio 3
MARTIN PAGE Sound Balance for BBC Radio 3
JOHN TIMPERLEY Remixed for Collins Classics
VERONICA SLATER Producer for Collins Classics

COLIN MATTHEWS Executive Producer for NMC
FRANCOIS HALL Cover Image & Graphic design

(P) 1996 BBC
© 2014 NMC Recordings Ltd


Universal Edition
Catalogue number:
NMC D200
Release Date:
19 May 2014