Biography

Grammy award winning bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu continues to be in great demand on the global stage as an opera singer, concert performer, recitalist and recording artist.  His critically acclaimed performances of the leading bass-baritone roles from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro and Idomeneo, Handel’s Saul, Orlando, Rinaldo, La Resurezzione, Samson, Jeptha and Belshazzar have taken him to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and on tour to Japan, The Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Salzburg Festival, Bayerische Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien, English National Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Australia, Hamburg Staatsoper, BBC Proms and music festivals in Edinburgh, Styriarte, Gstaad, Tanglewood and Ravinia under the baton of such conductors as Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Charles MacKerras, Zubin Mehta, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sir Roger Norrington, Rene Jacobs, Vladimir Jurowski and Ivor Bolton.

Other opera roles include Rocco/Fidelio with Valery Gergiev (Gergiev Festival), Bluebeard/Bluebeard’s Castle with Michel Tabachnik (Rotterdam Festival), Porgy/Porgy and Bess with Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Styriarte Festival) recorded live for the Sony Music RCA label, Colline/La Bohème with Sir Mark Elder (Royal Opera House), Don Basilio/The Barber of Seville with David Parry (English National Opera), Collatinus/The Rape of Lucretia with Sian Edwards (Theater an der Wien), Jake Wallace/La Fanciulla del West with Antonio Pappano (Royal Opera House), Rodomonte/Orlando Paladino with Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Theater an der Wien), Bottom/A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Constantinos Carydis (Opera de Lyon) and Queequeg in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick with Patrick Summers (Dallas Opera).

His first solo orchestral recording as an Exclusive EMI artist, Jonathan Lemalu: Opera Arias won a coveted ECHO Classics Award, New Zealand’s “Best Classical Album 2005″ and international praise.

The Amazon editorial wrote:
His voice is absolutely even over a huge range. Its velvety warmth enfolds ear and heart, and he can change its colour, inflection and expression in an instant. His breath control is incredible and lets him spin endless legato phrases. The program, ranging from Mozart to Wagner and encompassing four languages, which Lemalu handles with equal mastery, displays his versatility as well as his uncanny ability to establish and portray different characters.

On the concert platform, Jonathan’s diverse operatic and symphonic repertoire ranges from Mozart, Mahler and Berlioz to Britten, Gershwin and John Adams.

His association with the London Symphony Orchestra began in 2001 and includes Brander/La Damnation de Faust, Hobson/Peter Grimes (LSO Live) and Hector/Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis in London and New York, and Mr Flint/Billy Budd with Daniel Harding (Virgin Classics). This recording won the Grammy for “Best Opera Recording 2009-10″.

Since making his debut at the BBC First Night of the Proms in 2001 in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music while still a student at the Royal College of Music in London, Jonathan Lemalu is a regular performer at the prestigious Albert Hall Festival, including Handel’s Saul with Paul McCreesh, Haydn’s Creation and Beethoven’s Fantasia with Sir Roger Norrington, Opera Arias with Sir Mark Elder, De Falla’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show with Alexander Briger, Hector/Les Troyens with Sir Colin Davis, and Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with James Judd and his native New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra’s first ever BBC Prom, and most recently, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with Tadaaki Otaka.  In 2004, as a result of singing the role of King in Les Troyens and Saul, a rarity in itself to sing two proms in the same season, the Evening Standard featured Jonathan, hailing him as “The New King of the Proms”.

Jonathan’s Berlin Philharmonic debut came in 2003 with Charles Dutoit as Brander/La Damnation de Faust with Jonas Kaufmann and Sir Willard White. He was subsequently invited by Maestro Dutoit to sing the role with the Tonhalle Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and Toronto Symphony, as well as Frère Laurence in Berlioz’ Roméo et Juliette with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall, and Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Beijing and Tokyo. He has also sung Nettuno/Idomeneo with Sir Simon Rattle at the Salzburg Festival, and Rodomonte/Orlando Paladino with Nikolaus Harnoncourt at the Philharmonie with the Berlin Philharmonic. Other recent concert highlights include John Adams El Nĩno in St Louis and San Francisco, John Adams A Flowering Tree in Tokyo and Paris, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess suite in Amsterdam and Gstaad, Handel’s Messiah in Vienna, New York, Rotterdam and Melbourne, Tippett’s A Child of our Time and Mendelssohn’s Le songe d’une nuit d’été in Paris, Berlioz’ L’enfance du Christ in London and Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn in Malaysia, Holland, New Zealand and London.

As a lieder singer and recitalist, Jonathan Lemalu came to international prominence as inaugural winner of the Llangollen International Singer of the Year Award (2000), Concert FM’s Broadcasting Artist of the Year (2000), Royal Overseas League Gold Medal winner (2001). Royal College of Music Tagore Gold Medal Winner (2002), joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award (2002), ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) Rising Stars Series Artist (2003-04) and BBC3 Radio New Generation Artist (2002-04). While still at college, he recorded his debut recital disc with Roger Vignoles for EMI Classics. This recording won the prestigious Gramophone Award for “Best Debut Artist”, ECHO Classics Award in Germany, and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s “Debut Artist of Year” presented to him by Dame Joan Sutherland.

Gramophone Magazine wrote:
Every so often a musician arrives on the scene with a talent so richly endowed that the musical world sits up and takes note. The New Zealand born Samoan Jonathan Lemalu is one such.

Since then, he has performed at London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Salzburg’s Mozarteum, Brussel’s Palais des Beaux Arts, Washington’s Kennedy Centre, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, New York’s Carnegie Hall and the music festivals of Munich, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Adelaide, Montreal, Baden-Baden and New Zealand with world-class pianists such as Terence Dennis, Julius Drake, Michael Hampton, Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau and Roger Vignoles. Other highlights include another EMI recital disc Love Blows as the Wind Blows with Malcolm Martineau and the Belcea Quartet, Hyperion’s The Complete Songs of Robert Schumann with Graham Johnson, Signum Classics The Complete Songs of Poulenc with Malcolm Martineau. Richard Rodney Bennett’s Songs before Sleep with Sir Richard Hickox (Chandos), joint recitals with his wife and Croatian mezzo-soprano Sandra Martinovic at London’s Wigmore Hall and in the UK, Holland, Northern Ireland and New Zealand, and recital tours to North America, Australasia and a recital debut at the Philharmonie in Berlin with Malcolm Martineau.

Jonathan was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, where his parents emigrated from Western Samoa. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Otago before beginning postgraduate vocal studies at London’s Royal College of Music from 1999-2002 as a Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Scholar. He currently lives in London with his wife, opera director Sandra Martinovic, and their son Joshua.