John Fanning

John (Ernest Gerald) Fanning. Baritone, b Barrie, Ont, 17 Jun 1954; B MUS (New England Conservatory) 1981, Artist Diploma (Toronto) 1983. John Fanning was a pupil of Edward L. Johnson, Malena Malas, William Neill, and Louis Quilico.

John Fanning

John (Ernest Gerald) Fanning. Baritone, b Barrie, Ont, 17 Jun 1954; B MUS (New England Conservatory) 1981, Artist Diploma (Toronto) 1983. John Fanning was a pupil of Edward L. Johnson, Malena Malas, William Neill, and Louis Quilico. He was a member of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) Ensemble 1983-5, having made his COC debut in 1983 as the Mandarin in Turandot. His US debut was in 1986, singing with the Toronto Symphony (TS) in a concert performance of Strauss's Daphne at Carnegie Hall with conductor Sir Andrew Davis.

In Opera

In opera Fanning performed Athanaël in Thaïs (Opera in Concert, 1985); Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (COC 1985); Shchelkalov in Boris Godunov (COC 1986); Valentin in Faust (Opéra de Québec 1988); Figaro in The Barber of Seville, both Rossini's (Pacific Opera Victoria 1988) and Paisiello's (Long Beach Opera, Calif 1989); Dr Falke in Die Fledermaus (Opera Ontario 1997); and the role of the Father in Hansel und Gretel (COC 1998). In the title role in Eugene Onegin (Pacific Opera Victoria 1990), he was described as "at ease, elegant and moody" (Opera Canada, Summer 1990), and the review of his Long Beach Opera appearance described his voice as "at once deeply resonant yet somehow brightly coloured" (Grunion Gazette, 5 Nov 1989). Other major roles have included Captain Balstrode in the Opéra de Montréal production of Peter Grimes (2001); Tomsky in COC's Pique Dame; and Jack Rance in the Vancouver Opera production of La Fanciulla del West (2003). In 2004 Fanning was Iago for the first time in Opera Ontario's production of Otello (reprising the role with Opera Lyra Ottawa in 2007), and played Gandalf in The Hobbit alongside the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus.

Performing frequently in the US, John Fanning has appeared with several opera companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Arizona Opera. In 1996 Fanning performed in Minnesota Opera's production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and soon after was offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. Although featured in secondary roles in several of the Met's productions, in 2000 Fanning performed his first major role with the company, replacing Bryn Terfel as the Villains in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Other performances with the Met have also included Prokofiev's The Gambler (2001), Hansel und Gretel in 2002, and Wolf-Ferrari's Sly with Placido Domingo (2002). On 27 Jan 2007, Fanning created the title role in the Calgary Opera's world premiere of John Estacio's Frobisher. Later that year, he sang Wotan in the Canadian Opera Company production of Wagner's Das Rheingold; the performance marked the opening of Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. In subsequent years, Fanning increasingly explored roles for bass-baritone, performing the Dutchman in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman with Pacific Opera Victoria in 2011.

In Concert

John Fanning performed as soloist with the TS, Symphony Nova Scotia, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO). As an oratorio singer Fanning performed with the Tudor Singers (Bach's Magnificat, 1985); the Richard Eaton Singers (Messiah 1987 and 1989); the Bach-Elgar Choir of Hamilton (Fauré's Requiem, 1987); the VSO and Vancouver Bach Choir (Bach's St John Passion, 1990); and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

Fanning also has considerable experience in musical theatre. He was a member of the Canadian touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera 1991-2, and in 2004 he played the title role in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd with the Calgary Opera. He also appeared in the feature film Moonstruck in 1987.

John Fanning became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2007.


Further Reading

  • Mercer, Ruby. "Spotlight: John Fanning," Opera Canada, vol 27, Summer 1986

    Citron, Paula. "On stage: John Fanning," Opera Canada vol 41, Summer 2000

    Martens, Dawn. "Natural selection: tales of John Fanning's evolution as an opera villain," Opera Canada vol 44, Winter 2003

    Smart, Amy. "Voice change opens musical horizons: Deeper, darker timbre has allowed John Fanning to pursue new roles," Times Colonist (Victoria), 29 Sep 2011