The English tenor, Justin Lavender, was originally persuaded by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten to abandon nuclear engineering for music.
Justin Lavender made his international debut in The Pearl Fishers at the Sydney Opera House. This success led to engagements with many of the world’s great opera companies and orchestras. In 1990 he made debuts at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, singing the leading role of Arnold in Rossini’s spectacular masterpiece William Tell, and at the Vienna State Opera as Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute. His debut at La Scala, Milan, in the title role of Rossini’s Count Ory came the following year. He recently returned to Covent Garden for the title role in Charles Gounod’s Faust, later singing Florestan in L.v. Beethoven’s Leonore with the Chelsea Opera Group, Don José with the Welsh National Opera, and Loge in Wagner’s Das Rheingold for the Latvian National Opera and at Norway’s Bergen Festival. This season he sings Ruis in Donzetti’s Maria Padilla for Washington Concert Opera, Pollione in Bellini’s Norma for English Touring Opera, and Don José again with the Taiwan National Symphony.
Justin Lavendere has worked on the concert platform with such conductors as Georg Solti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Oramo, Leonard Slatkin, Rhozhdestvensky, Dutoit, Frühbeck de Burgos, Mark Elder and Claudio Abbado, and is particularly associated with oratorios such as Edward Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Verdi’s Requiem, Gustav Mahler’s 8th Symphony and Schmidt’s Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (Book of Seven Seals).
Justin Lavender’s many recordings include solo CDs with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra of Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti arias as well as leading roles such as Arturo in Bellini’s Puritani, Fernand in Donizetti’s La Favorite, Mark in Smyth’s The Wreckers and Pierre Bezuhov in the only complete recording of Prokofiev’s War and Peace. As well as Gerontius with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra he recorded in 2004 Schnittke’s Faust Cantata with the Hamburger Symphoniker. In 2006 he sang Gerontius at the Berlin Festival and recorded it with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on a CD released for the E. Elgar 150th anniversary celebrations in 2007. This recording was the Editor’s Choice in Gramophone magazine: Alan Blyth wrote, “The best modern Gerontius… Justin Lavender surpasses all recent interpreters.” A new recording of Janáček’s Otčenáš (The Lord’s Prayer) will be released shortly. He appears in Alan Parker’s film The Life of David Gale, recently on general release.
For eight years Justin Lavender wrote a regular column for The Irish Examiner, and he has contributed articles and book reviews to newspapers and professional journals. He is a Professor of Vocal Studies at the Royal College of Music, London and Visiting Tutor at the Birmingham Conservatoire; has given master-classes all over the world, and has a private teaching practice based at his home in Thames Ditton where he also rows and sails regularly on the Thames.