Renowned Canadian baritone John Fanning made his Pacific Opera Victoria debut in 1988, as Figaro in The Barber of Seville. He returned in 1990 for the title role in Eugene Onegin and the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance. Other POV roles included Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (1991), Germont in La traviata (1994), Marcello in La Bohème (1995), Escamillo in Carmen (1996), Zurga in The Pearlfishers (1996), and the title role in Rigoletto (1998). In 2011 he returned to the POV stage in his role debut as the Dutchman in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman. He follows this in October 2014 with another Wagner role – Wotan in Das Rheingold – which he performed for the first time in 2006, at the grand opening of the Canadian Opera Company's new opera house in Toronto, stepping into the role with just five days' notice.
A Member of the Order of Canada, John Fanning holds a pre-eminent position among today's baritones. He is a veteran of ten seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, where his roles included John Plake in Sly, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, The Father in Hänsel und Gretel, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, Mr. Astly in The Gambler, conducted by Valery Gergiev, Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier, and the Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, conducted by James Levine.
At San Francisco Opera he was conducted by Patrick Summers in Louise and also appeared as William Jennings Bryan in The Ballad of Baby Doe. Appearing with all the major opera companies and symphonies in Canada, he has toured the United States as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with Bernard Labadie and Les Violons du Roy, performed Belshazzer’s Feast with Roberto Minczuk and the Calgary Philharmonic and sung Oedipus Rex with Maestro Minczuk in Rio de Janeiro.
John studied at the New England Conservatory and the University of Toronto and was a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble. He has sung many roles with the COC, including Wotan and Gunther in their acclaimed Ring Cycle, which opened Toronto’s new opera house. In the fall of 2011 he made two significant role debuts, appearing as the title characters in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman for Pacific Opera Victoria, and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi for Calgary Opera. He made his English National Opera debut in 2012 as Sharpless in the Anthony Minghella production of Madama Butterfly.
He has sung Tonio in Pagliacci and Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West for Vancouver Opera, Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe and the title role in Sweeney Todd for Calgary Opera, and the title role in Falstaff for Edmonton Opera. He performed Iago in Otello for Opéra de Québec, Opera Ontario, Manitoba Opera and Opera Lyra and made his Spoleto Festival USA debut as Moneybags Bill in Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.
With L’Opéra de Montréal, he has appeared in the title role of Verdi's Macbeth, as Balstrode in Peter Grimes, Lescaut in Manon Lescaut and Der Musiklehrer in Ariadne auf Naxos, a role he has also performed at the Houston Grand Opera. He was Jokanaan in Salome for Arizona Opera and Kentucky Opera and was featured at New York City Opera as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and as the Four Villains in Les Contes d’Hoffman. His wide-ranging repertoire also includes Kolenaty in The Makropulos Case (Vancouver Opera and Angers/Nantes Opera, France) and Casanova in Casanova’s Homecoming (Minnesota Opera). Mr. Fanning made his US debut in 1986 in a concert performance of Strauss' Daphne at Carnegie Hall, with the Toronto Symphony conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Mr. Fanning gives master classes at universities across Canada and has been a regular faculty member at Opera Nuova in Edmonton, Opera on the Avalon in St John's, Highlands Opera Studio in Haliburton and the Banff School. Featured as Firmin in The Phantom of the Opera both on the national tour and at the Pantages Theatre in Toronto, he has been the operatic voice of many commercials, starred in an episode of CBC's Wind at my Back and was prominently featured in Norman Jewison's film Moonstruck.
In the fall of 2013, Mr. Fanning joined the faculty of the University of Montreal as an Assistant Professor of Voice.
The magic certainly wasn't all in the staging. Baritone John Fanning was commanding in the title role, yet also vulnerable. He let us see and hear how he yearns to break the curse that has condemned him to sail the high seas forever.
Robin Miller, Opera Canada, review of Pacific Opera Victoria's The Flying Dutchman, 2011
He already acts it brilliantly throughout, bringing a tortured, Ibsenesque grandeur to his character.
Richard Ouzounian, Variety, on John Fanning as Wotan in the Canadian Opera Company's Das Rheingold
John Fanning as the counsul Sharpless was quite superb. His was a nuanced performance: he understood the care needed to convey the bad news during the 'Letter Scene', yet commanded when necessary when reprimanding Pinkerton.
Kevin Rogers, Classicalsource.com, review of English National Opera's Madama Butterfly, 2012
This was surely a man who could call doom down from the heavens.
Betty Webb, Get Out Magazine, review of Arizona Opera's Salome, 2003