Edward Johnson

World-renowned tenor

Born: 22 August 1878, Guelph, Ontario
Died: 20 April 1959, Guelph, Ontario

In 1899, Edward Johnson left his hometown of Guelph and moved to New York to study music. His first break came in 1908, when he was cast in the operetta, A Waltz Dream. The following year, he moved to Florence, Italy to study with Vincenzo Lombardi and he made his operatic debut in 1912 in Andrea Chenier, billed as Edoardo di Giovanni. In 1914, he made his first appearance at La Scala and a few years later, Johnson sang in the premieres of Puccini's Il tabarro and Gianni Schicchi.

Johnson moved back to the United States in 1919 and was the leading tenor at the Chicago Opera until 1922. He was unhappy there and when New York's Metropolitan Opera came calling, he gladly left. By the early 1930s, the Met was in financial trouble and Johnson became not only the leading tenor, but also the star fundraiser. He became assistant general manager in 1934 and general manager a year later.

Edward Johnson left the Met and moved back to Guelph in 1950. He was the first chairman of the Toronto Conservatory of Music and continued to promote Canadian composers worldwide and music education locally. He died of a heart attack upon arrival at a ballet recital at the Guelph arena in 1959.

Additional trivia:

Edward Johnson's daughter married George Drew who was the Premier of Ontario from 1943-1948 and later, leader of the federal Conservative party.

The Edward Johnson Building at the University of Toronto houses the university's Faculty of Music and the Opera School.

A public school in Guelph is named after him.

More information:

The Edward Johnson Collection at the University of Guelph
The Edward Johnson Music Foundation

Thanks to Garth Cowan for the suggestion.


By Name · J
By Province · Ontario
By Claim to Fame · Music

Added 31 August 2003.