London, George

Canadian bass-baritone, 1920 - 1985

Biographical notes:

He was born George Burnstein to Russian parents in Montreal. He grew up in Los Angeles and made his debut 1942 in Hollywood in the tiny role of Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata. He continued his studies in New York, frequently appearing in operettas and musicals. In 1947 he was engaged to tour with Mario Lanza and Frances Yeend as a member of the “Belcanto Trio.” Growing success enhanced his ambition to change to a more “serious” repertory and he went to Europe. In 1949 Karl Böhm engaged him to appear at the Vienna State Opera (debut as Amonasro). Subsequently, he appeared as Galitzki, Escamillo, the four villains in the Tales of Hoffmann and as Boris. He was appointed “Kammersänger” of the Vienna State Opera, a great honour for a Canadian-born singer. As of 1950 he appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival every summer. In 1951 he made his German debut in Bayreuth and sang every year until 1964 (Amfortas and Holländer). In 1951 he joined the Met. There he was especially acclaimed as Don Giovanni, Scarpia and again Boris (his favorite role). He was invited to Moscow to sing Boris, the first American singer ever to appear there. In 1961 George London suffered paralysis of his vocal chords, but he tried to continue singing until 1965. His life between 1965 until his death was overshadowed by severe illness. In 1968 he was appointed director of the Kennedy Centre in Washington. He also worked as an operatic producer and was an acclaimed singing teacher.


A sinister and dangerous Scarpia


Amfortas at the Bayreuth Festival


Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and George London in “Le Nozze di Figaro”


Recordings: (selection)

Mozart - Don Giovanni (Böhm 1955/Della Casa, Jurinac, Dermota Seefried, Kunz)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Moralt 1955/Zadek, Jurinac, Simoneau, Sciutti, Berry, Waechter)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Klemperer 1955/Zadek, Cunitz, Streich, Kusche, Günter, Weber)


Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro (Karajan 1950/Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Kunz, Jurinac, Höngen)


Mozart - Die Zauberflöte (Karajan/Seefried, Dermota, Kunz, Loose, Lipp)


Offenbach - Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Schaenen 1954/Simoneau, Alarie, Danco, West)

Voce della Luna

Offenbach - Les Contes d’ Hoffmann (Cluytens 1964/Gedda, d’Angelo, Schwarzkopf, de los Angeles)


Puccini - Tosca (Adler 1959/Steber, Bergonzi)


Puccini - Tosca (Molinari-Pradelli 1959/Tebaldi, del Monaco)


Strauss - Arabella (Solti 1957/Della Casa, Güden, Dermota)


Strauss - Arabella (Kempe 1955/Steber, Güden, Sullivan)

Voce della Luna

Tchaikovsky - Eugene Ongin (Mitropoulos/Amara, Elias, Tucker, Tozzi)


Tchaikovsky - Eugene Onegin (Kraus/Bak, Dermota, Töpper, Frick)


Wagner - Der fliegende Holländer (Dorati 1961/Rysanek, Tozzi, Liebl, Elias)


Wagner - Der fliegende Holländer (Sawallisch 1959/Rysanek, Greindl, Uhl)


Wagner - Der fliegende Holländer (Keilberth 1956/Rysanek, Varnay, van Mill, Traxel)


Wagner - Parsifal (Knappertsbusch 1951/Windgassen, Mödl, Weber, van Mill, Uhde)


Wagner - Parsifal (Krauss 1953/Vinay, Mödl, Uhde, Greindl)


Wagner - Parsifal (Knappertsbusch 1962/Windgassen, Dalis, Hotter, Talvela, Neidlinger)


Wagner - Parsifal (Knappertsbusch 1963/Windgassen, Dalis, Hotter, Weber, Neidlinger)

Golden Melodram

Wagner - Das Rheingold (Solti/Flagstad, Neidlinger, Svanholm)


Wagner - Die Walküre (Leinsdorf/Vickers, Brouwenstijn, Gorr)


Recital 1952 - 1955 (Arias by Berlioz, Boito, Musorgsky, Wagner, Rubinstein, Massenet, Verdi)


Of Gods and Demons (Arias by Gounod, Berlioz, Boito, Rubinstein, Paladilhe, Massenet, Borodin, Musorgsky, Wagner, Gruenberg)

Sony Heritage

George London - Live Recordings 1953 - 1956


Excerpts from Meistersinger (Knappertsbusch/Stokowski)


George London in Concert (New York 1957)


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: Stars of David/The Record of Singing Vol. 4



His favorite role: Boris Godunov


A cynical Don Giovanni


He is a dramatic and very expressive singer. In many roles he sings like a demonic panther with a sound of purple-black in color. London is a singer favoring the drama in a piece. Although his technique is not faultless, he is able to vary color to suggest shifts of mood. His acting on stage was described as overwhelming. The special magnetism of this artist is documented on his great recordings.

I admire him in the following roles: Boris Godunov, Amfortas, Mandryka, Holländer, Scarpia, the four Villains in Tales of Hoffmann and Wotan. Every role is sung with utmost expression and unbelievable commitment. He is truly a singing-actor!

 Ich habe eine Frau gehabt (Mandryka in Arabella / R. Strauss / Decca 1957)


“Ich bin ein halber Bauer, bei mir geht alles langsam, aber stark”

Mandryka in R. Strauss’ Arabella