Australian baritone Christopher Tonkin has developed a reputation as one of Australia's most successful young exports. Praised for his sweet, dark timbered voice, intensive characterisation, and striking physicality, he was until recently engaged as resident principal baritone with Hannover Staatsoper, with guest appearances in opera and concert halls in Australia and across Europe.
In 2018 Christopher returns to Opera Australia as Marcello in La bohème, both on the main stage in Melbourne and in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour season. He will also make his debut with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Messiah.
His 2017 season included performances of the Duruflé Requiem for Auckland Choral Society, Trouble in Tahiti for Lost and Found Opera, in Perth, and Chou En-Lai in The Nixon Tapes at the Sydney Opera House for the Vivid Festival.
In December of the 2015/2016 season, Christopher made a highly anticipated role debut as Marcello (La bohème) for Staatsoper Hannover. Other recent European credits include Hans (Zemlinksy’s Der Traumgörge), Ottokar (Der Freischütz), Il Conte Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Pollux in Rameau's Castor et Pollux (broadcast live on NDR Niedersachsen Radio), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Ping (Turandot), Delirio (L'Opera seria), Albert (Werther), Valentin (Faust), Silvio (Pagliacci), and Demetrius (A Midsummer Night's Dream). On the concert stage, 2015 saw him debut with the world-renowned Lucerne Festival as the baritone soloist in Der Tod Jesu (Graun).
Repertoire performed in Australia has in recent years includes the Count (Capriccio) and Novice’s Friend (Billy Budd) for Opera Australia's Sydney season, the Black Minister in the La Fura dels Baus internationally renowned production of Le Grand Macabre (Adelaide Festival), and for Victorian Opera the roles of Guglielmo (Così fan tutte), Belcore (L'elisir d'amore), for which he received a Green Room Award nomination, and Chou En-Lai in the 2013 award-winning production of Nixon in China.
Christopher grew up in Geelong, Australia, before moving to Melbourne, where he completed a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts under the tutelage of renowned English tenor Gerald English and Anna Connolly. While there, he won several awards and scholarships, sang in masterclasses with Sir Donald McIntyre and Richard Bonynge, and performed with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, the Melbourne Chorale and Opera Australia’s touring school’s company, OzOpera, as well as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
After graduating from the VCA, Christopher won the Opera Foundation Italian Opera Award, which granted an opportunity to study and perform in Europe. He spent a summer studying in Pisa, Italy, performed the role of Silvio in the Galati Theatre summer production of I Pagliacci in Romania, and finally relocated to London to take up a position at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music. While under full scholarship at the Academy, Christopher was also awarded the patronage of the Kohn Foundation and the Josephine Baker Trust.
Christopher's principal study with acclaimed pedagogue Raymond Connell was supplemented by the tutelage of such distinguished musical mentors as Anthony Legge, Jonathan Hinden, Audrey Hyland and Iain Ledingham, and by masterclasses with celebrated professionals Alan Opie, John Mark Ainsley and John Graham-Hall. During his time at the Academy, Christopher sang leading roles in each of the six productions presented, a highlight being Le nozze di Figaro, in which he performed the role of Count Almaviva in a production directed by John Copley CBE, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. Upon graduating with his Postgraduate Diploma, Christopher was awarded the coveted ‘Diploma of Royal Academy of Music’, granted for performance excellence and distinguishing him as one of the Academy’s top graduates. During his time in the UK, he regularly sang at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Barbican and Chichester Cathedral, and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on several occasions.
In addition to his operatic engagements, Christopher has had extensive oratorio and concert experience throughout Australia, the UK and Europe. He has performed several times with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, including as bass soloist in Handel’s Messiah, the Bach Cantata BWV 207, and as L’Horloge Comtoise and Le Chat in a concert performance of L’Enfant et les sortileges, as well as Happy in La Fanciulla del West. Other concert repertoire includes Bach’s St Matthew Passion, St John Passion, Christmas Oratorio, Magnificat, Coffee Cantata, Cantatas BWV 12, 22, 23, 75 and 128, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Mozart’s Vespers and Requiem, Haydn’s Nelson Mass, Maria Theresa Mass and Paukenmesse, Purcell’s Ode to St Cecilia, Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater, Vaughan-Williams’ Five Mystical Songs and Songs of Travel, Rudi Stephan’s Liebeszauber and Schumann’s Dichterliebe.
Other past engagements have included Don Giovanni for Melbourne Opera, Anténor (Dardanus), Robert (Iolanta), Marco (Gianni Schicchi), Tarquinius (Rape of Lucretia) and Drebyednyetsov (Paradise Moscow) at the Royal Academy Opera (London, UK).