Jonathan Lemalu

Engagements this season and beyond include A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Teatro Massimo Palermo, Israeli Opera and English National Opera, Hercules with the Handel & Haydn Society, his debut at the Grange Festival and a return to the Royal Opera House.

© Sussie Ahlburg


Jonathan Lemalu, a New Zealand born Samoan, graduated from a Postgraduate Diploma Course in Advanced Performance on the London Royal Schools Opera Course at the Royal College of Music and was awarded the prestigious Tagore Gold Medal. He is a joint winner of the 2002 Kathleen Ferrier award and the recipient of the 2002 Royal Philharmonic Society’s Award for Young Artist of the Year. He has performed at the Munich, Edinburgh, Ravinia and Tanglewood Festivals and at the BBC Proms. He is in great demand from the major opera houses, orchestras and recital venues of the world. He released a debut recital disc on EMI with Roger Vignoles to great critical acclaim and which won a Gramophone Debut Disc of the Year award. Other recordings include an operatic arias disc with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and a disc of English and American songs with Malcolm Martineau.



  • 21 Oct 16 HOLST At the Boar's Head
    Presto Classical
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    “…Jonathan Lemalu is the robust Falstaff…”
    Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 22 December 2016

    “In the Holst, Lemalu dominates proceedings as an arresting, powerful Falstaff.”
    Guy Weatherall, Rheingold, 21 Janaury 2017

    “What makes this recording invaluable is Jonathan Lemalu’s Falstaff. Articulate, charmingly churlish and aptly stentorian, it is such a vivid characterisations…”
    Andrew Farach-Colton, Gramophone, February 2017

  • 09 May 15 GILBERT&SULLIVAN The Pirates of Penzance
    English National Opera
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    “.. .Jonathan Lemalu’s Mummerset Sergeant of Police – his imperturbably lugubrious rendering of “When a felon’s not engaged” was my personal highlight of the evening.”
    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 10 May 2015

  • 02 Sep 13 VERDI Requiem
    Taranaki Arts Festival, New Zealand
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    “And Jonathan Lemalu looks just as a bass should, while singing with splendid depth and diction.”
    David Hill, Taranaki Daily News, 2 September 2013

  • 09 Sep 13 VERDI Requiem
    Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
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    “A fine quartet of rising operatic stars provided an excellent account of the solo parts, the New Zealand bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu a superb last-minute substitute…”
    Eamonn Kelly, The Australian, 9 September 2013

  • 21 Aug 13 MOZART Don Giovanni
    CBS Canterbury Arena
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    “… Jonathan Lemalu brings out the comic dimensions of Leporello with flair.”
    Elizabeth O’Connor,, 22 August 2013

    “Beyond question was the outstanding line-up of soloists who…sang superbly and presented a most convincing drama
    with the right balance of comedic relief… Driving much of this was the interplay between Mark Stone (Don Giovanni) and Jonathan Lemalu (Leporello), two fine performers relishing
    their roles as the master seducer and sidekick. The rapport between them gelled particularly well in the second act and it was a treat
    indeed to hear these two fine male singers together on the same stage.”

    Patrick Shepherd, The Press, 22 August 2013

  • 28 Jul 13 MUSSORGSKY Songs and Dances of Death
    Wellington Town Hall
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    “There could hardly have been a more powerfully sympathetic singer than Jonathan Lemalu, of these dark though not really despairing songs, for Death is depicted mainly as friend, offering peace in place of suffering. Lemalu’s Russian sounded as if he were singing in his first language and his entire demeanour and vocal quality expressed their sombre but richly musical quality with utter conviction.”
    Lindis Taylor, Middle C, 28 July 2013

  • 07 Jul 13 TAVENER The Death of Ivan Ilyich
    Manchester International Festival
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    “Punctuated by the repeated summons of stentorian trombones, against urgent strings, the bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu projected the intense physical suffering of the dying man who glimpses light at the end of his ordeal…”
    Paul Vallely, The Independent, 10 July 2013

  • 11 Oct 12 HEGGIE Moby Dick
    San Francisco Opera
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    “Jonathan Lemalu imparted admirable dimension to the role of the noble native Queequeg.”
    Georgia Rowe, Opera News, January 2013

    “Bass Jonathan Lemalu sang Queequeg with gruff intensity…”

    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 11 October 2012

    “In two welcome local debuts, Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg and Stephen Costello as Greenhorn are memorable; their characters’ bonding is believable.”

    Janos Gereben, San Francisco Examiner, 11 October 2012

  • 24 Jul 12 WAGNER Die Walküre
    New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
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    “…and the smooth darkness of Jonathan Lemalu, as Hunding, were similarly brilliant.”

    John Button, The Dominion Post, 24 July 2012

    “Hunding was powerfully sung by Jonathan Lemalu in a portrayal which gave the character a menacing quality hinting at a darkness which pervades much of the Ring.”

    John Daly-Peoples, National Business Review, 30 July 2012

  • 29 Jun 12 GERSHWIN Porgy&Bess
    Cincinnati Opera
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    “The evening’s most unforgettable number was “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” the love duet between Jonathan Lemalu as Porgy and a radiant Measha Brueggergosman, singing her first Bess…As the crippled Porgy, Lemalu gave a riveting performance as he alternately crawled and rolled on his knees on a cart. To sing while doing so was a heroic effort. He conveyed Porgy’s simple honesty with the kind of subtle emotional power that drew you in, from his heartwarming anthem “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’” to “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” and his final “I’m On My Way.””

    Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer, 29 June 2012

    “Starring in the handsome production…were soprano Measha Brueggergosman as Bess and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu as Porgy…Lemalu as the crippled Porgy was a commanding presence from the very beginning, pushing himself on a “goat cart” (a little platform on wheels) to join the craps game. Lemalu’s large, warm voice was ideally suited to his roles as lover, protector and figure of integrity in Catfish Row…There were many unforgettable moments during the evening: Lemalu’s “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” which bloomed into a rapturous duet with Brueggergosman…”

    Mary Ellyn Hutton, Music in Cincinnati, 29 June 2012

  • 28 May 12 WALTON Belshazzar's Feast
    Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
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    “Jonathan Lemalu’s bass-baritone, however, was essential to Belshazzar’s Feast…soloist, choir and orchestra responded superbly to Tovey’s demands for light and shade, volume and hush as the story unfolded.”

    Suzanne Yanko,, 28 May 2012

    “…Jonathan Lemalu’s bass-baritone riveting in the perilous unaccompanied description of Babylon…”

    Clive O’Connell,, 28 May 2012