Simon O'Neill


A native of New Zealand, Simon O’Neill has established himself as one of the finest helden-tenors on the international stage. He is a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatro alla Scala and both the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals, appearing with a number of illustrious conductors including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano, Daniel Barenboim, Pietari Inkinen, Pierre Boulez, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Colin Davis, Daniele Gatti, Edo de Waart, Fabio Luisi, Donald Runnicles, Thomas Hengelbrock and Christian Thielemann.

Simon’s performances as Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with Pappano, La Scala and Berlin with Barenboim and at the Metropolitan Opera with Runnicles in the celebrated Otto Schenk production returning with Luisi in the new Lepage Ring Cycle were performed to wide critical acclaim. He was described in the international press as "an exemplary Siegmund, terrific of voice", "THE Wagnerian tenor of his generation" and "a turbo-charged tenor".  

Notable debuts have included; the Royal Opera House (2005) Jenik in The Bartered Bride with Mackerras, the Salzburg Festival (2005) in Die Zauberflöte with Muti, the Metropolitan Opera (2006) as the Gran Sacerdote in Idomeneo with Levine, Opera Australia (2009) as Sergei in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Armstrong, Siegmund in Die Walküre at Teatro alla Scala (2010) with Barenboim and the Bayerische Staatsoper with Nagano (2013), the Bayreuth Festival in the title roles of Lohengrin with Nelsons (2010) and Parsifal with Gatti (2011), Chairman Mao in Nixon in China with Renes with the San Francisco Opera (2012), and the Wiener Staatsoper (2012) in the title role of Parsifal with Thielemann.

Simon made his Bayreuth festival debut in the title of Lohengrin in the new Hans Neuenfels production and returned as Parsifal in the celebrated Stefan Herheim production. Other recent engagements have included opening La Scala's season as Siegmund in Die Walküre with Barenboim, the Wiener Staatsoper with Welser-Möst, his return as Siegmund in the celebrated Keith Warner Ring Cycle, Lohengrin, Fidelio and Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Cavaradossi in Tosca in Tokyo, Berlin and Hamburg, Fidelio at Houston Grand Opera and Siegmund at both the Berlin and Hamburg Staatsoper. Simon also made his debut in the role of Siegfried in concert performances of Götterdämmerung with the Orquesta Sinfonica Galicia and Parsifal with the Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble and Hengelbrock at Teatro Real Madrid.

His diary of engagements in the 13/14 season and beyond includes: Siegmund at the Deutsche Oper and Berlin State Oper; the title role of Parsifal at in a new production at Covent Garden and Pappano and with the Bayerischer Rundfunks withNelsons; Fidelio at the Hamburg Staatsoper; Otello in Sydney and New Zealand, as well as several major roles at the Houston Grand Opera with Summers and his role debut as the Drum Major in Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera with Levine.

At extremely short notice Simon made his debut in the title role of Verdi’s Otello in concert at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis (2009). His performance was widely acclaimed by critics, who described his musical and dramatic portrayal of the infamous protagonist as “thrilling”, “a triumph”, “an immense performance” “a tremendous debut in the title-role, giving notice that he is the best heroic tenor to emerge over the last decade.”

Simon has appeared in many of the world’s leading concert halls including Carnegie Hall for Das Lied von der Erde with Levine and The Met Orchestra and Missa Solemnis with the Boston Symphony, Florestan in Fidelio at both the Salzburg Festival and BBC Proms with Barenboim and with the National Symphony Orchestra and Eschenbach at the Kennedy Center, Gurrelieder in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Das Lied von der Erde and Parsifal in concert at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia with Pappano and Gatti, Der Freischütz with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass with Dutoit at Tokyo’s NHK Hall and with Boulez in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Mahler’s Symphony No.8 at the Sydney Opera House with Ashkenazy and Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 for the reopening of London’s Royal Festival Hall. He also had the honour of touring Europe with Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performing Act I Die Walküre in concert and performing complete the Ring Cycle with the Staatskapelle Berlin at the BBC Proms. 

His discography includes his debut solo award winning album; Father and Son, Wagner Scenes and Arias (Lohengrin, Parsifal, Siegmund and Siegfried) with Pietari Inkinen and the NZSO for EMI, the title role of Otello and Max in Der Freischütz with Sir Colin Davis for LSO Live, Die Zauberflöte for the Salzburg Festival Mozart 25 DVD with Riccardo Muti, Mahler’s Symphony No.8 with Vladimir Ashkenanzy and the Sydney Symphony, Beethoven Symphony No.9 with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and Paavo Järvi and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra with Kent Nagano, Frank Martin’s Der Sturm with the Netherlands Radio Symphony and Thierry Fischer and Chauson’s Le Roi Arthus with Leon Botstein and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. 

Simon O’Neill is an alumnus of the University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, the Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard Opera Center. He is a Fulbright Scholar, was awarded the 2005 Arts Laureate of New Zealand and was a grand finalist in the 2002 Metropolitan Opera National Auditions returning as guest artist in 2007. He also appears on the 1998 New Zealand one-dollar performing arts postage stamp.


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News & Features



ADAMS - Nixon in China, Mao Tse-Tung 
BARBER - Anthony and Cleopatra, Caesar
BEETHOVEN - Fidelio, Florestan 
BERG - Wozzeck, Drum Major 
BIZET - Carmen, Don Jose 
BRITTEN - Peter Grimes, Peter Grimes 
BRITTEN - Rape of Lucretia, Male chorus 
CILEA - Adriana Lecouvreur, Mauricio
CHAUSSON - Le Roi d'Arthus, Lancelot 
FLOYD - Susannah, Sam 
HANDEL - Giulio Cesare, Sextus
HANDEL - Lotario, Berengario
HANDEL - Xerxes, Xerxes
JANACEK - Jenufa, Steva + Laca 
JANACEK - Katya Kabanova, Boris 
JANACEK - The House of the Dead, Skuratov 
KORNGOLD - Die Tote Stadt, Paul 
LEONCAVALLO - Pagliacci, Canio
MARTIN - Der Sturm
MASCAGNI - Cavalleria Rusticana, Turiddu
MOZART - Die Zauberflote, Tamino 
MOZART - Don Giovanni, Don Ottavio 
MOZART - Idomeneo, Idomeneo 
MOZART - La Clamenza di Tito, Tito 
MUSSORGSKY - Boris Godunov, Dmitri
POULENC - Dialogues of the Carmelites, Chevalier 
PUCCINI - La Boheme, Rodolfo 
PUCCINI - La Fanciulla del West, Dick Johnson
PUCCINI - Madama Butterfly, Pinkerton 
PUCCINI - Tosca, Cavaradossi 
PUCCINI - La Rondine, Ruggero
PUCCINI - Manon Lescaut, Des Grieux
PUCCINI - Turandot, Calaf
SMETANA - The Bartered Bride, Jenik
J STRAUSS - Die Fledermaus, Alfred
R STRAUSS - Der Rosenkavalier, Italian Singer 
R STRAUSS - Ariadne auf Naxos, Baccus
R STRAUSS - Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Kaiser+Apollo
R STRAUSS - Der Rosenkavalier, Italian Tenor
SHOSTAKOVITCH - Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Sergei 
TCHAIKOVSKY - Eugene Onegin, Lenski 
TCHAIKOVSKY - Pique Dame, Hermann
VERDI - Il Trovatore, Manrico 
VERDI - La Traviata, Alfredo 
VERDI - La Forze del Destino, Don Alvaro
VERDI - Macbeth, Macduff 
VERDI - Otello, Otello
VERDI - Simon Boccanegra, Gabriele
VERDI - Un Balo in Maschera, Riccardo
WAGNER - Das Rheingold, Froh+Loge
WAGNER - Der Fliegende Hollaender, Steersman + Erik
WAGNER - Die Walkure, Siegmund 
WAGNER - Gotterdammerung, Siegfried
WAGNER - Lohengrin, Lohengrin 
WAGNER - Parsifal, Parsifal 
WAGNER - Rienzi, Rienzi
WAGNER - Siegfried, Siegfried
WARD - The Crucible, Judge Danforth
WEBER - Der Freischutz, Max


# denotes role in preparation, not yet performed

Ludwig van Beethoven:                 




Benjamin Britten:


Georg Frederick Handel:




Joseph Haydn:                 



Leos Janacek:                 


Gustav Mahler:                 



Felix Mendelssohn:                 



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:                 




Giacomo Puccini:                 




Igor Stravinsky:                 




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    Otello - Opera Australia, trailer


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Otello- Title role

Houston Grand Opera

'Tenor Simon O'Neill's trumpet of a voice traced Otello's entire tragic path, from the triumphant ring of his entrance to the raw edge of desperation that took hold as the deception progressed.' Steven Brown, Houston Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014
'O’Neill’s best moment was when he cried out for peace and military glory in Otello’s 2nd act aria “Addio,” achieving that sweet yet full-bodied tone that is so hard to master in the upper range.' Sydney Boyd, Houstonia Magazine, 27 Oct 2014


Otello - Title role

Sydney Opera House

“The three main principals could hardly be better. As Otello, New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill is tireless and thrilling… he’s crystal clear even from the very back of the set. This is a reading of enormous panache, considerable vocal nuance and some of the most exciting top notes you are likely to hear on an operatic stage today. How rare and enjoyable it is to sit back and enjoy a singer in such a demanding role in full confidence that he won’t fall at any of the numerous vocal hurdles. The phrase-shaping of which he is capable, despite the gruelling requirements of volume or tessitura, is remarkable. And I’ve never heard so many of the words in a live performance of the role. The rapturous ascent to the top note as he sings “scendean sulle mie tenebre la gloria, il paradiso e gli astri a benedir” in the love duet is spine-tingling and the top note on “della Gloria d’Otello”, in the farewell-to-arms is hair-raising … He hurls himself around with gay abandon, and manages some pretty spectacular tumbles”

Limelight magazine, July 2014

“As Otello, New Zealander Simon O’Neill cemented his reputation as one of the world’s top heldentenors…O’Neill is another singer to make his mark by stepping in to a role at short notice — in 2009 in the title role of Otello with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. O’Neill’s projection is phenomenal, with an awesome upper register. Even more satisfying is his ability to sustain the intensity despite the demands of being on stage for a large part of the time.”


Tom Pillans , Manly Daily, 7 July 2014
“Simon O’Neill veered vertiginously between the vocal command of his first appearance as conquering hero, the tenderness of his first scene with Desdemona, the confused suspicion and the raging jealousy which later overcome him, and the utter defeat of the end. I have rarely heard such a convincing fusion of great singing and total character portrayal as in this performance of Otello, itself probably Verdi’s most successful opera in terms of theatre.”

The Australian Stage, July 2014
“As for Otello, the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill commands from the minute he steps on stage. From his re-entry in Act 1 where he seeks to silence the fray ("Abbasso le spade!"/"Down with your swords!"), O’Neill’s vocal and physical presence never wavers. Taught the role by one of the great Otellos, Placido Domingo, and fresh from a season of Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera, it is with single-minded intensity that O’Neill’s Heldentenor pierces through the psyche of the beleaguered Moor.”

The Guardian (Australian), July 2014
“Simon O'Neill's entry as Otello resounded with robust force and he maintained a focused and energised strength with flaming colour to the sound throughout the whole of this demanding role."

Sydney Morning Herald, July 2014



Royal Opera House Covent Garden

"Simon O’Neill’s Parsifal, on the other hand, was fully equal to Wagner’s demands"

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 1 December 2013
"Simon O’Neill plays Parsifal like Peter Grimes — a whiskery rough-diamond who could well have wandered into the wrong opera — with an agile brilliance" Michael White, New York Times, 2 December 2013
"Parsifal at the Royal Opera House is a spiritual experience

No quibbles with the cast. Simon O’Neill makes a tireless and thrilling Parsifal; in his battle with the compromised seductress Kundry (an electrifying Angela Denoke), he creates high drama of the first order.", 3 December 2013
"O'Neill's shambling Parsifal, his tone slightly raw-edged, is perfectly suited to the production" Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 1 December 2013


Die Walkure - Siegmund

Royal Albert Hall, BBC PROMS

"The powers-that-be did not relent for Die Walkure...For this was an enthralling performance in every respect, led by Daniel Barenboim...Simon O'Neill's Siegmund was rock-steady and heroic - a fine match for Anja Kampe's thrillingly vocalised Sieglinde" The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen, 23 July 2013


Die Walkure - Siegmund

Teatro alla Scala, Milan

"Simon O’Neill è un Siegmund dalla voce omogenea, di un colore adatto alla tipologia vocale, anche se esordisce con pochi armonici e negli acuti il timbro si deforma leggermente. Nel lungo monologo e nel duetto con Sieglinde, però, la stessa voce si riscalda e assume toni più vibranti, offrendo il meglio con l’enunciazione del tema dei Ghibicunghi (tema di dolore per la morte, lo stesso che apre la celebre marcia funebre di Siegfried nella Götterdämmerung). L’invocazione al padre, Wälse, si traduce in una corona tenuta a lungo dal tenore, con squillo appropriato, mentre in orchestra emerge finalmente, dopo laboriosa preparazione, il tema della spada: è il momento in cui O’Neill diventa buon Heldentenor, come conferma anche il bellissimo arioso finale «Winterstürme wichen / dem Wonnemond» (Si è arreso il gelo / al chiaro tepore), un inno alla primavera che rimanda alla vocalità femminile e materna di Sieglinde."

("O'Neill Simon Siegmund is a voice from the homogeneous , a color suited to the type of voice, although his debut with few harmonics in the treble and the stamp deforms slightly. In the long monologue and duet with Sieglinde, however, the same voice warms up and taking on a more vibrant, offering the best with the enunciation of the theme of the Gibichungs (theme of grief at the death, the same one that opens the famous funeral march Siegfried in Götterdämmerung ). The invocation to the father, Walse, results in a crown long held by the content with appropriate ring, while in the orchestra emerges finally, after laborious preparation, the theme of the sword: it is the time when O'Neill gets good Heldentenor , as confirmed by the beautiful airy final "Winterstürme WICHEN / dem Wonnemond" ( It has surrendered the freeze / warmth of the light ), an ode to spring which refers to the female voice and maternal Sieglinde.")
Michele Curnis, GBOPERA, 6 July 2013


Die Walkure - Siegmund

Bayerische Staatsoper

"Simon O’Neill was a sturdy, stalwart Siegmund singing with fluid, burnished tone. As his sister-bride, Petra Lang embodied all her familiar strengths (fulsome, warm tone in all registers) and shortcomings (sometime sluggish phrases above the staff and occasionally veering north of the pitch). Together, the pair brought thrilling immediacy, spontaneity, and yes, erotic passion to their Act One duet"

James Sohre, Opera Today, 26 February 2013


Die Walkure - Siegmund

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"Simon O'Neill brings lyricism and vocal beauty to Siegmund, as well as real thrill in those big moments when he demands the sword his father has promised and when he accepts the name that Sieglinde has given him.", October 2012
"As Siegmund himself, Simon O’Neill gave a moving performance, singing with huge conviction and animation, and with fine chemistry between him and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. Faced later with Brünnhilde in Act II his So grüsse mir Walhall (Then greet Valhalla for me) was simply riveting."

Wordpress, October 2012
"Simon O'Neill and Eva-Maria Westbroek are heartbreaking as Die Walkure's incestuous twins Siegmund and Sieglinde, and Antonio Pappano's conducting of both operas continues to generate luscious and dramatic sounds in the pit."

The Metro, October 2012

Gurrelieder - Waldemar, BBC Proms

Royal Albert Hall London

"The role of Waldemar demands a Wagnerian Heldentenor of the highest calibre. The New Zealand tenor, Simon O’Neill acquitted himself superbly. It is no surprise that he is in demand as both Siegmund and Siegfried throughout the world."

Opera Brittania, August 2012

Der Freischutz - Max, LSO and Sir Colin Davis

Barbican Centre

"Firstly Simon O’Neill was a superb Max and every bit the equal of René Kollo whom I also have heard sing this part even though he lacks the innate lyricism that was a remarkable part of Alberto Remedios’s voice. O’Neill’s voice was expressive and he sang remarkably effortlessly for such a demanding role. He is popular at Covent Garden so the Royal Opera’s next Parsifal could be their next Max if they wanted to put Der Freischütz on again soon."
Seen and Heard International , April 2012
"As Max, Simon O'Neill went to town with his heldentenor voice, which maintained a strong, clean line through phrases, and even at the top of its register still felt relatively light."
OMH Opera Review, April 2012
"Recorded in April 2012 at London's Barbican, this live concert performance of Weber's Der Freischütz is a moving testament to the late Sir Colin Davis, as well as a thrilling performance in its own right, with top soloists: Christine Brewer in dramatic full throttle as Agathe, a pure-toned Sally Matthews (Annchen) and Simon O'Neill urgent and ardent as Max." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
"Simon O’Neill is Max, the ‘free-shooting’ hunter of the title, and his rock-steady voice blazes like gold as it goes into his higher register." 
Sinfini Music (UK), May 2013
"The winning cast is headed by the tenor Simon O’Neill, who brings both heroic heft and Mozartean lyricism to Max." New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, 21 June 2013


Fidelio - Florestan

Houston Grand Opera

"Houston Grand Opera's thought-provoking Fidelio boosted by extraordinary singing of Karita Mattila and dream cast...New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill is a powerful Florestan to Mattila’s Leonore, his dark entrance in Act II, with a seemingly endless appeal to God’s mercy, is perhaps one of the most difficult entrances in all of western opera. He has a glorious hero’s voice. When he implores the forces that be to illuminate his plight, he uses Beethoven’s ascending lines to reveal the character’s emotions along with convincing dramatic acting. O’Neill can be hauntingly quiet, too, as demonstrated in the final lines of his aria: “let not the star of the weary fade."

Cutluremap Houston, October 2011
"Beethoven's only opera (1805, revised 1814) is a mighty ode to joy, political freedom and conjugal bliss. Houston Grand Opera's production, anchored by radiant performances from international superstar soprano Karita Mattila and majestic tenor Simon O'Neill, bursts forth with thrilling theater and approaches, at times, true grandeur...Throughout Act II, O'Neill mesmerizes. With his crystalline Italianate voice, he scales Beethoven's regal vocal line, starting with an unnerving, gut-piercing "Gott, welch Dunkel hier" ("God, how dark it is here") and his energy never flags."

Houston Press, October 2011
"Simon O’Neill gave an electrifying performance as the heroic Florestan…engaging and poignant."

The National Business Review, October 2011


Parsifal - title role

Bayreuth Festival

"Simon O’Neill made his official debut in the title role (he actually sang at Bayreuth for the first time last season, filling in for the ailing Jonas Kaufmann for a single "Lohengrin") and performed with his accustomed intensity, commitment and beauty of tone."

Musical America, August 2011

"Simon O’Neill sang beautifully as Parsifal", July 2011




Verdi, Otello. 

Orchestra and Chorus: London Symphony. Conductor: Sir Colin Davis. 
Tenor: Simon O'Neil. Bass-Baritone: Gerald Finley. Soprano: Anne Schwanewilms.
LSO Live

Father and Son - Wagner Scenes and Arias

Simon O'Neill's solo album for EMI Classics.

"Simon O'Neill's first solo album for EMI Classics features scenes and arias from Wagner's Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdömmerung and Parsifal. O'Neill, one of the most exciting tenor voices of his generation," is partnered by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under conductor Pietari Inkinen."

EMI Classics