Johnson, Edward, 1878-1950

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Johnson, Edward, 1878-1950

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Edward Johnson was born in 1878 in Guelph, Ontario. At the age of 20 he moved to New York to study music. His interest in opera took him to Europe where he met his future wife Beatrix (Bebe) de Veiga. He returned to the United States in 1902 where he appeared as the hero in De Koven's Maid Marian in Boston and on Broadway in Straus’s A Waltz Dream. Johnson returned to Italy in 1909 with Bebe to study under Vincenzo Lombardi. Edoardo di Giovanni (Johnson’s stage name) made his operatic debut in 1912 at Padua in Andrea Chenier. The Chicago Opera, in 1919, beckoned Johnson to return to the U.S. to become its leading tenor. This successful engagement was followed by a long stay with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, from 1922 to 1935, as its leading tenor. Johnson is most remembered for his performances with ‘the Met’ as Pelleas, Romeo and Peter Ibbetson, the latter being a role he created. The Met’s near financial ruin during the early 1930s was averted, primarily thanks to the efforts of Johnson’s role as its fundraiser. As a result of his work to ‘Save the Met’, he moved into the position of assistant general manager in 1934, and general manager a year later. He remained in this position until 1950 when he returned to Guelph. For the next nine years, Johnson remained active in music education and appreciation. He was the first chairman of Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music and a founder of the Opera School, and he spearheaded music education at the University of Western Ontario. In 1957 Johnson established the Edward Johnson Music Foundation in Guelph to foster music education for youth and music appreciation in his hometown. Johnson suffered a fatal heart attack in 1959 on his way to a National Ballet recital.

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