People in the News

New Artist of the Month: Baritone Edmund Danon

July 1, 2024 | By Clive Paget, Musical America

LONDON—It’s a mark of a fine actor when you see him multiple times and only realize it’s the same person when you check his program biography. In 2021 at Grange Park’s The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko I admired Edmund Danon’s “smoothly focused baritone” as the slippery Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoy. One year later, in Oliver Leith’s Last Days, an opera loosely based around the death of Kurt Kobain, I described his performance at the Royal Opera House as "a standout."

Back at Covent Garden last April, he brought his commanding voice to the louche, devious Satan in Martinu’s Larmes de Couteau, which shared a bill with John Harbison’s Full Moon in March, where he was the swineherd. “A gripping and visceral performance,” I wrote, “his extreme physicality never compromising his powerful vocals.” Not only is Danon a dramatic chameleon, he tosses off fiendishly complex new music as if were Mozart.

Trained as an aerospace engineer, Danon’s career has been unconventional. Born in West London in 1988, at 35 he says he feels a bit of a fraud assuming new artist status, despite his late entry into the profession. It’s not that there wasn’t music in his family. His mother is a violin teacher, and he attended The Oratory, a Catholic state school where singing was encouraged. “I got this kind of chorister-lite experience until my voice broke and I went and did all the usual teenage things, like playing in bands,” he says, chatting over Zoom from his home in Leeds.

His mother was fine with his choices, fostering a healthy attitude to the value of music as part of a life. “One massive thing she showed me is that it's not ‘superstar or bust,’” he explains. “If you're good at what you do, and open minded to trying different things, then there's a good life to be had finding interesting projects wherever they might pop up.”

Edmund Damon as the Swineherd, Veena Akama-Makia as the Queen in Full Moon in March

Danon reconnected with choral singing as an undergraduate at Bristol University but was happy being a good amateur until his mid-to-late 20s. It was a singing lesson with Mark Wildman, head of voice studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music, that changed his life. “He was the first person to say, ‘You’re not there yet, but there’s a serious voice there if you want to train it properly.’”

Wildman took him on for free and helped him apply for the Academy. Simultaneously winning a place in the Glyndebourne Chorus—a valuable professional stepping stone for many a young singer—the next two years saw Danon “lily padding” between the two organizations. A subsequent stint at the National Opera Studio was supported by Glyndebourne’s New Generation Programme and enabled his professional debut in 2017 as the Lakai in Ariadne auf Naxos alongside a megawatt cast including Lise Davidsen and Erin Morley. “I chinned Sir Thomas Allen with my shoulder on the final night, which wasn’t my finest hour,” he laughs.

Although his final student year saw him singing Figaro in The Barber of Seville and Marcello in La Bohème, his breakthrough in the big, wild world was being cast in the lead in Mark Anthony Turnage’s scabrous adaption of Stephen Berkoff’s Greek at London’s Arcola Theatre. “Edmund Danon gave a blinder of a performance as Eddy, aggressive and visceral, but not devoid of nobility,” according to Opera Magazine.

As Satan in Martinu’s Larmes de Couteau

Plaudits like that landed Danon the role of Demetrius in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Nevill Holt Opera. It was also the first time he was seen by the Linbury Theatre, the Royal Opera House’s cutting-edge studio space, a relationship that has blossomed over the years. “I was in the right piece at the right time and it put me on the radar of all sorts of people working in cool parts of the industry,” he says.

Projects don’t come much cooler than Leith’s Last Days. With a score that blends harmonic minimalism with microtonal manipulation and electronica derived from found sound, it demands the canniest of singers to carry it off. “I’ve got so much love for that piece and the people involved,” Danon says. “It was really, really successful—you couldn’t get a ticket for love nor money.” Earlier this year it travelled to Los Angeles at the invitation of the LA Philharmonic.

Ask Danon what roles might be on his wish list and it’s not Mozart or Verdi but Thomas Adès and George Benjamin that spring to mind (his dream would be to play the Protector in Written on Skin). “I can’t tell you how excited I am about the future for this stuff,” he says. “I see these pieces that are considered challenging selling out show after show in all sorts of different venues and playing to all kinds of audiences. If it's good work made by talented people who know how to tell a story, then it lands.”

This autumn he’s singing Mizgir in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden for English Touring Opera, on paper a reasonably orthodox work. “I did Dandini in La Cenerentola for them last autumn—hyper conventional, but with the right director it was still full of exciting challenges. So, I don’t draw that boundary line in my head,” he explains. “Emotionally Mizgir is a really complex role with lots of awkward angles to play with.”

Off duty, Danon enjoys rock climbing, riding his Vespa, and getting out and about to see colleagues doing interesting repertoire. “One of the great things about being in contemporary music is you are much more plugged into contemporary art of all kinds,” he says. “Opera has this persistent identity crisis, but we’re way closer to theatre people than we think; way closer to other artforms.”

As for the future, he’s philosophical. “I’ve started doing some mentoring with young artists and they are full of questions like ‘What kind of singer do I want to be?’ I just say, ‘Relax, it will choose you!”



Law and Disorder by GG Arts Law

Career Advice by Legendary Manager Edna Landau

An American in Paris by Frank Cadenhead



Search Musical America's archive of photos from 1900-1992.