Geoffrey Dolton was born in Shrewsbury. He studied with Joy Mammen at the Royal Academy of Music, where he won many prizes for Opera and Recital singing, culminating in the Principal’s prize. Outside the Academy, he won the International Young Concert Artists Competition of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the Royal Over-Seas League competition, the inter-collegiate Peter Pears Prize, and was runner-up in the Brighton English Song competition, as well as being a Ferrier finalist.
He then studied at the National Opera Studio with scholarships from the Munster Trust, the Royal Society of Arts and the Boise Foundation. He also studied in Milan with a Peter Moores Foundation scholarship. He made his debut as Guglielmo/’Cosi fan Tutte’ with Opera North, where he went on to sing a wide variety of roles, including Silvio/’I Pagliacci’, The Count/’The Marriage of Figaro’, Lescaut/’Manon’, Henrik in Nielsen’s ‘Maskerade’, Hector/’King Priam’, Fritelli/’The Reluctant King’ and Magician, Interlocutor and Leader of the Vaudeville in Weill’s ‘Love Life’. At English National Opera he sung the roles of Guglielmo, Florian/’Princess Ida’, Eisenstein/’Die Fledermaus’ and Alcindoro/’La Bohème’.
With Opera Factory he sang Guglielmo and the Count, which were both televised on Channel 4, Orestes/’Iphigenie en Tauride’, Otho/’The Coronation of Poppea’, Alan in Birtwhistle’s ‘Yan Tan Tethera’, Nick Shadow/’A Rake’s Progress’ and Ferryman/’Curlew River’. For Opera Northern Ireland he has sung Papageno/’The Magic Flute’, Dr Malatesta/’Don Pasquale’, Marullo/’Rigoletto’, Harlekin/’Ariadne auf Naxos’ and Figaro/’The Barber of Seville’. Roles at Welsh National Opera include Papageno, Oreste, and Njegus/’The Merry Widow’.
Other roles include Shaunard/’La Bohème’ at Scottish Opera, Dandini/’La Cenerentola’ for Castleward Opera, Masetto/’Don Giovanni’ with the CBSO and Simon Rattle, Creon and the Messenger in ‘Oedipus Rex’ for The Halle and Kent Nagano, Reverend Gedge/’Albert Herring’ for New Kent Opera and Bartolo/’Barber of Seville’ for Savoy Opera.
His operatic roles have taken him to Glyndebourne, La Fenice Venice, Flanders Opera, New Israeli Opera, Opera New Zealand, the Hong Kong Festival and to many other opera houses around Europe. He returned to Glyndebourne to sing in the premiere of John Lunn’s opera Zoe, which was also recorded for Channel Four. He also returned to La Fenice, Venice, to sing First Mate in Britten’s ‘Billy Budd’, and appeared for the first time for Opera Zuid in Maastricht, singing Dr Malatesta. He has broadcast many times on the radio and television and has recorded Donizetti’s ‘Emilia di Liverpool’ and One Hundred Years of Italian Opera for Opera Rara.
He has worked as Staff Director and Assistant Director for Opera North and Glyndebourne and has restaged ‘Eugene Onegin’ for Pimlico Opera. He revived Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Dove’s ‘Flight’ for the Reisopera Holland, for Flanders Opera in Belgium and for the Adelaide Festival where it won the Helpmann award for best opera. He also directed ‘L’elisir d’Amore’ for Clonter Opera, which was seen at the RCM’s Britten Theatre. He has devised and run Education Workshops for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Welsh National Opera, the National Opera Studio and Clonter Opera.
He appeared in another Dove piece, ‘Death of a Princess’, which was premiered on Channel Four. He created the role of X in Martin Read’s ‘Dance to the End of Time’ and sang the title role in Ullman’s ‘The Emperor of Atlantis’, set in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin for Opera Theatre Company.
In 2006 he sang the role of Kalenik in Rimsky Korsakov’s ‘May Night’ to great critical acclaim for Garsington Opera; Eumete/’The Return of Ulysses’ for WNO and an exceptionally successful The Duke of Plazatoro/’The Gondoliers’ for ENO. In 2007 he appeared in the Raymond Gubbay production of ‘Madam Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall and revived the Richard Jones production of Macbeth for the Glyndebourne Festival. In the summer he sang the role of Popolani in the Buxton Festival’s production of Offenbach’s ‘Bluebeard’. In 2008 he was Associate Director of the Royal Albert Hall/Gubbay production of ‘Tosca’ and he returned to Opera North singing Starveling/’Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and Paris/’Romeo et Juliette’. In 2009 he created the leading role of Dr Needlemeier in Opera North’s world premiere production of David Sawer’s ‘Skin Deep’, which was also performed at the Bregenz Festival. He also sang the role of Il Cavaliere di Rapafratta in Garsington’s ‘Mirandolina’ (Martinu) and returned to Opera North for Don Alfonso/’Cosi fan Tutte’.
In 2010 he reprised Don Alfonso for Opera North, sang at the Nederlandse Opera (Mendo in Francesco Conti’s ‘Don Chisciotte’) and returned to Opera North for Baron Zeta in ‘The Merry Widow’. 2011 saw further performances of ‘The Merry Widow’, a production of ‘Macbeth’ for Glyndebourne, Geronio/’Il Turco in Italia’ at Garsington and Frank Maurrant in The Opera Group’s production of ‘Street Scene’ at the Young Vic as well as Vienna. He returned to Garsington in 2012 year for Don Andres in ‘La Périchole’ and to Opera North in a revival of Belloc’s ‘Cautionary Tales’.
Recent ENO roles include Martinu’s ‘Julietta’ and Dancairo/’Carmen’ and he sang the latter again in 2016. Other recent highlights include his Royal Opera House debut in Gerald Barry’s ‘The Importance of being Earnest’, a revival of ‘Street Scene’ at the Châtelet in Paris and the Gran Teatre de Liceu in Barcelona, Dulcamara for Opera Holland Park as well as a return to Opera North for ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. In 2015 he earned rave reviews for his role of the Dancing Master in Offenbach’s ‘Vert-Vert’ and returned in 2017 with Don Geronio. Last year saw his debut at the Teatro Real in Madrid with ‘Street Scene’ and a return to Opera North for Baron Zeta in the autumn. Among this year’s highlights are the Buxton Festival’s acclaimed production of ‘Georgiana’ and in 2020 he debuts at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, again in the Weill.
Best of all is that supreme operetta artist Geoffrey Dolton, playing an effete dancing master secretly married to Yvonne Howard’s formidable but susceptible headmistress. Dolton’s crystalline enunciation and perfect comic timing put him in the great Savoyard tradition of George Grossmith and Martyn Green. His brilliant execution of a number narrating the history of dance (complete with step demonstrations which even Craig Revel Horwood would have applauded) is the evening’s highlight. TELEGRAPH
The Second Empire frivolity of Francis O’Connor’s designs, which capitalise on the theatre’s leafy setting, is enhanced by some of the most brilliant movement-direction I have ever seen; Dolton’s exuberant song-and-dance virtuosity takes the breath away. INDEPENDENT
The latter receives a deliciously flamboyant performance from Geoffrey Dolton, not least in the uproarious scene in which he treats his students to an illustrated history of European dance (trust me, it’s far funnier than it sounds). WHATONSTAGE
But Geoffrey Dolton stands out as the dancing master Balladon, hilariously elegant and effete, but uncaricatured, and especially impressive in his set-piece demonstration of the history of dance. THE STAGE