Stuart Skelton

ACO 2024: Meet Tenor Stuart Skelton

Stuart Skelton is one of the great tenors of our time. Here’s how the Australian singer from Sydney became famous around the world for interpreting the notoriously demanding music of Wagner and Mahler.

Grammy-nominated Australian vocalist Stuart Skelton is one of the world’s great heldentenors (‘heroic tenors’), critically acclaimed for his outstanding musicianship, tonal beauty and intensely dramatic portrayals.

He is in constant demand on concert stages around the world and has appeared with all the great orchestras and opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera and The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He is famed internationally for his interpretations of the notoriously demanding music of Wagner and Mahler.

Here’s a brief introduction to Skelton’s life and work.

“Skelton brings a skein of bright-dark shades to a role that makes almost impossible demands of stamina and emotional intensity; he met them, impressively.”
– The Guardian

Born in Sydney

Stuart Skelton was born in Sydney, in 1968. He went to a school attached to the Church of England so became a choir boy and, he tells Opera Wire, “[when] I went to university to study economics and law, I realised that I did not want to work in law or banking, that what I really wanted was to sing.”

Skelton left Australia and studied at the University of Cincinnati and the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program, after attracting the very positive raising of eyebrows by winning Australia's McDonald's Aria Competition.

Professionally, his breakthrough performance was as Lohengrin at Karlsruhe, and he was soon in international demand for more Wagner performances, and performances of other meaty operatic roles.

He made his Teatro alla Scala debut during the 2017-18 season.

Name an opera-inclined conductor you’ve heard of, and Skelton’s no doubt performed with them: Simone Young and Sir Simon Rattle, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim.

Ditto concert halls: Bavarian State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Seattle Opera, La Scala in Milan, and the Paris Opéra.

In 2021 has sang at the Last Night of the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall in London, hailing in a joyful return to concert halls and live music after musician and audiences’ time away during the coronavirus pandemic.


Awards slate

In 2009, Skelton was nominated for an Olivier Award in Outstanding Achievement in Opera for Peter Grimes with the English National Opera. He received another nod in the form of a nomination for his portrayal of Wagner’s Tristan.

And in 2014, the International Opera Awards named him Best Male Singer.

“It is the Grimes of the young Australian Stuart Skelton — surely the finest on a London stage since the celebrated Jon Vickers — who sets the seal on the evening.”
– The Sunday Times

Wagnerian Heldentenor

Skelton is renowned for roles that include the title roles in Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Rienzi, Parsifal, Dmitrij, Otello and Peter Grimes as well as Florestan in Fidelio, Laca in Jenufa, Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer, and Siegmund in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Speaking to Presto Music, Skelton said his teachers in Cincinnati were quite open about the fact that they thought Wagner was where he was headed: “their approach was: ‘Why don’t you learn it here and now, where it doesn’t matter and you’re not going to have to sing it in a big auditorium? We’ll work on getting the language and the idiom right, so that when the time does come (and we suspect it will), you’ll already have parts of these roles bubbling away’,” he says.

He is also renowned for his interpretation of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), which he has recorded with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michael Tilson Thomas and Simon Rattle. It's a work he'll perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2024.

“Skelton’s monumental performance combined glorious warmth and colour with elemental expressive energy that taps into something deeply human and intuitive.”
– The Sydney Morning Herald

A mighty mixologist

Stuart Skelton is known for having a penchant for “fast cars, cigars and cocktails,” and his reputation as a mixologist precedes him.

A fan of the classics, he has recommended the negroni – “in hot weather, pretty much the best thing you can do with gin” – and for cooler weather, an old fashioned, or a Manhattan, in this Guardian interview.


Photos: Sim Canetty-Clarke

Stuart Skelton appears alongside mezzo-soprano Catherine Carby in Mahler’s Song of the Earth in the ACO’s 2024 National Concert Season. Click here to find out more and get tickets.