“...but it is almost unfair to put anyone else on stage with the massive bear of a basso named Bjarni Thor Kristinsson. "

Friedeon Rosén

„Um söng Bjarna er lítið að segja. Hann var einfaldlega stórkostlegur.“

Bergþóra Jónsdóttir

„Einen sensationell guten Ochs gab Bjarni Thor Kristinsson.“

Christoph Zimmermann
General Anzeiger Bonn

From a small fishing village in Iceland

Bjarni Thor was born and raised in a small village in Iceland called Garður, where fishing and the fish industry was the main occupation of the 850 inhabitants. As a child he played the flute and sang in a childrens choir and also participated in amature theatre in his hometown. At the age of 18 he started playing the guitar and soon after he took his first singing lessons.
     His first teacher was the Icelandic mezzo soprano Ragnheiður Guðmundsdóttir. He started studying in a local music school but later continued his studies with her in the capital at the Reykjavik Singing School. In the 1992 Icelandic Art Festival he sang parts of Handel’s Messiah and later that year he joined the chorus of the Icelandic Opera in Reykjavík. A year later he sang his first role on stage: Saretzy in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. In 1994 Bjarni gratuated from the Reykjavik Singing School, having studied in the last semester with the Icelandic tenor Garðar Cortes senior.

Further studies in Vienna and first Engagements

In 1994 Bjarni moved to Vienna and continuted his studies at the opera department of the Hochschule für Music und Darstellende Kunst under the guidance of Helene Carusso and Curt Malm. While studying, he sung in some productions at the Wiener Kammeroper and Wiener Taschenoper. In the 1996 Reykjavik Art Festival he sang the role of the Old Man in the Icelandic opera Galdra-Loftur by Jón Ásgeirsson.
In 1997 he signed a three year contract as first bass at the Volksoper in Vienna. His debut was as Colline in Puccini’s La Bohéme, followed by Sarastsro in Mozart’s Magic Flute and van Bett in Lorzing’s Zar und Zimmermann. His many other roles at his time included Bartolo in The Marrige of Figaro and Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni. His two greatest successes in his first season were the opening nights as Bottom in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pimen in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunow. In his second year Bjarni sang his first Wagner role: Pogner in The Meistersinger of Nürnberg on the 100th anniversary of the Vienna Volksoper to much aclaim. As of today he has already sung 11 Wagner roles.

As Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner) at Volksoper Wien.


In January 1998 Bjarni did his first “jump-in”, the role of van Bett in Lorzing’s Zar und Zimmermann. This was at the Berlin State Opera (unter den Linden) and marked the beginning of many performances there. In the following years Bjarni sung many new roles, both in Volksoper Vienna and in other opera houses all around Europe: Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Daland in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, Dulcamara in Donizetti’s E’lisir d’amore, Geisterbote in Strauss’s Frau ohne Schatten, Oroveso in Bellini’s Norma and Kecal inThe Barted Bride by Smetana.

Ochs and Osmin - Bad guys but good roles

Two of Bjarni´s most important roles are Osmin in Mozart’s Abduction from the Serail and Baron Ochs in Strauss’s Rosenkavalier. His first Rosenkavalier production was in Wiesbaden. The role of Ochs is a massive challenge for any bass. The singing range is very wide and a lot of the music is complicated to learn and difficult to sing. Bjarni has now sang over 80 performances of Ochs in Wiesbaden, Dortmund, Berlin, Dresden, Köln, Barcelona and Tokio. Another big challenge in the bass repertoire is the villain Osmin in Mozart’s Abduction from the Serail. Bjarni’s first production of this famous singspiel was at the Berlin State Opera in 2000. Other productions followed in Florence, Volksoper Vienna, Lissabon, Palermo, San Sebastian, La Coruna and in the Icelandic Opera in Reykjavik. For his performance there, Bjarni received “Griman” the Icelandic Theater Prize, as the “Singer of the Year 2007”< /p>

As Osmin in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Mozart) at Staatsoper Berlin, with Stephan Rugämer als Pedrillio.
Als Baron Ochs in Rosenkavalier (Strauss) at Oper Köln with Kiri de Kanawa as Marschallin.

Many roles - many in Wagner's Operas

Over the last few years Bjarni has added many new roles to his repertoire, including Rocco in Beethoven´s Fidelio in Hamburg, Gurnemanz in Wagner´s Parsifal in Barcelona, Kaspar in Weber´s Freischütz in Tokyo and Fafner in Wagner´s Siegfried in Venice.
As mentioned before, the first Wagner role Bjarni sang was the Goldsmith Pogner in The Meistersingers. He has now sung 11 roles from 9 opera’s by the Master of Bayreuth. In the Ring he sang Wotan (in Rheingold), Fafner, Hunding and most recently Hagen. Other roles from Wagner’s opera’s are: Gurnemanz and Titurel in Parisfal, King Heinrich in Lohengrin, King Marke in Tristan and Isolde and Daland in the Flying Dutchman. Two roles on his “wish list” are Landgraf in Tannhäuser and Fasold in the Ring. Two Wagnerian roles for future consideration are Hans Sachs in Meistersinger and Wotan in Walküre.

Bjarni as Daland in Der fliegende Holländer (Wagner) at Opera Roma. As flying Dutchman: Franz Grundheber.

Recordings and Recitals

Although Bjarni has mainly sung in opera he has also given many recitals. He has worked with two of the leading Icelandic accompanists, Jónas Ingimundarson and Ástríður Alda Sigurðardóttir for many years, most recently Schubert’s Winterreise with Mrs. Sigurðardóttir in the Salurinn Iceland. At the same concert hall in 2001 Bjarni produced and sang in a concert called “King, Fool and Villlain – the Bass and all his different roles”. This concert, accompanied by the Austrian pianist Franz Carda, was a huge success in Iceland. To quote a review in Morgunblaðið (The Morning Paper),”…in the future people will remember this recital as one of the milestones in Icelandic music history (transl.)”
As well as recitals and opera, Bjarni has sung many different masses and oratorios, both in Iceland and abroad. In Vienna he sang in Muskverein and Konzerthaus, in Paris in Salle Pleyel and in Berlin in the Philharmonie. His concert repertoire includes Mozart’s and Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Edda 1 by the Icelandic composer Jón Leifs. These last two were both recorded. In May 2011 Bjarni sang Beethoven’s 9th in Harpa, the new Concert Hall in Reykjavik at the opening cermony under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Important Milestones

1 9 9 6

Debut at the Icelandic opera: Gamli in Galdra-Loftur (J. Ásgeirsson)

1 9 9 7

Debut at Volksoper Wien: Colline in La Boheme (Puccini), Don Andres in La Perichole (Offenbach), Sarastro in Zauberflöte (Mozart).

1 9 9 8

Debut at Staatsoper Berlinvan Bett in Zar und Zimmermann. At Volksoper Wienvan BettBottom in Midsummer night’s dream (Britten), Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Pimen in Boris Godunow, Commendatore in Don Giovanni (Mozart) & Veit Pogner in Meistersinger (Wagner).