BEGINNINGS IN ITALY
Ernesto Tomasini was born artistically, aged 16, as an “exotic turn”, in a smoky club by the port of his hometown of Palermo, Italy. Very quickly he became a popular cabaret artiste, on local television and touring the country. He took his first steps in legitimate theatre in Rome, with actor Duilio Del Prete, and had a brief but formative experience with the Dario Fò family. After years of playing major roles in plays, starring in his own cabaret acts and headlining in variety shows, he moved to the UK.
In London he played lead roles with experimental theatre companies (Lindsay Kemp), in Off-West End productions (Blind Summit‘s “Mr China’s Son“), touring productions (“Cabaret“), on the West End (“Chicago – The Musical“) and the National Theatre (“The English Man Sits in a Caravan at St. Osyth / Singing“). Soon after he began an international career, thanks to his own shows (as performer/producer: Lucy Powell‘s “True or Falsetto?“, and as performer/author/producer: “The Veiled Screen!“), giving birth to a cult following. He performed in 14 different nations (and in four languages): from Mexico to India and from Russia to Greece. After six years dedicated exclusively to music he went back to acting in new plays written especially for him (Roberta Torre‘s “Aida” in 2014) or by himself (“Beato Chi Ci Crede“, Out Off Theatre, Milan, 2017). Last summer he ended a tour of Italy, playing the lead in “Lunaria“, a new play with music, co-produced by the Italian National Theatre and the country’s biggest theatre festival.
CABARET, PERFORMANCE ART, FASHION AND PRESENTING
Throughout the years he never abandoned the cabaret scene, performing in mainstream venues (The Regency Rooms), alternative clubs (Kaos London), on the fetish scene (Torture Garden) and charity events (Franko B‘s Untouchable series) in London and around the world. His collaborations with Ron Athey and Carlos Motta are among his more recent forays into performance art, with shows and installations at Naples’ Madre (2009), Buenos Aires’ Malba (2018), Berlin Biennale (2020), MAMBO Bogota’ (2023) and many other museums and festivals. Ernesto has performed at two editions of the London Fashion Week, for Nasir Mazhar, at Pitti Uomo, for Carlo Volpi, and at other major fashion events around Europe. He sporadically serves as presenter and moderator at special events, like a Q&A with rapper Mykki Blanco at a festival in Italy, in 2019. In 2020 he was part of the international jury of the 10th edition of the Sicilia Queer Filmfest.
LECTURES AND TEACHING
Ernesto creates fun “performed lectures” that he has taken to universities, theatres and opera houses around the world, on a variety of academic subjects (history of music, gender and individual performers). A sought after teacher of theatre history and techniques, he has taught in drama schools in UK, Spain and Italy. In 2016 he gave a masterclass at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, the only Italian to do so in the institution’s 119 years. In May 2023 he gave a lesson on personal brand at the European Institute of Fashion and Design (IED) in Milan.
RADIO, TV AND CINEMA
On radio he has sung, acted and was interviewed on all the BBC stations, Classic FM and on national channels around the world; most notably on Radio 3 (Spain), RAI Radio 3 (Italy) and Radio New Zealand.
As film actor he was cast in feature films for Pathé and Universal Pictures, by directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Pete Hewitt. “Ciurè” (2022), in which he plays a major role, is his first Italian movie.
On TV he took part to various British series for the BBC, ITV, Sky, etc. Ernesto has often been interviewed on RAI 3 (Italian national television) about his stage work. He is interviewed and performs, alongside the world’s leading countertenors, in the documentary “Heavenly Voices – The Legacy of Farinelli” (2013).
He was testimonial for the 2015 House of Fraser lipstick campaign in the UK and is one of the leads in “Symphony To a Lost Generation” (2016), the world’s first feature length holografic opera. In 2018, Nendie Pinto-Dushinsky‘s short film “Ernesto Tomasini: One Life To Live” premiered on Dangerous Minds and was subsequently screened at the Sicilia Queer Filmfest, as part of a retrospective on Ernesto.
As voiceover artist he has worked for Oscar winners James Ivory, Ridley Scott and Kevin Spacey.
For the past 16 years he has been lending his wide vocal range to experimental music, singing an eclectic repertoire written for him by a multitude of musicians. He also performs a more classical repertoire, often alongside opera stars, in opera houses and concert halls.
In 2023 he took a new one-man concert to the Danae Festival in Milan and played a major role in the Franco Zeffirelli centenary production of Donizetti‘s “La fille du regiment”, at the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, directed by Marco Gandini, musical direction Giuliano Carella, with John Osborn, Jessica Nuccio, Madelyn Renee. In 2022 he sang Cabaret chansons from the early 20th Century, with soprano Hila Baggio, directed by Omer Meir Wellber, at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and at the Toscanini Festival in Parma and Reggio Emilia. In 2020 he was among the highlights at the end of year concert of the Massimo, also under the baton of maestro Wellber, alongside musician Manfredi Clemente, soprano Carmen Giannattasio, baritone Markus Werba, and actor Elis Danker. 2020 also saw the release of a second compilation album by the Lacerba label in which Ernesto appears alongside Myss Keta, Federico Fiumani and others. He opens “Amour Braque“, Spiritual Front‘s 2018 album and live shows. Other collaborations include Marc Almond, the late “father of industrial music” Peter Christopherson (founder of Coil, Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle), Current 93 (he was special guest at their first Queen Elizabeth Hall concert, alongside Anohni), electronic producer Shackleton (who wrote for him “Devotional Songs“, the critically acclaimed live show and album, which was among the best of 2016 for the Wire, the Quietus and many more), Julia Kent (Antony & the Johnsons), Rolo McGinty (The Woodentops), Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound), producer Man Parrish, the Resonance Radio Orchestra, Adam Donen, Larsen, Othon and Jose Macabra (as Trans4Leben they opened the Drop Dead Festival 2011 in Berlin).
He has sung his repertoire in London venues like the Royal Albert Hall (main house and Elgar Room), Purcell Room, National Theatre, Roundhouse, Cadogan Hall, Tate Britain, National Portrait Gallery, and in historical theatres around the world (Sala Apolo Barcelona, Kampnagel Hamburg, Serralves Porto, etc).
He is singer/songwriter of the prog-rock band Almagest! (founded with Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo), with which he toured extensively, appearing in venues like the Volksbuehne in Berlin and festivals like the Kurt Weill Fest.
As a recording artist he sings on 18 albums, six singles, six music videos and on the soundtrack of a film by Bruce LaBruce. (For more details see the DISCOGRAPHY page on this site).
His work and performance style are discussed in six books, an academic essay and five doctoral theses. For two years (2010-2012) Ernesto was the London correspondent of the Italian magazine “Musical!“. He wrote the preface to the book “Aida, il grande circo dell’aldilà” (Glifo 2014) by Neapolitan poet Igor Esposito and contributed to “I Created Me” (Timeless 2017). He has written his first book and is currently looking for a publisher.
He has posed for several European painters and photographers. One of his many portraits by Spanish artist Hector De Gregorio was acquired, in 2009, by “jeweller to the stars” Theo Fennell. Photos depicting him are included in books by photographers Predrag Pajdic (2012), Enrico Frignani (2014) and Magnus Arrevad (2015), and, in 2014, a reportage on Ernesto, by Italian photographer Alberto Alicata, won an Honourable Mention at the International Photography Awards. His image and essence were used by the National Theatre of Palermo on posters, flyers, calendars and videos to advertise their 2014 season. Throughout 2018, a large “Nativity” by Alessandro Bazan, with Ernesto at its centre, was on display in the San Lorenzo Oratory in Palermo, in place of the famous Caravaggio, stolen in 1969. Portraits by photographers Angelo Macaluso and Fabio Giannetto and filmmaker Peter Harton were exhibited, in 2018 and 2019, at the Galleria Arte Moderna (Ernesto also wrote the text that accompanied the exhibition) and the Praetorian Palace in Palermo and in Copenhagen. Ernesto is among a group of 3D characters in Andrea Cusumano‘s “Nativity” (2021) and was portrayed, with his mother, by Wolfgang Tillmans and included in his show, at the mumok (museum of modern art) in Vienna, in 2021/22.
In 2012 Tomasini was included in the theatre section of “Eccellenza Italiana” (“Italian Excellency”, with presentation by the President of the Republic of Italy), for his services to the arts. In 2013 he was awarded the prize “Sicilian in the World” and in 2016 he received the Italian correspondent of what in UK is the Key to the City, by the mayor of his home town of Palermo. He was also added to the list of notable Sicilian artists by Italian government agency Observatory of Arts and Literature (with accompanying documentary by director Salvo Cuccia) and, in 2017, he was the Official Ambassador of Pride. Among his other gongs: a best comedian prize in Italy, best female impersonator of 1999 at the London Astoria and a special mention at Edinburgh Fringe 2002.
When he is not on tour, Tomasini spends his time between the heart of Chelsea in London, where he collects Julie Andrews memorabilia, and the heart of his native Palermo, where he stores Julie Andrews memorabilia.