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“) and on the West End (“Chicago – The Musical“). 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).
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 Europe. His collaborations with Ron Athey and Carlos Motta are among his more recent forays into performance art, with shows and installations at Naples’ Madre, Buenos Aires’ Malba, Berlin Biennale 2020 and other museums and festivals. Ernesto has performed at two editions of the London Fashion Week, for Nasir Mazhar, at Pitti Uomo 2017, 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 116 years.
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 TV and film actor he was cast in major projects for the BBC and Universal Pictures, by directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Pete Hewitt. 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 14 years he has been lending his wide vocal range to experimental music, singing an eclectic repertoire written by him or for him by a multitude of musicians. He is singer/songwriter of the prog-rock band Almagest!, with which he tours extensively, appearing in venues like the Volksbuehne in Berlin and festivals like the Kurt Weill Fest.
In 2020 he sang at the end of year concert of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, under the baton of Omer Meir 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. The previous year he collaborated with producer Man Parrish on two records and performed his one man entertainment, “One Life To Live!“, at the National Theatres of Germany and Italy. Electronic producer Shackleton, 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. Other collaborations include Marc Almond, the late “father of industrial music” Peter Christopherson (founder of Coil, Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle), Julia Kent (Antony & the Johnsons), Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound), the Resonance Radio Orchestra, Larsen, Current 93 (he was special guest at their first Queen Elizabeth Hall concert, alongside Anohni), Othon and Adam Donen. 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.
As a recording artist he sings on seventeen 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 four 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 “jeweler to the stars” Theo Fennell and, 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. Photos depicting him are included in books by photographers Magnus Arrevad, Enrico Frignani and Predrag Pajdic. 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. 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.
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.
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.