Born in Auckland in 1934, Donald is now based in the United Kingdom. Growing up in New Zealand, far from the centres of operatic traditions, Donald developed a style marked by freshness and vitality, uncluttered by centuries of operatic formulae. With his powerful voice and impressive physique he commands the stage effortlessly, while his dynamics and vocal texture lend subtlety to his performance.
Donald initially trained as a school teacher. In 1958, after gaining a government bursary, he travelled to London and studied at the Guildhall School of Music. In 1959 he made his debut with the Welsh National Opera and shortly afterwards joined Sadler's Wells as a soloist. There he met conductor John Matheson, who pointed him in the direction of Wagnerian Opera.
In 1967 he made his Covent Garden debut as Pizarro in Fidelio, starting an association with the Royal Opera House that continues to this day. His roles there have included Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde, Telramund in Lohengrin, Scarpia in Tosca, Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress and Kasper in Der Freischütz. He continued to sing at Bayreuth until 1990, finishing with 150 performances to his credit, and gaining immortality as Wotan in Bayreuth's unforgettable centenary Ring Cycle in 1976.
Throughout his career Donald McIntyre has made frequent guest appearances at all the major opera houses of the world. Such challenges have allowed his talent to mature, as well as keeping his interpretations innovative and daring.
Sir Donald's last New Zealand appearance was in the 2006 International Arts Festival opera Parsifal.
Sir Donald received a knighthood in 1992 and received an Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2004. He lives in the United Kingdom.