Teddy Tahu Rhodes was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 30 August 1966, to a British mother, Joyce, and a New Zealand father, Terrence Tahu Gravenor Rhodes. The Maori word "Tahu", which means "to set on fire", was added to the family name soon after they settled in New Zealand. His parents divorced when he was an infant, and he grew up with his mother. His aunt Margaret Rhodes, the wife of his paternal uncle Denys Rhodes, was a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
In his final year of secondary school, Christ's College, Christchurch, Rhodes was selected for the New Zealand Youth Choir, where his musical potential was first identified. Following a relatively short period of formal lessons, he was entered into the 1986 Dame Sister Mary Leo Scholarship competition, which he won. He pursued private studies while studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, subsequently qualifying as an accountant. His teachers, at this time and later, included Mary Adams Taylor, Rudolf Piernay, and David Harper.
In 1991 Rhodes won the Mobil Song Quest, the major competition of its type in New Zealand, securing funding to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He turned down an offer by the Guildhall of a scholarship for two years of further study, returning to New Zealand where he worked as an accountant for some years.
While working as an accountant in Christchurch, Rhodes maintained an association with Canterbury Opera, the local repertory opera company. In 1998 he made his international debut in an acclaimed performance of Dandini in La Cenerentola for Opera Australia, and was launched on an international career. Following his Australian debut, in 1999 Rhodes represented New Zealand in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
He has sung in several world and Australian premiere performances such as The End of the Affair (Bendrix) and Dead Man Walking (Joe) by Jake Heggie, The Little Prince by Rachel Portman (The Pilot) as well as in Nigel Butterley's Spell of Creation and Barry Conyngham's Fix. His wide variety of other opera roles have included Mozart's Count Almaviva, Guglielmo, Papageno and Don Giovanni; Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Belcore in L'elisir d'amore; Billy in Billy Budd; Lescaut in Manon Lescaut; Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire; Escamillo in Carmen; Al Kasim in Hans Werner Henze's L'upupa; Silvio in Pagliacci, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos, Leandro in The Love for Three Oranges and Antony in Barber's Antony and Cleopatra. In 2012/13, he performed opposite Lisa McCune in Opera Australia's production of the Bartlett Sher 2008 New York revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific at the Sydney Opera House, the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, and the Brisbane Queensland Performing Arts Centre. He joined McCune again in Opera Australia's production of The King and I in 2014 in Sydney and Brisbane.
Amongst the prominent opera companies and theatres in which he has performed are the Metropolitan Opera, Opera Australia, San Francisco Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Dallas Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, the Théâtre du Châtelet, the Santa Fe Opera, the New York City Opera and the Theater an der Wien.
Rhodes substituted at three hours' notice in January 2010 for an indisposed Mariusz Kwiecień in the role of Escamillo in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD telecast of Carmen, a role he was to take over from Kwiecień later in the season.
In oratorio and choral works, he has appeared as the baritone soloist in performances of Handel's Messiah with the Melbourne Symphony and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, and in Fauré's Requiem with the London Philharmonic.
The inaugural Australian cruise of the performing arts on the MS Radiance of the Seas in November 2014 included Rhodes as well as, among others, Cheryl Barker, David Hobson, Simon Tedeschi, Elaine Paige, and Marina Prior.
Rhodes has been the recipient of several major awards. In 2004 he received an ARIA award for Best Classical Recording for his CD The Voice, and in 2006 he was the winner of the Limelight Award for Best Performance by a Soloist with an Orchestra for his Australian tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. In 2008 he won a Helpmann Award for Best Male Performer in an Opera for his role in Dead Man Walking. In 2008 he received a Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
Rhodes first married in 1989, a union that was dissolved amicably in 1996. He married mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in December 2008. In September 2013, this marriage was reported to have ended.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes' recordings include several recital discs on ABC Classics including Mozart Arias with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra; The Bach Arias with the Orchestra of the Antipodes; The Voice, a collection of arias and songs; Vagabond, a collection of songs and song cycles including Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel with pianist Sharolyn Kimmorley; and Serious Songs with works by Schubert, Brahms, and Samuel Barber. Also in his discography is the ABC Classics recording of Handel's Messiah, Fauré's Requiem and La naissance de Vénus, a recording of Gustav Mahler's Rückert-Lieder and Kindertotenlieder, Brahms' A German Requiem, and he appeared with the Australian Chamber Orchestra on their album Musical Renegades (CD and DVD). His other DVD credits include the world premiere recording of Rachel Portman's opera The Little Prince (Sony, 2005) and Britten's Peter Grimes (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series, 2008). In 2004, Rhodes sang two duets with Hayley Westenra on her DVD Live from New Zealand. Following his Australian national tour with David Hobson, they released an album of songs and duets in 2009, You'll Never Walk Alone. Rhodes appears as Figaro in Opera Australi's 2010 DVD release of The Marriage of Figaro. In 2011, ABC Classics released Best of Teddy Tahu Rhodes.