Sir Thomas Allen


Sir Thomas Allen is an established star of the great opera houses of the world.  At the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where in 2011 he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his debut with the company, he has sung over fifty roles. The same year he also celebrated the 30th anniversary of his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  

He has been particularly acclaimed for his Billy Budd, Pelléas, Eugene Onegin, Ulisse and Beckmesser, as well as the great Mozart roles of Count Almaviva, Don Alfonso, Papageno, Guglielmo and, of course, Don Giovanni.  His recent engagements have included the title role in ‘Gianni Schicchi’ for Los Angeles Opera and at the Spoleto Festival; the title role in ‘Sweeney Todd’, Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Faninal (Der Rosenkavalier), Prosdocimo (Il turco in Italia),  Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos), Peter (Hänsel und Gretel) and Don Alfonso at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Don Alfonso, Ulisse and Don Giovanni at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Faninal at the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia; Eisenstein at the Glyndebourne Festival; Don Alfonso at the Dallas Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals; Forester (The Cunning Little Vixen) at the San Francisco Opera and Beckmesser, Don Alfonso and Music Master at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  

Opera appearances this season include Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a return to the Salzburg Festival in the world premiere of Thomas Adés’ The Exterminating Angel.  

Equally renowned on the concert platform, he appears in recital in the United Kingdom, throughout Europe, in Australia and America, and has appeared with the world's great orchestras and conductors. The greatest part of his repertoire has been extensively recorded with such distinguished names as Solti, Levine, Marriner, Haitink, Rattle, Sawallisch and Muti.

He made a triumphant directing debut in 2003 with ‘Albert Herring’ at the Royal College of Music and he has recently directed tremendously successful productions of ‘Don Giovanni’ and ‘Così fan tutte’ for Samling Opera at The Sage, Gateshead. He made an equally acclaimed U.S. directing debut with ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ for Arizona Opera in 2006 and has since returned to direct ‘Cosi’ at the Boston Lyric Opera and ‘Don Pasquale’ at the Chicago Lyric Opera. He is a regular guest at Scottish Opera where his productions include ‘The Barber of Seville, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, ‘The Magic Flute’ and, most recently ‘Don Giovanni’. 

He is Chancellor of Durham University. His many honours include the title of Bayerischer Kammersänger awarded by the Bayerische Staatsoper, an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Professor of the Royal College of Music, the Hambro Visiting Professorship of Opera Studies at Oxford University, Fellowship of the Royal College of Music, Fellowship of the University of Sunderland, M.A. from Newcastle University and a Doctorate of Music from Durham University and the University of Birmingham. In the New Year's Honours of 1989 he was created a Commander of the British Empire and in the 1999 Queen's Birthday Honours he was made a Knight Bachelor.  Among his proudest achievements is having a Channel Tunnel locomotive named after him; and most recently, being awarded the Queen’s Medal for Music 2013.

Thomas Allen's first book, 'Foreign Parts - A Singer's Journal' was published in 1993. His film credits include ‘Mrs Henderson Presents’ and ‘The Real Don Giovanni’. 

For an up-to-date biography, please contact Henry Lindsay

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    Ariadne auf Naxos - When Worlds Collide



Il Turco in Italia

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

The key to this cast, though, is the pairing of two old hands — Thomas Allen’s cultured poet Prosdocimo and the put-upon, bumbling old Geronio of Alessandro Corbelli, who has made Rossini’s buffo roles his own. They may no longer be in the most youthful of voice, but they know how to hold the stage. Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 13th April 2015
They are presided over by another returnee, Thomas Allen’s sardonic Prosdocimo; and because the demands on him are more comic than vocal, he too is incomparable. Jim Pritchard, Seen and Heard, 14th April 2015
Those inimitable old masters Thomas Allen and Alessandro Corbelli, as Prosdocimo and Don Geronio, plus Ildebrando D’Archangelo as the Turkish prince, were perfection. Mark Ronan, 12th April 2015
Thomas Allen gave a masterclass in operatic comedy John Allison, Opera Magazine, June 2015



UK Tour

Allen responds to the composer with unfailing vocal shading that can be both boldly dramatic and guardedly expressive. Besides, Allen's innate feeling for phrasing means every note of Schubert is delivered with inherent sensitivity.

There is also plenty of contrast as Thomas Allen varies his voice to suit the moment and none more so than in the grotesque Will o' the wisp dance in Irrlicht and the pictorially atmospheric Frühlingstraum (Spring's dream), which, like the rest of the songs, are clearly enunciated. Through his assiduous artistry, Allen draws one into the ethereal sphere of Schubert's imagination.
Pat O'Kelly, The Independent, 9th October 2014
Sir Thomas holds the audience in a beautifully extended moment of silence, before the inevitable applause that follows. Standing ovations have become all too common in recent years, but on this occasion the audience’s reaction is spontaneous and well-deserved Michael Lee, Goldenplec, 8th October 2014
'Sir Thomas Allen, one of the finest baritones in the world' ... 'One wonders how many performances of this work Sir Thomas Allen has presented? What a joy to hear his fresh, flawless voice at every dynamic. Never a waver with clear German text, matching easily with programme translations alongside for captivated listeners. There was minimum but relevant communication throughout. There was a discreet step forward for added drama, including subtle hand movements with a distinct conviction that this was a story being told to each individual in the venue'...'A recital to treasure.' 
Maggie Cotton, Birmingham Post, 21 October 2014
Thomas Allen was in magnificent voice and, if some of the pianissimo passages would have come more easily to him earlier in his career, this was more than compensated for by the richness and power of his utterances, as he portrayed the anguish and despair of the traveller, bereft of hope in his lonely journey. More than this, Allen's interpretation was personal and deeply felt. This was not the haunted musings of an individual at the end of a barren road and life. Rather, it was a defiant outburst of someone enraged at his fate and against the joys of which he had been deprived. Anthony Ogus, 27th October 2014



Boston Lyric Opera

In a real coup, BLO landed legendary bass/baritone, and internationally renowned recording artist, Thomas Allen to perform the buffo role of the sly instigator Don Alfonso. Not only did he sing wonderfully, but his vast experience in the theater was evident from his authoritative stage presence and flawless comic timing. Ed Tapper, Edge Boston, 17 March 2013
This production, discreetly cut, whizzes by in three hours with one intermission. It’s directed by renowned British baritone Thomas Allen, who also sings Don Alfonso, and does full justice to it. There’s no meanness in Allen’s mischievous codger, who presides over a beach romp that takes place along the Bay of Naples, in Napoleonic times, with real sand for the mostly barefoot lovers to walk on, and a gently raked boardwalk. Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Globe, 19 March 2013


Don Pasquale, November 2012

Chicago Lyric

Whereas the recent Lyric production of “Werther” was constantly fighting against the music for attention, the production of Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” that opened Sunday afternoon thankfully restores the notion that a director can significantly enhance the operatic experience by allowing the music and the drama to be the guiding force for creative vision.

Opera singers seldom make good operatic directors as they tend to see everything from the limited performing perspective of their own voice type and character, but legendary British baritone Sir Thomas Allen, making his directorial debut at Lyric Opera with “Pasquale,” is clearly a notable exception.

Dennis Polkow, New City Stage his Lyric directorial debut Sir Thomas Allen’s staging was virtually faultless. In addition to showing refreshing respect for the score, the celebrated English baritone—a noted Malatesta in his day—kept the action moving fluidly, coming up with little bits of comic business for the principals that were consistently amusing. Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
British baritone Thomas Allen, who was making his Lyric directing debut, knows "Don Pasquale" backwards and forwards, having sung countless performances as Dr. Malatesta, the quick-witted rogue who engineers the deception on which the plot hinges. Indeed, he sang the role for the first time with London's Royal Opera way back in 1973 when this Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production was new. (Since then, the well-worn sets and costumes have become the property of Dallas Opera.) His staging was witty and affectionate. John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
And in his Lyric directorial debut, veteran English baritone Thomas Allen stages the work to match the score as well. Never failing to be funny or fun, Allen’s vision never stoops to low comedy or exaggeration. Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times


Così fan tutte, January 2012

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Thomas Allen, once again taking that part, was celebrating his 40th year at Covent Garden, a marvellous achievement that won him a well-deserved tribute from the ROH boss Tony Hall at the final curtain... As usual, his interpretation feels freshly-minted; if it is scene-stealing, well, that’s what 40 years on one stage will encourage. Most of all, however, he relishes the moments of stillness — the sadness of self-knowledge — that makes an exquisite counterpoint to Lorenzo Da Ponte’s bitter text. Neil Fisher, The Times, 30 January 2012
Sir Thomas Allen's Don Alfonso was a philosopher modelled more on Stan from Dinner Ladies than one of the Classical Greats, his moralising peculiarly winning in spite of its obvious difficulties for a modern audience. Indeed, in a performance explicitly dedicated to his 40 years on the ROH stage, Allen clearly relished his position as circus master. He delivered his recitatives with endless panache and even (to the audience's continued delight) clicked his heels with glee at the progress of his plan as he disappeared offstage.

[His] remains an impressive instrument, and one with changing affective powers: the famous Act 1 trio ... had a fragility – above all from the faint wavering of Allen’s pianissimo – which was suddenly, unexpectedly poignant.

There was little doubt, though, that the evening’s principal draw was not the phones and laptops of Miller’s production, but the singers, and above all Allen. Fêted at the curtain call with flowers strewn from on high (he returned the favour by lobbing a couple of bunches into the auditorium) and an enormous cake wheeled on from the wings, he proclaimed, 'I love this place'. After this performance (and forty years of others comparable), it’s not hard to see why 'the place' also loves him. Flora Willson, Musical Criticism, 31 January 2012
Thomas Allen's dangerously charming Alfonso Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 31 January 2012
This brilliantly sung and acted revival of Jonathan Miller’s production also serves to mark the 40th anniversary of Sir Thomas Allen’s debut at Covent Garden in 1971. He sang the role of cynical manipulator Don Alfonso in the staging’s first outing in 1995, and has returned several times in a part that has become entirely associated with him... his remains a star-turn performance, searching out the corners of the ultimately enigmatic character and realising the mature philosopher with affectionate objectivity. George Hall, The Stage, 30 January 2012
Sir Thomas Allen was well-nigh perfect. This was his 36th time as Don Alfonso, and he demonstrated faultless comic timing throughout. Dominic Wells, Opera Britannia, 29 January 2012


Il turco in Italia, February 2011

Los Angeles Opera

The veteran baritone Thomas Allen is affectionate and hilariously hapless as the poet Prosdocimo. Mark Swed, LA Times, 20 February 2011


Hansel und Gretel, January 2011

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

A fine portrayal, brimming with boozy personality, from Thomas Allen Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 3 January 2011
Thomas Allen gets it right...His drunken Peter, staggering home and groping his poor wife is a loser with a heart of gold. Mark Valencia, Whats on Stage, 23 December 2010
The real star was Thomas Allen, playing the father Peter. Allen really is the consummate professional, having performed 50 roles at Covent Garden over almost 40 years. He never gives a poor performance and was in fine voice and great spirits, playing Peter as a lurching drunk. As always at Covent Garden, the entire production was of the highest class, but Allen out-sang and out-acted everyone. William Hartston, Daily Express, 27 December 2010
It is a delight to watch old hands revelling in character roles. Sir Thomas Allen booms magnificently as the Father, and his actions see his body adopt angles that perfectly complement those of the set. Sam Smith, Music OMH, January 2011




Haberdashers’ Aske’s School Choir; John Alldis Choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti


Placido Domingo
Mirella Freni
Nicolai Ghiaurov
Paris Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Georges Pretre

TIPPETT: King Priam

Ann Murray, Heather Harper, Felicity Palmer
Philip Langridge,Robert Tear, Yvonne Minton

London Sinfonietta
David Atherton