Sir Thomas Allen, great baritone, great juror

Interview by Alain Brunet
Genres and styles : Classical

Additional Information

The 2022 edition of the Concours musical international de Montréal features a prestigious international jury of world-renowned singers, administrators and voice teachers. Chaired by former Montreal Symphony Orchestra General Director Zarin Mehta, the jury includes British baritone Thomas Allen, former Juilliard Voice Director Edith Bers, Dutch bass-baritone Robert Holl, German accompanist Hartmut Höll, Lanaudière Festival Artistic Director Renaud Loranger, former Metropolitan Opera Artistic Director Richard Rodzinski, and German soprano Christine Schäfer.

Sir Thomas Allen is an English baritone. He is considered as one of the best lyric baritones of the late 20th century. In October 2011, he was appointed Chancellor of Durham University, succeeding Bill Bryson. We understand that his expertise as a juror is highly recommended and then this interview will bring us interesting informations.


PAN M 360 : What motivates you being part of this jury in Montréal?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN : The need to help maintain the flow of serious singers. The pandemic has u doubted.y taken its toll and I feel this as part of a long rebuilding process.

PAN M 360  : How have you been selected?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: Always a mystery , but I was here some years ago and after 50+ years in the music business , perhaps someone remembered me.

PAN M 360 : What is your perception of Montreal classical music family and Montreal Intarnational Music Competition?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: We haven’t yet begun so I shall know better in 10 days ……but its reputation has always been high.

PAN M 360: How do you consider this competition among the international classical major music competitions?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: My memory of it is that it was very well organised and standards were high . It attracts the right singers and musicians because it is a very good showcase for them.I’m not familiar with so many other competitions but I imagine it is highly ranked.

PAN M 360 : Are those international competitions the front doors for an international career? Are the essential?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: There is no guarantee . Some artists do not do well in competitions and auditions but it doesn’t stop them from being fine performers when it comes to lengthy rehearsal and performance.There are those who thrive on competition but then disappoint when it matters .

PAN M 360 : Each member of a jury has a specific sensibility regarding the candidates, what is yours?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: Nature decrees that once in a while a Callas, a Sutherland or a Pavarotti emerges. For the rest of the time I’m looking to see and hear someone who can obviously sing but shows me that there is also a vital creative spark in them .

I’m not bothered about an occasional squeak if I think an artist is fully involved in what they are doing.

PAN M 360 : What are the objective criterias of your eventual choices ?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: Primarily, the sound, as this is an aural experience .

PAN M 360 : What are the subjective criterias that could make a difference between candidates of same value?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: It goes back to who can best convince me that they understand that as well as vocal technique we are dealing with literature, and the real secret is to interpret what the poet or librettist has set us for examination, and then to realise that singing is a melange of word and musical line.

PAN M 360 : Are there some cultural differences in the singing aesthetic that could divide the jury?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: There may be , but to say yes , would presuppose what May not there, and singers are not as easy to define as actors since they are a combination of voice , leaning towards being an actor , or indeed having little or no interest in that aspect of their work .Fo r them it is an entirely vocal experience.

PAN M 360 : Do you plan other activities in MTL during this process?

SIR THOMAS ALLEN: I just go from day to day and see what it brings.

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