Baritone  Sir  Thomas  Allen

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


In the fall of 1989, (a decade before being knighted), Thomas Allen was in Chicago for performances as Figaro in The Barber of Seville.  The production was designed by John Conklin, who took inspiration from René Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter (1898-1967).  [See my Interview with John Conklin.]  While Allen was here, he was asked to also undertake a second role, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus.  He would return a decade later again in Fledermaus, in 2007 for Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, and then in 2012 to direct Don Pasquale

I met with him at his apartment, which was just a few blocks from the Opera House.  The weather was frigid, as noted at the very end of our conversation, but inside he was warm and witty and charming.  As often happens in these interviews, the discussion mixed serious issues along with much laughter.

When reading this transcript, be careful to note the difference between Figaro (the character) and Figaro (the opera by Mozart). 

Here is what transpired that afternoon . . . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    Thank you very much for taking time from your busy schedule.  Is it a special treat for you to actually be doing a little more work by singing in a couple of operas, rather than just one every few days?

Thomas Allen:    That’s a very difficult one to answer, but I suppose the fact that I accepted the challenge of doing the second opera means that I must enjoy what I’m doing!  It meant extra work but...

BD:    It could have meant that you were prevailed upon.

TA:    No, I wasn’t prevailed upon.  I was asked how I felt about it, and I explained my situation.  I had certain recital commitments whilst I was here as well, but felt that I was able to cope.  And of course there’s nothing more conducive to taking on extra work than actually being successful in whatever you’re doing anyhow.  The success of the Barber was certainly helpful in that.  If it hadn’t gone as successfully, I would have been maybe more reluctant to take on a second role.  I don’t know!  Maybe that might not be true, but it’s been enormously enjoyable on both accounts. 

BD:    Now you are were already slated to sing this second role in another opera house in a few months.  Has that entered into the decision a little bit?

TA:    No, not really.  It doesn’t enter into the decision.  What’s on my mind is now that I must put this version out of my head quite quickly because at another opera house, by which we mean the Metropolitan, the music there will be to the original German text with a different English dialogue.

BD:    So it’s more work, actually!

TA:    I have to learn it, so a little more work, yes! 

BD:    You’ve sung some of your big roles all over the world.  Is it difficult to go from one to another to another production of the same opera? And then the fifth or sixth time, is it difficult clear all of the previous tracks out of your head?


To read my Interview with soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, click HERE.

To read my Interview with bass Kurt Moll, click HERE.

To read my Interviews with conductor Sir Georg Solti, click HERE.

TA:    Not really.  It’s surprising how close some of the tracks are actually. 

BD:    Of course in most cases, I assume the text and the words are always identical.

TA:    That’s right, with the exception of Fledermaus.  In the others there’s no change.  They always stay the same.  But it comes, perhaps as a surprise, that  productions of Figaro and Don Giovanni, and one or two others too, tend to fall into the same sort of pattern.  There are certain things that have to be observed.  Cherubino has to hide in the chair at a certain time.  The Commendatore has to be killed at a certain time.  You seduce Zerlina in a certain way.

BD:    But aren
’t there are some producers who are throwing it all out?

TA:    I don’t know.  It would be very difficult to throw out some details.  I’d argue very strongly against throwing out the seduction of Zerlina.  [Both laugh]  That’s a case for keeping.  But this is essential.  Funnily enough I was just talking about this to some students this afternoon
learning one’s repertoire and being very conversant with the work that one has to dobecause there are those opera houses in the world where very limited amount of rehearsal time is allowed, quite deliberately, for productions that go on in the theater.  It’s quite normal to rehearse for a production of Giovanni in Munich, for example, one six-hour rehearsal the day before.  In Vienna, it can be a lot less than that in my experience.  For example, I’ve done Traviata with about forty-five minute rehearsal on a few occasions.

BD:    You are told to come in there, cross to there, kiss there, go out there, come back here?

TA:    Basically that.  In between times you resort to interpretations you’ve learnt hither and thither around the world. 

BD:    Are the opera houses expecting you to draw on all your own experience?

TA:    Yes.  They survive on that.  I wouldn’t say that they thrive on that, but that’s the way of their survival. 

BD:    Is this maybe one of the ways to get people to come back to three or four or six performances of the same opera in a season
to see different singers do the same character?

TA:    There’s an element of that about it, yes.  It means that they can ring the changes.  It’s also a way of bringing the changes quickly, and producing interesting repertoire on paper that’s constantly changing.  But it’s nightmarish... that might be too strong a word but it’s certainly hairy at times. 

BD:    I wonder if there’s a little coterie up in the top balcony that’s wondering how Thomas Allen is going to cope with our production this time?

TA:    They might recognize it from various other productions they might have seen elsewhere.  That’s what I mean that a lot of productions are very similar.  If you’re doing a Figaro in the conventional manner, there are only a certain number of ways you’ll do it.  Basically you have certain points at certain times in the opera, and unless you’re going to set it in a goldfish bowl on Captain Nemo’s submarine under water somewhere, then it basically falls into the same sort of pattern. 

BD:    [With a sly nudge]  I’m sure some production will try the submarine at some point.

TA:    Oh, they probably have already, yes!  [Both laugh]

BD:    Assuming that all of these productions are somewhat similar, how do you keep it fresh for the fifth or sixth performance of a run, or the eighth or ninth production that you’ve done on this opera?

allenTA:    I find with Mozart that’s no problem because the chemistry changes all the time.  It starts with each individual who comes into the piece.  You find a different reaction, a different timing for something that you want to do.  These are works of great genius, and there is no time for them to become boring.  If you appreciate all their worth, the brilliance of the text, the brilliance of the music, and remind yourself that you’re doing it each time for the first time, then I see no problem there.  There are other operas that wouldn’t stand that test.

BD:    They don’t have the depth of Mozart?

TA:    They don’t have the depth, they don’t have the quality of writing or the genius of writing that he gives a piece.

BD:    Do you ever expect to get the bottom of the depth of Mozart?

TA:    No.  No one ever will!  How can you with a man who lived thirty-few years and produced such a proliferation of music of such infinite variety?  There’s no fathoming this man, literally fathoming.  He’s an undoubted genius.  I’m in awe of him and love him.  He must have been an extraordinary human being, and I’m grateful to him every day.  It’s wonderful.  

BD:    Is there a secret to singing Mozart?

TA:    I don’t know if there’s a secret, but it requires cleanliness of approach and a certain discipline of singing that other composers require too, but...

BD:    Does Mozart require more of it?

TA:    It probably does, yes.  I’m not the only singer who actually goes back to Mozart as a sort of singing teacher.  I don’t have a singing teacher as such and haven’t had for some time, but I regard Mozart, if anyone, as being my teacher.  I used it as a yardstick for any particular moment along my development, in that if I can continue to sing correctly Don Giovanni, the Count, less so Papageno, I suppose, but the kinds of things that he requires of us, then nothing much is wrong.  This style, the lack of portamenti and such, the elegance and style that is required to sing it is something that appeals to my particular nature.

BD:    In your career, do you make sure that you have a couple of Mozart roles every season in order to come back to this?

TA:    I don’t deliberately do that, but it seems somehow to work out that way, which is nice.  I’m not sure which came first.  I’m not sure whether I organized it that way at some point in the distant past and it’s always worked out that way, or whether it’s just become that way from empirical method, which is what I described.  I don’t know.  I don’t know which way it came, but it’s healthy.  As a result of that, I suppose one acquires a reputation for singing music of that period, and Mozart particularly, so it continues if you’ve had kind of any success with it. 

BD:    But if it wasn’t organized like that, you might try to put it that way?

TA:    I think so.  I wouldn’t want to get away from it for too long, nor would I want to sing such a limited repertoire that included only Don Giovanni and only Figaro or something of that sort, which some people have founded their career upon.  That would not interest me either, because it would leave out a lot of other material that I enjoy doing.  

BD:    You like singing a wide range?

TA:    I do, yes.  I think that’s healthy.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve got this entire expanse of repertoire that will fit your voice.  How do you decide which roles you will accept, which roles you’ll put off for awhile, and which you will never do?

TA:    That is the most difficult question of all.  It’s a question of knowing oneself, but at the same time not underestimating oneself.  It’s very nice and very useful to under-estimate rather than over-estimate oneself.  Yet at times I’ve taken on things that have stretched me, taken me into a new horizon.  On a number of occasions in my life, I’ve asked a peer or someone whom I respected if I should do this role.  If I’m in fear and trepidation of doing it, I ask what they think, and invariably they tell me I can afford to do it!

BD:    What kinds of things are you afraid of in new roles?

TA:    I’m not one for the trend of great heavy singing in Verdi, for example.  We’ve arrived at a time when volume seems to be all, somehow, as opposed to style and discipline and good schooling.  There seems to be a great emphasis laid upon the amount of volume that one produces.  At one time I might have well by now have sung a lot of the Verdi repertoire in my career, but the way that Verdi is regarded, at least at the moment, means that I will leave it, or will look at some aspects of that repertoire, but not all aspects by any means.  I do a little Verdi in my repertoire
Don Carlos and Traviata and Falstaffbut lots of others I leave alone. 

BD:    No Rigolettos?

TA:    No, no.  It’s music which I quite enjoy but if I were going to explore too much along that particular avenue, it would mean that I would stop exploring some of the other things I enjoy that lie in the twentieth century, or Monteverdi, or the French music that I seem fairly well suited to, which I’ve enjoyed singing over the years
Debussy, Gounod, Gluck, Rameau, and various others.

allenBD:    Massenet?

TA:    Yes, well, only one Massenet
Albert in Werther, which I’ve only ever recorded.  I’ve never sung it on stage.

BD:    Is that a good thing to record something you’ve never sung on stage?

TA:    Well, Albert’s not greatly demanding.  It’s not something I’ve done very often, if at all.  I can’t think at the moment.  No, everything I’ve sung on record, I think I’ve actually been on stage with it at some point.  I understudied Albert at Glyndebourne many, many years ago when I was in the chorus, so I would know what to do if I got on stage.  But Albert’s regarded as a bit of a wet; poor little Albert. 

BD:    [Seeking clarification]  A bit of a wet, as in ‘all wet’?

TA:    As in a bit of a wimp.  A wet fish!  Not all wet.

BD:    I wanted to make sure you weren’t saying ‘wit’.

TA:    No, no, not a wit!  No, no, he’s certainly not a wit.  There’s not a great deal of witticism in Werther.

BD:    Besides from handing Charlotte the pistols, there’s very little strength about him.

TA:    No, indeed.  But it’s satisfying music.  It’s elegant.

BD:    Is it a believable character?

TA:    Oh, I think so.  There are people like that.  It’s well enough written.  He is a man who’s genuine and honest enough in the face of it, but rather boring in just the same way as Lensky in Onegin, who is the poet and is a poet figure, but alongside Onegin himself he is rather nothing.  Or take Pierre Bezukhov alongside Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace.  Again a rather timid figure, a less interesting figure, although he’s a man of great moral strength.

BD:    Are most of the characters that you play really believable as characters or as people?

TA:    [Pauses for a moment]  Oh heavens!  You’d have to ask my critics that.  Do you mean from the way that they come across, or from the way I tackle them?  I would hope that they are credible as people.  What interests me about the work that I do is that it should have a validity, not only musically, but theatrically.  Theatrically I’m trying to portray a figure in whom you can believe.  I have a reputation for that.  The Barber of Seville, is an extreme case, but the other characters in my repertoire are figures that one might identify with.

BD:    When you get up on that stage, are you still portraying the character, or do you flop over and become that character?

TA:    I can switch very quickly.  There are people who exist as stars and princes and handmaidens and such like, and it seems to affect their lives.  Since tomorrow is a day when I perform in the Barber of Seville, I won’t spend the day cutting hair and lathering someone’s face!  I’ll quickly switch into that when I get to the theater.

BD:    Even if you don’t need much preparation time, when you walk on that stage, are you Thomas Allen portraying Figaro, or are you Figaro, the barber of Seville?


TA:    As I said a moment ago, I think Figaro is perhaps an extreme case.  The Rossini figure is not a character that one could say is immediately identifiable in the street.  One doesn’t come across as an ebullient creature like that, or as off the wall a creature as that in everyday life. 

BD:    You might find some in the ghettos now, some very outlandish figures...

TA:    I suppose so!  I suppose that’s the case. 
In the ghettosnicely put!  I apply a little bit of what I observe in some of the characters.  One notes in some of the countries of EuropeSpain, Italy, and such like — and you try to make a conglomeration of various characteristics, and out comes a fixer-type, an entrepreneur such as Figaro.  He is a fixer of arrangements, a fixer of this, that and the otherthe ‘factotum-factor!’  But he’s very different from me; I don’t think I’m that at all.  I often think of it in the same way as having watched Olivier as Archie Rice in The Entertainer.  I don’t think Olivier himself was a funny man, but he was able to portray the song and dance man, and be the funny joker in that film.  Given the script, he was the joker.  It’s a role you take on.  It’s often funny with impersonators of voices and characters.  There was a guy in England who had a tremendous reputation on television, a man called Mike Yarwood.  He came to fame as a interpreter and impersonator of Harold Wilson at first, and then various political figures and entertainment figures, and such like.  He would give a wonderful impersonation of Tony Bennett, and another one of Frank Sinatra, and they were brilliant.  The voice was there, perfect.

BD:    As you’d say ‘bang on’?

TA:    Bang on, bang on!  Then he came to sing at the end of the show in his own voice, to wind up the program, and it was terrible.  He had the most awful voice, and that’s extraordinary, presumably because he’d gone and developed this characterization to such a degree, but his own singing ability was very, very limited. 

BD:    Turning the question around then, are there any characters that you sing which are perhaps too close to the real Thomas Allen?

TA:    [With a big smile]  Ahhhh...  I would like to think so, but I don’t know.  I love the idealism of Posa in Don Carlos, for example.  One should aspire to be as honest and as brave a man as that. 

BD:    And he gets killed in the end!

allenTA:    Well, that’s what tends to happens to honest and brave men, even in this day and age
especially in this day and age perhaps.  I somehow closely identified myself, or have been closely identified, with Billy Budd over the years, but I don’t think I have his integrity or his fearlessness, nor his simplicity and naivety of character.  He’s a man who has none of the overcoats of varnish that actually most of us are covered with.  That prevent us from straying either too far down one track or another, and we veer nice little courses.  But few of us have the integrity or the strength of character to say it like it is at any one particular time.  Would that it were so, but in my experience, most of us moderate.  I’m speaking for myself. 

BD:    Sure.  Well should we spend most of our lives trying to scrape off all the varnish that keeps accumulating?

TA:    I think that’s a good thing... with certain provisos being that you have to bear in mind the weaknesses and the frailties of other folk.  It would not do to go around and just say to everyone’s face you’re a rotten singer,  you’re a rotten painter, you’re a this that and the other.  That could come out as being rather bombastic and not terribly nice.  

BD:    But a real Billy Budd would try and go and find someone and say you’re a good singer, or you’re a good painter. 

TA:    That’s right, that’s right.  But at least he lives in a world that, to him at least, everything is black and white, and there are no gradations of grey along the way.  I like that about him.  I think that’s a characteristic that is, to a very great degree, admired.

BD:    Let me ask a great big philosophical question then.  What is the purpose of opera?

TA:    Oh, dear, I was afraid you might say that!  [Thinks for a moment]  I don’t know if it has a purpose.  It’s there, and what is the purpose of music?  What is music, in fact?  It’s an extraordinary phenomenon, and opera is principally music
that we’re toldand it becomes more and more.  The fact that music exists at all seems to me more and more extraordinary.  The structured way in which it exists and how it governs so much of our feelings and our behavior and our modes and patterns is really rather extraordinary.  Yet it was something that came out of the ether or the elements, and man has, over the centuries, developed and honed it to a degree that it pleases and touches various chords and strings within us.  Opera is a development of that formation of music, taken to a very great and highly developed degree at its best in which it combines all the things that the simplest of music did anyhow, but the human voice is attached to it as well.  At its best, good words are attached to it too, and when those things are all put together and married together successfully, then it pleases those strings that are withinwhatever those strings may beand touches the deepest parts of us.  It talks to us.  I’m in this business because I feel I have something to communicate.  I’ve been... blessed might be too strong a wordcursed might be the wordwith this curious throat, as have so many others, and combining that with whatever else is in our heads, causes us to want to communicate, and enables us to communicate with people through this strange medium that is opera.  At its best it works wonderfully well; at its worst I want to flee from it to the other end of the world! 

BD:    Do the different styles of opera then touch different strings within us? 

TA:    Yes, I think they do.  There are those operas that leave us light headed and light hearted, and there are the others that touch the very innermost beings of a thinking man
— the strong heavy bell sounds of Parsifal, for example.  Others help us keep our feet on the ground, if you like.  We skip and dance, whatever we choose to do, and they do appeal to us in certain moods.  They cause us to be in certain moods, and if we are in certain moods they alleviate tension and pain or increase it, whatever it may be. 

BD:    Is opera, as we know it today, for everyone?

TA:    I don’t see why it shouldn’t be.  It’s certainly for me.  I came to music not really from a musical background.  I came the way a lot of people do.  I heard music at home, but not of any great quality.  It wasn’t structured, it wasn’t academic.  It was nothing like that.  It was my father playing a piano and local people singing.  But I’ve always felt that I was able to simulate and absorb what opera is about
Heiliger Kunst if you likethen if I can do it, almost anybody can.  It’s just really a question of application.  We’re in the business of communication by enabling people to be in touch with it, by pointing the direction in which they can be in touch with it.  There’s too much laid on simplification of things.  We should work just a little bit for what we’re going to get satisfaction from, instead of just being able to turn on the television and it’s there at an instant!  We need to use our brains a little bit before they become totally addled, defunct! 

BD:    Then where is the balance then between this Heiliger Kunst, the holy art that you’re talking about, and an entertainment value that is built into most operas?

TA:    [Again, pauses for a moment]  I think it lies just within the soul of anyone.  The sounds that we make and the visions that we present to people do appeal on these various levels, whether it’s at Bayreuth in the middle of the summer, in Munich on Good Friday with Parsifal, or whether it’s Fledermaus on New Year’s Eve in Berlin or Vienna or wherever it might be.  It’s something that distinguishes the spirit of man from any other creature.  That is the common factor they all have
that they get to some innermost part of us.  I don’t understand myself.  I puzzled quite a lot about what music is and why certain configurations in sounds in music should appeal more than others do.  I listened to one of the movements of the Janáček Sinfonietta this morning.  It wasn’t my chosen listening; it just happened to came on the radio, and it was wonderful.  It couldn’t have been anybody else but Janáček.  That always intrigues me the way a composer can put his trade mark on a few instruments coupled together.  Music works on so many different levels.  It appeals to the ear, to the brain, to the stomach, to the soul, to the heart, whatever, and I think it appeals more and more the more we make of ourselves in any form of life.  I spend a lot of time when I’m travelling around the world away from homealso at homelooking at pictures and listening to music, going to galleries, reading books and looking at more pictures.  Somehow it seems just to increase the sensitivity of what’s available to you.  It heightens the spectrum.  It extends the spectrum and opens out the possibilities of what life has to offer, and it becomes more and more colorful somehow or other.  I don’t know why that should be.  That’s the way it seems to be... I suppose because you’re exposing more and more of yourself to more and more experiences.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You have made quite a number of recordings.  Do you sing the same in the recording studio as you do on stage or in the concert hall?

TA:    I think I do.  This is a difficult one to describe, at least I think it’s difficult.  Let me try.  The benefit of being on a stage is that you have the combination of the eye and the ear, and the one is assisting the other, or compensating sometimes for the other.

allenBD:    That means that the singer will sound better if they look good, or they will look better if they sound good?

TA:    Exactly that.

BD:    Really???

TA:    Yes.  Yes, there’s an overlap.  Sometimes if you try the experiment of going to the theatre and either blocking your ears or closing your eyes, then the experience will change considerably.  You make, maybe unconsciously, tremendous allowances at certain times for certain things that might be going on on stage.  This is why I have pet theory that opera can be dangerous; that one falls into certain traps and tricks that allow us to get around certain problems that there may be, things that you couldn’t do if you were simply standing in front of an orchestra or a piano doing a recital or a concert.  There’s an extra element involved, an extra sense involved.

BD:    Then how can you compensate for this when you’re standing in front of the microphone?

TA:    That’s the thing, you’re in front of a microphone and you have to find some way of introducing the visual element.  You have to find some way of coloring the voice in such a way that you compensate for the lack of being able to see what the artist is doing, or would be doing on the stage at that particular moment. 

BD:    But are you sure that the sight you have in your mind that you are trying to convey is the same sight that the audience will have?

TA:    That’s what you’re often disappointed by when you go into the box to listen to play-back
that what you’re trying to do isn’t coming through.  That may be because of a number of reasons.  It might be that you’re not doing it; it might be that the engineer is not capturing it, or the maestro or somebody is getting in the way.  But that is one of the main problems of recording.  I always find it’s a slight question of exaggeration, that one needs to just to turn up, not the volume but the temperature on some of the expression that is required, and some of the accents that are required at certain times. 

BD:    The intensity?

TA:    Yes.  Sometimes, though, it’s just a question of the intensity of the things, and the use of text is often so vital in this case.

BD:    Are you pleased with the records you’ve made?

TA:    [Laughs]  If my wife was here now, she’d tell me I’ve never heard them!  There are one or two that stand out, and I’m happy that there have been quite a few now.  I don’t listen to them!

BD:    I wouldn’t expect that you would sit around every night listening to your past recordings, but at least you hear them in the studios and maybe one last check before it goes out?

TA:    Well, yes, but then my feeling is that the next day I would do something quite different; that it’s already a record that is passé. 

BD:    Better or just different?

TA:    I don’t know.  I mean, different.  A new idea will creep in.  I have a tremendous opportunity next year because I’ll be recording Don Giovanni again.  The first time was a wonderful experience.  I don’t know what next year’s will be like, but what I do find, on occasions like that
though it hasn’t happened often in the recording studio; it has happened on stagethat the intervening years unconsciously have played a part; that one has changed as an individual; things have happened in one’s life; you’ve been in and out of love, or whatever it might be, or you’ve had a tragedy in your family.  You’ve developed as an artist, too. 

allenBD:    Is there any element of this that the part has just somehow steeped in your mind?

TA:    No, I try to keep it fresh.  There are certain favorite tricks, and I’ve had those with Don Giovanni and Billy Budd for many years.  I’ve got to constantly remind myself that I have to be open to new suggestions.  I was listening to Billy Budd this afternoon in the opera studio there with a young student, and I found myself suggesting things to him that came to me only very recently; things that I wouldn’t of dreamt of doing several years ago, and he probably thinks they’re crazy!  Now he might well simulate them and take them on a stage further, but that’s what we should all do.  But I do try to avoid something going stale, and keep the thing fresh.  It’s essential. 

BD:    What general advice do you have for young singers coming along?  What kinds of suggestions come up again and again and again?

TA:    You can’t be over-familiar with your work.  That’s what I do find.  Learn not to look at conductors.

BD:    [Laughing]  I
m sure the maestri are not happy with that!

TA:    No, they aren’t!  But on the other hand, if we’re going to continue doing this business and making this business more and more valid as the years go by, it’s something that has to be learnt.  I find it unacceptable to go on an opera stage these days, and stand in front of the prompt box staring at a conductor.  People are less and less tolerant of that.

BD:    But this is not to say that you’re not conscious of him down there?

TA:    No, you’re conscious of him.  You have to learn a technique whereby you know exactly what he’s doing.  These days we’re very fortunate to have the assistance of several television screens around the place, as well as the performance being amplified for us on stage so that we can hear it that much the better.  Otherwise the pit itself would dampen the sound a lot for us.  So we’ve got tremendous aids to assist us.

BD:    Are they doing this with the full orchestra, or just with the harpsichord for the recitatives?

TA:    No, full orchestra.  It’s not very much.  It’s a little bit in the stair at the side of the stage that you will hear.  But it’s there and it’s an enormous help.  There’s nothing I hate more than the give-away look from the corner of the eye of the singer.  It’s something that can be learnt, and it’s a discipline that has to be learnt and has to be incorporated into one’s training.  You learn to do without staring full at the face of the maestro!  I went to a performance of Rosenkavalier recently, and one of the singers, who was very eminent, ruined the entire performance for that very fact.  They spent the evening just staring at the pit.  Not staring, but five bars before an entry would come up they would become fixated waiting for the queue to be given.

BD:    So whoever this was, was removing himself or herself from the drama?

TA:    Yes, was never wholly involved.  You would get an involvement for a while, and then at one of these hiatus points would come up and it would destroy yet again until the next moment when there was a relaxed moment, or someone else took over the stage and that person would clear off.

BD:    Makes you want to go up on stage or go back stage at the intermission and shake them!

TA:    Yes, yes.  Well, it does really. But it’s rather sad.  It’s just disappointing. 

BD:    So you strive to keep that away from your own performances?

TA:    I do.  I’m not always successful but I go around boasting about the fact that I don’t recognize maestros in the street because I haven’t seen them very much...  [Both laugh]  It is very arrogant of me, but I’m not alone in that.  It’s something most of us try to do.

BD:    Suppose you were working in another production with this singer you didn’t care for.  Would you try to adapt your own stage performance to integrate this other person into your performance? 

TA:    Oh, that sort of thing wouldn’t go on!  [Gales of laughter]  That’s the kind of thing that becomes a bone of contention between two singers.  It is more the cause of friction more than anything else
that someone has a rigid idea about something they want to do, and mainly because a lack of time it’s never resolved.  So you turn to make a gesture at a singer who then appears on your left-hand side instead of your right-hand side.  I’ve known that to happen on a few occasions.  Not too often, but it can happen.  But if you’re quick enough, you tend to get round these things. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    How do you see Don Giovanni?  It’s a dramma-giocoso, is it not?

allenTA:    So, they tell me...  Well, it’s a dramma-giocoso for Giovanni, but it’s not giocoso for many other people in the piece.  There is a giocoso element between he and Leporello.  It’s rather a comic relationship to some degree, but only to some degree, because he literally threatens this man’s life on at least seven occasions.  And there are several other occasions when he might just do him in himself, instead of just leaving it to the whims of others. 

BD:    I’ve always felt sorry for Don Giovanni because when we come into the story, he’s really had his last fling.  It’s like he’s a failure from there on to the end of the opera. 

TA:    That’s a baritone’s life. 

BD:    Really???

TA:    I quite agree.  Onegin is the same.  We never see him at his best.  We never see Giovanni succeed with a woman.  I try to show a little bit of that with Elvira when she races on in the supper scene and pleads for him to change his way of life.  When he says,
Che vuoi, mio bene? she melts for a moment, and you see that he can very easily win her over.  I always feel that, with a turn of phrase or a change in tone of voice he can win the woman back, or he’ll have the woman back again, or any woman, or whatever it might be.  But you see it only for a moment, and then he’s off on his devilish course again.  But you’re absolutely right.  I always try to think and construct for myself a history before the curtain goes up, so that we know that the man has had a successful life of seduction and lascivious behavior.

BD:    In the Ponnelle production, for the drinking song he had several women around Giovanni, stroking him and being very amorous.  It was almost that we saw a flash of the old Giovanni at this point.

TA:    It’s an image one can pursue, but there’s no actual logic for it, nor reason for it.  It doesn’t call for anything like that in the script.  The man has an idea of what he will do that evening, and sets out to order the evening up through Leporello alone.  But Jean-Pierre obviously chose to illustrate it very graphically, and no doubt was very successful.  Peter Wood did the same thing, and then dropped the idea some years ago at Covent Garden.  He had wenches at the back of the stage treading grapes in great big barrels.  There was a very luscious sort of scene, but the piece actually works without all those trappings.  Well, that’s my opinion.

BD:    But this is part of the genius
that it works without all of these things?

TA:    If you open any book of Mozart, it works.  You just follow the instructions and it’s all there.  It’s like putting a kit together. 

BD:    Even the unknown works like L’Oca del Cairo?

TA:    I don’t know L’Oca del Cairo.  I’m not familiar with The Cairo Goose!  Maybe he called it The Cairo Goose for a very specific reason.  [Both laugh]  In his defense, it has to be said that the L’Oca del Cairo is not one of his greatest works.  It doesn’t do the rounds very much.

BD:    There’s occasionally an aria that shows up on a recital, but that’s about it. 

TA:    Yes, and Zaide is a wonderfully unfinished work too.  There’s some great stuff in there, but I’m talking about the standard repertoire that we all love and enjoy.  That’s my feeling about it.  There’s such a joy of actually just interpreting the recitative and the text of Da Ponte.  It’s so wonderful, and this has come home very strongly to me recently.  In London where like many other theatres now, we have the surtitles, and Figaro in London now is a riot from start to end.  People have suddenly realized how brilliant this text is.

BD:    So you believe in the surtitles?

TA:    I do.

BD:    Would you ever do things in translation?

allenTA:    I have done things in translation. 

BD:    Does that work better or worse or different?

TA:    That’s different.  I began my career only singing in translation, and it was quite some years before I started to learn the various operas in the original language.

BD:    Where was this, in Sadler’s Well?

TA:    No, at Welsh National Opera, which in those days only did things in English.

BD:    I was never aware of that.  In London you had the two theatres
Covent Garden, which did everything in the original languages, and then the Wells...

TA: the English National Opera who do things entirely in English.

BD:    That’s why they changed their name from Sadler’s Wells to English National Opera?

TA:    It was a requirement when they changed the theater.  But it didn’t used to bug me terribly because I hadn’t sung everything in the original at that time.

BD:    For someone who has had experience with translations and with the surtitles, which do you think has the bigger impact on the audience?

TA:    It’s different.  It’s actually considerably different. 

BD:    How so?

TA:    First of all, not everybody is understandable when they sing.  The text of what they sing can be very confused.  Vocal production is a thing that varies from individual to individual, and some voices are very clear while others are muffled.  So in singing in English, that can be a nuisance even if it’s the language you’re supposed to understand.  So if you’ve got a voice of that sort when you’re singing in Italian or German or whatever it might be with surtitles, it’s not such a disadvantage.  You’ve got the surtitles to refer to.  The thing that bugs me most nowadays of singing in translation, which I did most recently
Busoni’s Dr Faust in English National Opera two or three years agois that you can never really settle on a final version.

BD:    You were tinkering with the words here and there?

TA:    Yes, you’re always tinkering, and you’re always wondering whether there’s an alternative, a better solution to a phrase just around the corner if you just tinker somewhat more.  I find that unsettling.  It takes up an inordinate amount of rehearsal time just fiddling around with the text.  You’re sent a text, you start learning a text, but then something occurs to you, and someone else has another idea, and someone else has another idea, and you need another book with all the corrections put into it by the time you’re finished.  But I agree with opera in translation.  It’s enormously important. 

BD:    Even in a huge theatre?  Does not opera translation work better in smaller, more intimate places?

TA:    No, I don’t see why.  Why should it? 

BD:    I guess that’s just the general assumption?  Obviously it’s not correct.

TA:    No, no.  The Coliseum in London is a big theater.  It holds something like 2,500, which is big by British standards; Covent Garden being 2,200.

BD:    Here in Chicago, the Lyric is about 3,600; San Francisco is 3,300, and the Met is 3,800.

TA:    That’s right.  Well, there you are!  Some people would argue that those are ideal sizes for theaters.  The Coliseum has a loyal following of people who live to hear opera done by a company
they consider themselves very much a companyand done in translation by people whom they know and have come to enjoy and love over the years, as well as their established resident artists and stars.  It works very well.  It’s a big theatre and it works very well. 

BD:    Do you like the titles, also?

TA:    I do like the titles.  The snob in me thought some years ago that this was a retrograde step, and that it was yet another step that would cause us to further diminish the value of our brains and the use of our brains.  I felt that less and less people would be bothered to find out what the thing was about, and do a little bit of work for themselves.  But then I went to an open dress rehearsal in San Francisco
something that I didn’t know terribly welland I found myself using the surtitles a lot.  I didn’t find them obtrusive, which I thought I would find.  Far from it, they helped me enormously.

BD:    So it brought you into the work?

TA:    V
ery much so, and it was a turning point for me.  I then went back to London and found myself involved in a season in which they were alternating ‘night with’ and ‘night without’.  The following season they were introduced throughout the season every night.

BD:    How was the difference then on the ‘night without’?

TA:    Oh, hot and cold; I mean, chalk and cheese.  It was as strong as that.  I stood in the wings each night, and I would say to Stella, the stage manager, ‘Ah, no surtitles tonight!’  You knew immediately.  It’s as big a reaction as that.  It’s quite distinct. 


To read my Interview with soprano Margaret Price, click HERE.

To read my Interview with conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, click HERE.

BD:    Was it a comic opera or a serious opera?

TA:    That was Figaro.

BD:    I would think that especially the laughs would be a bit more forthcoming in a comic opera.

TA:    That’s right.  I was listening to reactions to certain lines of recitative and such like.  Obviously if it had been the Ring, then I wouldn’t have expected the audience to be in stitches...  Oh, they might be, I don’t know!  [Both laugh] 

BD:    The Ring works very, very well with the text.  It’s almost like you’re being prompted.

TA:    That’s right.  That does work well.  They got it wrong in Italy a few years ago with Boris Godunov in Florence.  They introduced surtitles, but they had five or six lines together.  It was like reading Encyclopedia Britannica!

BD:    It needs to be line by line, and keeping up so it’s with the action.

TA:    And succinct as well.  It needs to be very tight.  It’s a new skill that’s entered the theatre, and there’s a great future in it.

BD:    Are we going to get a new job title, Maestro del titles?

TA:    No doubt, as everyone has a title these days, yes. 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let’s talk a little about Mozart’s Figaro.  You’ve sung both the Count and Figaro?

TA:    Yes.

BD:    How do you decide which one you’ll do? 

TA:    Vocally there’s no question.  The Count is certainly the role that I seem almost wholly into.  I’ve recorded Figaro, and I sang it at Glyndebourne and for television in England many years ago, but it’s not a role that I feel is mine now.  No, I’m the Count.  I like strutting around a stage in charge, though I often feel that Figaro is as he is, of course. 

BD:    You go from Figaro in Barber to the Count in Figaro.  Does that give you a little better understanding of the other character in each opera?

TA:    Not really.  I just wished the Mozart had written The Barber of Seville.  They are quite different entities, and you can’t really make any kind of comparison, or use it as a scale or a guide in any way.  It’s useful to compare the Beaumarchais, but as far as character writing is concerned, it is a very different approach.  So I don’t think it serves any great purpose. 

BD:    My wish is that some major composer had set the third drama!

TA:    Oh, so do I.

BD:    It’s been done a couple of times but never by a huge operatic figure.

TA:    It’s a great pity.  I just suspect it might have been one of the great operas that we have in our pantheon, but it sadly hasn’t been done justice by those.

BD:    Have you done some world premières?

allenTA:    Yes, but nothing to knock you back in your chair, as far as I can remember.  [Note: Allen would later perform and record A Dylan Thomas Trilogy by John Corigliano.  See my Interviews with John Corigliano.]

BD:    Is it more difficult because there is no previous history of this work to rely on to help you through?

TA:    It’s certainly is a very good test of one’s interpretative skills.  It must be lovely to be the originator of something
the composer or the artist or whatever.  What we are is the original interpreter of something, that’s all.  We’re one step removed from whole originality.  A number of years ago I was very happy to be involved with a piece by Thea Musgrave, The Voice of Ariadne, in which I played the Count.  I’m always playing counts!  That was a great piece.  [See my Interview with Thea Musgrave.]  It’s had a fair success too, and was great fun because we sort of edited as we went along.  I remember the day when Colin Graham, who was producing, had to say to Thea, The third act’s too long.  We need to lose about thirty minutes of it.

BD:    Oh, dear! 

TA:    It was as radical as that.  Maybe I’m exaggerating but I know there was a huge chunk had to be lost from the piece at a fairly late stage in the proceedings, and I think he was right.  The result was the piece worked very well, and it became very popular.  It was a big success.

BD:    I hope she took the piece that was jettisoned in the middle, and made a cantata out of it!

TA:    Oh, no doubt, no doubt.  Composers are not short of ego when it comes to using things again.

BD:    You’re a singing artist and I assume you’re interested in the preservation or expansion of the repertoire.  What advice do you have for someone who wants to compose operas for the stage today?

TA:    The problem is always getting a good text and a good subject.  There a number of them coming up here in Chicago, I’m pleased to see.  It will be interesting how they work out.  I suspect at the back of your question is the problem of modern music and it being available and listenable, if one can say that, for the public that you have created and developed over the years. 

BD:    That’s certainly part of the mix.

TA:    It’s a difficult one, and one has to go along with to a very great degree.  There’s a composer in England that I’m increasingly interested in, a man called John Casken (b. 1949), who’s writing a concert piece for me in a couple of years’ time.  [Note: This would be the orchestral song-cycle Still Mine, which was premiered by Allen and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the 1992 Proms, and subsequently won the 1993 Prince Pierre de Monaco prize for Musical Composition.] 
He has just seen the première of his first opera, but it’s a very difficult medium in which he writes.  The early stages are to limited audiences in warehouse theaters and in cushion theatres, and things like that where there are benches and far from the comforts of big opera houses.  I don’t know what the answer to it is, except to say that I don’t think anyone should be afraid of the development of modern music.  Some people regard modern music as Stravinsky and Britten, and for some the name Britten causes hair to curl or straighten, or whatever, and people will flee.  It really is extraordinary the instinctive reaction that people have to Benjamin Britten, and yet I’ve found that my closenessparticularly to Billy Budd, and to some extent Albert Herring and Peter Grimes and Midsummer Night’s Dream as wellhas opened my eyes tremendously to his particular music and a lot of other modern music, too.  It’s hard to regard it as modern any longer.  I just feel that if people don’t close their minds to what is offered them, and give these things a try in the way that they do with the straight theatre, but less so in the concert hall, then I think there’s a chance.  The sad thing is that the concert hall is still filled with Beethoven Fives and Romeo and Juliet of Tchaikovsky and what have you.  Yet it’s possible to break away from that, as Simon Rattle in Birmingham has shown.  If you establish sufficient reputation, principally with yourselfand he’s so highly regarded as we all knowand stick by your orchestra, which is what he’s done in Birmingham by giving them a tremendous self-regard and self-esteem and established them in world musical terms, then you can then start pursuing practically any program you like.

BD:    On symphony programs, if you have a Beethoven symphony and a big concerto, you can put ten or twelve minutes of something new at the beginning or the middle.

TA:    He’s done more than that, though.  He’s actually introduced whole evenings.  There have been some very innovative programs introduced there.

BD:    That’s what I’m getting at
the opera is the whole evening.

TA:    That’s right.  That’s why I’m saying that he’s introduced whole evenings of music that people would regard as being difficult.  But they trust him.  It will be interesting to see, with this Toward the Twenty-First Century project that’s going on at the Lyric, how faithful a following there is because there are some new avenues being explored.  You have to have the courage of your convictions, and it would be a very sorry day if you had to bow to the pressure of benefactors and the big subscribers and provide only Aïda, Carmen and Bohème.  That would sound the death-knell of opera.  We’re very forward looking.  A lot of people I’ve talked to recently about the way ahead for the theater and for opera, regard the opera theater as being much more explorative in its work than is the National Theatre or the Shakespeare Company, for example.  The Shakespeare Company, perhaps, has an excuse in that Shakespeare kind of controls, to a very great degree, what you want to do, although even then they explore a lot of new ideas.  But in England we have a very good reputation for being innovative, and there is evidence to show that a lot of new material that has been produced and has had a public.  T
he same public that you’ve developed for Bohème and such have gone along.  I don’t think anyone should be afraid.  It’s a very exciting time.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve sung all over the world in various opera houses.  Do you change your vocal technique at all from a small house to a big house?

TA:    No, no.

BD:    Even a little tiny house like Glyndebourne?

TA:    No, not at all, no.  You’re dancing with death even to contemplate doing so.  A tiny house like Glyndebourne, with it’s 800 seats, has one of the most ungrateful acoustics in the world.  You can’t tinker with anything you’re doing.  You just simply have to sing, whereas this house here in Chicago has one of the loveliest acoustics in the world.  It’s a huge and immense.  It’s a daunting experience to stand on that stage for the first time and look out at something that seems to go on to infinity!  But it seems to work.  It’s not as good as the Colón in Buenos Aires, which is something that’s quite extraordinary.  Some clever genius made that particular place, and it just works.  It’s fortunate that it clicked, but it’s lovely to sing in this particular house.  It’s hard in Glyndebourne.  There’s no rule to say that because a house is small your voice will carry and fill it and sound great in it, whereas in a big house it’s going to disappear in sound, or diminish or whatever it might be. 

BD:    How are the audiences different from city to city, and from country to country?


TA:    It seems to me that they become more and more alike.  Audiences in London now are having a more international sound.  They’ve learnt to shout ‘brava’ and ‘bravo’, which is something you didn’t hear several years ago.  I really don’t know the difference yet between ‘bravo’ and ‘brava’, [laughs] but at least they shout something, which for tacit-toned English is quite something!  What we don’t have there is a long established tradition of opera.  It’s long by some terms, but opera is still a bit of a ‘joke’.  That might be too strong a word.  It’s not an artistic venture that has been a part of people’s lives in a way that going to a Shakespeare play early on in one’s life was, or is.  Whether you continue to do so is another matter, but generally at some point during their school life people have gone to the theater to see Shakespeare, to see Becket, to see something. It’s less likely they will have gone to see the opera, and if they have, it’s no guarantee that they will continue to do so. 

BD:    Is it more likely they would have gone to the ballet?

TA:    It’s often the case, yes, whereas one is certainly aware in Munich and Vienna and Cologne that the opera house itself, the building, enjoys a greater respect.

BD:    Does that make it better or easier to sing there, or to do better work there?

TA:    I think it does, to some degree, yes.  It sets you up rather more than you feel in a place in which it has less regard.  It’s changing, slowly, but it’s a tradition that still seems to me to be in its early days, although it’s already been a long time.  Going back to The Beggar’s Opera and various other folk operas and such goes back a long time.  But nevertheless the tradition doesn’t seem to be one that we’ve taken to our hearts greatly, mainly because, I suppose, the material has not been in our own tongue.  We’re not the best linguists in the world in the little island on which we live.  It somehow separated us out from the rest of the Continent, and has had that effect.

allenBD:    And yet for so much of the last century, England dominated the entire world with the Empire where the sun never set!

TA:    Yes, but it’s just that they spoke English.  We didn’t go to Australia and learn Aboriginal languages, and we didn’t go to India and learn Hindi.  We... [pauses]

BD:    ... imposed your will? 

TA:    We certainly did, and we’re now reaping the benefit of that, aren’t we just!  I’m not making apologies for the British Empire.  It was an effective colonialism, and we were world’s worst people for laying down the British law here there and everywhere, and thinking that it was necessarily the best.  We’re slowly coming to realize that it’s isn’t necessarily the best.

BD:    Now, because of America’s advances in technology and science, English has become the international language.

TA:    Yes, that’s true.  But it asks a lot of the French, the Scandinavians and the Germans and everyone else who’ve always been prepared, it seems to me, to learn the English tongue, whereas we’ve been very reticent and tardy about learning any of the European tongues.  It’s still very rare to find in schools any degree of skill in language, which I think is horrifying, especially since we’re shortly to be wholly, full-fledged Europeans.

BD:    Is making one United Europe going to have any impact on the musical scene?

TA:    I don’t know what impact it will have on any scene, apart from us all having purple passports or something of the sort.  You stand on the cliffs of Dover and go twenty miles across the Channel, and you might as well have gone 500 miles or 6,000 miles to the middle of Africa.  It’s a different nation.  Of course these things are set up from economic purposes, but culturally we’re so different.  The French would be the first to tell us so, too!  We are separated by twenty-one miles of water, but then about 2,000 years of strain and what have you.  I was in Spain earlier this year, and I did a series of recitals in various places around the country, and I felt as if I might as well have been on the moon for what it had to do with being in Europe!  It seemed so far removed.

BD:    And yet the music communicated to them!

TA:    The music communicates despite everything.  Music is an international language that bestrides so many barriers.  That’s the wonderful thing.  I was in Vienna a few years ago in a performance of Falstaff.  This was only one case in which we had a Spanish Falstaff, a Mexican Fenton, and English Ford, a Hungarian Alice, two or three Rumanians, a Bulgarian, a Swiss, an Austrian... it was the whole United Nations.  It was quite extraordinary, and I don’t know, other than at the United Nations, where you’d meet so many different nationalities brought together under one particular umbrella doing one particular job.  It’s extraordinary.  It’s healthy, I think.

BD:    Yes.  It would almost make you a cultural ambassador or part of the local community

TA:    Yes, yes, it’s true.  The only people who don’t recognize that is the diplomatic corps of the British society!  They don’t seem to have any regard for the artistic endeavors, but that’s neither here nor there. 

BD:    What advice do you have for the politicians about music?

TA:    Stay out of it!  Except that we need the money, of course.  That’s the trouble.  Keep politics out of music.  It’s the sorry day when we’re told that we have to produce the balance sheets at the end of the year and show our worth.  Otherwise we’re cut off at the source.  How can you do that?  What do you do if Picasso doesn’t produce enough canvasses in the year?  Do you stop supplying his canvasses?  That’s never the way; that’s not what artistic endeavor is about.  The fact is that artistic endeavor is supposed to differentiate and separate us from that kind of base thinking.  But somehow or other, we seem to be getting back into a mire as far as it’s concerned.  The British have this reputation, but the sad thing is that it applies generally.  We have a reputation of striving in the face of adversity, but I’m not sure that’s the case any longer.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Is singing fun?

TA:    Oh, yes!  Have you not noticed?!?!?  [Both have a huge laugh]  When it’s going well, it’s the best thing in the world... second best thing in the world!  It’s not always easy and it’s not always fun, but it just so happens that I’m very happy to be here in Chicago at the moment.  It’s largely because of the fact that I’m two jolly romps.  Not that the Barber is not a jolly romp, but it requires a considerable discipline.  The beauty of it is that Ardis Krainik and Bill Mason have put together a cast that works tremendously well, and it’s been a joy, it really has been joy.  [See my Interview with Ardis Krainik.]  We have as much fun on stage as we appear to be having!  I don’t think I’ve ever known such a happy time.  The Figaro in Covent Garden two years ago was wonderful, and very, very illuminating.  That was illuminating, this is, great, and it’s illuminating in its own way because, frankly, I wouldn’t care if the Barber didn’t appear in my schedule for a number of years now.  I was saying that before I got here, and this particular approach has actually refreshed me.  I’ve been singing it for a number of years, and it’s been lovely to look at it afresh in this rather Magritte view.  It’s been great fun. 

BD:    Are you coming back to Chicago?

TA:    I hope so.  There are plans to bring me back, but quite when they are I don’t know.  We haven’t finalized everything.  I certainly want to come back. 

Thomas Allen in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago

1989 - Barber of Seville (Figaro) with Von Stade, Lopardo, Desderi, Ghiuselev; Pinzauti, Copley, Conklin
           Fledermaus (Eisenstein) with Daniels, Bonney, Rosenshein, Howells, Nolen, Adams; Rudel, Chazalettes, Santicchi, Tallchief

1999-2000 - Fledermaus (Eisenstein) with Lott, Evans, Bottone, Castle, Nolen, Del Carlo; Hager, Copley, Santicchi, Tallchief

2006-07 - Così fan tutte (Alfonso) with Wall, McNeese, Cutler, Gunn, Focile; Davis, Cox, Perdziola

2012-13 - Don Pasquale (Director) with Petersen, D'Arcangelo, Barbera, Crider; Lord, Ponnelle

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

December, 1980 - L'nfance du Christ - with DeGaetani, McCoy, Paul; Hillis

August, 1997 (Ravinia Festival) - Samson and Delilah (Act 2) - with Graves, Heppner; Eschenbach

November, 2009 - Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream (Narrator) - with Morley, Cooke; Haitink

-- Names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website. BD

BD:    Good, well we look forward to that!  Thank you for spending some time with me today.  I appreciate it very much.

TA:    It’s been a great pleasure.

BD:    Bundle up when you go out as it’s cold...

TA:    Oh, I’m not going out!

BD:    Well, bundle up when you do leave, even just to go to the opera house tomorrow.

TA:    Oh tomorrow, yes.  I go looking like a mummy!  It’s nice to get some fresh air just between here and there.

BD:    If you think this is bad, we’re getting a real deep freeze Wednesday night or Thursday.

TA:    My God!

BD:    The high temperature will be zero!

TA:    It’s unbelievable.  I remember the first time I was here, I was staying at (a different location).  I’d washed my hair and went down, and in a moment it was freeze-dried.  [Both have another huge laugh]  Incredible!  It’s something that you simply can’t imagine unless you’ve been here.  However, it’s still a nice place to be, as long as you wrap up!


© 1989 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in his apartment in Chicago on December 18, 1989.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1991, 1994, 1998, and 1999.  This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.