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The real Billy Elliot is on stage in Toronto -- and he's not a dancer

Sir_thomas_allen

By Mary Kunz Goldman

Sir Thomas Allen, a British opera baritone from a coal mining town, was the chief inspiration for the mega-hit "Billy Elliot," about a boy who transcends a similar background to become a great ballet dancer. He is singing the pivotal part of Don Alfonso in the Canadian Opera Company's new production of Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutte."

There has already been one performance and there are nine left to go. The staging, by filmmaker Atom Egoyan, looks really weird. Why do they have to do this to Mozart, you know? Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," the COC's other offering this time around, looks OK.

But what a pleasure to see, and hear, Sir Thomas Allen.

Here is a Toronto audio interview with him in which he talks about a number of things including "Cosi" and his childhood. "I was a shy, retiring lad, but I wanted to sing." He sounds like such a gracious man. It is poignant to hear him laughing ruefully how he tells how he was bullied -- including being thrown over a railroad embankment and getting his nose bloodied -- because he was studying singing and interested in the arts. You could not get away with that in his hometown, he says.

And: "I've never got on with pop music." It takes courage to say that!

Hmmm, he mentions how his father plays the piano and was especially influenced by Charlie Kunz. "If that name means anything these days," he laughs. As a Kunz myself I love hearing that name mentioned! On a more serious note though this is a very moving interview. Try to find time to hear it.

Besides being an opera star Sir Thomas Allen is a great singer of Lieder, an art form I love. Here he is singing Schubert's "Serenade." 

 

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Music | Opera
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