Chancellor Of Durham University
Sir Thomas Allen
As Chancellor of Durham University Sir Thomas Allen follows a distinguished line of artists and performers who have held the role of Chancellor including Dr Bill Bryson, Sir Peter Ustinov and Dame Margot Fonteyn. In January 2012 he became Durham University’s 12th Chancellor.
Sir Thomas was born in Seaham Harbour, in County Durham. His route to musical stardom began in the 1960s when, as a pupil at Robert Richardson Grammar School in Ryhope, his talent was recognised and encouraged by Physics teacher Dennis Weatherley.
The school’s headmaster arranged for the then 18-year-old Sir Thomas to visit Professor Arthur Hutchings in Durham University’s Music Department who arranged an interview for him at the Royal College of Music.
Sir Thomas’s career began with the Welsh National Opera and on his debut he was described as “surely the best British lyric baritone singing in opera since the war”.
He has won worldwide acclaim for the many roles he has made his own including Billy Budd, Pelléas, Eugene Onegin, Ulisse and Beckmesser and for his interpretations of the great Mozart roles, Count Almaviva, Don Alfonso, Papageno, Guglielmo and his signature role, Don Giovanni.
Sir Thomas has sung no less than 50 roles at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in recent years, he has added directing to his credits, making an acclaimed US debut with The Marriage of Figaro.
According to the playwright Lee Hall, Sir Thomas’s remarkable story was the inspiration for his hit film Billy Elliott, about a boy who came from the mining communities of County Durham to dance Swan Lake.
On being announced as Chancellor in October 2011, Sir Thomas said: “As a County Durham boy I am extremely proud and honoured to be appointed as Chancellor of Durham University.
“No matter where my life and career have taken me, Durham has always held a special place in my heart so it is a particular privilege for me to accept this prestigious role.