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Covent Garden and Thomas Allen remember Robert Tear | reviews, news & interviews

Covent Garden and Thomas Allen remember Robert Tear

Covent Garden and Thomas Allen remember Robert Tear

Last night the programme for the Royal Opera's current production of Fidelio included a special tribute to that most characterful of tenors, Robert Tear, who died this week at the age of 72. Only once did I have the immense pleasure of spending time in the company of this warm and witty man in a Radio 3 book-review programme, which was funny and easy thanks to his interesting, and interested, conversation. He was, though, a constant presence in my life through his wonderfully interactive response to the performance around him when sitting on a concert platform and the number of precisely observed roles, later cameos, he took on at Covent Garden, English National Opera and Glyndebourne. Few knew him better than his equally distinguished colleague Sir Thomas Allen, whose reminiscence as printed last night the Royal Opera gives us kind permission to reproduce here.

We singers meet many people in our Romany life. They come in so many shapes and sizes and types, and probably just as many as there are characters in the operas you attend.

But not many of them are like Bob - you may know him better as Robert Tear.

He was, I'm happy to say, my friend and I saw the world with him, or perhaps more correctly that part of the world where music of the highest level was being performed.

I knew him first through Bach cantatas, then the Chandos Anthems of Handel under David Willcocks alongside Britten's
St Cecilia. But for many years we "trod the boards" together in London, in Figaro and Billy Budd and Janáček's Vixen; at the Salzburg Festival in Monteverdi, and lately at Glyndebourne, where as Dr Blind in Die Fledermaus he was seldom more happy than when revealing the parts of his ladies underwear to me as his little "Freudian slip".

As you can see
[the programme included photographs of Tear as Wagner's Loge, Britten's Captain Vere, Richard Strauss's Herod, the Producer in Berio's Un re in ascolto and the Emperor Altoum in Turandotthe span of his work was vast and I've never encountered anyone with his degree of comfort that encompassed the earliest of musical styles with the "bang up to date".

He was fun, intelligent, bright and fully rounded. For me that was his greatest appeal. Music, thankfully, was only a part of what made him the dear engaging friend I knew and loved.Whoever he was when he entered a room, you could be sure it was always interesting and often very challenging. That was the Celt in him, I think.

There are too few of his kind now and we shall miss him greatly. I shall miss him greatly.

Thomas Allen

Watch Robert Tear as Gustav von Aschenbach in the opening scene of Britten's Death in Venice

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I would like to add my voice to the many who have expressed their great sadness on the death of Robert Tear on the 29th March. Bob was a dear friend and I count myself lucky to have met and known such a unique individual ; curious about the world and its ways, vital, inquisitive, funny, witty, restless, helpful, kind, generous and loving. He could also be infuriating, frustrating and hard to pin down, but these are the qualities I experienced in this greatly treasured friend and sometime mentor and it was ALL of these qualities that made Bob the completely full and rounded character that he was. I sang with him first when I was twenty four years old in the Beethoven 9th with Solti conducting and we hit it off immediately. He, being fifteen years older and more experienced than I , recognised that it was a "big deal" for me to be singing with Solti in the Festival Hall and took it upon himself to make me comfortable and at ease and so a long friendship began. We sang with each other often over the years, most memorably in a production of The Turn of the Screw for Cologne Opera which started life in Munich and to which Bob and I were attached for a few years; he singing, of course,Peter Quint (who could surpass him in the role?) and I as the Governess. Needless to say, we had many an adventure during those years, many a laugh, the odd tear (pardon the pun) and stories enough from our travels to last us plenty of dinner parties yet to come. Bob was fearless, or seemed to me to be. Who else could talk his way through passport control in the UK carrying my one year old daughter in his arms, no passport for her, by simple stating that "the mother is just coming." ??? And when he and his wife, Hilary, my daughter's nanny and I went for car drive in Munich and found ourselves stuck in no man's land between two passport control areas, with only Hilary's passport to serve, managed to bluster his way through with his no nonsense approach and the promise of tickets for the opera we were doing the next night. We share friends in common, Bob and Hilary, Jonathan and I and we will miss greatly one of our dearest pals, but also that larger-than-life, extraordinary human being who, although he died too soon, lived the lifetime of half a dozen people. Last Sunday I sat by his bed, knowing that it would be the last time I would see him. Once upon a time, he wrote me a poem, which was very touching.... how much more that means to me now. I will be forever grateful to have had such a friend in my life. Goodbye Darling Bob. Isobel Buchanan

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