Thomas Cooley, tenor
The American tenor Thomas Cooley is quickly establishing a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic – and beyond – as a singer of great versatility, expressiveness, power and virtuosity. He is equally at home on the concert stage and in the opera house, and his repertoire ranges across more than four centuries, encompassing the early masters such as and Monteverdi, Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven as well as works by Romantic and 20th-century and contemporary composers including Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Elgar, Britten, Penderecki, and Henze.
Mr. Cooley is an artist whose interpretations are deeply informed by the texts he’s singing. Critics universally praise the emotional depth and nuance of his performances, whether the mood is dramatic, comic, or deeply spiritual. A critic recently said of his Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion “Thanks to his rarely heard radiant power and sensitivity, simply listening to the outer narrative line was a pleasure. Every word received its own interpretation and mood; whether in a simple recitiative or in a solo-aria.” (Main-Post). The same role in the St. Matthew Passion was hailed for its “musical storytelling” and “endless variety of shadings and effects.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). As Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville he was critically acclaimed for his “true comic talent” (Opera News) and called “a wonderfully lyric tenor,” who “also acts right down to his fingertips” (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
The 2009–2010 season began for Mr. Cooley with appearances with the Müncher Motettenchor in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Mendelssohn’s Erste Walpurgisnacht, and in Bremen, performing Britten’s War Requiem. He returned to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ; performed a recital of works by Monteverdi and Schütz in Berkeley; and made a triumphant appearance as Acis in his first Acis and Galatea by Handel, with Jane Glover and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque series.
Mr. Cooley’s season also includes the role of Bazajet in a new production of Handel’s Tamerlano at the International Handel Festival Göttingen, led by his frequent collaborator, Nicholas McGegan; Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in Singapore; Handel’s Messiah with the Detroit Symphony; the rarely performed Steffani Stabat Mater in the Concertgebouw, led by Andrea Marcon; Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, conducted by Harry Christophers; Schubert's Mass in G with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony; another return to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Berlioz's Nuits d'Éte and Bach's St. Matthew Passion at the Carmel Bach Festival.
Recent seasons included debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra (Welser-Most), St. Louis Symphony and Kansas City Symphony (both with McGegan), and the Carmel Bach Festival (Weil); return appearances with the Atlanta Symphony (Spano), the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and Minnesota Orchestra (Layton); tours of Spain and Germany with the Windsbacher Knabenchor; the title role in Bernstein’s Candide with the Charleston Symphony; concerts with the International Bach-Academie Stuttgart, and a Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in Japan with Eiji Oue.
Mr. Cooley is passionate about the art song and the recital stage. Recent highlights include Britten’s Winter Words and Still Falls the Rain at the Britten Festival in Aldeburgh, and Irish and Scottish folksong settings by Haydn and Beethoven at Göttingen. He performs regularly with the pianist Donald Sulzen in such works as Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin.
Mr. Cooley’s spent a formative 10 years in Munich. He was a member of the ensemble at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz for 4 of them, where he sang such roles as Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the title role in Idomeneo, and Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
He deeply appreciates those who have nurtured and influenced his career, among them Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rudolf Piernay, as well as master classes with Peter Schreier. Comparisons to another cherished role model, the English tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson, are becoming more frequent. Of his recorded performance of the title role in Handel’s Samson with Nicholas McGegan and the Göttingen Handel Festival Orchestra (Carus, 2009), Grammophone said, “Thomas Cooley is the finest Samson on disc since Anthony Rolfe Johnson …”
Mr. Cooley’s other recordings include Mathan in Handel’s Athalia with Peter Neumann and the Kölner Kammerchor (MDG), the premiere recording of Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus (Deutsche Grammophon) Cherubini's Chant sur la mort de Haydn (Carus), as well as Mozart's Requiem and Schubert's Mass in A Flat with the Windsbacher Knabenchor (Sony).