Richard Van Allan: Distinguished operatic bass and later Director of the National Opera Studio

For more than 30 years the English bass Richard Van Allan sang at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, the British regional companies and at various opera houses in Europe and North America. He had a wide repertory encompassing Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Strauss and Britten, and took part in several premieres of new operas.

His voice was full-toned and sharply focused without being particularly large, while his diction was excellent. He was a very fine actor and often played speaking parts, including the Majordomo in Ariadne auf Naxos or the Pasha Selim in Die Enführung aus dem Serail with distinction. Towards the end of his singing career he became a popular and successful Director of the National Opera Studio.

Richard Van Allan was born in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire in 1935. He served as a police officer before studying with David Franklyn at the Birmingham School of Music. He joined the Glyndebourne chorus in 1964 and two years later sang the Second Priest and the Second Man in Armour in Die Zauberflöte. In 1967 he sang Osmano in Cavalli's L'Ormindo and won the first John Christie Award.

During the next five years his roles included Zaretzky in Eugene Onegin, the Doctor in Pelléas et Mélisande, Lord Francis Jowler in the first performance of Maw's The Rising of the Moon (1970), Leporello in Don Giovanni, Selim in Rossini's Il Turco in Italia and Osmin as well as the Pasha in Die Entführung. He returned to Glyndebourne in 1977 for Trulove in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.

Meanwhile, for Welsh National Opera, Van Allan sang Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville in 1968 and several Verdi roles: Banquo in Macbeth and Zaccaria in Nabucco in 1969, Ramfis in Aida in 1970, the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos in 1974, Massimiliano in I masnadieri, for which he received an ovation, in 1977, Silva in Ernani, another great success, which was performed in London at the Dominion Theatre in 1979 and also given in East Berlin at the Komische Oper in 1980. Van Allan returned to WNO in 1981 for Grigoris in the first British stage performance of Martinu's The Greek Passion and Don Pizarro in Fidelio.

He first sang for ENO (still under the name of Sadler's Wells Opera) at the Coliseum in 1969 as Don Giovanni, followed in 1970 by Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, one of his finest roles, and as King Henry in Lohengrin in 1971.

That was the year of his Covent Garden début as the Mandarin in Turandot. His other roles at Covent Garden in the 1970s included Mozart's Figaro, Don Alfonso and Leporello, the King in Aida, the Doctor in Berg's Wozzeck, Mr Flint in Britten's Billy Budd, the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos, Colline in La Bohème, Ferrando in Il trovatore, Quince in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Calkas in Walton's Troilus and Cressida. Van Allan also sang Masetto, his third role in Don Giovanni, at the Paris Opéra in 1975, Don Pizarro at Boston and his first Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier at San Diego in 1976.

He repeated Baron Ochs at Buenos Aires and at ENO in 1978. It soon became one of his best roles, in which the dramatic was of equal importance to the vocal side of the performance. The same year, he sang the Father Superior in Verdi's The Force of Destiny at ENO; Wurm in a new production of Verdi's Luisa Miller with Luciano Pavarotti, and Don Pedro in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, also a new production, with Placido Domingo, both at Covent Garden.

In 1979 his new roles included the Comte des Grieux in Massenet's Manon, Mustapha in Rossini's Italian Girl in Algiers and Don Magnifico in Rossini's La Cenerentola; and in 1980 Mephistopheles in Berlioz' Damnation of Faust and the title role in Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, all at ENO. At Covent Garden in 1981, he sang the Theatre Director and the Banker in the first London showing of the three-act version of Berg's Lulu.

Van Allan was as busy as ever during the first half of the 1980s; at ENO he sang Friar Laurance in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet, the Father in Charpentier's Louse, the Water Sprite in Rusalka, Collatinus in Britten's Rape of Lucretia, Sir Walter Raleigh in Britten's Gloriana, Procida in Verdi's Sicilian Vespers, Kochubei in Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa, the Count in The Marriage of Figaro (for the first time), Philip II in Don Carlos and Pooh-Bah in Jonathan Miller's 1920s production of The Mikado. In their different ways, the last two characters were both immensely successful. At Covent Garden he sang Capulet in Bellini's I Capuletti e I Montecchi for Welsh National, Kecal in Smetana's Bartered Bride, and at Glyndebourne, Superintendent Budd in Britten's Albert Herring.

In September 1986 Van Allan was appointed Director of the National Opera Studio, set up by the Arts Council in 1978 to provide intensive training for young opera singers. He remained there for 15 years. His own appearances were of necessity rather fewer, but for a decade he continued to sing, in London and abroad. He sang Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust at Seattle (1987); he made a magnificently evil Claggart in Billy Budd (1988) and sang Frank Maurrant in Weill's Street Scene (1989) at ENO. He also gave his much-admired performance of Don Alfonso at the Metropolitan, New York. He sang Comte de Saint-Bris in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots (1991) at Covent Garden and Don Jerome in Gerhard's The Duenna (1992) at Barcelona.

In 1994 he scored two great personal triumphs at ENO, as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin and in the title role of Massenet's Don Quixote. His Quixote was particularly moving. Van Allan was appointed CBE in 2002 for services to music.

Elizabeth Forbes

Richard Van Allan, opera singer and administrator: born Clipstone, Nottinghamshire 28 May 1935; Director, National Opera Studio 1986-2001; CBE 2002; married 1963 Elizabeth Peabody (one son; marriage dissolved 1974), 1976 Rosemary Pickering (one daughter, and one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1986); died London 4 December 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick