We are sad to report the passing of Robert Allman AM OBE.
Robert Allman was a pillar of the Australian opera scene during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He first joined the Australian Opera to sing the role of Jokanaan in Salome in 1960, and 28 years later, his reprisal led then Artistic Director Moffatt Oxenbould to remark “he sounded so fresh-voiced and authoritative that it was hard, but wonderful, to believe that he had been with the Company since the first season in which we had performed Salome in 1960”.
His voice has the richness and depth to sing all the big Verdi baritone leads with aplomb, and he made the roles of Iago in Otello and Scarpia in Tosca his own. He sung all of the core baritone roles in everything from Rigoletto to The Flying Dutchman, La Traviata to The Magic Flute, Peter Grimes to Boris Godunov.
Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini said Bob Allman was one of the greatest operatic baritones Australia has ever produced. “He was generous by nature and his voice and his performances mirrored his generosity of spirit. For those of us who were fortunate enough to hear him at his best he will never be forgotten. He was a wonderful singer but he was also an equally wonderful human being.”
In Oxenbould’s memoir, he recalls a wonderful season of The Magic Flute in which the then-veteran performer sang the role of the Speaker, while mentoring the three trebles cast as the spirit boys. “The dynamic between Bob, approaching the end of his performing career, and the younger singers, at the beginning of theirs, was wonderful to observe and experience.”
Vale to a great performer, a wonderful artist and a friend to many.
Moffatt wrote this tribute today on hearing of his passing:
“Robert Allman is one of the few artists whose mighty talent and endearing personality has been inextricably linked to Opera Australia for more than 50 years. His warm, Italianate voice was ideally suited to the dramatic roles of Giuseppe Verdi but his repertoire was wide ranging – including many of the major baritone roles of Donizetti, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Puccini and Leoncavallo. Alongside colleagues such as Elizabeth Fretwell, Dame Joan Sutherland, Donald Smith and Neil Warren-Smith, his performances delighted audiences and set standards to which younger singers could aspire. His career began in Melbourne in the 1950s, took him to Paris to study with Dominique Modesti, then to Covent Garden in London and thence to the major German operatic stages. His return to Australia as a guest artist in 1959 led to regular return visits – notably in 1965 when he appeared with the Sutherland-Williamson Opera Company with which he gave the first of many performances opposite his good friend and colleague, Luciano Pavarotti.
In 1969 he came back to Australia permanently as principal baritone of the Company – although he occasionally returned to the UK, Europe and the United States as a welcome guest. In 1997 Bob Allman bade farewell to the stage in a gala performance in the Sydney Opera House in which artists, management and staff paid tribute to the unique place he held in both the history of the Company and the affections of its people.
But the end of his performing career was not the end of his association with Opera Australia. He was a founding and long-term Trustee of the Company’s Benevolent Fund and a mentor and adviser to generations of young singers.
Fortunately several of his performances are available to lovers of good singing – Don Alfonso in Lucrezia Borgia with Sutherland and especially in the recently released three CD set by Desiree Records – covering his entire career.”
Robert Allman lives on in memory as one of the very greatest of the many remarkably gifted Australian classical singers.