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, 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 Handel, Bach, Mozart, and Monteverdi, as well as works by Romantic, 20th-century, and contemporary composers including Berlioz, Elgar, Britten, Penderecki, Schmidt, and Glass.
Cooley is a self-described storyteller 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 hailed his Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion 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).
Highlights of the 2011/12 season include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the Oregon Bach Festival under Helmuth Rilling, with the Kansas City Symphony and Michael Stern, and with Eiji Oue in Osaka, Japan; Stravinsky’s Les noces with the St. Louis Symphony and David Robertson; Bach St. Matthew Passion with the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano; Haydn’s Seasons with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan; Bach’s Mass in B minor and Handel’s Messiah with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and McGegan; Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Handel and Haydn and Harry Christophers (recorded for Coro Allegro); and Handel’s Solomon with Kenneth Montgomery in the Netherlands.
The 2010/11 season brought Cooley to Carnegie Hall for the Berlioz Requiem under Spano as well as the Saint-Saëns Requiem under Kent Tritle. He traveled to Amsterdam for performances of Mozart’s Kronungsmesse, Honegger’s Le Roi David, and the Mozart Requiem; appeared with the National Arts Center Orchestra and Carlo Rizzi in Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang; returned to the Atlanta Symphony under Donald Runnicles for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis; sang Haydn’s Creation with both the Indianapolis Symphony under Douglas Boyd and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under McGegan; and toured Germany and Austria as the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and in the Bruckner Mass in F.
Recent seasons included debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra (Welser-Möst), St. Louis Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony (both with McGegan), return appearances with the Atlanta Symphony (Spano), the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra (Layton), and the Carmel Bach Festival (Weil); tours of Spain and Germany with the Windsbacher Knabenchor; concerts with the International Bach-Academie Stuttgart, and Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in Japan, Singapore, and Germany. In the 2009/10 season Cooley also sang the role of Bajazet in a new production of Handel’s Tamerlano at the International Handel Festival Göttingen, led by McGegan; Berlioz’ Le nuits d’été and L’enfance du Christ in separate returns to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; the rarely performed Steffani Stabat Mater with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie, led by Andrea Marcon; and his first Acis in Handel’s Acis and Galatea, with Jane Glover at Music of the Baroque.
Cooley is passionate about the art of the song and the recital stage, where he “can really focus on the meaning of the text.” 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.
Cooley spent a formative ten years in Munich. He was a member of the ensemble at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz for four of those years, where he sang such roles as Ferrando in Così 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 and Rudolf Piernay, as well as master classes with Peter Schreier. Comparisons to another cherished role model, the late English tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson, are becoming more frequent. Of his recorded performance of the title role in Handel’s Samson with McGegan and the Festival Orchestra Göttingen (Carus, 2009), Gramophone said, “Thomas Cooley is the finest Samson on disc since Anthony Rolfe Johnson …”
Cooley’s other recordings include Mathan in Handel’s Athalia with Peter Neumann and the Kölner Kammerchor (MDG) and the premiere recording of Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus (Deutsche Grammophon), as well as Mozart’s Requiem with the Windsbacher Knabenchor (Sony) and Mozart’s Mass in C minor with the Handel and Haydn Society and Harry Christophers (Coro Allegro).
Cooley was born in Minneapolis and now makes his home in Connecticut, where he spends his spare time gardening, cooking, and collecting antiques.
Visit Cooley on his website: thomascooley.com.