Richard Lewis - a new name

At this time he was still Thomas Thomas. His teacher Norman Allin advised him to change it, which he did by deed poll taking his hero Richard Tauber's first name and his mother's maiden name of Lewis. So Richard Lewis was born.

 

Already a superb musician, (he had won a gold medal in the Associated Board exams when he was fifteen) he now studied hard at the same time successfully auditioning with both Benjamin Britten and Sir David Webster (at Covent Garden). So studies by day and rehearsals at Glyndebourne or Covent Garden by night.

 

But it was now that his career accelerated. Benjamin Britten was at that time forming his English Opera Group and although his partner Peter Pears was the first tenor, a second tenor was needed. Richard was taken on after auditioning, opening at Glyndebourne with The Rape of Lucretia in 1947.

 

Exciting times

After a huge success the English Opera Group toured Europe and then had a season at Covent Garden.  At last we seemed to have a major world composer. Those were exciting times for British opera and Richard was very much part of it.

 

However, one problem for Richard was that Peter Pears had priority over any other tenor and Britten told Lewis he would never sing a world premiere. So, after two seasons, Richard made the decision to leave but not one that hurt him - he would go on to become a foremost Britten interpreter all over the world, in particular the roles of the Captain ( in Billy Budd) and Peter (in Peter Grimes).

 

Richard (second from right, top row) at Glyndebourne during the 1950s with Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group