Thomas Simpson Cooke

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Thomas Simpson Cooke ("Tom Cooke") (July 1782 – 26 February 1848) was an Irish composer, conductor, singer, theatre musician and music director – an influential figure in early 19th-century opera in London.



Mostly referred to as "Tom Cooke", he was born in Dublin, the son of Bartlett Cooke, an oboist in the theatres of Smock Alley and Crow Street, and co-founder of the Irish Musical Fund (1787), also the owner of a music shop at 45 Dame Street and a music publisher.

Smock Alley Theatre theatre in Dublin, Ireland

Since the 17th century there have been numerous theatres in Dublin with the name of Smock Alley.

Crow Street Theatre was a theatre in Dublin, Ireland, originally opened in 1758 by the actor Spranger Barry. From 1788 until 1818 it was a patent theatre.

Dame Street Road in Dublin, Ireland

Dame Street is a large thoroughfare in Dublin, Ireland. The street is the location of many banks such as AIB and Ulster Bank. It is close to Ireland's oldest university, Trinity College, Dublin, founded in 1592, the entrance to which is a popular meeting spot. The street takes its name from a dam built across the Poddle River to provide water power for milling. It appears later as Dammastrete and Damask-street. There was a medieval church of St. Mary del Dam which was demolished in the seventeenth century. Sir Maurice Eustace, Lord Chancellor of Ireland 16606-1665, built his townhouse, Damask, on the site.

Thomas S. Cooke studied both with his father and with Tommaso Giordani, and displayed an early musical talent – his first benefit concert took place at age nine on 14 February 1792 at the Exhibition Room, William Street, Dublin, when he performed on the violin and sang. [1] In 1797, he became leader of the orchestra of Crow Street Theatre and became its music director not long afterwards. At another benefit concert in 1804, he performed a "concertante" on eight instruments, the flute, violin, viola, cello, piano, clarinet, harp, and trumpet, a feat he often repeated with various instruments. [2] In 1805 he married the actress and singer Fanny Howells; their eldest son was Henry Angelo Michael Cooke (1808–1889), later a well-known musician in London.

Tommaso Giordani was an Italian composer active in England and particularly in Ireland.

The Cooke family became friendly with the celebrated soprano Angelica Catalani, after Cooke had led the orchestra at her first Dublin visit in 1807. In 1813, Cooke changed from the orchestra pit to the stage when he first appeared in a tenor role as Saraskier in Stephen Storace's opera The Siege of Belgrade (a role originally created by Cooke's compatriot Michael Kelly in 1791). Later in the same year he performed the role at the English Opera House in London, where he decided to stay for the remainder of his life.

Angelica Catalani Italian opera singer

Angelica Catalani was an Italian opera singer, the daughter of a tradesman. Her greatest gift was her voice, a soprano of nearly three octaves in range. Its unsurpassed power and flexibility made her one of the greatest bravura singers of all times. She also worked as a singing teacher. Her pupils included Laure Cinti-Damoreau and Fanny Corri-Paltoni.

Stephen Storace British composer

Stephen John Seymour Storace was an English composer. His sister was the famous opera singer Nancy Storace. He was born in London in the Parish of St Marylebone to an English mother and Italian father. Relatively little is known through direct records of his life, and most details are known second-hand through the memoirs of his contemporaries Michael Kelly, the actor John Bannister, and the oboist William Thomas Parke.

The Siege of Belgrade is a comic opera in three acts, principally composed by Stephen Storace to an English libretto by James Cobb. It incorporated music by Mozart, Salieri, Paisiello and Martini, and is therefore considered a pasticcio opera, as well as a Singspiel in English language, as it contained a spoken dialogue. It premiered on 1 January 1791 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London with a great success, featuring many famous singers and actors of the time, such as sopranos Nancy Storace and Anna Maria Crouch, tenor Michael Kelly as well as Shakespearean actors such as John Bannister and Richard "Dicky" Suett.

On 15 September 1815, Cooke performed for the first time at the Drury Lane Theatre (as Don Carlos in Thomas Linley's The Duenna ) and remained its leading tenor for the next 20 years. He had a particular talent for seafaring characters, which gave rise to the phrase "in the style à la Tom Cooke". [3] He was also involved in productions at Lyceum and Haymarket theatres and at Covent Garden. Cooke was music director of the Vauxhall Gardens concerts (1828–30) and the principal tenor at the chapel of the Bavarian embassy in Warwick Street until 1838. Having published a singing tutor in 1828, he also became a much-demanded singing teacher, numbering among his pupils later celebrities including Elizabeth Rainforth, John Sims Reeves, John Templeton, Margaretta Graddon, Maria Tree, and others. Cooke died at his home in Great Portland Street in 1848 and was buried at Kensal Green.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane West End theatre building in Covent Garden, London, England

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. According to the author Peter Thomson, for its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London.

<i>The Duenna</i> opera composed by Linley and Linley

The Duenna is a three-act comic opera, mostly composed by Thomas Linley the elder and his son, Thomas Linley the younger, to an English-language libretto by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. At the time, it was considered one of the most successful operas ever staged in England, and its admirers included Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt and Lord George Byron.

Lyceum Theatre, London theatre in London

The Lyceum Theatre is a 2,100-seat West End theatre located in the City of Westminster, on Wellington Street, just off the Strand. The origins of the theatre date to 1765. Managed by Samuel Arnold, from 1794 to 1809 the building hosted a variety of entertainments including a circus produced by Philip Astley, a chapel, and the first London exhibition of waxworks displayed by Madame Tussaud. From 1816 to 1830, it served as The English Opera House. After a fire, the house was rebuilt and reopened on 14 July 1834 to a design by Samuel Beazley. The building was unique in that it has a balcony overhanging the dress circle. It was built by the partnership of Peto & Grissell. The theatre then played opera, adaptations of Charles Dickens novels and James Planché's "fairy extravaganzas", among other works.


Cooke was a prolific composer from early adolescence. In Dublin he had composed a number of orchestral overtures to theatrical performances and many songs. An early success was the comic opera The First Attempt, or The Whim of the Moment to a libretto by Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan). In this work and in the later Thierna-na-Oge, or The Prince of the Lakes (1829), Cooke clearly referred to Celtic-Irish legends. [4] On the whole, Cooke was not known to be particularly original; he mostly collaborated with others in his compositions, including Henry Bishop, C.E. Horn and David Braham. As such he is associated with over 50 productions at Drury Lane. He also adapted ("Cooke'd") works by Auber, Boieldieu, Halévy, Hérold, and Rossini in a manner he thought more fit for the British stage.

Sydney, Lady Morgan Irish novelist

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Charles Edward Horn English composer and singer

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Selected compositions

Operas (original works only)



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  1. Ita Beausang: "Cooke family", in: The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland, ed. Harry White and Barra Boydell (Dublin: UCD Press, 2013), p. 237–240; ISBN   978-1-906359-78-2.
  2. Beausang (2013), as above.
  3. Beausang (2013), as above.
  4. Axel Klein: "Stage-Irish, or the National in Irish Opera, 1780–1925", in: Opera Quarterly 21.1 (2005), p. 39.