Thomas Simpson Cooke

Last updated

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Selected compositions

Operas (original works only)



Related Research Articles

John Field (composer) Irish composer

John Field, was an Irish pianist, composer, and teacher. Field is best known as the inventor of the nocturne. He is mentioned in passing in War and Peace when Countess Rostova calls on the Rostov household musician to play her favourite nocturne.

Robert Smirke (architect) English architect

Sir Robert Smirke was an English architect, one of the leaders of Greek Revival architecture, though he also used other architectural styles. As architect to the Board of Works, he designed several major public buildings, including the main block and façade of the British Museum. He was a pioneer of the use of concrete foundations.

Józef Elsner

Józef Antoni Franciszek Elsner was a composer, music teacher, and music theoretician, active mainly in Warsaw. He was one of the first composers in Poland to weave elements of folk music into his works.

Henry Bishop (composer) English composer

Sir Henry Rowley Bishop was an English composer. He is most famous for the songs "Home! Sweet Home!" and "Lo! Here the Gentle Lark." He was the composer or arranger of some 120 dramatic works, including 80 operas, light operas, cantatas, and ballets. Bishop was Knighted in 1842. Bishop worked for all the major theatres of London in his era – including the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Vauxhall Gardens and the Haymarket Theatre, and was Professor of Music at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. His second wife was the noted soprano Anna Bishop, who scandalised British society by leaving him and conducting an open liaison with the harpist Nicolas-Charles Bochsa until the latter's death in Sydney.

Charles Incledon

Charles Benjamin Incledon was a Cornish tenor singer, who became one of the foremost English singers of his time, especially in the singing of English theatre music and ballads in which he was considered without rival.

Karol Kurpiński Polish composer and conductor

Karol Kazimierz Kurpiński was a Polish composer, conductor and pedagogue. He was a representative of late classicism and a member of the Warsaw Society of Friends of Learning. He is also known for having composed the music to the 1831 patriotic song La Varsovienne with lyrics by Casimir Delavigne.

Andrea Nozzari Italian tenor

Andrea Nozzari was an Italian tenor.

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

William Michael Rooke was an Irish violinist and composer.

Isaac Pocock was an English dramatist and painter of portraits and historical subjects. He wrote melodramas, farces and light operatic comedies, many being stage adaptations of existing novels. Of his 40 or so works, the most successful was Hit and Miss (1810), a musical farce. The mariner Sir Isaac Pocock (1751–1810) was his uncle.

Jeffry Wyatville

Sir Jeffry Wyatville was an English architect and garden designer. Born Jeffry Wyatt into an established dynasty of architects, in 1824 he was allowed by King George IV to change his surname to Wyatville. He is mainly remembered for making alterations and extensions to Chatsworth House and Windsor Castle.

George Soane

George Soane (1790–1860) was an English writer and dramatist.

Philip Cogan was an Irish composer, pianist, and conductor.

John William Glover was an Irish composer, conductor, organist, violinist, and teacher.

Thomas Augustine Geary was an Irish composer, pianist and organist, with a precocious talent particularly in vocal and piano writing.

Peter K. Moran [P. K. Moran] was an Irish pianist, composer, and music publisher – probably the earliest classical composer from Ireland to emigrate to the United States.

Jérôme Paul Bonaventure Alday was a French violinist, composer and music publisher who spent most of his active career in Dublin, Ireland. He was the only composer in early 19th-century Ireland known to have written symphonies.

Richard Michael Levey Irish violinist, conductor and composer

Richard Michael Levey was an Irish violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher. He was one of a handful of noted musicians who kept Dublin's concert life in the nineteenth century alive under difficult economic circumstances.


  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.