Thomas Round

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Thomas Round (born 18 October 1915) is a retired English opera singer and actor, best known for his performances in the tenor roles of the Savoy Operas and in grand opera.

Round began working working as a joiner and then a police officer. During World War II, Round served in the RAF, training in Texas and later becoming a flight instructor for the United States Air Force, while singing in churches. He sang leading tenor roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from 1946 to 1949. He next spent six years in the 1950s singing opera and operetta with Sadler's Wells Opera. From 1958 to 1964, Round again performed mostly with the D'Oyly Carte company. He co-founded a new ensemble, Gilbert and Sullivan for All, with which he toured extensively, singing and serving as one of the company's directors. He also broadcast on radio and television and is heard on many recordings.

Life and career[edit]

Round was born and raised in Barrow-in-Furness (now in Cumbria but at that time part of Lancashire).[1] On leaving school he started working as an apprentice joiner. In 1936 he joined the police force and was stationed in Lancaster.[2] In 1938 he married Alice (d. 30 December 2010) at St Paul's Church, Barrow, and the couple had one son, Ellis.[3]

During World War II, Round became a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force and was sent for flight training to the No. 1 British Flying Training School in Terrell, Texas. Later in the war, he served as a flying instructor for the United States Air Force.[4] During this time he began his performing career, later recalling, "I was doing a lot of singing every Sunday in churches all over Texas. I had my own plane so I would fly down 300 miles to San Antonio for an 11 a.m. service, I would sing and then I would fly back home in the evening."[2] He was offered the chance to appear as a guest in a college production in Dallas, playing Canio in I Pagliacci. "It was my first time in any type of production but I loved it."[2] Round was offered a place at a music school in New York, but turned it down in order to return home to England.[2]

D'Oyly Carte and Sadler's Wells years[edit]

While still in the RAF, Round auditioned for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company,[5] and joined it upon his discharge, in February 1946. He understudied the leading Gilbert and Sullivan tenor roles, appearing occasionally as Nanki-Poo in The Mikado.[6] In September of the same year, he became the company's principal tenor, for the next three years, playing the roles of Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, Earl Tolloller in Iolanthe, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, and Luiz in The Gondoliers.[7]

Round left the D'Oyly Carte company in 1949,[8] and appeared in a musical, playing the young Johann Strauss in Waltzes from Vienna,[9] and an ice show, Rose Marie on Ice.[10] Next, he sang for six years with Sadler's Wells Opera. He appeared in some comic character parts such as Don Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro,[11] but generally took the leading romantic tenor roles, including Tamino in The Magic Flute,[12] Jeník in The Bartered Bride,[13] and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni.[14] He played Danilo in the first production by a major British opera company of The Merry Widow, in which The Musical Times found him "dashingly stylish".[15] He also played principal roles in I Pagliacci,[16] Gianni Schicchi, Lilac Time, Eugene Onegin,[4] and less-frequently staged works including Rimsky Korsakov's The Snow Maiden,[17] Wolf-Ferrari's School for Fathers,[18] and John Gardner's adaptation of The Moon and Sixpence.[19]

During his Sadler's Wells years, Round undertook guest engagements elsewhere. He created the tenor lead, Nils, in the world premiere of Delius's Irmelin under Sir Thomas Beecham in Oxford in 1953. The critic Eric Blom wrote, "Thomas Round as the hero was particularly good. He should soon make a Siegfried, though perhaps only the young Siegfried to begin with."[20] Also in 1953, he appeared in the film The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan.[4] The following year, he rejoined D'Oyly Carte as a guest artist for a short period, playing Prince Hilarion in a new production of Princess Ida at the Savoy Theatre.[21] In 1955 he and the young Heather Harper played the leads in a televised version of La traviata.[22]

Round returned to D'Oyly Carte, on tour in 1958 in Dublin, playing his old roles of Frederic, Nanki-Poo, adding Ralph, and, for the first time, Marco in The Gondoliers, the following season.[23] During the company's summer break in 1958, Round earned more good notices as Count Danilo with Sadler's Wells in The Merry Widow at the London Coliseum.[1][4] In 1960 and 1961 he assumed a new role, Colonel Fairfax, in The Yeomen of the Guard also appearing in that role for the City of London Festival production at the Tower of London in 1962.[24] In 1961, he performed more new roles, as Richard Dauntless in Ruddigore and Cyril in Princess Ida, participating in 1962 in the company's extensive North American tour.[23] By 1963, Philip Potter had taken over the parts of Frederic and Nanki-Poo, but Round added the role of the Defendant in Trial by Jury and resumed singing Tolloller in Iolanthe.[4] In 1964, he again left the D'Oyly Carte company. He told The Times, "For the first time in my career I am not under contract to anyone, and I find this quite exciting."[25]

Gilbert and Sullivan for All[edit]

Round, together with Norman Meadmore and Donald Adams, founded their own ensemble, Gilbert and Sullivan for All, around the time that he left D'Oyly Carte. In 1969, when Adams left D'Oyly Carte, the partners began to tour extensively with this new company in the British Isles, the Far East, Australasia, and North America, including three Hollywood Bowl concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.[4][26] To enable the company to appear in small venues, Sullivan's orchestrations were adapted and arranged for smaller forces than D'Oyly Carte employed. Other regular members of the ensemble were Valerie Masterson and Gillian Knight.[27] Round sang the roles of Box in Cox and Box, the Defendant in Trial, Ralph in H.M.S. Pinafore, Frederic in Pirates, Tolloller in Iolanthe, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, Richard Dauntless in Ruddigore, Colonel Fairfax in Yeomen, and Marco in The Gondoliers, as well as acting as a director for the company.[1][4] He and Adams continued to appear in Gilbert and Sullivan into the 1990s.[28]

During his Gilbert and Sullivan for All years, Round also appeared as Arthur Sullivan on tour with Donald Adams in Tarantara! Tarantara!, a musical about the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership by Ian Taylor.[4] In the 1970s, Round and Adams presented a television series about the Savoy operas, devoting each programme to an individual opera.[29]

Later years and retirement[edit]

During his career, Round continued to give concerts and to sing in oratorio and recitals.[30] He was frequently heard on BBC radio, and his television performances included several operas, listed in the filmography below. In November 1995, he celebrated fifty years as a professional singer, with a three-day opera event in the Lake District at which Adams also appeared.[26]

From 1980 to 1997, Round took up sailing as a hobby, and he and his wife moved to the Lancashire coast in 1988.[31] Throughout the years, Round has maintained his interest in Gilbert and Sullivan and their works. The nonagenarian lives at Bolton-le-Sands and has, for many years, been president of the Marton Operatic Society. Until February 2006, Round was Honorary President of the University of York Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He has appeared many times at the annual International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival performing, lecturing and meeting with Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts.[32]

Recordings and filmography[edit]

In 1958, June Bronhill and Round recorded The Merry Widow for HMV. The Gramophone described his Danilo as "first class ... with a fresh youthful voice and an easy and appropriately racy style."[33] This was followed by Lilac Time released in 1960.[34]

With the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and Decca Records, Round recorded Hilarion (1955), Frederic (1958), Nanki-Poo (1958), Ralph Rackstraw (1960), Tolloller (1960), Marco (1961), Richard Dauntless (1962), the Defendant (1964), and Captain Fitzbattleaxe in Utopia Limited (1964 excerpts).[35] In 2008 the critic of The Gramophone, John Steane, wrote that, of Gilbert and Sullivan tenors, Round was "surely the best we've had."[36]

In the 1970s, Round also recorded and filmed his roles with Gilbert and Sullivan for All. These were complete recordings of Trial by Jury and Cox and Box,[37] and potted excerpts (as much as would fit on two sides of an LP record) of seven others, which have since been reissued on CD.[38] In 1996, when the Gilbert and Sullivan for All films were reissued on video by the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Round recorded introductions for each.[4] The Gilbert and Sullivan for All team also recorded a miscellaneous LP, including Valerie Masterson and Gillian Knight as Princesses Nekaya and Kalyba in an excerpt from Utopia, Limited, and Round as Antonio in The Gondoliers.[39] With Donald Adams, he recorded a musical documentary, The Story of Gilbert & Sullivan, written by Dr. Thomas Heric.[40] He also made two recordings of lesser-known Sullivan music.

For Pearl Records, Round recorded a collection of Victorian ballads, which was chosen by The Times as one of the "Critics' choice, records of the year" for 1974,[41] an eclectic collection, Songs You Love (1976),[42] and he participated in a recording of Edwardian music.[43] In 2008, he released a CD of twelve Irish songs called Thomas Round sings Irish Songs, recorded when he was principal tenor with Sadler's Wells Opera.

Round's filmography is as follows:


  1. ^ a b c "Thomas Round". Memories of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, accessed 5 July 2010
  2. ^ a b c d "He's a man who knows the score". The Lancaster Guardian, 10 November 2005
  3. ^ "Tenor and wife toast 70 years of marriage," North West Evening Mail 15 August 2008
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Stone, David. Thomas Round at Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 4 April 2003, accessed 5 July 2010
  5. ^ Bradley, p. 36
  6. ^ Rollins and Witts, p. 170
  7. ^ Rollins and Witts, pp. 171–73
  8. ^ Rollins and Witts, p. 173
  9. ^ "The Palace", The Manchester Guardian, 22 November 1949, p. 5
  10. ^ "Harringay Arena: Rose Marie On Ice", The Times, 14 July 1950, p. 8
  11. ^ Sadler's Wells Theatre – Figaro", The Times, 26 September 1956, p. 3
  12. ^ "London Music", The Musical Times, April 1955, pp. 209–11
  13. ^ "Sadler's Wells Opera – The Bartered Bride", The Times, 18 December 1954, p. 8
  14. ^ "Don Giovanni", The Times, 21 January 1954, p. 8
  15. ^ The Musical Times, September 1958, p. 494
  16. ^ "Sadler's Wells Opera – I Pagliacci", The Times, 25 January 1956, p. 7
  17. ^ "Sadler's Wells Opera – Snow Maiden, The Times, 17 May 1954, p. 4
  18. ^ "Sadler's Wells Opera", The Times, 25 February 1956, p. 8
  19. ^ "The Moon and Sixpence", The Times, 13 May 1957, p. 14
  20. ^ Blom, Eric. "An Abundance of Opera", The Observer, 10 May 1953, p. 10
  21. ^ "Savoy Theatre – Princess Ida", The Times, 28 September 1954, p. 2
  22. ^ a b "B.B.C. Experiment with Opera – Verdi's La Traviata on Television", The Times, 11 October 1955, p. 13. Verdi's characters Alfredo and Violetta were in this version called Armand and Marguerite as in the novel, La Dame aux Camélias, on which the opera is based.
  23. ^ a b Rollins and Witts, pp. 182–83
  24. ^ Goodwin, Noel. "When the Night Wind Howls", The Daily Express, 10 July 1962, p. 4
  25. ^ "Thomas Round Leaving D'Oyly Carte", The Times, 24 April 1964, p. 14
  26. ^ a b "Mellow Songs of Autumn", The Guardian, 16 May 1996, p. 15
  27. ^ Sleeve notes to Pye LPs NSPH 7-15
  28. ^ See, for example, "London Diary for April", The Musical Times, March 1990, listing a concert at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra and fellow-soloists Valerie Masterson, Gillian Knight and Eric Roberts, conducted by Kenneth Alwyn.
  29. ^ "Television", The Guardian, 21 July 1973, p. 3; 6 December 1973, p. 2; 8 June 1974, p. 3; and 15 June 1974, p. 3
  30. ^ See, for example, "Verdi Requiem", The Musical Times, June 1959, p. 345
  31. ^ Lee, Bernard. "Stephen Godward, Thomas Round, Buxton". The Sheffield Telegraph, 27 August 2009
  32. ^ Soutar, Ian. "Thomas back to relive glory days again", Sheffield Telegraph, 22 August 2008
  33. ^ "The Merry Widow". The Gramophone", October 1958, p. 73
  34. ^ "Lilac Time", The Gramophone, March 1960, p. 100
  35. ^ Rollins and Witts, pp. xv and xvi, and "Ruddigore". The Gramophone, December 1962, p. 71 and "Trial by Jury" The Gramophone, April 1964, p. 65
  36. ^ Steane, John. "Peter Glossop". Gramophone, November 2008, p. 8
  37. ^ Pye NSPH15
  38. ^ The seven were: "Gondoliers" (Pye NSPH8), "Pinafore" (Pye NSPH9), "Yeomen" (Pye NSPH10), "Iolanthe" (Pye NSPH11), "Ruddigore" (Pye NSPH 12), "Mikado" (Pye NSPH 13) and "Pirates" (Pye NSPH 14). The CD reissues are by "Sounds on CD"
  39. ^ Enterprise LP ENTB 1032, issued 1969
  40. ^ Myers, Kurtz. "Index to Record Reviews", Notes, December 1983, pp. 326–90
  41. ^ The Times, 7 December 1974, p. 13
  42. ^ Songs You Love. Gramophone, October 1976, accessed 7 July 2010
  43. ^ "An Edwardian Musical Evening", Pearl LP SHE528


  • Ayre, Leslie (1972). The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion. London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-396-06634-8. 
  • Bradley, Ian (2005). Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! The Enduring Phenomenon of Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516700-7. 
  • Rollins, Cyril; R. John Witts (1962). The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas: A Record of Productions, 1875–1961. Michael Joseph.  Also, five supplements, privately printed.
  • Round, Thomas (2002). A Wand'ring Minstrel, I. Lancaster, UK: Carnegie Publishing.  Autobiography.

External links[edit]