Richard Lewis (tenor)
Born Thomas Thomas in Manchester to Welsh parents, Lewis began his career as a boy soprano and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now merged into the Royal Northern College of Music) from 1939 to 1941, and later at the Royal Academy of Music. He made his operatic debut in 1939, and from 1947 onwards, sang at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and at Covent Garden (London). He made his debut in the United States in 1955.
Lewis made a number of recordings, including Messiah (Handel), L'incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi), Idomeneo (Mozart), Liebeslieder Walzer and Neue Liebeslieder Walzer (Brahms), Coleridge-Taylor's The Song of Hiawatha, Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony (with Leonard Bernstein), scenes from William Walton's Troilus and Cressida, and four different performances of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, two with Maureen Forrester, (Reiner/Walter) one with Kathleen Ferrier (Barbirolli), and a fourth with Lili Chookasian (Ormandy). There is also a live recording with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Following Lewis's death in 1990 his widow, Elizabeth Lewis (known as Elizabeth Muir-Lewis - Mrs Richard Lewis) established the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks award at Glyndebourne, made possible by funding from the pathologist Dr Jean Shanks (Princess Galitzine). In 2000 Elizabeth moved the award to the Royal Academy of Music wishing to help young singers at that more vulnerable time in their careers. There are two vocal prizes: 1st prize - £12,000 2nd prize - £7,000. In addition there is the Webb accompanist's prize - £5,000.
A rehearsal room, known as the Richard Lewis room, has been established in the Royal Academy of Music. The Royal Academy of Music archives have in depth information, scores, and photographs of Richard Lewis. In 2005 Jean Shank's will left a further legacy to the RL/JS Trust enabling it to double to £10,000 the existing John Christie Glyndebourne Award previously solely funded by The Worshipful Company of Musicians but this RL/JS Trust funding was subsequently withdrawn in 2014. The trustees of the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Trust will sponsor up to £10,000 to support the important understudy scheme at Glyndebourne. The award trustees will welcome donations for this important vocal legacy. This way it can flourish for long into the future. Already it has produced outstanding young singers who benefited from assistance during their training. These prizes, and the funds raised so far to support them, make the Richard Lewis/Jean Shanks Award one of the best-funded and high-profile musical charities in the UK, awarding up to £29,000 a year in prizes.
- D. Brook, Singers of Today (Revised Edition - Rockliff, London 1958), 135-139.
- Noel Ross-Russell, 'There will I sing - the making of Richard Lewis CBE' (Open Gate Press (March 1, 1997)