Opera star Sir Thomas Allen won't apologize for his art form

Sir Thomas Allen doesn't believe in

Sir Thomas Allen doesn't believe in "dumbing down" opera to give it broader appeal. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC)

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Buckingham Palace has announced that opera star Sir Thomas Allen will be awarded the prestigious Queen's Medal for Music 2013, an honour that recognizes the acclaimed baritone's "major influence on the musical life" of the U.K.

But today, the acclaimed opera singer -- who is said to be the real-life inspiration for the hit film and play Billy Elliot -- speaks to guest host Terry O'Reilly about his rise from a working-class mining town in the north-east of England to the world's great opera stages.

While he sometimes appears in comedic roles, Allen takes his art seriously and has been critical of opera companies who try to cater to the masses by programming more popular and accessible works.

"I'm flying a flag for poetry and serious music. There we are. I can't help that," he said. "I don't think you should make anything easier for the audience. I'm sick and tired of having to explain myself and apologize for the art form to which I belong."

Sir Allen on Stage

The world-renowned opera singer is bringing his trademark baritone to Toronto this month in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte.

If you're not in Toronto but want to hear Allen's world renowned baritone, here's a clip of his performance as Guglielmo in a 1975 production of the play with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

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