The Americam lyric tenor, Thomas Cooley, began his vocal studies at DePauw University with Thomas Fitzpatrick. He returned to his native Minneapolis, and received his Master of Music from the University of Minnesota. He received an Artists Diploma from the Richard Strauss Conservatory for Music where he studied with Rita Loving and Donald Sulzen. He has since participated in master-classes with Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Ian Partridge at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England. In August 1998, he received a fellowship from the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia festival in Chicago. There he furthered his study of the German and French song repertoire with such artists as Peter Schreier, Thomas Allen, Rudolph Piernay, Margo Garrett. Later he was a student of Rudolf Piernay. Thomas Cooley spent a formative ten years in Munich. He was a member of the ensemble at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz for four of them, where he sang such roles as Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the title role in Idomeneo, and Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Thomas Cooley is quickly establishing a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic - and beyond - as a singer of great versatility, expressiveness, and virtuosity. He is equally at home on the concert stage and in the opera house, and his repertoire ranges across more than four centuries, encompassing the early masters such as George Frideric Handel, J.S. Bach, Mozart, and Monteverdi, as well as works by Romantic and 20th-century and contemporary composers including Berlioz, Edward Elgar, Benjamin Britten, Penderecki, and Philip Glass.
Ob the opera stage Thomas Cooley has appeared with the Bavarian State Opera, the Krakow State Opera, the Minnesota Opera, North Star Opera, and Ex Machina Baroque Opera in roles such as Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Sam Kaplan in Street Scene, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni ,Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Oronte in G.F. Handel’s Alcina, Leandro in Ferruccio Busoni’s Arlecchino and Ugone in G.F. Handel’s Flavio.
Thomas Cooley’s extreme versatility is also evident in his concert work, to which he dedicates much of his time. He has appeared internationally with numerous orchestras and ensembles including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival, Minnesota Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Munich Bach Choir, Bamberger Symphoniker Choir, Slovenian Philharmonic, Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble. He has worked with conductors such as Helmuth Rilling, Peter Schreier, Joshua Rifkin, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Enoch zu Guttenberg, Georg Christoph Biller, Juanjo Mena, Hanns-Martin Schneidt, Rolf Beck, Hans Rudolf Zöbeley, David Zinnman, and Roberto Abbado.
Thomas Cooley is passionate about the art of the song and the recital stage, where he "can really focus on the meaning of the text." He performs regularly evenings of Lieder with the guitarist Carsten Linck and the pianist Donald Sulzen in such works as Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin throughout Germany (Ingolstadt in March 2001, Bad Canstatt in November 2001). Recent highlights include B. Britten’s Winter Words and Still Falls the Rain with pianist Andrew West at the Britten Festival in Aldeburgh, and Irish and Scottish folksong settings by Haydn and L.v. Beethoven at Göttingen.
Highlights in the late 1990's - early 2000's included the Evangelist and Arias of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (BWV 245) with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Choir of St. Thomas, Leipzig, the arias of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Peter Schreier, the German Premiere of Dave Brubeck’s Mass To Hope! A Celebration with the Dave Brubeck Quartet in Munich, a television production of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with Joshua Rifkin and his Bach Ensemble, and a new work by Wolfgang Rihm, Deus Passus, in Lucerne under the baton of Helmuth Rilling which he performed again in 2001-2002 season with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra.
Recent seasons included debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra (Welser-Most), Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Kansas City Symphony (both with Nicholas McGegan), and the Carmel Bach Festival (Bruno Weil); return appearances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Spano), Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and Minnesota Orchestra (Stephen Layton); tours of Spain and Germany with the Windsbacher Knabenchor; the title role in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with the Charleston Symphony; concerts with the International Bach-Academie Stuttgart, and a L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Japan with Eiji Oue.
The 2009-2010 season began for Thomas Cooley with appearances with the Müncher Motettenchor in L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Felix Mendelssohn’s Erste Walpurgisnacht, and in Basel performing B. Britten’s War Requiem. He returned to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ; performed a recital of works by Monteverdi and Heinrich Schütz in Berkeley; and made a triumphant appearance as Acis in his first Acis and Galatea by G.F. Handel, with Jane Glover conducting Chicago’s Music of the Baroque.
Thomas Cooley’s season also includes the role of Bazajet in a new production of G.F. Handel’s Tamerlano at the International Handel Festival Göttingen, led by his frequent collaborator, Nicholas McGegan; Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Kansas City Symphony; L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Singapore; G.F. Handel’s Messiah with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; the rarely performed Steffani Stabat Mater with the Radio Kamer Filharmonie, led by Andrea Marcon; Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, conducted by Harry Christophers; Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 5 with Dennis Russell Davies in Basel; and the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the Münchner Motettenchor.
Thomas Cooley is a self-described storyteller whose interpretations are deeply informed by the texts he’s singing. Critics universally praise the emotional depth and nuance of his performances, whether the mood is dramatic, comic, or deeply spiritual. A critic recently said of his Evangelist in J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion (BWV 245) "Thanks to his rarely heard radiant power and sensitivity, simply listening to the outer narrative line was a pleasure. Every word received its own interpretation and mood; whether in a simple recitative or in a solo-aria.” (Main-Post). The same role in J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) was hailed for its “musical storytelling” and “endless variety of shadings and effects ” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). As Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Barber of Seville he was critically acclaimed for his “true comic talent” (Opera News) and called “a wonderfully lyric tenor,” who “also acts right down to his fingertips” (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
He deeply appreciates those who have nurtured and influenced his career, among them Thomas Fitzpatrick, Rudolf Piernay, as well as master-classes with Peter Schreier. Comparisons to another cherished role model, the English tenor Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, are becoming more frequent. Of his recorded performance of the title role in G.F. Handel’s Samson with Nicholas McGegan and the Festival Orchestra Göttingen (Carus, 2009), Gramophone said, “Thomas Cooley is the finest Samson on disc since Anthony Rolfe-Johnson"…
Thomas Cooley’s other recordings include G.F. Handel’s Dettinger Te Deum, cantatas of Christoph Graupner, Mathan in G.F. Handel’s Athalia with Peter Neumann and the Kölner Kammerchor (MDG) and the premiere recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus (Deutsche Grammophon) as well as Mozart's Requiem with the Windsbacher Knabenchor (Sony).
Thomas Cooley now makes his home in Connecticut, where he spends his spare time gardening, cooking, and collecting antiques.