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Seaham opera star to receive Queen's Medal for Music

Opera star Sir Thomas Allen Credit: Fiona Hanson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Opera star Sir Thomas Allen, who was born in County Durham, is to be awarded the Queen's Medal for Music 2013. The baritone and director has been recognised by Buckingham Palace for his major musical influence on the nation.

The Seaham-born singer is said to be the inspiration behind Billy Elliot. Sir Thomas' talent was first discovered at grammar school in the 1960s. He went on to earn a place at the Royal College of Music.

He made his debut with the Royal Opera House as Donald in Billy Budd in 1971. In 1989, he was made a CBE and 10 years later he was knighted.

Newcastle students hit high note in opera

Aspiring actors at a school in Newcastle have been given the chance to perform with a professional opera cast.

Twenty two pupils from Excelsior academy were chosen for the chorus of the Barber of Seville.

They've only had 24 hours to all rehearse together.

The school hopes that as well as teaching the pupils about opera, it will improve their self confidence, as Katie Oakes reports.

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Schoolchildren perform opera in Newcastle

Pupils at Excelsior Academy Credit: ITV

Pupils at Excelsior Academy, Newcastle, will perform the Barber of Seville opera with the cast from the London-based Diva Opera company in their school hall on October 15. The 11-18-year-olds have been practising for weeks in preparation for playing the parts of soldiers and peasants.

The classic opera has been specially amended by the Diva Opera stars to include references to Newcastle United and North East landmarks.