Tributes paid to much-loved Sunderland opera star

Monica Allen (Walker) starring in Rosalinda Pink Champagne in 1957 with the Sunderland Amateur Operatic Society at The Sunderland Empire.
Monica Allen (Walker) starring in Rosalinda Pink Champagne in 1957 with the Sunderland Amateur Operatic Society at The Sunderland Empire.
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Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a former Sunderland opera star who lit up the stage with her voice for more than 30 years.

Monica Allen, nee Walker, was known for her incredible talent as a leading lady in numerous annual productions by the Sunderland Amateur Operatic Society.

Yvonne Robinson, Anne-Marie Robinson and Monica Allen at a Barry Manilow Concert Manchester 2012.

Yvonne Robinson, Anne-Marie Robinson and Monica Allen at a Barry Manilow Concert Manchester 2012.

A leading member of the society from 1956 until 1984, Mrs Allen, from Summerhill, also starred in productions by the South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society over the years.

Loved and admired by many, Mrs Allen’s stage presence and infectious personality made her a well-known figure on both Wearside and Tyneside, until her death at the age of 82.

Now her niece Yvonne Richardson, 60, from Broomshields Avenue, has paid tribute to her aunt.

She said: “Monica was loved and admired by so many people.

Monica Allen on a family holiday in Jamaica in 2014.

Monica Allen on a family holiday in Jamaica in 2014.

“One of her first leading parts with the South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society was in ‘Belle of New York’ around 1957, when she was aged just 23.

“She was also Juno in ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ in 1970 and some of her leading roles with Sunderland Amateur Operatic Society were Louisa in ‘Song of Norway,’ in April 1956 and Anna Glavari, in ‘The Merry Widow’ in March 1984.

“Outside of performing, Monica liked to relax by listening to music.

“She was keen on sport and was also known to spend many hours in her garden growing plants from seed after her husband Melvyn died in 2001.”

From left,  Doreen Richardson (late sister) Mary Conelly (friend) Joyce Burn (late sister) and Monica Allen on a family holiday in May 1995 overlooking the island of Portichol Javea, Spain.

From left, Doreen Richardson (late sister) Mary Conelly (friend) Joyce Burn (late sister) and Monica Allen on a family holiday in May 1995 overlooking the island of Portichol Javea, Spain.

Born in Sunderland in 1934 to parents John Walker and Winifred Lucas Walker, Mrs Allen married her husband Melvyn on March 11, 1964, at St John’s Methodist Church in Sunderland.

Mrs Allen had an active social life through both her performing arts societies and through her career as a manager at Marks and Spencers in Newcastle, where she worked for 40 years.

In retirement, she continued her involvement with both the Sunderland Amateur Operatic Society and South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society, as well as getting involved with the NSPCC charity.

Following her death on October 21, hundreds of people attended her funeral at St John’s Church, in Ashbrooke, on November 2, to remember her.
Mrs Richardson added: “She was such as sociable person who had so many friends.

“She came from a musical family, as her own mother used to sing opera and play the piano, so she had taken after her.

“Even as a little girl she had a talent and was professionally trained in singing from a young age.

“Joining the operatic societies was a hobby of hers, but she performed at a high level.

“She was always a happy woman, very cheerful and always smiling.

“She was one of those people who attracted friends.”