To opera lovers the most famous Peter Allen is the announcer who for thirty years has presented the Saturday afternoon broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. His warm, kindly voice, and his habit of being not quite able to hide his sobs as he explained the plots, endeared him to listeners worldwide. He has retired: tonight's performance (11 December 2004) is the first time most of us have heard the Met broadcasts without him.

The first Met Saturday afternoon broadcast was Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel on 25 December 1931. It was presented by Milton Cross. He presented it on every single occasion except two in 1973, for more than forty years. Milton Cross died suddenly on 3 January 1975. The following day his standby Peter Allen, an announcer on New York radio station WQXR, stepped in and presented Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, and did every Saturday afternoon broadcast until the end of the 2003-4 season, 24 April 2004..

Originally from Toronto, he moved to Cleveland and in the Second World War was a commander of US minesweepers. He worked as an announcer at WQXR, associated with the New York Times, between 1947 and 1985. From 1977 he also presented the Met's telecast series "Live from the Met". He has also narrated many films and a CD set of the Ring.

The 2004-5 series began tonight with Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, presented by the opera singer Margaret Juntwait, who has a firm, authoritative, warm, and interested voice, and therefore seems a very good replacement for Mr Allen. He is not gone completely. He will continue to narrate a small section with his thoughts on opera at some point during the afternoon's proceedings ("A word or two from Peter Allen").

The Metropolitan is very conservative. Their operas are always of a very high quality, with great singers, but usually they are old favourites and in unchallenging productions. To complement this they have familiar voices doing their radio presentation and their famous quiz, and they do not change often. For a generation and across the world Peter Allen was the voice of opera.

Announcement of his retirement:

Another Peter Allen is a footnote in notoriety: the last person to be executed in Britain. He was hanged on 13th August 1964, in Walton Prison in Liverpool, at 8 a.m. Simultaneously, Gwynne Evans was executed in Manchester. The death penalty was abolished the following year.