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date: 25 January 2020

Baylis, Lilian (Mary )locked

  • Noël Goodwin


(Mary )

(b London, May 9, 1874; d London, Nov 25, 1937). English theatre manager, originator of the Vic-Wells (later Sadler’s Wells) Opera and Ballet companies . She received early musical instruction from her parents, who were touring concert-party artists; she joined them as a teenager, and formed the St James’ Ladies Orchestra when she was 14. Accompanying her parents to South Africa, she began giving music lessons in Johannesburg, but returned to London in 1898 to help her aunt, Emma Cons, manage the Old Vic Theatre, where she included some opera in English. Baylis took sole charge from 1912, and by the 1920s opera productions were given there twice a week. She then campaigned for and raised £80 000 to rebuild the then derelict Sadler’s Wells Theatre; the house reopened in 1931, and her first opera presentation there was Carmen, on 20 January. An indefatigable social worker in the Victorian temperance tradition, she gradually ensured regular seasons of opera and ballet at ‘popular’ prices without benefit of public subsidy: the basis of what later became the English National Opera and the Royal Ballet. She was appointed CH in ...

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