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Alan Blyth

(Jeanne)

(b Christchurch, May 31, 1883; d Venice, Sept 18, 1952). New Zealand soprano. After the death of her parents, she was brought up by her maternal grandparents in Australia. Her first engagements were in light opera at Melbourne. She then went to Paris and studied with Marchesi, who suggested that she adopt the name Alda; she also arranged Alda’s debut as Manon at the Opéra-Comique in 1904. After successful appearances at the Monnaie in Brussels (1905), Covent Garden (1906) and La Scala (1908), where she met Toscanini and Gatti-Cassazza, she was engaged by the Metropolitan (début, December 1908), where she sang until her retirement in 1930. In 1908 Gatti-Cassazza left La Scala to become director of the Metropolitan; he married Alda in 1910. Her pure, lyrical voice, technically almost faultless, was ideally suited to such roles as Gilda, Violetta, Desdemona, Manon (Massenet), Louise, Mimi and Cio-Cio-San. She created the leading soprano roles in Damrosch’s ...

Article

Roger Covell

(b Melbourne, June 8, 1927). Australian baritone . He began his career with Gertrude Johnson’s National Theatre Movement. He left Australia in 1954 for further study in Paris and worked at Covent Garden from 1956; in 1959 he moved to Germany, where he was based for the next decade, appearing in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich, and becoming a principal baritone at Cologne until ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Pinnaroo, South Australia, July 30, 1953). Australian soprano . After appearing in Australia she joined Opera Factory Zürich, with whom she made her London début in 1980 as Galatea. With Opera Factory London (1982–92) she has sung Pretty Polly (Punch and Judy), Lucy (The Beggar’s Opera), Denise (The Knot Garden), Juno and Callisto, Gluck’s Iphigenia, Fiordiligi, Donna Anna, Countess Almaviva and Poppaea, and took part in the première of Osborne’s Hell’s Angels (1986). For ENO she sang Monteverdi’s Eurydice and Hope (1983) and Queen Tye (Akhnaten), which she had already sung at Houston and for New York City Opera (1984), and created Oracle of the Dead/Hecate in The Mask of Orpheus (1986). She sang the Queen of Night for WNO (1986), Musetta for Opera North (1988) and Jo Ann in Tippett’s ...

Article

Desmond Shawe-Taylor

(b Melbourne, April 26, 1894; d Newcastle, NSW, 15 or May 16, 1968). Australian soprano. Her real name was Wilson, but she was also known by that of her stepfather, Fawaz, before she adopted her familiar professional name. Having studied at Melbourne University Conservatorium and with Sibella in New York, she is said to have been offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera, but preferred to make her career in England. In 1923 she appeared at Covent Garden with the British National Opera Company as Brünnhilde in the complete Ring cycle, and this role was to remain her most famous; she was also successful as Isolde and Aida. Less forceful and more lyrical than many Wagnerian dramatic sopranos, she maintained a consistent beauty and evenness of tone through these arduous parts, which she also sang in the international Covent Garden seasons of 1924 and later. She married the flautist John Amadio, and toured widely with him in Australia and America. Her many admirable recordings for HMV include the pioneer late-acoustic English-language series of excerpts from the ...

Article

Rainer E. Lotz

[William ]

(b USA, c1890; d ? USA, after 1933). American alto and tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, and singer. His first known engagements were in China (1920) and Australia. After moving to England in 1925 he played in Bert Ralton’s Savoy Havana Band and recorded with Bert Firman (...

Article

Philip Greene

(Marie Wolffe )

(b Colombo, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], June 1, 1940). Sri Lankan singer. She studied piano and cello as a child, and first heard jazz in broadcasts on Voice of America. She won a trip to Australia to sing with Graeme Bell in 1954, presented her own radio program in Ceylon, and toured Japan, Korea, and India with Toshiko Akiyoshi in 1955. The following year she moved to London, where she acted with the BBC Repertory Company and sang at jazz clubs. In 1959 she performed frequently at the Blue Note in Paris. She met Jon Hendricks and Dave Lambert in London in 1962 and moved to New York to join their vocal group as a replacement for Annie Ross, who had left because of illness; Bavan performed and recorded with the group until it disbanded in 1964, and may be seen with it in the documentary film Newport Jazz Festival 1962...

Article

Wim van Eyle

[Pieternella ]

(b The Hague, Sept 18, 1925). Dutch pianist and singer. She is self-taught as a musician. She sang with a Hawaiian vocal group, the Samoa Girls (1939–42), sang and played piano with the Dutch group the Miller Sextet (1944–9), and appeared in shows sponsored by the USO. From 1949 she led a trio and worked as a soloist, and between 1952 and 1967 she made several visits to the USA (approximately at yearly intervals) during which she performed in Hollywood and at Birdland in New York; she also took Eddie de Haas and Wallace Bishop for an engagement in the South in 1957, but racist conditions prevented Bishop from working – he returned to the Netherlands and Al Levitt took his place. Beck operated a club in Torremolinos, Spain, from 1965. In the 1980s she returned to the Netherlands, where she has worked mainly with her trio, with Koos Serierse, George van Deyl, or Henk Haverhoek on double bass, and Kees Kranenburg, Huub Janssen, or Roberto Haliffi on drums. She made a number of recordings, of which ...

Article

Roger Covell

(b Nelson, Dec 1, 1932; d Sydney, April 12, 2009). New Zealand mezzo-soprano. She studied with Dame Sister Mary Leo in Auckland, at the New South Wales Conservatorium and at the London Opera Centre. Her Australian début (1954, Sydney) was as Azucena with the Sydney-based National Opera of Australia. She sang in England with the Carl Rosa company and from 1961 to 1964 at Sadler’s Wells. After a return to Auckland for a period with New Zealand Opera (1964–6) she made guest appearances at Covent Garden, Bordeaux, Chicago and elsewhere. She was a principal at Covent Garden from 1972, then joined Australian Opera in 1976, where she had marked success in such diverse roles as Jane in Patience and Carmen. In 1990 she sang Mother Marie (Dialogues des Carmélites) at San Diego. She sang Marcellina in Ponnelle’s film of Le nozze di Figaro...

Article

Bruce Johnson

(Emerson )

(b Melbourne, Australia, Jan 4, 1919; d Melbourne, Australia, June 17, 2008). Australian trumpeter, washboard player, composer, singer, and bandleader, brother of Graeme Bell. He first worked as a drummer, then in 1938 began to play cornet. Having worked in Melbourne with his brother at Leonard’s Café, he briefly led the band at Heidelberg Town Hall (1943), where he recorded with a visiting Max Kaminsky, before Graeme Bell returned from Queensland to take over the group’s leadership. He remained in Graeme’s dixieland groups during their European tours (1947–8, 1950–52), after which he worked with Max Collie (1953) and in the house band at the Melbourne Jazz Club (from 1958). Bell was active as a freelance musician and led his own band, the Pagan Pipers (a name he had used first in 1949), which with various personnel (notably Len Barnard and Ade Monsbourgh) performed and recorded for many years; among its recordings were a number of Bell’s own compositions. His playing may be heard to advantage on ...

Article

Tony Gould

(b Sydney, Feb 8, 1947). Australian singer. She first studied piano. From 1968 to 1971 she sang with a cooperative group, the Affair, touring Australia and England, after which she joined the Daly–Wilson Big Band and worked as a studio musician and in cabaret. In 1973–4 she toured North America, where she appeared on television and performed with her ensemble Compared to What. Following her return to Australia she presented her own radio program, “Kerrie Biddell and Friends,” for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. During the 1970s she recorded three albums as a leader. In 1982 she formed a duo with the pianist Julian Lee and joined the faculty of the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney to teach jazz. She remained active through the 1990s. Biddell possesses a powerful voice with an uncommonly wide range and is a gifted improviser; she may be heard to particular advantage on the track ...

Article

Paul Webb

[Gough, June Mary]

(b Broken Hill, Feb 26, 1929; d Sydney, Jan 25, 2005). Australian soprano. She won a singing competition in Australia and in 1952 moved to England to further her career, first studying with Dino Borgioli, then joining the Sadler’s Wells Opera company in 1954. She worked with the company through the early 1960s, singing roles that included Norina, the Queen of Night, Papagena, Leïla and Gilda. In 1960 she appeared at Covent Garden in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. She is, however, best known as Hannah Glawari in Die lustige Witwe, and called her autobiography The Merry Bronhill (London, 1987); her voice can be heard in its prime on recordings of this role, in The King and I and Lilac Time, and especially as Sombra in The Arcadians.

She created the major role of Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett in Ronald Millar and Ron Grainer’s Robert and Elizabeth...

Article

Desmond Shawe-Taylor

(Donald Mackensie )

(b Geelong, Australia, Jan 7, 1901; d New York, NY, Jan 10, 1969). Australian baritone. After studying in Melbourne and Paris, he made his London debut in 1926, at Dame Nellie Melba’s farewell appearance at Covent Garden. From 1927 to 1936 he was a prominent member of the Paris Opéra. He also sang at Glyndbourne and toured widely.

He first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Rigoletto on 17 February 1937 and remained a valued member of the company until 1958, singing 348 performances of 33 roles. His Don Giovanni, if not irresistibly seductive in tone or manner, was musically very sensitive; and his singing in general, while neither so rich nor so resonant as to place him among the greatest baritones, was admirably schooled and always distinguished in style. In the summer of 1955 he established the Empire State Music Festival, near Ellenville, New York, having bought the land and built the facilities. At the Manhattan School of Music, where he became director in ...

Article

Noël Goodwin

(b Glasgow, March 15, 1954). Scottish soprano . She studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In 1975 she joined the Australian Opera on a three-year contract, making her début as Pamina and also singing Countess Almaviva, Micaëla and Gilda. Her British début was at Glyndebourne in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(b Blenheim, New Zealand, March 16, 1881; d London, Dec 31, 1948). New Zealand soprano. She studied in England, at the Birmingham and Midland School of Music, returned home because of ill-health, and made her début in Australia with the Melba Grand Opera Company in 1911. At Covent Garden she was a flowermaiden in the first English performance of Parsifal (2 February 1914). Later that year she played Musetta in La bohème with Melba and Martinelli, and throughout the war was a leading member of the Beecham Opera Company, her performances with Frank Mullings in Tristan und Isolde being particularly admired; she also appeared with great success as Butterfly, Mimì and Aida. At Covent Garden in 1919 she created the title role of Isidore de Lara’s Naïl; in 1923 she sang in the only performances there of Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate. Her last Covent Garden appearance was in a benefit concert for Emma Albani in ...

Article

Roger T. Dean

(b Sydney, May 26, 1942). Australian trumpeter, singer, and bandleader. In 1959 he participated in Sydney Jazz Club workshops. After playing in 1961 with the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, the following year he formed his Olympia Jazz Band in Sydney, which included the guitarist and banjoist Geoff Holden (who had introduced him to jazz), the clarinetist Peter Neubauer, and the double bass player Dick Edser, and which often played at the Brooklyn and Orient hotels. In 1966-7 he performed overseas, among other places in New Orleans and Europe, and recorded with Alton Purnell, Barry Martyn, and Capt. John Handy. Back in Sydney he returned to the Orient Hotel. He recorded Geoff Bull's Olympia Jazz Band (1969, Swaggie 1261) and continued to lead a number of versions of the Olympia Jazz Band. In 1974 he revisited New Orleans, and thereafter he traveled frequently between the two cities; he recorded in New Orleans with several veteran musicians and he organized Australian tours for Purnell and Sammy Price. Bull briefly ran a restaurant in ...

Article

Roger Covell

(b Richmond, Melbourne, Oct 9, 1937). Australian soprano. She studied in Melbourne then in London, making her début at Sadler’s Wells (1963) as the Water-Melon Seller in Malcolm Williamson’s Our Man in Havana. A technically capable Gilda for the Australian Opera led to her Covent Garden début in the same part in 1974. She sang Donna Anna at Glyndebourne (1977) and for the touring Metropolitan Opera (1978), and Konstanze for Scottish Opera (1978). Her Australian Opera roles include Ellen Orford, Tatyana (Yevgeny Onegin), the title roles in Lakmé and Alcina, two Leonoras (Il trovatore and La forza del destino), several Mozart roles and the four heroines in Les contes d'Hoffmann. She gradually moved away from the coloratura to the lyric-dramatic repertory, singing Tosca in concert at Adelaide in 1990 and reviving the part on stage in ...

Article

Roger Covell

(b Melbourne, July 25, 1880; d Melbourne, Nov 19, 1951). Australian soprano. Although she was fêted throughout much of her career, her subsequent obscurity has been attributed by her partisans to the dominance of Melba. She received generous support in her late teens for study overseas, first with Mathilde Marchesi (who dismayed her by wishing to turn her into a contralto), then with Jacques Bouhy. She made her début, after further study, at Cologne (1907) in Thomas’ Hamlet, followed by other appearances as Gounod’s Marguerite and Juliet. Her 1909–10 Australian tour included her alternation with the French soprano Bel Sorel in the Australian first performances of Madama Butterfly. A four-year contract awarded her by the Hofoper in Vienna in 1912 was cut short by World War I. She returned to Australia for the Rigo-J. C. Williamson opera season of 1919. Diabetes contributed to her loss of enthusiasm for an international operatic career and her subsequent concentration on concert work. Her singing of the mad scene in ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(William)

(b Sydney, Aug 9, 1930). Australian baritone. He studied in Sydney, making his début there in 1951 as Le Dancaïre. Moving to England, at Aldeburgh he created the roles of Odysseus in Berkeley’s Castaway (1967) and Choregos in Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy (1968). Joining Sadler’s Wells (later the ENO), he created Peter in Williamson’s Lucky Peter’s Journey (1969), Pizarro in Hamilton’s Royal Hunt of the Sun, Dessalines in Blake’s Toussaint (1977) and Karenin in Hamilton’s Anna Karenina (1981). He sang Grandier in The Devils of Loudun (1973), Silvio de Narni in Bomarzo (1976) and Nekrotzar in Le Grand Macabre (1982), all British premières. His repertory includes Mozart’s Count Almaviva and Don Giovanni, Rossini’s Dr Bartolo, Escamillo, Marcello, Germont, Scarpia, Szymanowski’s King Roger, the four villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Gunther, Kurwenal and several Janáček roles. A fine actor and musician, he excels in 20th-century works....

Article

Alan Blyth

(b Ballarat, April 16, 1927; d London, Dec 7, 1971). Australian soprano. She studied in Melbourne, making her début there in 1954 as Santuzza, then touring as Magda in The Consul. After further study in Milan and London, she joined the Covent Garden company in 1956, making her début as Musetta. Among the roles she sang there were Tosca, Aida, Butterfly, Liù, Elisabeth de Valois, Lisa (Queen of Spades), Manon Lescaut, Jenůfa, Chrysothemis (which she recorded for Solti) and Marie (Wozzeck). In 1962 she created the role of Hecuba in Tippett’s King Priam, and the following year sang Katerina Izmaylova in the first British staging of Shostakovich’s opera. In all, she sang 293 performances at the Royal Opera. At Sadler’s Wells she sang Venus, Tosca, Concepcion (L’heure espagnole) and Kát’a. At the Metropolitan, New York, she created the role of Christine in Marvin David Levy’s ...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

(b Port Elizabeth, Oct 22, 1946; d London, February 18, 2012). Irish soprano of South African birth. She studied at the London Opera Centre, making her début in 1972 as a mezzo-soprano at Wexford as Varvara (Kát'a Kabanová). With Australian Opera (1973–4) she sang Venus, Kostelnička and Amneris. Engaged by the ENO (1975–80), she sang Eboli, Azucena, Mariya Bolkonskaya (War and Peace), Herodias, Waltraute (which she recorded under Goodall), Kabanicha, Eglantine (Euryanthe), Rossini's Isabella, Bartók's Judith, Sieglinde, Santuzza, Donna Elvira and Marina. She made her Covent Garden début in 1976 as Viclinda (I Lombardi). After Ortrud and Brangäne at Bayreuth (1980–81), she cancelled all engagements, reappearing in 1983 as a soprano. Following performances of Fiordiligi at La Scala, she sang Electra (Idomeneo) in Salzburg and Norma in Geneva. She made her Metropolitan début as Vitellia (...