Glowing reviews for Jessica Cottis conducting ‘The Monstrous Child’

The reviews are in for the world premiere of The Monstrous Child’ by Gavin Higgins and Francesca Simon, a new production directed by Timothy Sheader and designed by Paul Wills, at the Linbury Theatre, The Royal Opera House. We are thrilled to see that #TaitAwardee, and Chair of the Tait Music Board, Jessica Cottis has received such glowing reviews for her work. Brava Jessica, we are so proud of you.

Isla Baring OAM, Chairman of the Tait Trust

“I had tickets for the opening night of The Monstrous Child,  and it was sensational!  Jessica Cottis was brilliant the way she handled this modern music, the incredible production, and the singers in this new opera. Bravo to Covent Garden at the newly refurbished  Linbury Theatre. The reviews say it all! We are so proud of Jessica who is really making her way Up!! I am sure.”

Isla Baring OAM with Jessica Cottis

 The Times: 

“…superbly delivered by the Aurora Orchestra under Jessica Cottis’s direction” 

The Telegraph:

“Jessica Cottis conducts the Aurora Orchestra with aplomb.”

Financial Times

“…strikingly brought to life by the Aurora Orchestra conducted by Jessica Cottis” 

The Arts Desk: 

“Jessica Cottis directs members of the Aurora Orchestra with incisive clarity, deploying her forces strategically, always mindful of the singers who must project Simon’s text without the help of surtitles. It’s no small praise to say that you hardly lose a word.”

The Stage: 

“riotously conveyed by the Aurora Orchestra under the baton of Jessica Cottis” 

Classical Music: 

“Cottis creates an ideal balance”

Planet Hugill: 

“In the pit, Jessica Cottis drew a striking sound world from the players of the Aurora Orchestra” 

 

Tait Awardees to star in Opera North production of La Boheme

We are delighted to announce that #TaitAwardees, Lauren Fagan, and Samantha Clarke are to sing major roles in Opera North’s production of La Boheme later this year. Lauren is to sing Mimi, Samantha the role of Musetta.

Lauren Fagan
Lauren was generously supported by a grant from Trust donors, Michael Whalley OAM & Karen Goldie-Morrison for the duration of her advanced operatic studies in 2013 and 2014. This financial support assisted with her fees at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama where she was a member of the prestigious Opera Course. After graduation Lauren was offered a coveted place in the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House which gave her two years of training as a junior principal.

 

A review of her recent appearances as Alcina with the Handel Festspiele, Karlsruhe, Germany.

“Unusually for Europe, the two main roles were sung by Australians, up-and-coming soprano Lauren Fagan and the more established countertenor, David Hansen. Fagan was a convincing sorceress from the very start, with a strong rich soprano, inducing sympathy in “Ombre pallide” as her shades desert her, spitting venom in the trio “Non è amor” and finally collapsing as all conspire to defeat her. ” Sandra Bowdler, 25 February 2019. Bachtrack.com

Lauren Fagan, Alcina. Handel Festival, Karlsruhe 2019 ©Felix Grünschloß

Lauren’s website

Samantha Clarke
Samantha is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music and is supported by a grant from Tait donor, The Thornton Foundation and is currently in her second and final year at the Opera School at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Samantha Clarke in the title role of Handel’s Theodora © RNCM

Samantha is also supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and was recently awarded the Nora Goodridge Developing Artist Award from the Australian Music Foundation
Samantha is a Baroness de Turckheim Scholar at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

“There was no lack of chemistry between him and Samantha Clarke as a pure-toned and vulnerable Anne Trulove. Her Act 1 aria “Quietly night” (with Ana Docolin’s beguiling bassoon) and florid cabaletta (with a fabulous closing top C) were both wonderful – her traversal from despair to determination utterly convincing.”  , 06 September 2018 | Bachtrack.com

Samantha’s facebook page

Jessica Cottis to conduct ‘Monstrous Child’ at the Royal Opera House

Tonight Australian conductor (and Chair of the Tait Music Board) Jessica Cottis conducts the world premiere of Gavin Higgins and Francesca Simon‘s opera The Monstrous Child at the newly re-opened Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House.

Directed by Timothy Sheader, designed by Paul Wills, with singers Marta Fontanals-Simmonds, Daniel Shelvey, Rosie Aldridge, Tom Randle, Lucy Schaufer, Graeme Broadbent, and Elizabeth Karani, and the Aurora Orchestra.

The Monstrous Child is the first opera by Gavin Higgins, a young British composer with a reputation for boldly imaginative music. The text is adapted by bestselling author Francesca Simon from her own darkly humorous novel. Puppetry and the inspiration of the Norse landscape contribute to this theatrical spectacle about one teenager trying to find her place in the world.

To learn more about this production and book tickets click here

Jessica Cottis’ website

Songhaven Concert in 10 DAYS!

The Tait is delighted to support the inspiring work of Songhaven, a dementia friendly concert series founded by a young Australian mezzo-soprano, and former Tait Awardee, Vivien Conacher.

Their next concert is at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge on Saturday 9th February. More below.

Hi all,

A friendly reminder that booking is now open for our next concert on Saturday 9th February at St Paul’s Knightsbridge.

I will be singing alongside my dear friend, the incredibly talented soprano Alice Privett. Alice has performed for companies including Longborough Festival Opera and Garsington Opera and has been a finalist in numerous prestigious competitions including the London Handel Competition and the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. We also have pianist Chad Vindin joining us again. Chad was the winner of the accompanist prize at the Royal Overseas League Competition and he is a real rising star of the piano accompaniment world, performing all over the UK and Europe!

For those who would like to know a bit more about the programme… we will be performing selections from Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart, some Schumann lieder, Puccini, Lehar, Rossini, Gershwin and some familiar favourites we know you will love!

Hope to see you there! Booking information for all our upcoming events is below.

Viv 🙂

Saturday 9th February at 3:00pm
Songhaven at St Paul’s Knightsbridge

32A Wilton Place, SW1X 8SH 
(closest tube station Hyde Park corner – exit 4)

Concert by Alice Privett (soprano), Vivien Conacher (mezzo-soprano), and Chad Vindin (pianist) followed by afternoon tea.

FREE – BOOKING ESSENTIAL
ONLINE: febsonghavenknightsbridge.eventbrite.co.uk
PHONE: 020 7201 9999
EMAIL: knightsbridge@songhaven.co.uk

Saturday 9th March at 3:00pm
Songhaven at St Paul’s Knightsbridge

32A Wilton Place, SW1X 8SH 
(closest tube station Hyde Park corner – exit 4)

Concert featuring Claire Eadington (mezzo-soprano) and Sam Jenkins (tenor), followed by afternoon tea.

FREE – BOOKING ESSENTIAL
ONLINEmarchsonghavenknightsbridge.eventbrite.co.uk
PHONE020 7201 9999
EMAILknightsbridge@songhaven.co.uk

Saturday 30th March at 3:00pm
Songhaven at Lumen

88 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9RS
(closest tube Russell Square or Kings Cross St Pancras, street parking free from 1.30pm on Saturdays in meter spaces or on single yellow lines)

Concert hosted by Vivien Conacher with (performers to be announced), followed by afternoon tea.

FREE – SUGGESTED DONATION £5
BOOKING ESSENTIALONLINEmarchsonghavenlumen.eventbrite.co.uk
EMAIL: songhaven@songhaven.co.uk
VENUE/ACCESSIBILITY QUERIES ph: 020 7833 1080

Source: Songhaven Concert in 10 DAYS!

About Songhaven

Songhaven is a dementia-friendly concert series launched at the start of 2017. Founder Vivien Conacher, a mezzo-soprano opera singer, realised that there was a need in the London concert scene for inclusive and relaxed events that also feature professional, high calibre performances.

Songhaven concerts are a safe space where people living with dementia, their companions, carers, and family members can enjoy quality music making in an atmosphere of kindness, understanding and joy. At our concerts, we actively strive to make our audience members feel comfortable and free to be themselves. We warmly welcome singing and moving along to the music, without shame or shushing.

Songhaven concerts are a manageable 45 minutes in length, finishing with an audience singalong to a well-loved song. We then provide afternoon tea so that people can socialise with each-other, and the professional performers, and also make song requests for future concerts.

Songhaven is currently based at two venues in London, each hosting the series on a monthly basis on a Saturday afternoon. We have gained a large and devoted following at both locations, and a very real sense of community has formed due to the regularity of the events. Audience members come back time and time again, which means they get to know one another, and develop new connections based on a mutual love of music.

Songhaven aims to address the stigma and social isolation experienced by older people, people living with dementia, and carers. By catering to the specific needs of this group, we are able to create a positive space where people feel valued, connected to their communities, and respected. Great music & kindness are the magic ingredients, ensuring that everyone leaves a Songhaven event with a smile on their face.

SONGHAVEN AUDIENCE FEEDBACK
“one of the most lovely events I think I have ever been to”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a concert so much”

“you’ve brought some real joy and fun into our lives”
from a carer… “[her] condition has improved, in the sense that not only she recalls…but also she actually asks me when the next concert is taking place. We go over the songs, we sing together and she feels so happy that she has become part of Songhaven”

“a beautiful and entertaining afternoon”

“I loved every minute of it.”

“Fabulous quality… vivacious… such beautiful voices”

“impeccable standard of performance in an atmosphere of relaxed generosity, inclusivity and love.”

“My partner responds to music with his whole body and soul, so it’s wonderful to be in a space where his responses are welcomed and understood as appreciation and expressions of joy.”

[the event] “leaves us buzzing, feeling part of a community, and not isolated with the exhausting complexity of the impact of Alzheimer’s on us as individuals and as a family”

“What I like so much is the chance to hear superb musicians. What treat to hear excerpts from opera!”

“It was all very welcoming, everything explained in the introductions. Lots of favourites”

“Brilliant – so friendly and the beauty of the voices and the selection.”

“I loved the operatic bits. I don’t get to go [to the opera] as much as I’d like to, so this was perfect for me.”

“Beautiful and very professional”

“Beautiful and very inclusive, especially when they got everyone singing.”

“Singing is wonderful- even when the short-term memories are gone, you can still remember words from 40 years ago!”

“People come alive here… it’s a privilege”

“It made me smile and cry, very emotional… a wonderful atmosphere.”

“The way they performed was superb.”

Venue Partners:
Lumen URC (Bloomsbury), St Paul’s Knightsbridge (Westminster)

To find out more:
Visit our website songhaven.co.uk (to see photographs, filmed footage, upcoming concert dates, and to sign up to our concert announcements)

Contact Vivien: songhaven@songhaven.co.uk or 07576 318 456

Follow Songhaven on social media:

Facebook: facebook.com/SonghavenUK

Twitter: @songhaven_uk

Instagram: @songhaven_uk

 

Community Interest Company Number: 11317064
Basement unit 3, 31-35 Great Ormond St, WC1N 3HZ, London, UK

If you have any questions about the concert or the Songhaven series, feel free to email songhaven@songhaven.co.uk or visit our website songhaven.co.uk

 

Chloe Keneally on dancing role of Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake – English National Ballet

Following the opening of My First Ballet: Swan Lake in London last week, hear from one of its stars, English National Ballet School student Chloe Keneally. She performs the iconic role of Odette in this version of the classic ballet for young children.

What or who inspired you to take up ballet? Can you remember the first lesson or performance you attended?
My older sister danced which made me want to. I started aged 4 and loved it, I enjoyed the freedom. I saw Sleeping Beauty first and loved it, it became my favourite ballet.

What did it mean to you to get a place at English National Ballet School?
It is a sacrifice being away from my family back home in Australia, but being here is a dream come true. Everything I’d been working for paid off. I loved the school, it was the only one I auditioned for.

Chloe Keneally as Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake © Laurent Liotardo

What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to dance in My First Ballet: Swan Lake?
Amazing. It feels like the first steps into the rest of our lives, it shows us what we can do in the future. The artistic team are very supportive which is great.

Tell us about the role you have been rehearsing – what are the best bits and the challenges?
I’m rehearsing Odette – it’s my dream role. It’s hard to remember it all but I’m embracing the challenge. I’m loving doing an entire ballet and building the character. I feel like I can relate to this character – falling in love, learning about trust and vulnerability.

Read More

Source: Chloe Keneally on dancing role of Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake – English National Ballet

“Hear My Soul Speak” Finding Prospero in Shakespeare’s verbal music.

A performance research presentation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

3 performances only at
London Theatre Workshop 
EC3V. 
April 13-14.

This work-in-progress multi-media performance explores the mind and persona of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic protagonist, Prospero.

It does so by investigating the dramatic ramifications of sound patterning in Shakespeare’s poetry—what Peter Brook has referred to as the “verbal music” to expose the sound-world Shakespeare creates through words.

Nowhere else in Shakespeare is the action, and even the disposition of all the characters so utterly the construction of the central protagonist. Shakespeare uses the device of a stage magician – a Faustian necromancer, to explore a single character through all the stage action of the drama.

This expressionist approach to characterisation is fuelled by the most knotted, ornate and ethereal language in the Shakespearean canon. That language creates a sound world that is simultaneously the world of the island, and a sonic portrait of Prospero’s psyche.

Gerrard McArthur (Howard Barker’s The Wrestling School) plays Prospero in a performance that draws not just on Prospero’s own words, but those of his alter egos Ariel and Caliban.

The performance incorporates some of the play’s surviving music by the play’s gifted original composer Robert Johnson. Johnson was composer-in-residence to Shakespeare’s company the King’s Men in Shakespeare’s final years. This performance draws on new research into Johnson’s other surviving songs to partially reconstruct an original score for the play.

Counter-tenor Russell Harcourt 
(Oreste – Royal Opera House) sings the music of Ariel.

Through live projection, video artist Ben Glover creates a visual expression of the sonic patterning in the poetry, and the diffusion of Prospero’s persona beyond the confines of the body of the actor who ‘plays’ him throughout the other characters and the world of the play.

Book your tickets via London Theatre Workshop here.

This performance is the inaugural presentation of Persona per sona – a performance research initiative led by McArthur and Australian director Christopher Hurrell into the somatic implications for the actor of sound in the language of Shakespeare.

Gerrard McArthur and Russell Harcourt, with Alice Haig, via video as Miranda.

Director: Christopher Hurrell
Sound Designer: Nikki Aitken
Video Designer: Ben Glover
Stage Manager: Jari Laakso

London Theatre Workshop
Leadenhall Market
88 Gracechurch Street
London EC3V 0DN

More information: www.christopherhurrell.com/hear-my-soul-speak

Tickets: www.londontheatreworkshop.co.uk/hear-my-soul-speak

To support this production gofundme  https://www.gofundme.com/hearmysoulspeak

To take advantage of tax-deductible status Australian Cultural Fund

Stuart Skelton sings Wagner | Concert now on sale

The Tait Memorial Trust is to present renowned Australian tenor Stuart Skelton, at a gala concert to celebrate our 25th Anniversary at St Paul’s Church Knightsbridge, on Wednesday the 13th September at 7pm.

“Stuart Skelton’s Tristan is the finest account of Wagner’s most extreme and taxing operatic character…that I’ve ever seen or heard on a stage.”  David Nice, The Arts Desk, June 2016

Stuart is arguably the world’s leading Wagnerian Heldentenor; he is critically acclaimed for outstanding musicianship, tonal beauty and for his intensely dramatic portrayals. As Tristan, he recently opened the 2017/18 season at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and will make his long-awaited Royal Opera House debut singing Siegmund in Die Walküre in 2018.

To book click here

He will shortly appear in this year’s BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall singing Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Accompanied by pianist Richard Peirson, Stuart will be joined by some of the Tait’s talented past and present awardees, Catherine Carby who is singing in the Royal Opera’s Ring Cycle next year, Deborah Humble who most recently recorded Erda for Naxos with Hong Kong Philharmonic, Katrina Sheppeard who last year sang Norma for English National Opera, Jayson Gillham who’s CD of Chopin, Bach and Schubert went to number 1 in Australia, and Liane Keegan, our first awardee, will return to London after a triumphant season in Melbourne’s recent Ring Cycle.

All are appearing to help raise funds for the Tait Trust’s work of providing scholarships for young performing artists from Australia and New Zealand studying in the UK.  The evening will be introduced by Richard Wagner’s great-great grandson, Antoine Wagner.

Connor D’Netto | Tait Scholar 2017

We are delighted to confirm that Connor D’Netto is to be our 3rd Tait Scholar at the Royal College of Music, a generous award sponsored by the Julian Baring family. We wish him all the very best and look forward to working with him as he aspires to reach the very top of the musical world.

Being awarded the title of the Tait Scholar means so much to me. It’s incredibly encouraging to have this support as I take this next big step in my career, moving to London and beginning to really establish myself in the International music scene. Studying at the Royal College of Music is an important part of this, and it mightn’t have been possible without the generous support of the Tait Memorial Trust.

Connor D’Netto | June 2017

I have been selected as a fellow of the prolific American new-music ensemble Bang On A Can. As part of my fellowship, I have been invited to take part in an intensive three-week residence as part of their Summer Music Festival, held this July at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts. My new work summer / summer, a concerto of sorts for saxophone, two voices, and chamber orchestra, will be premiered by the ensemble
as a feature in the Festival.

I am the artistic director and co-founder of Argo, a contemporary classical music concert series based in Brisbane, Australian. Argo has four concerts left in 2017, collaborating with the likes of Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, the Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo (Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg), soprano Merlyn Quaife, violinist Monica Curro, pianist Stefan Cassomenos, Opera Queensland, the Queensland Music Festival and the Queensland
Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, and presenting four newly commissioned works by young local composers, including new work by me, as well as multiple Australian premieres.

Media:
• Website: www.connordnetto.com
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/connordnetto @connordnetto
• Twitter: www.twitter.com/connordnetto @connordnetto
• Instagram:  www.instagram.com/connordnetto @connordnetto

Videos & Recordings of interest:
o Recording: String Quartet No. 2 in E minor, winner of the Australian New Works Award 2015:
https://soundcloud.com/connordnetto/string-quartet-no-2-in-e-minor-live-micmc-2015


o Video: Texture No. 1 for Orchestra: https://youtu.be/vhVNFbRorRE

Biography:
Connor D’Netto (b. 1994) is a Brisbane based composer of contemporary classical music, described as “the model contemporary Australian composer” by ABC Classic FM. Throughout his works, Connor balances the quasi-neoclassical with post-minimal influences, combining
them with contemporary performance practices, unique one-off concerts and performances, and the delicate incorporation of electronic music elements and production techniques. His music combines driving post-minimal rhythmic elements with heartfelt lyrical expression drawn from his extensive performance experience as a classically trained bass baritone, contrasted with textural devices that push the expectations of an instrument’s capabilities without confronting the audience. Connor’s music has been commissioned and performed across Australia and abroad, including commissions from ensembles such the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Queensland’s Camerata and new music specialists PLEXUS, and performers such as Katie Noonan, Karin Schaupp and Claire Edwards.

In 2017, Connor has been selected as a fellow of Bang On A Can. As part, his music will be featured at Bang On A Can’s Summer Music Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MASS MoCA) in July, and will travel to the USA to take part in a three-week residency with the ensemble. In 2015, Connor was named winner of Chamber Music Australia’s Australian New Works Award. His winning work, String Quartet No. 2 in E minor, became the set work for the 7th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition and received premieres by three internationally chosen finalist ensembles at the Melbourne Recital Centre. He has also been awarded a Brisbane Arts and Cultural Innovation Award 2017 for his contribution to the Arts, the Percy Brier Memorial Composition Prize 2016 for his Texture No. 1 for Orchestra, and the Donald Tugby Musicology Prize and Scholarship 2015 by the University of Queensland for exceptional contribution to the field of music research.

Connor is the artistic director, producer, and co-founder of the successful contemporary classical music concert series and collective Argo. Founded in 2015, Argo creates immersive art music experiences bending the boundaries of genre and artform, combining contemporary classical music with electronic music, live-visuals, and fostering creative collaborations between artists of various mediums. Its focus is on creating experiential and concept driven events that fuse classical instruments and ensembles with contemporary influences and new
modes of musical expression.

To find out more about Argo, head to www.argosound.com.

As a performer, Connor is a trained classical bass, having previously studied with Shaun Brown. Connor is also a talented photographer, videographer and visual-artist, creating and shooting not only material for his music, but also for a number of other local artists and musicians. Currently Connor is working on his PhD through the University of Queensland, having completed a Bachelor of Music (Honours) at the University of Queensland, graduating with First-Class Honours in 2016. In September, Connor moves to London, where (while continuing his PhD) he will study his Masters of Music at the Royal College of Music.

More about Connor and his work can be found at www.connordnetto.com.

THE AUSTRALIAN CHARITY ART AUCTION | Australia House 28 February 2017

The Australian Charity Art Auction is an event that will be taking place at Australia House on 28 February 2017. We are delighted to be supporting the event. Both before and at the event more than 50 Australian artworks will be auctioned in aid of a number of much loved and very worthwhile UK based charities that have Australian connections.

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There will be an on-line silent auction over the two weeks leading up to the event (starting on Wednesday 15 February) and a live auction conducted by a Christie’s auctioneer at the event itself.

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The event will also feature a reception and a concert performed by some wonderful Australian singers, musicians and music scholars.

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You can find further information about the auctions and the event at www.australiancharityartauction.co.uk

You can also register on the website, to bid at the silent auction and to attend the event.

We do hope you will support these charities and the event.

Viola, Lady Tait (nee Viola Wilson), Founding Patron of the Tait Memorial Trust | THE D'OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY

Viola, Lady Tait’s zest for life was an inspiration. These qualities remained with her always together with a remarkable memory, clarity of mind and youthful outlook. With a prodigious vocal talent she excelled in the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, beginning as a chorister with the Carl Rosa Company in the United Kingdom, graduating to the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, and was given a year’s contract as principal soprano. Accepting a contract to tour Australia in 1940, she was to meet and marry her future husband, Frank Tait.

She was a champion of new and emerging talent, adjudicating for numerous scholarships and awards both in Australia and overseas. As an adjudicator for The Mobil Quest in 1950, Viola was instrumental in launching Joan Sutherland’s career. This passion for supporting young artists continued throughout her life, in 1992 she inspired her daughter, Isla Baring, to organise a fundraising concert in support of a young Australian singer, Liane Keegan, who was newly arrived in London. It kicked off with a Christmas Concert at Australia House. The concert was a great success and became the foundation of our yearly events. Liane went on to have a major international career, she sang Erda in the recent Opera Australia, Ring Cycle.

Programme for JC Williamson's production 'Chu Chin Chow', Theatre Royal 26 May,1923
Programme for JC Williamson’s production ‘Chu Chin Chow’, Theatre Royal 26 May,1923

In 1984, the Performing Arts Collection, housed at the then newly opened Victorian Arts Centre, received a significant donation from Lady Tait of 300 costume designs by leading European theatrical designers of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The designs had been imported for use in re-staging productions in Australasia by the commercial theatre management J.C. Williamson Ltd and its forerunners.

Another of her loves was writing and researching Australian theatrical history. She amassed a formidable collection of theatrical memorabilia and was the author of The Family of Brothers (1971), which chronicled the contribution of the Tait brothers to Australian theatre.

Lady McKell and Viola Tait at opening of the ballet, ca. 1950 1 photograph
Lady McKell and Viola Tait at opening of the ballet, ca. 1950

Her last book, Dames, Principal Boys and all that: A History of Pantomine in Australia (2001) was lavishly launched at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, the home of the Tait-Williamson empire. When Viola’s death was announced the illuminated sign outside the Theatre read “Farewell Lady Tait, Star”.

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Viola Wilson (1938-39)   

Source: The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive         

[Born Pressburg, Austria-Hungary 1 Nov 1911, died Melbourne, Australia 6 Feb 2002]

Viola Wilson, whose real name was Viola Hogg, studied singing for six years at the Scottish National Academy of Music. In 1935 she was engaged by the Carl Rosa Opera Company and sang in the chorus of Die Fledermaus at the Lyceum Theatre, London. After tours of the British Isles and South Africa, she graduated to principal soprano.

Upon returning to London she auditioned with D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and was given a year’s contract as principal soprano, taking Viola Wilson (her maternal grandfather’s name) as her stage name at Rupert D’Oyly Carte’s suggestion. From May 1938 to June 1939 she appeared with the Company as Patience in Patience, Phyllis in Iolanthe, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, and Gianetta in The Gondoliers. Three of these parts were shared with other artists at various times: Patience and Phyllis with Ann Drummond-Grant until December 1938, and Gianetta with Helen Roberts. Miss Wilson also appeared on occasion in 1938-39 as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore and Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard. She left the D’Oyly Carte in June 1939.

Viola Wilson then accepted an offer from Nevin Tait, J. C. Williamson’s London director to tour Australia and New Zealand in the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In the 1940-42 Williamson tour she appeared as Aline in The Sorcerer, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Casilda in The Gondoliers, Princess Ida in Princess Ida, Rose, Patience, Phyllis, and Elsie. While in Australia, she met and married Frank Tait, later Sir Frank, the youngest of the five Tait brothers who were then running the Williamson Company. She retired as a singer in 1946 but remained involved with the Williamson Company, serving for a time as an artistic director.

Viola Wilson in character as Elsie in Gilbert and Sullivan's The yeoman of the guard, 1940?] [picture] / S.J. Hood
Viola Wilson in character as Elsie in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The yeoman of the guard, 1940?] [picture] / S.J. Hood

Following Sir Frank Tait’s death in 1965, Lady Viola Tait, as she was then known, wrote an informal history of the Williamson-Tait partnership. In “A Family of Brothers: The Taits and J. C. Williamson; a Theatre History” (William Heinemann, Melbourne, 1971) she also provides a good deal of information about her own life and career.

Lady Tait retained her interest in the performing arts thoughout her life and was a patron of many arts organizations, including the Tait Memorial Trust. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Performing Arts Museum in Melbourne, and was appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1990. In her later years she published a book on the history of pantomime in Australia, “Dames, Principal Boys…and All That” (Macmillan, Melbourne, 2001)

Source: Viola Wilson