t h e   c a r l   r o s a  o p e r a   c o m p a n y  

a n d   i t s   p r e m i è r e s

Rosa Portrait
After Carl Rosa’s death in 1889, a number of successive managements worked hard to maintain and develop
the Company’s activities. After a brief period of uncertainty, brothers Alfred and Walter van Noorden led a new syndicate (which included Arthur Winkworth, H.B. Brandreth and the second Mrs Carl Rosa) which kept the Company on the road until the early 1920s. In 1923 Henry Bettesworth Phillips (1866–1950) became the sole owner of the Carl Rosa Opera Company and ran it, with his wife, Annette Phillips (1881–1969) until the curtain finally fell on the Company in 1960.

In a typical year, an average of 750,000 people attended performances given by the Carl Rosa. The Company played in hundreds of different venues, ranging from tiny provincial theatres to larger venues in the major cities, including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Performances were sometimes broadcast by the BBC and, during the 1940s and 1950s, the Company would often perform on the stages of large cinemas.

The Carl Rosa aimed to present opera in English to all classes of people by offering opera at affordable prices. The combination of excellent productions at regular theatre prices meant that the Carl Rosa was able to attract audiences that were drawn from a huge cross-section of society, including Royalty, major politicians, bank clerks and factory workers. All came to hear good quality, faithful productions of opera in English.
A. van Noorden

Alfred van Noorden

The Company gave the English premières, and first performances in English, of many operas, including: Lohengrin, Aida, Carmen, La Bohème, Cavalleria Rusticana, Hansel and Gretel, Mignon, Manon, Tannhäuser, Rienzi, Andrea Chenier, Othello and The Flying Dutchman. Over twenty works by British composers were also premièred by the Company, including works by Arthur Goring Thomas, Charles Villiers Stanford, Frederick Cowen, Hamish MacCunn, Alexander Mackenzie, Joseph Holbrooke and George Lloyd - more are listed below.

During the eighty-seven years of its existence, hundreds of notable musicians appeared with the Carl Rosa, including Sir Charles Santley, Marie Roze, J.W. Turner, Zélie de Lussan, Kingsley Lark, Ben Davies, Joseph O’Mara, Charles and Fanny Moody, Hamish MacCunn, Audrey Mildmay, Charles Craig, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Henry Wood, Arthur Hammond and three generations of the Goossens family. After hearing her first opera, performed by the Carl Rosa Company (Il Trovatore at Bristol in 1907), a young Dame Eva Turner knew from that moment that she wanted to become an opera singer; in 1915 she joined the Company and began her hugely successful career in opera.

Building on the invaluable experience they had received with the Carl Rosa, several singers were inspired to form their own successful opera companies (for example Turner, O’Mara, Moody and Manners).
A van Noorden
Throughout its history, the Carl Rosa Opera Company owed its success to the initial vision of Carl and Euphrosyne: a vision of a Company that nurtured and maintained an excellent ensemble of native soloists and chorus singers who presented faithful performances of opera in English. Rather than rely on star performers to carry the Company and draw audiences by virtue of their names on playbills, the Company relied on the dedication of a team of professional singers who worked hard to encourage and support each other as an ensemble. This is what made the Carl Rosa a household name which is still remembered today, over fifty years since the last performance.

In 1993 Mr Peter Malloy formed a new, independent opera company called the Carl Rosa Opera Ltd, in honour of the famous impresario and specialising in the performance of operetta. It is independent of the original Company, and the Trust does not benefit from it financially.


Some notable first performances

In the table below,
F = First performance in English, F1 = First professional performance in Britain
W = World Première; W1 = World première as an opera
B = British première, B1 = British première as an opera
Title Composer Date Where
Doctor of Alcantara Eichberg 21/10/1873 Royal Alexandra, Liverpool B
The Porter of Havre Cagnoni 15/09/1875 Princess’s Theatre, London B
Giralda Adam 21/09/1876 Lyceum, London B
The Flying Dutchman Wagner 03/10/1876 Lyceum, London F
Jaconde Isouard 25/10/1876 Lyceum, London F
Pauline Cowen 22/11/1876 Lyceum, London W
The Merry Wives of Windsor Nicolai 10/10/1877 Her Majesty’s O.H, Aberdeen F
The Golden Cross Brull 02/03/1878 Adelphi, London F
Piccolino Guiraud 04/01/1879 Gaiety, Dublin F
Rienzi Wagner 27/01/1879 Her Majesty’s, London B
Carmen Bizet 05/02/1879 Her Majesty’s, London F
Mignon Thomas 18/08/1879 Gaiety, Dublin F
The Taming of the Shrew Goetz 14/11/1879 Prince’s Theatre, Manchester F
Lohengrin Wagner 17/02/1880 Her Majesty’s, London F
Aida Verdi 19/02/1880 Gaiety, Dublin F
I Promessi Sposi Ponchielli 23/03/1881 Theatre Royal, Edinburgh B
The Painter of Antwerp Balfe 28/01/1882 Her Majesty’s, London B
Tannhäuser Wagner 14/02/1882 Her Majesty’s, London F
Esmeralda Goring Thomas 26/03/1883 Drury Lane, London W
Colomba Mackenzie 09/04/1883 Drury Lane, London W
The Canterbury Pilgrims Stanford 28/04/1884 Drury Lane, London W
Mefistofele Boito 21/08/1884 Gaiety, Dublin F
Manon Massenet 17/01/1885 Royal Court, Liverpool B
Nadeshda Goring Thomas 16/04/1885 Drury Lane, London W
Ruy Blas Marchetti 04/02/1886 Royal Court, Liverpool F
The Troubador Mackenzie 08/06/1886 Drury Lane, London W
Nordisa Corder 26/01/1887 Royal Court, Liverpool W
Galatea Massenet 08/10/1887 Prince’s Theatre, Bristol B
The Star of the North Meyerbeer 01/02/1889 Royal Court, Liverpool F
Romeo and Juliet Gounod 15/01/1890 Royal Court, Liverpool F
Thorgrim Cowen 22/04/1890 Drury Lane, London W
The Talisman Balfe 15/01/1891 Royal Court, Liverpool F
Cavalleria Rusticana Mascagni 14/01/1892 Royal Court, Liverpool F
L’amico Fritz Mascagni 08/08/1892 Royal Opera House, Cork F
Djamileh Bizet 10/09/1892 Gaiety, Dublin B
Otello Verdi 08/10/1892 Prince’s Theatre, Manchester F
The Golden Web Goring Thomas 15/02/1893 Royal Court, Liverpool W
Pagliacci Leoncavallo 06/10/1893 Gaiety, Dublin F
I Rantzau Mascagni 06/10/1893 Prince’s Theatre, Manchester F
The Damnation of Faust Berlioz 03/02/1894 Royal Court, Liverpool B1
At Santa Lucia Tasca 01/01/1894 Prince’s Theatre, Manchester B
Jeanie Deans MacCunn 15/11/1894 Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh W
Hansel and Gretel Humperdinck 26/12/1894 Daly’s Theatre, London B
Bastien and Bastienne Mozart 26/12/1894 Daly’s Theatre, London B
La vivandiere Godard 10/03/1896 Royal Court, Liverpool B
Der Meistersinger Wagner 16/04/1896 Theatre Royal, Manchester F
La Bohème Puccini 22/04/1897 Theatre Royal, Manchester B
Diarmid MacCunn 23/10/1897 Royal Opera House, London W
A Poet’s Dream Thomas 18/02/1898 Royalty Theatre, Glasgow F
The Martyr of Antioch Sullivan 25/02/1898 Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh W1
Tristan and Isolde Wagner 15/04/1898 Royal Court, Liverpool F
A Basso Porto Spinelli 17/03/1900 Theatre Royal, Brighton B
The Cricket on the Hearth Goldmark 23/11/1900 Brixton Theatre, London B
Cinq-Mars Gounod 26/10/1900 Grand Theatre, Leeds B
Siegfried Wagner 18/10/1901 Manchester F
Andrea Chenier Giordano 02/04/1903 Queen’s Theatre, Manchester B
La Gioconda Ponchielli 06/05/1903 Kennington, London F
La forza del destino Verdi 25/11/1909 Theatre Royal, Manchester B
The Queen of Sheba Goldmark 12/04/1910 Theatre Royal, Manchester B
The Jewels of the Madonna Wolf-Ferrari 28/02/1913 Theatre Royal, Glasgow F
L’attaque du moulin Bruneau 23/03/1916 Theatre Royal, Glasgow F
Stella Maris Keyser 06/06/1919 Royal Court, Liverpool B
Antoine Somerville 06/06/1919 King’s Theatre, Hammersmith W
The Three Masks de Lara 27/06/1919 King’s Theatre, Greenock B
Pro Patria Colson 22/08/1919 Lyceum, London W
Quentin Durward Maclean 13/01/1920 Theatre Royal, Newcastle W
David Garrick Somerville 09/12/1920 Royal Opera House, London W
Thaïs and Thalmaae Macleod Campbell 13/09/1921 Opera House, Manchester W
Le Chant Fatal D’Orlay 07/12/1921 Royal Opera House, London W
Bubbles Bath 26/11/1923 Grand Opera House, Belfast W
Shaun the Post Macmurrough 20/11/1924 Gaiety, Dublin W
Lo speziale Haydn 03/09/1925 King’s Theatre, Hammersmith B
The Departure d’Albert 03/09/1925 King’s Theatre, Hammersmith B
Bronwen Holbrooke 08/11/1929 Theatre Royal, Huddersfield W
Messalina de Lara 08/11/1929 Gaiety, Dublin F
The Kiss Smetana 18/10/1948 King’s Theatre, Hammersmith F1
John Socman LLoyd 15/05/1951 Hippodrome, Bristol W