Monica Sinclair

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Monica Sinclair (23 March 1925 7 May 2002) was a British operatic contralto, who sang many roles with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden during the 1950s and 1960s, and appeared on stage and in recordings with Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Maria Callas, Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Malcolm Sargent and many others. She had a great gift for comedy, and sang in recordings of many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as well as in recordings from the standard operatic repertory.

A contralto is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range is the lowest female voice type.

Joan Sutherland Australian soprano

Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE was an Australian-born coloratura soprano noted for her contribution to the renaissance of the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s.

Luciano Pavarotti Italian operatic tenor

Luciano Pavarotti, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian operatic tenor who also crossed over into popular music, eventually becoming one of the most commercially successful tenors of all time. He made numerous recordings of complete operas and individual arias, gaining worldwide fame for the quality of his tone, and eventually established himself as one of the finest tenors of the 20th century, achieving the honorific title "king of the high C's".



Monica Sinclair was born on 23 March 1925, in Evercreech, Somerset. Her music studies were at the Royal Academy of Music. She made her debut with the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1948, singing Suzuki in Puccini's Madama Butterfly . Her Covent Garden debut came in 1949, as the Second boy in Mozart's The Magic Flute . Her early Covent Garden roles included Maddalena ( Rigoletto ), Mrs Sedley ( Peter Grimes ), Feodor ( Boris Godunov ), Rosette ( Manon ), Flosshilde ( Das Rheingold ), Siegrune ( Die Walküre ), Azucena ( Il trovatore ), Pauline ( The Queen of Spades ), Mercedes ( Carmen ) and the Voice of Antonia's Mother ( The Tales of Hoffmann ). She can be heard as the voice of Nicklaus in the 1951 Powell and Pressburger film The Tales of Hoffmann . [1]

Evercreech village and parish in Somerset, England

Evercreech is a village and civil parish 3 miles (4.8 km) south east of Shepton Mallet, and 5 miles (8.0 km) north east of Castle Cary, in the Mendip district of Somerset, England. The parish includes the hamlet of Stoney Stratton and the village of Chesterblade.

The Royal Academy of Music in London, England, is the oldest conservatoire in the UK, founded in 1822 by John Fane and Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. It received its Royal Charter in 1830 from King George IV with the support of the first Duke of Wellington. It is one of the leading conservatoires in the UK, rated fourth in the Complete University Guide and third in the Guardian University Guide for 2018. Famous Academy alumni include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.

Carl Rosa Opera Company

The Carl Rosa Opera Company was founded in 1873 by Carl Rosa, a German-born musical impresario, to present opera in English in London and the British provinces. The company premiered many operas in the UK, employing a mix of established opera stars and young singers, reaching new opera audiences with popularly priced tickets. It survived Rosa's death in 1889, and continued to present opera in English on tour until 1960, when it was obliged to close for lack of funds. The company was revived in 1997, presenting mostly lighter operatic works including those by Gilbert and Sullivan. The company "was arguably the most influential opera company ever in the UK".

She made her Glyndebourne debut in 1954 in the comic role of Ragonde in the first British performance of Rossini's Le comte Ory . There she also sang Berta ( The Barber of Seville ), Marcellina ( The Marriage of Figaro ), Dryade ( Ariadne auf Naxos ), and Queen Henrietta ( I puritani , with Joan Sutherland). In 1965 she appeared in a television version of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny on BBC2 as Mrs Begbick. [2]

Glyndebourne Festival Opera English opera festival

Glyndebourne Festival Opera is an annual opera festival held at Glyndebourne, an English country house near Lewes, in East Sussex, England.

Gioachino Rossini 19th-century Italian opera composer

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity.

<i>Le comte Ory</i> opera by Gioachino Rossini

Le comte Ory is a comic opera written by Gioachino Rossini in 1828. Some of the music originates from his opera Il viaggio a Reims written three years earlier for the coronation of Charles X. The French libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson adapted from a comedy they had first written in 1817.

Returning to Covent Garden in 1959/60, Sinclair added some new roles to her repertoire – Annina ( Der Rosenkavalier , in Georg Solti's Covent Garden début, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Sena Jurinac), Bradamante ( Alcina , directed and designed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Joan Sutherland in the title role), Theodosia ( Die schweigsame Frau ), the Old Prioress ( Dialogues des Carmélites ), Marfa ( Khovanshchina ), Emilia ( Otello ) and the Marquise de Birkenfeld ( La fille du régiment , with Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti). She also sang the Marquise at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

<i>Der Rosenkavalier</i> opera by Richard Strauss

Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59, is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière's comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt, Ernst von Schuch conducting. Until the premiere the working title was Ochs auf Lerchenau.

Georg Solti Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor

Sir Georg Solti, was a Hungarian-born orchestral and operatic conductor, best known for his appearances with opera companies in Munich, Frankfurt and London, and as a long-serving music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Born in Budapest, he studied there with Béla Bartók, Leó Weiner and Ernő Dohnányi. In the 1930s, he was a répétiteur at the Hungarian State Opera and worked at the Salzburg Festival for Arturo Toscanini. His career was interrupted by the rise of the Nazis' influence on Hungarian politics, and being of Jewish background he fled the increasingly harsh Hungarian anti-Jewish laws in 1938. After conducting a season of Russian ballet in London at the Royal Opera House he found refuge in Switzerland, where he remained during the Second World War. Prohibited from conducting there, he earned a living as a pianist.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf German opera soprano

Dame Olga Maria Elisabeth Friederike Schwarzkopf, was a German-born Austro-British soprano. She was among the foremost singers of lieder, and was renowned for her performances of Viennese operetta, as well as the operas of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss. After retiring from the stage, she was a voice teacher internationally. She is considered one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century.

Her other international appearances included the title role in Lully's Armide at Bordeaux in 1955. [3]

Jean-Baptiste Lully Italian-born French composer

Jean-Baptiste Lully was an Italian-born French composer, instrumentalist, and dancer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered a master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in 1661.

<i>Armide</i> (Lully) opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully

Armide is an opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully. The libretto by Philippe Quinault is based on Torquato Tasso's poem La Gerusalemme liberata. The work is in the form of a tragédie en musique, a genre invented by Lully and Quinault.

Bordeaux Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne in the Gironde department in Southwestern France.


Monica Sinclair created a number of roles (at Covent Garden unless indicated):

Ralph Vaughan Williams 20th-century English composer

Ralph Vaughan Williams was an English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies, written over sixty years. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk-song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century.

The Pilgrim's Progress is an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, based on John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress. The composer himself described the work as a 'Morality' rather than an opera. Nonetheless, he intended the work to be performed on stage, rather than in a church or cathedral. Vaughan Williams himself prepared the libretto, with interpolations from the Bible and also text from his second wife, Ursula Wood. His changes to the story included altering the name of the central character from 'Christian' to 'Pilgrim', so as to universalise the spiritual message.

Alban Berg Austrian composer

Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer of the Second Viennese School. His compositional style combined Romantic lyricism with twelve-tone technique.


Among Monica Sinclair's recordings are: [5]

Private life and death

Monica Sinclair's marriage to Anthony Tunstall, a former Covent Garden horn player, with whom she had six children, did not survive. [3]

She died in 2002, aged 77.

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  1. IMDB
  2. Noel Goodwin. Review of broadcast of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. BBC2, February 28, Opera April 1965, Vol 16 No 4, p305-306.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 bachcantatas
  4. Naxos
  5. ArkivMusik
  6. The Gramophone, February 1958