Thomas Quinlan (impresario)

Last updated

Thomas Quinlan in a monochrome photograph Thomas Quinlan (impresario).jpg
Thomas Quinlan in a monochrome photograph

Thomas Quinlan, (10 March 1881, Bury – 20 November 1951, Holborn) was a musical impresario, best known for founding the Quinlan Opera Company.

Bury, Greater Manchester town in Greater Manchester, England

Bury is a town in Greater Manchester, England, on the River Irwell 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east of Bolton, 5.9 miles (9.5 km) southwest of Rochdale and 7.9 miles (12.7 km) northwest of Manchester. Bury is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, and had a population of 78,723 in 2015; the borough had a population of 187,474 in 2011.

Holborn area of central London, England

Holborn is a district in the London boroughs of Camden and City of Westminster and a locality in the ward of Farringdon Without in the City of London. The area is sometimes described as part of the West End of London.

Contents

Early life and career

Thomas Quinlan was the son of Dennis Quinlan, a railway clerk, and Ellen Quinlan, née Carroll. He was the eldest of five children.

Quinlan studied as an accountant, and in 1901 he was company secretary of the Withnell Brick company. He also trained as a baritone; he was first coached by Granville Bantock, and later studied for the operatic stage under Victor Maurel. [1] He began music management in 1906, touring among others Enrico Caruso, Fritz Kreisler, John Philip Sousa and including a Nellie Melba tour of Ireland in 1908. [2] [3]

Withnell village in the United Kingdom

Withnell is a village and civil parish in the Borough of Chorley, Lancashire, England. According to the census of 2001, it had a population of 3,631, reducing to 3,498 at the census of 2011. Withnell is about 5 miles (8 km) north-east of Chorley itself and about 5 miles (8 km) from Blackburn.

Granville Bantock British composer and conductor

Sir Granville Ransome Bantock was a British composer of classical music.

Victor Maurel French opera singer

Victor Maurel was a French operatic baritone who enjoyed an international reputation as a great singing actor.

On 4 July 1907 he married Dora Collins (daughter of James Collins, a tea merchant) at St Peter and St Edward Church, 43 Palace Street, Pimlico, London SW1. The witnesses were Gertrude Browning and the pianist Angelo Fronani, who married the opera singer Zelie de Lussan in 1907.

Pimlico small area of central London in the City of Westminster

Pimlico is a small area within Central London in the City of Westminster. Like Belgravia, next to which it was built as a southern extension, Pimlico is known for its garden squares and Regency architecture.

1910

In 1910 London heard – or had the opportunity of hearing – more opera than ever before in its history. Between mid-February and New Year's Eve, Sir Thomas Beecham either conducted or was responsible as impresario for 190 performances at Covent Garden Opera House and His Majesty's Theatre. [4]

Her Majestys Theatre theatre in London

Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre situated on Haymarket in the City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre. In the early decades of the 20th century, Tree produced spectacular productions of Shakespeare and other classical works, and the theatre hosted premieres by major playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley. Since the First World War, the wide stage has made the theatre suitable for large-scale musical productions, and the theatre has accordingly specialised in hosting musicals. The theatre has been home to record-setting musical theatre runs, notably the First World War sensation Chu Chin Chow and the current production, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which has played continuously at Her Majesty's since 1986.

Beecham extended his dream into the provinces with The Beecham Opera Comique Company. As his manager, he chose Thomas Quinlan. The company would present two "tuneful lightweights" as he called them, The Tales of Hoffmann and Die Fledermaus . The latter was known at first as "The Bat", but soon it became "A Viennese Masquerade" and then it was dropped, Hoffmann being given exclusively. Some cities experienced one or both operas for the first time. Six evening and one or two matinee performances were given weekly in thirteen cities during the autumn segment (Blackpool, Belfast, Dublin, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and Brighton) with fourteen more after Christmas (Swansea, Fulham, Bournemouth, Dublin, Southampton, Leicester, Wolverhampton, Hull, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff, Plymouth, and Portsmouth). [5]

<i>The Tales of Hoffmann</i> opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach

The Tales of Hoffmann is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story. It was Offenbach's final work; he died in October 1880, four months before the premiere.

<i>Die Fledermaus</i> comic operetta in three acts by Johann Strauss II

Die Fledermaus is an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II to a German libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée.

1911

Thomas Quinlan then decided to set up his own company, feeling that the provinces and "the dominions beyond the seas", as he told J.D. Fitzgerald in an interview in The Lone Hand in Sydney, had never had the chance of hearing grand opera on the same scale as Covent Garden. In 1911 the Quinlan Opera Company was formed in Liverpool. Quinlan personally supervised everything, casting the operas himself, and seeing every act of every opera before it was presented to the public.

The company rehearsed in London for five months before touring the provinces, (opening in Liverpool, where the results exceeded Quinlan's expectations), making a visit to Ireland with performances at the Theatre Royal Dublin from 26 December 1911 to 9 January 1912, and then setting off for Australia for the 1912 season. In February 1912 the company performed in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg) on their way to Australia. [3]

1912

The first week of the 1912 season presented in conjunction with the Australian impresario J.C. Williamson, at Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, put up a record still unbroken and likely to remain so: four Australian premieres in eight days. The company opened on Saturday, 8 June (having only arrived in the country the previous Wednesday), with a gala premiere of The Tales of Hoffmann, followed on the Monday by the first performance in Australia of the Paris version of Tannhäuser , the Australian premiere of The Girl of the Golden West on the Tuesday, another performance of Hoffmann on the Wednesday, Rigoletto on the Thursday, the Australian premiere of Tristan und Isolde on the Friday, and the Australian premiere of The Prodigal Son by Debussy as part of a double bill with Hänsel und Gretel on the Saturday afternoon, with Hoffmann again that night. This quick start and rate of bringing forward new productions was only possible because this was a complete company, with its own chorus and orchestra — the only one to visit Australia — and had already performed all its repertoire in England and South Africa on its way to Australia.

The Australian tour was limited to just ten weeks (five in Melbourne and five in Sydney). The presentation of fifteen operas, four of them new, in just under five weeks, in itself provided plenty of variety. The remaining operas were Die Walküre , Aida, La Bohème, Carmen, Lohengrin, Madama Butterfly, Faust and La traviata.

The artists were mostly British, with two returning Australian singers, Lalla Miranda and Julia Caroli. The company also included the British tenor John Coates and Britain's leading dramatic soprano, Agnes Nicholls. There was a total of 163 people in the party (plus a three-year-old child for Butterfly), including the permanent orchestra of 55 and a chorus of 60, and there were three conductors: Ernst Knoch for the Wagner operas, Hoffmann, Hansel and Gretel and Carmen; Tullio Voghera, who had conducted at the Met and been Caruso's accompanist, from the Royal Opera Stockholm, for the Italian repertoire, and English composer/conductor Hubert Bath, who conducted the opening of Faust and took over other operas later in the run. He was also chorus-master.

Staging and presentation were of a high standard, under the direction of Louis P. Verande (assisted by George King), from Covent Garden where he had been responsible for the staging of Thomas Beecham's controversial 1910 Salome . Verande also had extensive Continental and American experience. All the costumes were designed by Dorothy Carleton Smyth from Glasgow, an authority on historical pageant and theatrical costumes, who travelled with the company. Quinlan pointed out that she concentrated on a harmoniously blended colour scheme, eschewing extraneous spangles and similar gewgaws. The sets for all the operas were designed by Oliver Percy Bernard, from the Boston Opera, and set models for the Puccini operas were first passed by the composer; while Humperdinck, Debussy, Cosima Wagner, Ricordi and other authorities lent their assistance with others. Quinlan claimed the largest scenic studio in England and said that a great deal of research had been done on the historical accuracy of stage accessories. The cost of moving the company and all the baggage — 365 tons of scenery, props and costumes — around the world was £100,000.

Except for Lalla Miranda, who had concert engagements in Brisbane, the company sailed for England on the day after the last performance, visiting Melbourne on the way for a Town Hall concert. Quinlan promised to return the following year, and to bring back not only the complete Ring, but also The Mastersingers and Louise. [6]

1913 - 1914

After their return to England in 1912, the company undertook a provincial tour (including a performance in Newcastle in March 1913), followed by visits to Ireland (with a performance at the Theatre Royal, Dublin on 14 May 1913) and South Africa (June to July 1913) on the way back to Australia, staging the first complete Ring Cycle in Australia.

Although The Ring was the highlight of the 1913 visit to Australia, there was another important Australian Wagner premiere, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg , as well as the premieres of Louise (opera) and Manon Lescaut . Apart from these, it was the sheer number of operas performed which was so impressive. In just under eight weeks in Melbourne, the company performed 25 operas, including two Ring cycles; while in Sydney, where the original season of seven weeks was extended to nine because a strike in New Zealand made it impossible to move on there as planned, another three operas were added. In all, nine of the major Wagner operas were staged — all except Parsifal — four of them for the first time; all the major Puccini operas written at the time: Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, The Girl of the Golden West; the four most popular Verdi operas: Rigoletto, II Trovatore, La traviata and Aida; other Italian works: Cavalleria rusticana, Pagliacci and The Barber of Seville; The Marriage of Figaro; and an assortment of French operas, from the new Louise and The Prodigal Son, to The Tales of Hoffmann, Samson and Delilah and the old favourites Carmen and Faust. Not surprisingly, some had only one performance in each city, though most had two or three — sometimes by popular demand. Exceeding that number were only Bohème and Butterfly (four each in Sydney), Samson and Delilah (five in Sydney) and, way out in front, Hoffmann (seven in Melbourne, eight in Sydney), its total of fifteen more than twice that of the nearest competitor (Samson and Delilah with seven).

It was not simply a visit to Australia, but part of a tour round the world, what Quinlan himself in an interview on arrival in Sydney, called an "All-Red Tour" (a phrase which meant something rather different in the days before the sun set on the British Empire). The intention was to return to England via New Zealand and Canada, "never", said Quinlan, "leaving the red portions of the geographical map except to hop over the border from Canada to visit some of our American cousins.... We sing in English to English-speaking peoples all the time." [7]

The era came to an end in March 1914 with a three-week visit of the Quinlan English Opera Co at His Majesty's Theatre, Montreal; Wagner's complete Der Ring des Nibelungen was sung in Canada for the first time (and by 1990 still the only time), along with Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, The Flying Dutchman, and Tristan und Isolde. But attendance was poor, and the company decided to cut its losses and terminate its visit to Canada, even though performances had already been announced for Toronto.

Problems in New Zealand and Canada interfered with his plan of performing nine Ring cycles around the world in the space of six months, a feat he had been confident would "be mentioned with bated breath in European art circles", and the enterprise proved ruinous. Quinlan estimated that it "cost £150,000 a year to run grand opera round the world", and with disruptions to the schedule, the incomings were not enough to balance this figure.

Quinlan's enterprise came unstuck and he managed no more grand opera seasons. Despite the crash in Canada some artists had definitely been re-engaged and contracts signed. But the outbreak of World War I put paid finally to the possibility of Quinlan's plan to bring another company to Australia in 1915. The Quinlan Company became the Harrison Frewin Company, which was acquired by the impresario H B Phillips in 1916 for £1,750. In October 1918 the Carl Rosa Company acquired the Phillips and Harrison Frewin companies. [8]

1919 - 1921

In 1919 Thomas Quinlan was reported to be in London in concert management. [9]

The 1919–1920 season of Quinlan Subscription Concerts included performances in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Hamilton Harty, with Arthur De Greef (piano) [25 October 1919], and by the Sir Thomas Beecham Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates (musician) with various soloists [20 February 1920]. There was also a performance at the Theatre Royal, Dublin.

The 1920–1921 season of Quinlan Subscription Concerts included a series of five concerts at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh [16 October 1920 to 19 March 1921]. The second in series was performed by the Sir Thomas Beecham Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates (musician) with various soloists. There was also a series of 12 concerts at Kingsway Hall [October 1920 to January 1921] featuring various orchestras, including the Quinlan Orchestra and the British Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Boult. [10] [11] [12]

1922 - 1951

In 1922 Thomas Quinlan, in association with E.J. Carroll, arranged a tour of Australia by the Sistine Chapel Choir, which turned out to be a financial failure. [13] In 1926 his wife, Dora, divorced him on the ground of desertion. [14] He died in London in November 1951.

Notes

  1. "Toronto World", 12 December 1913
  2. Gyger, p.170
  3. 1 2 The Lone Hand, 2 September 1912
  4. Reid, p.96
  5. Hooey
  6. Gyger, pages 170 to 183
  7. Gyger, pages 184 to 201
  8. McCann, p. 16
  9. Gyger, p. 201
  10. The Times, 16 July 1920
  11. The Times, 17 January 1921
  12. Arts & Humanities Research Council
  13. Sydney Morning Herald, 4 April 1922
  14. The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 7 September 1926

Related Research Articles

Opera Australia principal opera company in Australia

Opera Australia is the principal opera company in Australia. Based in Sydney, its performance season at the Sydney Opera House accompanied by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra runs for approximately eight months of the year, with the remainder of its time spent in the Arts Centre Melbourne, where it is accompanied by Orchestra Victoria. In 2004, the company gave 226 performances in its subscription seasons in Sydney and Melbourne, attended by more than 294,000 people.

Thomas Beecham British conductor and impresario

Sir Thomas Beecham, 2nd Baronet, CH was an English conductor and impresario best known for his association with the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic orchestras. He was also closely associated with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Hallé orchestras. From the early 20th century until his death, Beecham was a major influence on the musical life of Britain and, according to the BBC, was Britain's first international conductor.

London Philharmonic Orchestra London based symphony orchestra

The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) is one of five permanent symphony orchestras based in London. It was founded by the conductors Sir Thomas Beecham and Malcolm Sargent in 1932 as a rival to the existing London Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestras.

Sydney Symphony Orchestra orchestra

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is an Australian symphony orchestra that was initially formed in 1908. Since its opening in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has been its home concert hall. The orchestra's current chief conductor is David Robertson.

Karl Rankl British composer and conductor

Karl Rankl was a British conductor and composer who was of Austrian birth. A pupil of the composers Schoenberg and Webern, he conducted at opera houses in Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia until fleeing from the Nazis and taking refuge in England in 1939.

Alberto Remedios was a British operatic tenor, especially noted for his interpretations of Wagner's heldentenor roles.

Agnes Nicholls was one of the greatest English sopranos of the 20th century, both in the concert hall and on the operatic stage.

Muriel Brunskill was an English contralto of the mid-twentieth century. Her career included concert, operatic and recital performance from the early 1920s until the 1950s. She worked with many of the leading musicians of her day, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Albert Coates, Felix Weingartner and Sir Henry Wood.

William Saurin Lyster was an impresario, active in Australia.

Frederic Austin British opera singer, teacher and composer

Frederic Austin was an English baritone singer, a musical teacher and composer in the period 1905–30. He is best remembered for his restoration and production of The Beggar's Opera by John Gay and Johann Christoph Pepusch, and its sequel, Polly, in 1920–23. Austin was the older brother of the composer Ernest Austin (1874–1947).

Joseph Mozart Post was an Australian conductor and music administrator. He made an unrivalled contribution to the development of opera-conducting in Australia and was, in Roger Covell's words, the 'first Australian-born musician to excel in this genre'. As an orchestral conductor, he was judged a 'good all-round man': he was well regarded for his enthusiasm, clarity and economy of gesture, but he was not associated with inspiring or challenging musicianship. Nonetheless, his ability to take over conducting assignments at very short notice became legendary and he was often greeted with 'rave' reviews.

Tibor Paul was a Hungarian-Australian conductor.

Kenneth (Ken) Neate was a renowned Australian operatic and concert tenor, opera producer and singing teacher, composer and author. He appeared at the Bayreuth Festival in 1963 as Loge in Rheingold and he was noted as a dramatic tenor in German, French, and Italian repertoire in opera houses in England, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Australia. His operatic career lasted 38 years, followed by ten years as lecturer in Voice and Opera Studies at the Richard Strauss Conservatorium in Munich.

William Richard Cade, often referred to as Bill Cade, was an Australian violinist and conductor, the founding conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Dora Labbette British opera singer

Dora Labbette was an English soprano. Her career spanned the concert hall and the opera house. She conspired with Sir Thomas Beecham to appear at the Royal Opera House masquerading as an Italian singer by the name of Lisa Perli. Away from professional concerns she had an affair with Beecham, with whom she had a son.

Julius Harrison English composer and conductor

Julius Allan Greenway Harrison was an English composer who was particularly known for his conducting of operatic works. Born in Lower Mitton, Stourport in Worcestershire, by the age of 16 he was already an established musician. His career included a directorship of opera at the Royal Academy of Music where he was a professor of composition, a position as répétiteur at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conductor for the British National Opera Company, military service as an officer in the Royal Flying Corps, and founder member and vice-president of the Elgar Society.

Richard Watson (singer) Australian bass opera and concert singer

Richard Charles Watson was an Australian bass opera and concert singer and actor. He is probably best remembered as a principal with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company who sang the comic bass-baritone roles of the Savoy Operas, but he appeared in a wide range of operas at the Royal Opera House and with the Carl Rosa Opera Company with singers including Lotte Lehmann and Lauritz Melchior, under conductors including Sir Thomas Beecham and Bruno Walter.

Bernadette Eileen Cullen is an Australian Dramatic Mezzo-soprano who has encomposed all the great leading operatic mezzo roles and concert repertoire in Australia and throughout Europe and Asia.

Emmanuel Christian Hedmondt was a Canadian-born tenor who made a long and distinguished career, mainly within the operatic repertoire. He changed to this stage name from his family name Hausgen. He also used the name Charles Hedmont, although spellings of this vary.

Warwick Olney Fyfe is an Australian / International operatic heldenbaritone. Winner of the Helpmann Award for Best Male in an Operatic Feature Role for his performance as Alberich in Opera Australia's 2013 Bi-Centenary Cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the State Theatre in Melbourne. In August 2017 a career highlight was singing Klingsor in a concert performance of Richard Wagner's Parsifal starring Jonas Kaufmann with Opera Australia at the Sydney Opera House.

References