Opera Scotland

George Snazelle 1898

Opera manager assaults singer

Posted 27 May 2014

Newspapers in every era have understood the value of a good story. Carl Rosa Opera were touring the British Isles in September 1883, when a fracas took place in Dublin.

Its first mention came in the Scotsman of 2 September: "according to a Dublin telegram, Carl Rosa has been assaulted somewhat severely by a member of his company, who had been under the impression that his wife was insulted by the gentleman assaulted."

Freeman's Journal on 2 September had offered more detail: "On Saturday afternoon a fracas took place in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, between Mr Carl Rosa and Mr Snazelle. The dispute arose due to Mr Carl Rosa having refused tickets to Mr Snazelle. In the encounter Mr Carl Rosa came off second best, getting one of his eyes blackened and the other cut.  Mr Snazelle received the first blow. The contestants, who used their fists solely, were separated with difficulty."

On the following day in Dundee Courier of 3 September, their London Letter reveals an attempt to pour oil on the situation: as "there are many sensational reports spread about concerning Mr Carl Rosa's altercation with Mr Snazelle, a member of his company, I have Mr Carl Rosa's authority to state the real facts of the case. Mr Snazelle entered Mr Rosa's room at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, and spoke in what Mr Rosa considered a very rude way. Mr Rosa ordered him repeatedly to leave the room. He refused, and as Mr Rosa felt that he was himself losing his self-control, he attempted to pass Mr Snazelle and walk out. This Mr Snazelle deliberately prevented by putting his back against the room door, continuing his rude remarks all the time. Mr Rosa then certainly struck Mr Snazelle, an action which he now regrets, and Mr Snazelle returned the blow. As for Mr Rosa's injuries, they were of such a trifling kind that he left half-an-hour afterwards to attend a lawn tennis party, and dined afterwards with a large party of friends.

The manner in which the story has been worked up by journalistic sensation mongers is not justified by the facts, but it is one of the penalties of the distinguished position which Mr Carl Rosa holds in the musical world that so strenuous an effort should have been made to magnify a petty quarrel into almost tragic proportions."

This in turn drew a response reported in the Huddersfield Chronicle 5 September: "Mr Snazelle, in a letter to a Dublin paper on Thursday, says that Mr Rosa first struck him a violent blow, and it was only due to his being a more powerful man that Mr Rosa received a thrashing instead of himself. He says this is the third or fourth assault Mr Rosa has committed lately, and the 70 members of the Carl Rosa company all sympathise with him."

Later that week, the Era printed a lengthy letter from Rosa himself, in the course of which he says "I would, of course, have preferred, and still prefer, to say as little as possible about it. Mr Snazelle has worried me a great deal for the last few years, as a singer can worry an operatic manager, if he likes... I was sorry I could not give her any seats, but if she was willing to stand at the back of the dress circle she was quite welcome (this people sometimes do in the Gaiety, Dublin, when the house is crowded)."

Snazelle appears to have seen out his contract with Carl Rosa Opera for the rest of the season.  He had sung with them for around nine years.

Read more about Carl Rosa and George Snazelle (pictured).

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