Opera Scotland

Anthony Phillips

Fresh Light on Operatic History

Posted 20 Nov 2016

On Saturday 19 November, Anthony Phillips, chairman of the Carl Rosa Trust, welcomed guests to the opening of an exhibition in Liverpool. Our picture shows him making introductory remarks in the Hornby Library of Liverpool Central Library.

This exhibition, which runs for another month, commemorates the work of Carl Rosa Opera. The company, launched in 1873 and based for many years in Liverpool, operated until 1960. Established to bring opera in English to towns and cities throughout the British Isles, the company raised musical standards to new levels and became for many years the nearest thing to a national opera company. It brought many operas to Scotland for the first time, and there are many Scots still alive whose first experience of opera was at a Carl Rosa performance.

The day was divided into two parts. In the morning, a number of researchers and academics gathered to learn about the collection of scores, orchestral parts and memorabilia held by the Trust at the Library. Anthony Phillips and the other trustees, Valerie Langfield, Steven Martin and John Ward, welcomed those present, who were given a chance to review some of the material in the historic collection.

In the afternoon, a public concert was given by students of Liverpool Hope University. The recital involved a number of pieces chosen to reflect Carl Rosa performances over the years. These were linked by Steven Martin's carefully crafted commentary explaining their associations with the company. 

The appreciative audience gave the performers, Adam Webster and Callum Rogers (piano duet), Damaris Ngoru (soprano), Julia Smith (soprano), Mandy Griffin (mezzo), Victoria Illsley (soprano) and Elmear Long (soprano) a warm welcome. The accompanist was David Walters. Works by Loder, Balfe, Benedict, Bizet, Ambroise Thomas, Goring Thomas, Puccini and Alexander Mackenzie were featured.

Anthony Phillips explained the necessity to publicise the historical importance of the large collection and the requirement also to raise funds for conservation of the many scores. In addition, the trustees aspire to be able to help young opera singers as they used to in the past. The Trust is a charity, and gift aid is available to potential donors. Donations are welcome - see their website www.carlrosatrust.org.uk

This fascinating exhibition is open, free of charge,  until 23 December 2016.

OperaScotland was represented by Iain and Stephen Fraser.  Iain expressed gratitude to the trustees for the invitation to make some comments about Carl Rosa's impact and history.  'It made for a fascinating day' said Stephen, adding that it was a real privilege to have been able to assist the Trust in some of the preparation.

There is no doubt that this collection ought to be better known and is worthy of support. Opera buffs with a Liverpool connection will surely be specially intrigued.

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