Opera Scotland

Anne Collins Suggest updates

Born Durham, 29 August, 1943.

Died Sussex, 15 July, 2009.

English contralto.

Anne Collins possessed a voice which has become a great rarity in recent years, a true contralto. In the early seventies she sang in the famous English National Opera Ring production conducted by Reginald Goodall, giving many performances, particularly as Erda, but also singing Valkyries and Norns. She was reluctant to get typecast as the elderly ladies in Gilbert and Sullivan, but her skill with dialogue and natural comic timing made her a peerless interpreter of those she chose to do. She was also an ideal soloist on the two occasions when she appeared at the Last Night of the Proms (1975 and 1980). With Scottish Opera she created the dual roles of Nurse and Old Woman in James MacMillan's Inés de Castro.

She initially trained as a cellist at the Royal College of Music, then studied voice with the famed Russian soprano Oda Slobodskaya. She was a member of Sadler's Wells (English National) Opera from 1970 to 1976, and continued to sing at the Coliseum regularly in later years. Her early roles included Governess in The Queen of Spades, Mother in The Tales of Hoffmann, Third Lady in The Magic Flute,  Ragonde in Count Ory, Juno in Orpheus in the Underworld and Arnalta in The Coronation of Poppea. The Ring Cycle was built up over the next few years, with cycles given at the Coliseum and on tour from 1973 to 1976. Her Erda is preserved on record. Also at the Coliseum she sang Suzuki, Mamma Lucia, Clarissa in The Love for Three Oranges, Adelaide in Arabella, and Beroë in the British premiere of Henze's The Bassarids. She appeared in the British premieres of The Nose and War and Peace.

Her Britten roles included Mrs Sedley at ENO and Auntie at several European houses including Brussels, Bilbao and Covent Garden. She sang Mrs Herring with the English Opera Group and Florence Pike at Glyndebourne.  She worked with the Handel Opera Society, notably as Onoria in Ezio and Dejanira in Hercules. At Covent Garden she appeared regularly in character roles such as Mary in Der fliegende Holländer, Abbess in The Fiery Angel and Mother in L'Enfant et les Sortilèges. With Welsh National her roles included Erda, Sosostris in The Midsummer Marriage and Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin, which she sang in many other houses, though Madame Larina was the role of her Scottish Opera debut. One of her last parts was Miss Bentson in Lakmé at Holland Park in 2007.

She sang several Sullivan roles. Frank Hauser's staging of Iolanthe and John Cox's of Patience were at first played by Heather Begg, but after she went to live in Australia Collins inherited the roles of Queen of the Fairies and Lady Jane. In the latter her cello-playing skills were invaluable (Begg's instrument had been the double-bass, every bit as funny). Her Bunthorne in these Patience performances was usually the Alberich in the contemporaneous Ring, baritone Derek Hammond Stroud. Their success in London was equalled when John Cox's famous production was included on company visits to Vienna and the New York Met. Later she sang Katisha when Jonathan Miller's long-running staging of The Mikado was produced.

Her recordings include The ENO Ring and Auntie in Peter Grimes. She appears in several Gilbert and Sullivan videos, including Patience, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, The Mikado and The Yeomen of the Guard.

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