Opera Scotland

Alice Barnett Suggest updates

Born London, 17 May 1846.

Died London, 14 April 1901.

English contralto and actress.

Alice Barnett came from a solidly theatrical background, being related to the Kemble acting dynasty, and therefore a great-niece of Sarah Siddons. Any hopes she may have had of a conventional stage career must have been dashed because of her height - over 5' 10". However she did have an excellent contralto voice and a gift for comedy.

She joined D'Oyly Carte's Comedy-Opera Company touring HMS Pinafore in the provinces, and performed Buttercup in several Scottish theatres in 1879. Her success as Buttercup led to her being chosen to perform the role in New York, which also meant creating the part of Ruth in the follow-up work, The Pirates of Penzance, when that opened in 1879. She sang the part on the American tour and in London on her return. She went on to create the roles of Lady Jane in Patience and the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe. During the run of the latter work, towards the end of 1883, she became ill, and her cover, Rosina Brandram took over. Returned to health, Barnett was unable to dislodge the new star contralto and spent a year in the touring companies, again visiting Scotland in Iolanthe during 1884. With the exception of the bass-baritone Richard Temple, she is probably the only singer to have created Gilbert and Sullivan roles in London and then to have sung them on tour.

After her year touring Britain, she started a phase during which she sang in several successful comic operas composed by Solomon and by Cellier, working extensively on tour in the USA and Australia. Her time with the Burns-Crotty company in 1892-3 appears to be her only serious operatic role. She followed it with a London run in a comic opera His Excellency, with a libretto by Gilbert. She spent the rest of her career in musical comedy, and died of pneumonia at a relatively young age.

Roles in Scotland

Little Buttercup Mrs Cripps, a Portsmouth Bumboat Woman
H M S Pinafore 1879
Queen of the Fairies
Iolanthe 1884
Tisbe Clorinda's sister
Cenerentola 1892
Cenerentola 1893
Melanopis a slave, housekeeper to Heliodorus
Greek Slave 1898
Greek Slave 1899

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2019

Site by SiteBuddha