Opera Scotland

Courtice Pounds Suggest updates

Charles Courtice Pounds.

Born London, 30 May 1862.

Died Kingston-upon-Thames, 21 December 1927.

English tenor.

Courtice Pounds had a long and distinguished career in comic opera and musical comedy, in Britain, the United States and Australia.  His principal claim to fame is the creation of two leading roles in the later works of Gilbert and Sullivan at the Savoy - Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard and Marco Palmieri in The Gondoliers.  However he enjoyed many other successes.

His family background was interesting, his mother, a singer, having married a builder.  As a child, he sang in church choirs before training at the Royal Academy of Music.   Growing up on the southern bank of the Thames (Pimlico) must have exposed him to the sport of rowing,  at which he was clearly quite proficient,  leading crews of company members while on tour (as in 1885).

In 1881 he joined the chorus of D'Oyly Carte during the initial run of Patience and was quickly given the position of understudy to Durward Lely.  This must have been a difficult situation for Carte, Sullivan and Gilbert,  since Lely had only been discovered the previous year.  He was the best singer they had found for the romantic tenor roles,  was young and slender,  and he could act.  He was Pounds' senior by a decade,  with much more stage experience,  mainly in Italy.  Like Pounds himself,  he was also extremely healthy,  rarely having to take time off to allow his cover a run.  There seems to have been no personal animosity between the two,  but while Lely stayed in London,  creating the tenor roles in Patience,  IolanthePrincess Ida,  The Mikado and  Ruddigore,  Pounds spent time singing the same roles on tours of Britain.  He was Nanki-Poo and Dick Dauntless in the first New York performances of  The Mikado and  Ruddigore, and he also toured continental Europe.

At last,  Durward Lely moved on to expand his career in other directions,  particularly opera and Scottish song,  and becoming very wealthy in doing so.  Courtice Pounds returned to the London company for a revival of Pinafore,  followed by premieres of  The Teomen of the Guard (1888) and  The Gondoliers (1889).  He sang in the premieres of Sullivan's Haddon Hall (1892) and Solomon's  The Nautch Girl,  also in a revival of that young composer's  Vicar of Bray.

The rest of his career - another thirty years or so,  was equally successful.  With occasional interludes in variety, music hall and straight acting, he remained a leading exponent of light opera,  both French (Audran's La Poupée) and Viennese (Fall's Fedele Bauer).  He appeared in innumerable new, and generally ephemeral,  musical comedies in London and on Broadway.  Towards the end of his career he starred in two long London runs - from 1916, as  Ali Baba in the record-breaking  Chu Chin Chow, and in 1922, as Schubert in Lilac Time.  While he must have been physically far too old for the role,  recordings show his voice to have retained its remarkable quality to the end.

Roles in Scotland

Hilarion Hildebrand's Son
Princess Ida 1885

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2020

Site by SiteBuddha