Opera Scotland

Constance Shacklock Suggest updates

Born Sherwood, 16 April 1913.

Died London, 29 June 1999.

English contralto.

Constance Shacklock had an important career as a principal mezzo at Covent Garden in the 1950s, and made guest appearances at several foreign houses, including the Bolshoi in Moscow. She was created OBE in 1971.

She trained in London, at the Royal Academy of Music from 1939-44, with teachers including Roy Henderson and Frederic Austin. Her first job was touring for CEMA (which later became the Arts Council). In 1946 she appeared with the International Ballet Company in a London gala performance of Milton's masque Comus. That year she joined the Covent Garden Opera for its opening production of The Fairy Queen by Purcell, and remained a leading mezzo-soprano at the Royal Opera House for ten years. Early roles included Mercédès Carmen and Annina Der Rosenkavalier. Her repertoire included  roles by Verdi (Azucena, Amneris), Wagner (Ortrud, Brangäne, Magdalene, Fricka, Erda, First Norn) and Strauss (Herodias, Octavian), as well as Marina in Boris Godunov and Carmen. She also sang two Britten roles, Mrs Sedley in Peter Grimes and the title-role in the opening run of Gloriana (1953), when she alternated with the role's creator, Joan Cross.

She sang all over Europe and in America, South America, Australia, South Africa and Malaya. She sang at the Vienna State Opera and was one of the first western singers to appear in East Germany after the war. Erich Kleiber, having conducted her at Covent Garden in both Tristan and Rosenkavalier, took her to the Berlin State Opera. She was also the first British singer to appear since the war in Moscow, at the Bolshoi, where she sang Amneris in 1957.

In May 1961, she joined the first London cast of The Sound of Music, as the Mother Abbess, singing 'Climb Every Mountain' eight times a week through a long run of around five years at the Palace Theatre (in some 2000 performances).

Her concert repertoire included many performances of Messiah. She appeared under Sir John Barbirolli as the Angel in a performance in Rome of The Dream of Gerontius, with Jon Vickers.

(Compiled from several programme notes and obituaries)

Roles in Scotland

Annina Valzacchi's accomplice
Rosenkavalier 1947
Carmen a gypsy
Carmen 1951
Brangäne Isolde's attendant
Tristan und Isolde 1953
Amneris daughter of the King of Egypt
Aida 1953

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