Sing to me Maurice, Dear!
by Charles A Hooey
Actually, this was not such
an unusual request for both Maurice d'Oisly and his wife, Rosina
Buckman, were professional singers,
and splendid ones too. Their stories began on opposite sides
of the world over a century ago. It is appropriate to begin with
the first arrival.
Rosina saw the light of day in Blenheim, New Zealand on 16
March 1881, as second of eventually eight children of Henrietta
John Buckman. The urge to sing ran deep in this family’s
blood. Though a busy building contractor by day, John often
lifted his fine baritone in song after-hours whilst his wife
sing with the hymns she played on the church organ. Neither
could have been much surprised by their daughter's early affinity
singing. Rosina amused her mother no end by humming happily
even before she could speak, and by her progression to little
at eighteen months. Oceans away in Tunbridge Wells, England,
the d'Oislys produced a son on 21 November 1882. They called
As Rosina continued to make headway, her parents made it clear
they opposed her singing for a living. 'Our daughter on stage?
Never' Near her sixteenth birthday, the family moved to the farmer
district of Apiti where she was able to study singing in Palmerston
North and practise her art in the area. A turning point came
in a performance of Haydn's Creation when she revealed
such infinite poise and skill her parents had to relent. “We
could not keep her home. Her voice was for the world”.
In 1898 Rosina sailed for England.
She trained for two years in Birmingham with noted choral conductor,
Dr Swinnerton Heap, but when he died in 1900, she switched
to celebrated voice tutor George Breeden. Although he soon
her an opera singer pure and simple, she objected, pointing
to a pile of unopened concert invitations. Confused and beset
the testy climate, she was at a loss, but her folks had the
are the funds, dear. Please come home”. She left in 1904.
To begin his education, Maurice studied at Wellingborough Grammar
School before moving on to flourish at the College de Bois in
France with Maurice Noel. Suitably prepared, he went to London's
Royal Academy of Music to study pianoforte with Tobias Matthay
and singing under Frederick King.
The invigorating climate of New Zealand quickly dispelled Rosina's
woes and she resumed singing. When she sang an operatic aria
as an encore, a clamour resulted. Perhaps Breedon was right after
all! In September 1905, Alfred Hill's A Moorish Maid,
scheduled for Wellington, was jeopardized when star Lilian Tree
took ill. Someone recalled that Rosina had sung an aria from
this opera and felt she could succeed in the complete work; in
no time, she became La Zara, leader of a gang of Riffs to earn
the wildest acclaim of her brief career.
Now targeting opera, she sought seasoning in Australia in concerts
and in works such as The Lily of Killarney and Les
Cloches de Corneville. By 1908, she was singing Leonora in Trovatore and
Marguerite in Faust with a company in Sydney, and Maritana the
next year at the Criterion Theatre. In England, no surprise,
Maurice was breaking new ground too.
He sang Froh in Rhinegold at Covent Garden on 16 January
1909 in a first revival of their English Ring, following
on 25th with David in an uncut English language version
of Die Meistersinger. Then, when Saint-Saëns' previous
banned Samson Et Dalila reached English stage on 26
April 1909, he sang the Philistine Messenger. Another role
was De Cossé in Gli
Ugonotti, Meyerbeer's glittering spectacular opera, with
Tetrazzini, Destinn, Journet, Zenatello and Scotti.
By 1910, Rosina saw a rosy future with J C Williamson who had
just formed a company to give Puccini's six year old masterpiece Madama
Butterfly, its first life in Australia and New Zealand. She
would be a great Cio-Cio-San but was content on 26 March 1910
to give 'an adequate representation' of Suzuki in Sydney during
the Australian premiere. Williamson decided to risk adding Carmen and La
Boheme to bring in an extra shekel or two, and in Melbourne
Rosina was able to sing Micaela in Carmen.
Maurice had caught the eye of a British dynamo, a brilliant conductor,
just two years his senior. Thomas Beecham was then solidifying
his position as a pillar at Covent Garden. He likes Maurice's
lovely voice and diligent approach and saw him tying in nicely
with his plans, especially in Mozart. For now, he offered parts
in two of the most spectacular premieres England would see that
Richard Strauss's Elektra came first on 19 February 1910.
In this grisly show, Maurice sang the brief but harrowing role
of Aegisthus, Elektra's oppressor. Next he became a natural Azael
in Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue on 28 February.
He was both versatile and busy:
5 March - Aegisth in Elektra, sung in German
7 March - Melot in Tristan Und Isolde, also in German
8 March - Maurice de Bracy in Sullivan's Ivanhoe,
9 March - Azael in L'Enfant Prodigue, in French
11 March - Ivanhoe again
Flip-flopping in three languages in a single week may have
defeated many young tenors but for this one with bona fide
all was fait accompli!
That autumn he sang another Aegisthus on 4 October, Nando in Tiefland on
the 5th and Walther, a minstrel knight in Tannhauser on
the 6th. In November he sang Melot and the Sailor in four performances
of Tristan Und Isolde and the Steersman in Der Fliegende
Hollander. The second British premiere, Strauss's Salome,
arrived on 8 December, with Maurice as Narraboth, the first on
stage asking the Page, 'Wie schön ist die Prinzessin Salome
heute Nacht!' (How beautiful is the Princess Salome tonight).
Its stunning success was due to Aino Ackté, Ottile Metzger,
Ernst Kraus and Clarence Whitehill, not to omit Beecham and Strauss.
Maurice added Jacquino in Fidelio with Cecilie Gleeson-White.
Beatrice La Palme, Joseph O'Mara and Whitehill, with Pitt conducting.
Australian diva, Nellie Melba, who had yearned to tour her native
land in opera finally realized her dream in 1911, in association
with Williamson. She provided much of the funds, sang three times
weekly, and generally poured heart and soul into the venture
with John McCormack as principal tenor. Rosina sang roles usually
the domain of mezzos: Suzuki, Frasquita in Carmen, Martha
in Faust, Musetta in La Boheme and 'cleverly made
up as an old nurse' in Romeo and Juliette. Her work had
Melba raving. “She is a genius ... going to do big things
... will be right at the top of the tree” after Flora in La
Traviata, the press observed, 'the Australian [sic] held
her own in the foreign aviary.' She seemed to have found her
home in grand opera after being 'too florid in style on the concert
stage' for far too long.
Afterwards, McCormack toured New Zealand with Rosina as both
fellow artist and guide. Often thrilled by her singing, he urged
her to try England again. She knew it was good advice but before
deciding she sought Melba's opinion Her reply was quick “Go
by all means.” So in July 1912 Rosina returned to England
to resume her rise to fame.
Maurice continued to sing support roles at the Garden when needed
and when not, sang with orchestras in Glasgow, at the Ostend
Kursaal in Belgium and with the Hallé in Manchester. On
29 May 1911 once again he hopped first on stage in the UK premiere
of Puccini's La Fanciulla Del West, as the miner Harry,
his cheery 'Hello! Hello!' beginning the action for Destinn,
Amedeo Bassi, Dinh Gilly and conductor Campanini. Puccini was
a keen observer.
Now Herr Ernst Denhof came on the scene, an impresario in a high
starched collar from Edinburgh, who aimed to reveal the beauty
and mystery of German opera by offering it in English. Maurice
took the stage at the Grand Theatre in Hull in Mastersingers on
26 February 1912, the local press speaking in praise - 'we scarcely
expect or deserve, even in fine opera, so brilliant and flexible
a tenor as the Apprentice David as Mr Maurice d'Oisly. His attitude
towards his many inconspicuous chances was one of 'qui vive!'
None of them dwindled in his hands.' The next night in Flying
Dutchman he changed focus, 'the unhappy Erik pours forth
his soul of passion unavailing, and Mr Maurice d'Oisly imparted
to his appeal to Senta to the story of his vision, and to the
Cavatina, Is that fair day? Both poignancy and pathos. His sweet
and regulated tenor never showed fray or strain.' In this, the
first Elektra in English on 29 February 1912, he sang
'the wretched interloper Aegisthus, had little to do, the little
is indelible in the memory.' He followed up with more, in Manchester,
Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
He found quite different fare in Bradford on 1 March. In the
first performance in Yorkshire of the oratorio, The Veil,
by Sir Frederic Cowen, conductor of the Choral Society, his presence
was a definite bonus. Maurice sang with Jenny Taggart, Gwladys
Roberts and Herbert Brown while choir and orchestra aided and
abetted nicely. He then chose to join Irishman Thomas Quinlan
in touring England, beginning at the Grand Theatre in Hull on
12 October 1912. During three months, he sang Rudolf in La
Boheme and Hoffmann.
Beecham was quick to engage the exciting new talent from New
Zealand bringing Rosina on 7 November to a Mayor's Invitation
Concert on his home turf in St Helens. She sang the jewel song
from Faust, softly sighs from Der Freischutz, two
Maori songs and as an encore, The Cuckoo by Liza Lehmann.
Early in 1913, Maurice took on Elgar's timeless Dream Of Gerontius for
the Chesterfield Musical Society with Helen Blain and Greeves
Johnson, an effort deemed 'almost uniformly successful'. Soon
after on January 28, came 'a most successful concert by the combined
Municipal Choir and Orchestra, who must be very cordially commended
for the excellent display in A Tale Of Old Japan (Samuel
Coleridge Taylor) and The Wedding Of Shon Maclean (Hubert
Bath). The capital performances which both works received were
a testimony to the ability of Mr (Dan) Godfrey'. Soloists were
Ada Forrest, Effie Martyn, Maurice d'Oisly and Julien Henry,
'an extremely efficient quartet'.
Touring seemed like a good idea to Rosina that autumn but her
choice proved unfortunate. This time Denhof was in over his head.
At his third stop, a frightening financial shortfall caused him
to throw in the towel. Beecham would have none of this, took
steps to reorganize and soon resumed the tour, leaving poor Ernst
out in the cold. Under Beecham's guidance Rosina's Isolde quickly
His touring urges unspent, Maurice quickly accepted Quinlan's
next call. After a stop in South Africa, they came to Melbourne,
Australia where Maurice got his feet wet as David in Masteringers.
This remote land must have seemed a tenor's paradise for he was
asked to sing the Duke (Rigoletto), Cavaradossi (Tosca),
Julian (Louise), Des Grieux (Manon Lescaut), Faust,
Radames (Aida), Almaviva (Barber Of Seville), Rudolf
(La Boheme), Pinkerton (Madam Butterfly) and Manrico
(Il Trovatore), inevitably with Jeane Brola and William
Samuell, although Felice Lyne sang Rosina in Barber, Louise and Manon
Lescaut with Australian firsts. There was more of the same
in Sydney. Coming home, they embarked for Canada, land in Vancouver,
then by rail eastwards to Winnipeg. Maurice's splendid efforts
were described in an early issue [Hillandale News, no 235, Autumn
2001, p.380 - The Night the Camels Came, by Charles A. Hooey
(and George Woolford).]
Rosina decided to check on Royal Opera offerings and for her
interest was handed the role of a Flower Maiden in the premiere
in England on 2 February of Wagner's Parsifal. A minor
role but it was gruelling enough with fourteen, five hour-long
performances. She also took on Helmwige in Die Walkure.
In the regular season she sang Musetta in Boheme with
Melba and Caruso and with Martinelli and Edvina on 26 July in
Zandonai's Francesca Da Rimini, another 'first'.
At home again on 3 November, Maurice sung 'highly finished performances
of part-songs' with Caroline Hatchard, Lucy Nuttall and the Wakefield
Choral Society under Percy Bligh. Though depleted by war service,
these concerts were a welcome tonic and their mixture of beautiful
singing and floating melodies played by the violin of Miss Hilda
In mid-1914, war closed the nation's main opera house at Covent
Garden, depriving Londoners of their revered cultural pastime.
A successful fourteen week season at the Shaftesbury Theatre
in the Spring of 1915 helped fill the void, and although Beecham
had no connection with it, he felt encouraged. He decided to
launch his own enterprise, a new company would sing in English
and be based at the Shaftsbury. To his banner flocked many fine
singers, including Rosina, not in support roles now, but as leading
dramatic soprano in her own right.
The first season began on 2 October with Gounod's Romeo And
Juliet, made memorable by lovely Miriam Licette. Maurice
and William Samuell had been giving concerts in different parts
of London and soon gravitated to the new action. One night Rosina
entered as Butterfly to find a strange tenor. It was Maurice,
of course, filling in ... creating a meeting that surely would
have made Puccini smile! Later on Maurice joined Jeanne Brola
and Samuell in Tosca. The poor baritone would be gone
two months later, a victim of typhoid. Audiences arrived in droves
eager to forget for a while the horrors of war.
Pleased, Beecham tacked on extra weeks and introduced Stamford's The
Critic and The Boatswain's Mate by Ethel Smyth. In
the latter, Rosina as Mrs Waters, 'achieved remarkable success'
with Courtice Pounds and Frederick Ranalow, the composer conducting.
HMV recorded highlights. Rosina also became one of Hoffman's
loves when Offenbach's opera was given on 24 February.
After finishing at the Shaftesbury on 26 February 1916, Beecham
switched to the Aldwych Theatre. There on 15 April, Maurice sang
Tamino in The Magic Flute while zeppelins hovered overhead,
causing consternation. Did Beecham like Maurice's Mozart? Apparently
so, for the tenor began studying the role of Belmonte in Il
In the midst of this conducting marathon, Beecham managed to
pour much energy into finalizing plans for his first venture
beyond London. No surprisingly, as a Lancastrian, he choose to
open at the New Queen's Theatre in Manchester on 9 May 1916 with Boris
Godounov. It was sung in French as Belgian bass-baritone
Auguste Bouilliez did not know the Tsar's role in English. Maurice
was fine both as Prince Shuisky and the Idiot, and equally so
the next evening as Phoebus in J.S. Bach's pithy comedy Phoebus
And Pan. On the 18th he was singing Rudolf in La Boheme when
London called 'Gervase Elwes is ill. We need you to sing tomorrow
evening in The Dream Of Gerontius' (Columbia recorded
excerpts with Maurice, Clara Butt, Henry Wood and the New Queen's
Hall Orchestra). In Manchester he did Tamino while Rosina offered
Isolde and Mrs Waters. Beecham's now 'national' forces were The
Beecham Opera Company or 'BOC'.
Back at the Aldwych in mid-June, Beecham presided over the first
wartime performance of Tristan And Isolde with Rosina,
Mullings, Autran, Heming and Radford. Ernest Newman regarded
the soprano's work 'as the most perfectly finished study this
splendid artist has ever given us ... in variety of facial expression
in particular it was beyond praise'.
Maurice tried out his Belmonte in Il Seraglio Beecham
led on 24 July 1916 as a benefit for the six children of Enrique
Granados and wife, lost when the liner Sussex was torpedoed.
Other singers were Mignon Nevada, Bessie Tyas and Robert Radford.
Another loss that year was Paolo Tosti who died in Rome. His
good friend Isidore de Lara much renowned for his wartime concerts,
gave one in memoriam at Steinway Hall in London. He recalled
the event later, 'I left the hall very sadly, and after a few
steps found myself singing the last bars of Good-bye that
Rosina Buckman had sung with great feeling’.
This was a time to wave flags and to savour band concerts. Imagine
the excitement at the Palladium on 10 September 1916 when Maurice,
Caroline Hatchard, George Baker, Margaret Balfour, Tom Kinneburgh
and Robert Radford patriotically rendered music accompanied by
E Stretton and his Royal Artillery String Band!
Beecham, busy enough as conductor, still managed to keep tabs
on his opera company through Donald Baylis, his inestimable assistant.
To their original tour list of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow
and Edinburgh, they added Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Blackpool.
That Spring, his touring over, Beecham settled into the vast
confines of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, forsaking the cosier
Adwych. He struck gold with Charpentier's Louise on 1
June, Maurice singing with Miriam Licette, Pitt conducted. Miriam
was often Maurice's partner in Mozart but that June Rosina dominated
as Aida (5th), Leonora in Il Trovatore (9th),
Isolde (12th) and Marguerite in Faust (30th),
her usual partners being Mullings, Thornton and Allin.
Rosina Buckman was singing Madam Butterfly when a special
task loomed in Birmingham.. Could she give Elgar's complete Spirit
Of England its world premiere in the Town Hall on 4 October
1917? Indeed she could and did. 'Her fine voice soared above
choir and orchestra in her moving delivery of the noble music'.
Two nights later, Maurice sang Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana at
a Manchester Proms under rather strange circumstances. The orchestral
parts had failed to arrive, so Beecham, unfazed, sat down at
the piano to accompany the action. The concert ended with orchestral
music and duets from Faust and La Boheme sung by
Maurice and Kingsley Lark. Maurice concluded the year with the
Royal Carl Rosa Opera.
As BOC cruised through 1918, things remained fairly static for
both singers, Maurice active with his Mozart, Rosina busy with
Cio-Cio-San, Isolde, Marguerite in Faust, Mrs Waters in
the Smyth opera but adding one new part - Elizabeth in Wagner's Tannhauser with
Mullings. At a Manchester Proms on 30 September 1918, Rosina
and Maurice sang in a concert performance of Cavalleria Rusticana,
then she sang Mimi's aria from La Boheme and Three
Shakespearean Songs by Eric Coates while Maurice added three
Beecham tried The Boatswain's Mate again on 19 March 1919,
but ‘The Times’ was lying in wait. 'indeed the orchestral
music, with its bustling vitality, its clean and cheery tunes,
and its wonderfully deft use of a single instrument to outline
an idea, is the chief joy of the whole opera. There are many
places where one feels a little sorry for the singers. Dr Ethel
Smyth for all her feminism, is strangely unsympathetic to the
women's voice, and Rosina Buckman, skilful singer though she
is, can give us little musical pleasure from the part of the
Rosina stayed in London, freshening her roles for her coming
season at Covent Garden while Maurice accompanied Beecham to
Manchester for three weeks in May. There, the tenor dusted off
his roots to sing ... an unusually varied series of modern French
works, including Duparc's Extase, Puget's Chanson de
Route and Chaminade's Sombrero'.
Who better to reopen Covent Garden post-war than Sir Thomas Beecham?
And there he was on 12 May 1919, giving Puccini's La Boheme with
Nellie Melba and Tom Burke. He had asked four sopranos to share
ten performances, the others being Margherita Sheridan, Jeanne
Brola and Rosina. She now stood equal to Melba. Her Cio-Cio-San
nearly broke the heart of Neville Cardus: 'her evocation of the
part was quite marvellous for she was an enormous woman physically.
Yet she was the only Butterfly in my experience who acted and
played on the plane of the miniature according to the prompting
of Puccini's music. Her tremulous, sadly hopeful tones, as in
Act Two she made herself look pretty - or prettier - to please
Pinkerton on his return, the way she needed a little more carmine
to hide the trace of tears - her art elevated and purified Puccini's
score of all sentimentality.
At this time, Beecham presented Isidore de Lara's new opera, Nail.
The composer had been inspired by Emma Calvé's tales of
the dress and oriental ways of courtesans of the desert, she
saw in 1905. She dreamed of portraying 'Ouled-Nail' if only de
Lara would provide the opera. De Lara did just that based on
a libretto by Jules Bois but in the premiere in Paris, Calvé was
nowhere to be seen. Her new husband could no abide her as a courtesan!
Rosina had no qualms in assuming the role for Beecham's English
premiere on 18 July 1919. Its quasi-oriental music struck many
as tedious, disappointing the composer. 'Some of the critics
not enthusiastic over my musical aesthetic, considered the scenery
far superior to the music'. Covent Garden's Grand Opera continued
to flourish as BOC visited Manchester and Bradford where on 4
July Maurice sang Fenton in Falstaff.
Artistically, Rosina had reached a pinnacle but greater excitement
was coming - her man was popping the question! Matchmaker Beecham
abruptly ended their loving soliloquy with news of more opera.
With the Garden available, he had devised a double-pronged season
to run from 3 November to 20 December 1919, and after a break
to continue from 24 February to 10 April 1920. Rosina would sing Nail,
Isolde and Elizabeth in Tannhauser, while Maurice would
be busier as David in Mastersingers (acclaimed on 10 March).
Shuisky in Boris Godunov, sharing Turiddu in Cavalleria
Rusticana with Frederick Blancy, singing Belmonte in Seraglio,
Fenton in Falstaff, Pinkerton in Butterfly and
in Stravinsky's Nightingale with Silvia Nelis, Edith Clegg
Widening her musical boundaries, Rosina sang Hector Berlioz's Damnation
Of Faust on 20 November during the centenary of the Halifax
Choral Society. Rosina, John Coates, Charles Tree and F H Bentley
and conductor C H Moody displayed 'renewed youth in a very praiseworthy
While Sir Thomas set up shop briefly in Manchester between his
two Garden sessions, Rosina begged off to join Sir Henry Wood
at Queen's Hall on 18 January 1920. She sang Ritorna vincitor from Aida and
two songs by Graham Peel. Six days later, again with Wood, she
sang at a regular Saturday concert, Where art thou, father dear!
From Dvorak The Spectre's Bride. Was she thinking of her
own papa far away?
In Manchester, Nail had a special onlooker. De Lara had
come, fully aware of British resistance to new works, so was
surprised to fins a large crowd blocking his way into New Queen's
Theatre. 'During the performance, Rosina Buckman received news
of her father's death, and behaved most courageously, and in
spite of her great bereavement sang magnificently ... I feel
I owe her a deep debt of gratitude.'
To augment Easter celebrations in Edinburgh, Maurice joined Caroline
Hatchard, Margaret Balfour and Captain Herbert Heyner in a Good
Friday performance of Elijah. 'Mr Greenhouse Allt showed
fine dramatic instinct in his interpretation ... His tempi were
not traditional, but fully justified themselves by the effects
That summer Rosina treated Covent Garden devotees to her Cio-Cio-San
and Mimi. Maurice’s assignment was David in The Mastersingers but
he was able to visit Nottingham on 16 November and Sheffield
the following night to sing at two Wilson Peck concerts. In scenes
from Mastersinger, 'Caroline Hatchard, Edith Clegg, Maurice
d'Oisly and Frederick Ranalow admirably sustained the various
roles. To lessen the lack of stage action, Ranalow explained
dramatic situations from time to time ... but most would have
preferred a staged version. In December, after Carmen in
Glasgow Beecham dissolved his company.
The d'Oislys then took to itinerant concertising. In the Birmingham
Town Hall on 18 January 1921, they sang with Edna Thornton and
Jean Vallier, a basso from Paris, perhaps feeling just a bit
upstaged by the violin playing of 10 year old wizard in knee
breeches from Serbia, Milan Yovanovitch Bratza.
In Sheffield, 'everything was encored and the audience was obviously
happy.' In April 1921, the d'Oislys, Edna and Peter Dawson formed
An Operatic Party under Wilfred Stephenson's management. When
they teamed with pianist Marie Hall in Hull on 13 February 1922, The
Daily Mail observed, 'Miss Buckman has quite a large corner
in the hearts of Hull music-lovers', while praising her beautiful
voice, personality and the sheer delight of her artistry.
In 1922 opera was restored when the National Opera rose from
the ashes of Beecham's effort. The d'Oislys appeared sporadically
in the provinces for they were preparing to visit Rosina's homeland.
In Blenheim on 23 June, the largest number of people ever known
to be in His Majesty's Theatre refused to leave wave after wave
of applause as Rosina poured out many encores.
Back in England in the summer of 1923, they rejoined BNOC at
Covent Garden, where on 11 June Rosina renewed acquaintance with
Mrs Waters in The Boatswain's Mate. Audiences still awaited
her aria with the utmost pleasure, even though the Press still
gave the opera short shift. She sang Aida four times,
including the season finale on 30 June with Mullings as Radames,
Thornton as Amneris and Radford as Ramfis. She also sang in the
Proms Concert with Arthur Cranmer on 3 September, Isolde's narration
to Brangane elevating matters nicely.
In 1924 HMV asked her to record Cio-Cio-San with Tudor Davies
as Pinkerton. Normally he enjoyed singing with her except near
the end of Tosca after he is 'killed' by the rifle volley.
In her grief she would flop upon him, her huge weight driving
every ounce of air from his lungs and causing his 'dead' legs
to rise. In February 1925, she nearly came to grief in the Olympia
Theatre, Liverpool, as Isolde. Her gown suddenly caught fire
but a quick-witted dresser leapt to smother the flames with her
coat, leaving a scorched and shake Rosina to complete a searing
portrayal of her own.
In September she combined work at BNOC with an occasional stint
for Stephenson as celebrity soloist, one of thirty who visited
fifty towns until mid-April 1926. Wilfred liked her, observing
'Rosina Buckman - such a lovely name and such a lovely artist'.
One of these programmes came at Queen's Hall, Hull on September
1925. A month later on 24 October with BNOC, Maurice offered
an infrequent Hoffman at King's Theatre in Edinburgh.
After singing yet another Cio-Cio-San in Birmingham in mid-December,
Rosina came across a review that claimed she was drifting away
from opera, that her voice was still splendid, but it could not
divert attention from her ample girth. She chose to vacate the
opera stage but continued concerts and recordings.
A chance to sing Beethoven's music could not be denied: she sang Missa
Solemnis at a Memorial Concert in Royal Albert Hall on 24
March 1927 with Muriel Brunskill, Parry Jones, Norman Allin,
Royal Philharmonic and Royal Choral Society. On 13 August, she
had the rare honour of singing in the first Promenade Concert
to be broadcast on BBC She touched all bases, Wagner, Schubert,
Quilter and Parry.
Early in 1930, both singers ceased singing to begin teaching
at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Rosina also tutoring
a few students privately. She tried to pass on her deeply felt
convictions that the most important aspects of singing, apart
from getting the notes right, were totally clear diction, expression
and dramatic mood.
But the performing world would not let Maurice go he sang music
of contemporary English composers Herbert Murrill and Brian Easdale
at the Wigmore Hall on Wednesday, 1 July 1931, with special care
to the former's self-portrait. Then he appeared as Franz Schubert
in Lilac Time, a musical based lightly on the composer’s
life. Surprisingly, it enjoyed a healthy run, starting in a brief
revival on 26 December 1932 at the Globe Theatre in London with
Percy Heming as Shober and Rose Hignell as Lili. Maurice next
sang his role at the Alhambra Theatre, London on 23 December
1933 with Derek Oldham and Helen Gilliland. He accompanied the
show to the Empire Theatre in Liverpool for a week from 12 November
1934 and returned on 28 October 1935 with Oldham and Myrtle Stewart.
His final run came at the London Coliseum with Charles Mayhew
and Mrs Gilliland starting on 29 July 1936.
With war imminent, they pondered the future. They had dodged
bombs at Aldwych in 1916, so a repetition seemed just too daunting.
They sought and found quiet times in North Wales. Before leaving,
Rosina discharged a few students into Caroline Hatchard's capable
hands. When asked Maurice gladly donned uniform and proceeded
to entertain the troops.
Once hostilities had ended, they returned to London only to find
unhappiness. Rosina took ill and suffered great pain before she
passed away on 30 December 1948. Maurice lived on not quite six
months until he succumbed 18 June 1949.
They left much on disc, as is revealed in their discographies,
so begin your search, or listen to Maurice as Gerontius and to
easing through She wandered down the mountainside on ASV CD 530.
So ends this rather special love story.