D'Oyly Carte in the 20th Century

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D'Oyly Carte In the 20th Century

1950 to the Present Day


Costume for King Hildebrand 1954

During the 1950s there were several new productions but the most important was that of Princess Ida, in 1954. Costumes and stage sets were designed by James Wade giving the Opera a dream-like quality.

The Winter season of 1958-59 was a memorable one. Thomas Round had rejoined the Company and Kenneth Sandford, Jeffrey Skitch and Jennifer Toye were recent arrivals. The last night of that season was the last appearance of both Ann Drummond-Grant and Peter Pratt. Ann became seriously ill and died in September of that year. Peter decided he wanted a change and left the company after playing the comic roles for eight years.

John Reed

John Reed

John Reed joined the Company in 1951 as a member of the chorus and understudy to Peter Pratt. He took over the principal roles in 1959. During the following 20 years he witnessed many changes in the company.

At the end of 1961 the Company's monopoly on the operas disappeared with the expiry of the copyright. Some feared that this might harm the company but this proved not to be the case. It was around this time that Bridget D'Oyly Carte formed the D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust, Ltd.

The Company continued to issue recordings. All the operas were re-recorded with John Reed in the principal roles. Utopia Ltd and The Grand Duke were issued for the first time. Guest artists included Owen Brannigan and Elizabeth Harwood, and Sir Malcolm Sargent was guest conductor for The Yeomen of the Guard and Princess Ida.

The Company was also increasingly involved with film and television. A new film of The Mikado was made in 1967 and there were television broadcasts of Patience and H.M.S. Pinafore.

The highlight of the John Reed years was the Centenary Season of 1975 where each of the operas were presented in sequence, ending with a new production of Utopia Ltd and a concert performance of The Grand Duke.

Bridget D'Oyly Carte was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and an O.B.E. was awarded to John Reed.

Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte

Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte

The Company continued to tour both nationally and internationally. In 1979 the Company made a highly successful 17-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. This was the first time the Company had ventured to Australasia although many former members have performed there over the years.

John Reed retired in 1979 after 28 years with the Company.

John Conroy-Ward, who had joined the Company in 1973, took over the comedy roles. Others singers still on the stage included Kenneth Sandford, John Ayldon and Meston Reid. Fraser Goulding became the conductor.

Costs of touring and productions rose and the Company started to struggle financially. Arts Council funded dropped and a 'Save the D'Oyly Carte' appeal started, but it failed to raise sufficient money in time.

The farewell season took place at the Adelphi Theatre, London, from November 1981 to February 1982., with John Reed and Valerie Masterson as guest artists and Sir Charles MacKerras and Alexander Faris as guest conductors.

Three years later Dame Bridget died leaving a legacy of £1 million. Richard Condon was engaged as General Manager and secured generous continuing sponsorship from Sir Michael Bishop and British Midland Airways.

In 1988 the company reformed and new productions of Iolanthe and The Yeomen of the Guard toured the nation. Annual seasons continued and from 1993 the repertoire was extended to include non Gilbert and Sullivan works.

In September of 1998 the company relocated back to London and is now resident in Kennington, South London. Touring agreements were formed and there have been successful seasons at the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

For over a hundred and thirty years the Company was a source of delight to millions of people. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company will remain an important chapter in the history of the English Theatre.

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