t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

John CHild

John ChildJohn Child, born about 1857, was sometimes known as ‘The Yorkshire Tenor’ because of his links with the town of Knaresborough. He married, lived and died there but may have been born in London. His family background is uncertain and another John Child, an actor who appeared with Henry Irving at the Lyceum, may have been a relative. However the family were able to arrange for their son’s vocal education. He began as a pupil of Daniel Rootham at Bristol, became a boy soprano at St Mary’s, Redcliffe, and eventually graduated to tenor soloist at Bristol Cathedral. Further study with Lewis Thomas in London was followed by training in Milan and he returned home in late 1878 to pursue a career on the concert platform. He transferred to touring companies about 1880 and successfully toured for a few seasons in Les Cloches de Cornville, Pirates of Penzance, Rip van Winkle, and also played in pantomime at Christmas. A return to touring in 1886 in the Beggar Student, with a subsidiary Rosa company, brought him to the notice of Carl Rosa and he was recruited for the opera company in the summer of the following year.

Child’s Rosa debut was in Bohemian Girl at the Opera House, Cork, on 9 August 1887 although there may have been a previous performance a week earlier at Reading. He remained a leading Rosa tenor for the next five seasons singing in seventeen operas. This included the British premiere of Masse’s Galatea opposite Marie Roze in 1887 and British English-language premieres of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet in 1890 and Balfe’s Talismano in 1891. The company premieres were Star of the North, Robert the Devil and Daughter of the Regiment. He also appeared in Mignon, Nordisa, Puritan’s Daughter, Faust, Lurline, Fra Diavolo, Black Domino and Elixir of Love together with the English Ring operas. His Rosa farewell after almost 600 performances was as Tonio in Daughter of the Regiment at the Tyne Theatre Newcastle on 27 May 1892.

His subsequent career included concert and oratorio, a tour of South Africa in 1897 and occasional excursions into variety. However in the 1911 census he describes himself as ‘Tenor vocalist operatic’. This was not without reason for he sang with previous Rosa colleagues in many companies for many years. He sang with Burns-Crotty, Arthur Rouseby, Moody-Manners, Augustus Harris, Harrison Frewin, and Allington Charsley companies and was still at it during the first world war. Surprisingly, he never made commercial recordings despite a lengthy career. He died suddenly at his home on 4 February 1926 and was buried in Knaresborough cemetery four days later.

© 2019 John Ward

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