t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Ben Davies & Clara Perry

Ben DaviesBen Davies, born at Pontardawe on 6 January 1858, acquired a local reputation as a tenor and from 1878 studied under Alberto Randegger at the Royal Academy of Music. The Rosa company recruited him and he made his debut at as Thaddeus in Bohemian Girl at the New Theatre Royal, Bristol, on 11 October 1881. He appeared in fifteen operas and 370 performances over the next three years. This included three world premieres Esmeralda (Goring Thomas), Colomba (Mackenzie), Canterbury Pilgrims (Stanford) and the British premiere of Tannhäuser in English. His last performance as a regular member of the company was as Wilhelm in Mignon at Drury Lane on 16 June 1886. His engagement with Rosa also brought him a wife; he married soprano Clara Perry in 1885.

The next few years were a mixture of opera and musical comedy. He made a few appearances with the Turner Opera Company in the 1886-87 season and then achieved great success in Cellier’s Dorothy. He returned to opera in 1891 creating the title role in the world premiere of Sullivan’s Ivanhoe and the following year appeared at Covent Garden. But his operatic work was becoming limited to guest appearances with the Rosa and other companies squeezed between concert, oratorio, and foreign tours. He was still before the public forty years later when he was seventy-five although his later singing was probably reserved for private occasions. His last recordings were also made at this time. This great Welsh tenor died at Bristol on 28 March 1943 and was cremated at Arnos Vale Cemetery.

Clara Perry Clara Perry, born at Boston, Lincolnshire in 1858, was a pupil of Louisa Pyne who made her Rosa debut as Denise in Isouard’s Piccolino at the Gaiety Theatre Dublin on 12 August 1879. She sang in eighteen operas including Flotow’s Alessandro Stradella, the British premiere of Massenet’s Manon and the three previously mentioned world premieres when she shared the stage with Davies. Her last Rosa performance was at Drury Lane on 26 May 1885 as Michaela to the Carmen of Marie Roze and the Don Jose of her future husband. In all she appeared in about 540 Rosa performances.

She continued her career for a short time after her marriage before family obligations took over in a marriage which lasted for over fifty years. She died in a Bristol nursing home in February 1944 only a few months after the death of her husband.

© 2017 John Ward

If you use the information on this page, please acknowledge the Carl Rosa Trust: www.carlrosatrust.org.uk