t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Kate Drew

Kate Drew

Kate Drew was born Kate Greaves Rickards, daughter of William Rickards and Georgina Louisa Rickards, in Kensington, London, on 4 March 1863. Her father died in 1865 and the 1871 census lists her as living with her mother, who is described as ‘Professor of Music’, in Paddington. The following year Georgina married Walter Paul Drew and Kate took her stepfather’s name. Her musical education probably began with her mother. Early engagements included a charity concert in aid of Saint Mary’s church, Hornsey, in October 1881, and a performance of Sullivan’s cantata Shore and Sea at Sandhurst Military College in November 1884. She was one of the earliest students at the Royal College of Music in the early 1880s and whilst there appeared in Marriage of Figaro (Susanna) in July 1885 and Cherubini’s Water Carrier (Marcellina) a year later. These student performances led to a Rosa engagement.

Kate made her Rosa debut as Frasquita in Carmen at the Prince’s Theatre, Manchester, on 14 September 1886. She subsequently appeared in some six hundred performances in twenty-one operas ranging from Balfe to Meyerbeer. This included the world première of Nordisa (Corder) at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, on 26 January 1887 and the British English-language première of Romeo and Juliet (Gounod) at the same theatre on 15 January 1890. She also appeared in the company première of La Traviata (Verdi) at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, in August of the same year. Marriage to a Doctor Dixon brought different priorities and she left the Rosa with a final Michaela in Carmen at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, on 30 April 1891. She had been a busy lady for five years but she hadn’t finished!

Kate gave birth to a son in February 1892 and late in the same year she made a brief and surprising return to the Rosa. She travelled north from Dundee to appear before Queen Victoria in a royal command performance of Daughter of the Regiment at Balmoral Castle on 8 November. The following evening she appeared with the company in a Maritana extract at Dundee. Why the royal performance when she was no longer a regular member of the company? A possible explanation is illness during the Dundee season which led to changes in announced operas. Kate may have been temporarily recruited as backup and she was certainly familiar with the Balmoral opera. Whatever the reason she could always claim to have sung in opera before the Queen.

She never appeared with the Rosa again but she was reunited with old colleagues at the Burns Crotty Opera Company in 1893. Her operatic days were now over but she continued in musicals and concerts until she accompanied her husband to South Africa in December 1895. The Stage of 30 March 1899 noted in ‘South African Stage’ that ‘Madam Kate Drew’ was associated with a performance of Trial by Jury in Johannesburg. She was still involved in show business! She died in South Africa on 23 April 1940.

The Carl Rosa Trust would like to thank Mark Hemming for information about the career and life of Kate Drew Dixon.

© 2021 John Ward

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