t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Minnie Hauk

Minnie HaukAmalia Mignon Hauck, born in New York city on 16 November 1851 and was attracted to the theatre and opera as a child. Her parents supported her ambition to sing in opera and after preliminary training she studied with the tenor Achille Errani in New York. She progressed rapidly, made a successful debut as Minnie Hauk in Sonnambula at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 13 October 1866, appeared in other American cities, and in November 1867 created Juliet in the American premiere of Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Then she sailed for Europe armed with letters of introduction and sang throughout the continent. Her ambition to sing Carmen was realised in 1878 at the Monnaie in Brussels. Later in the year she repeated her triumph with the Mapleson company in the British and American premieres. The work became her signature role amidst a repertoire of about one hundred operas. But it was another opera which brought her to the Rosa.

Hauk’s introduction to the Rosa was limited to twelve performances in the 1880 London season. She gave eight performances as Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew, a Shakespearian opera by the German composer Hermann Goetz which had fleetingly been staged in London two years earlier, and four performances of Aida in the British English-language premiere of the opera. Hauk had sung Katherine in Berlin, liked the role, and noted in her autobiography that ‘I induced Carl Rosa to produce it.’ The illustration shows her in the role. The opera received its Rosa premiere on 20 January 1880 and was respectfully received without achieving popular acclaim. Hauk said farewell with a final Aida on 27 February. She returned fifteen years later with six appearances at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool in early 1895. She sang three performances of Carmen and three of Cavalleria Rusticana concluding with a final Santuzza on 8 February 1895. She left the stage shortly afterwards and died at Lucerne on 6 February 1929 after a lengthy retirement.

Hauk is now remembered for her sensational Carmen which firmly established it in the standard repertory after an uncertain start. She did this by immersing herself in the dramatic possibilities of the complete work whilst persuading impresarios to give her a free hand. Mapleson even let her cast the opera. Similarly she influenced rehearsals for the Berlin premiere of Taming of the Shrew and boldly approached the composer to change the finale. She also influenced Carl Rosa. Minnie was an international opera star who could have been a producer. She made only a few appearances with the Rosa but they included company and national premiere performances. They were not without significance.

© 2019 John Ward

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