t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Rose Hersee

Rose Hersee Rose Hersee, one of the leading British sopranos of her generation, was born in London on 13 December 1845. She initially received vocal instruction from her father, who taught singing, and later studied with Manuel Garcia and Luigi Arditi. Concert and oratorio in London and the provinces followed from 1860 with a debut in Italian Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 14 July 1863 as the mermaid in Weber’s Oberon. Her first major role and her debut in English Opera came when she sang Amina in Sonnambula at the opening of the new National Standard Theatre in Shoreditch on 18 December 1867. The following year brought more operatic experience including Adina in Elisir D’Amore at the Lyceum. Her progress brought an offer from Parepa to join her newly formed English Opera company in America. She accepted and made a successful debut in Sonnambula in New York on 18 September 1869. 

Hersee was with the Parepa-Rosa company for the inaugural 1869-70 American season and the first three Carl Rosa British seasons from 1873 to 1876. The first Sonnambula was followed by leading roles in Fra Diavolo, Bohemian Girl, Black Domino, Marriage of Figaro, Faust, Freischutz, Rose of Castile, Don Giovanni, Village Doctor, Lucia di Lammermoor, Martha, Porter of Havre, Water Carrier, and Maritana. She made some 300 appearances during this period. Arline in Bohemian Girl was probably her most famous role; she sang it well and certainly looked the part. The illustration, which dates from her time in America, shows her as Cherubino in Mozart’s Figaro. She was later a memorable Susanna opposite Santley in the same opera. Her last Rosa performance was another Sonnambula before a Yorkshire audience at Saint George’s Hall Bradford on 22 January 1876.

Henry HerseeSurprisingly, she never returned to the Carl Rosa but sang with other companies in London, the provinces, and even in the outposts of the British Empire. The impresario W.S.Lyster engaged her for his Melbourne company in 1878 and she toured Australia and New Zealand in 1879 and 1880 appearing as the first Carmen in both countries. The return home brought more concert and opera including an English opera season at Covent Garden in 1884. Two years later she was in lighter fare, Herve’s Frivoli, at Drury Lane. She continued to appear in public but gradually turned more to teaching and eventually taught at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music. There were other links with the Rosa company. Henry Hersee (pictured), her father, was a man of many parts, who apart from teaching singing, was a music critic, translator, and secretary of the Philharmonic Society. His English translations of Merry Wives of Windsor, Carmen, Rienzi, and Aida, to name but four, were used by the Rosa and other companies. He also provided the libretto for Cowen’s Pauline, the first opera commissioned by the company. Rose also provided another link in 1874 when she married Arthur Howell, a cousin of Parepa and a member of the company who died in 1885. Henry died on 21 May 1896 at Lewisham and Rose at Wimbledon on 26 November 1924. Both are buried at Lewisham.

© John Ward 2016

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