t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Edwin and Margaret Imrie

The young Edwin Imrie

The young Edwin Imrie

Edwin James Imrie and Margaret Lewis came to the stage from different backgrounds. Edwin was a bass, born in London in 1846 and Margaret, a soprano, four years later at Carmarthen in Wales. Edwin’s father was a hairdresser, with a business in the Strand, who supplied wigs to adjacent theatres. This may have introduced Edwin to the stage as he was associated with burlesques at the Strand Theatre by 1868, toured South Africa in the following year and in the census of 1871 described himself as a vocalist. Margaret in contrast sang at local concerts and eisteddfods before meeting Edwin in the late 1860s. They married at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 4 September 1871 before crossing the Atlantic to join the chorus of the Parepa-Rosa English Opera Company.

The young Edwin Imrie

The young Margaret Imrie

The Rosas opened their second American season with The Daughter of the Regiment at the New York Academy of Music on 2 October 1871, and continued with a repertoire of seventeen operas in twenty cities. The tour closed in the following April with a return to New York for a spectacular Italian season when Edwin and Margaret would have shared the stage with Giorgio Ronconi, Theodore Wachtel and other celebrated singers. When the season ended Edwin left opera and returned to burlesque with the Lydia Thompson Burlesque Company, a British company touring America. He came home with them in 1874 and considered hairdressing as an alternative career before returning to the Rosa with Carl at the helm following the death of Parepa.

Edwin Imrie older

Edwin Imrie in later years

The Imries sang in the chorus for the next decade with Edwin emerging to sing supporting roles including the Sheriff in Martha, Moreno in Masaniello and Zamiel in Der Freischütz. Margaret seemingly remained as a chorister until her death at Birmingham in 1884. Edwin continued with the company as a singer and latterly worked backstage, assisting with makeup, maintaining the wigs, and serving as advance business agent. Minnie Imrie, their daughter, born during their American years, joined her parents in the chorus and occasionally appeared as a youthful Barbarina in Marriage of Figaro. Edwin finally left the Rosa in 1912 after serving in various capacities for over forty years. He had many memories and should have left memoirs!

Edwin died at Ilford, Essex, on 21 February 1919 and was buried at the City of London Cemetery in Southgate Road on 1 March.

The Carl Rosa Trust would like to thank Mrs Judith Jones for information about her great-grandparents and for permission to use family photographs in the preparation of this note.

© 2023 John Ward

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