t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Michael Maybrick

Michael Maybrick

Michael Maybrick, born at Liverpool on 31 January 1841, showed an aptitude for music as a child and was organist at St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool, whilst still in his teens. A few years later he studied at the Leipzig Conservatoire and then studied as a baritone with Gaetano Nava in Milan. He returned home in 1869 to pursue a career as both singer and ballad composer with the latter role under the pseudonym of Stephen Adams. Ballads such as ‘Nirvana’, ‘Nancy Lee’, and ‘The Holy City’ poured from his pen and made him a wealthy man. His singing was mainly confined to concert and oratorio with a few forays into English Opera. One of them was with the Rosa in November 1873 when he sang Arnheim in Bohemian Girl at Bristol and Rodolfo in Sonnambula at Nottingham. He knew both Parepa and Carl and his brief association with the company may well have been at their request to substitute for an absent singer. 

Michael’s position within the Victorian social and musical world was threatened by a family scandal in 1889. His younger brother James died in Liverpool on 11 May under strange circumstances. Florence Maybrick, his wife, was accused of poisoning him with arsenic, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial and the verdict were widely criticized at the time with some recent writers now regarding it as a conspiracy linked to the contemporary Jack the Ripper killings in Whitechapel. Both James and Michael have been cited as the Ripper on speculative evidence but the criticisms of the Maybrick trial are valid. The truth may never be known. Mrs Maybrick was eventually released after fourteen years and retired to America. Maybrick finally retired to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. He died at Buxton, Derbyshire, on 26 August 1913 and was buried at Ryde four days later. 

All this bears no relation to the Carl Rosa Opera Company but that one who sang under the Rosa banner – albeit briefly – could be a candidate for the Whitechapel serial killer is in itself worthy of note.

© 2017 John Ward

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