t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Henry Nordblom

Henry Nordblom

Henry (Hjalmar) Nordblom, born in Upsala, Sweden, about 1842, came from a musical family: his father, Johan Erik Nordblom, was director of music at Upsala University. Henry emigrated to America as a young man, settled in San Francisco, and was ‘discovered’ there by the Rosas during their 1868 season at McGuire’s Opera House. He was probably a local supporting artist associated with the theatre. Parepa realised his potential, arranged vocal tuition and he joined the new Parepa-Rosa English Opera Company in New York a year later.

The company opened on 11 September 1869 and a few days later Henry made a successful debut as Thaddeus opposite Parepa in Bohemian Girl. He followed with almost one hundred performances in five operas during the season adding the tenor roles in Fra Diavolo, Marriage of Figaro, Norma, and Don Giovanni to his repertoire. When the season ended in June 1870 the Rosas returned to Europe. Henry and his family followed. Parepa presumably recommended him as he was making London concert appearances by the autumn. A return to opera at the St. James’s Theatre in October 1871 was followed over the next two years by more opera at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham and English versions of French opéra comique at the Philharmonic Theatre in Islington. The year 1874 began sadly with the death of Parepa. He paid his last respects at her funeral at Highgate Cemetery on 26 January 1874. Six months later, a recovering Carl, after a period of mourning, revived his company with assistance from Crystal Palace artists. Henry was one of them.

The reunion with the Rosa began with a Maritana at Liverpool on 7 September 1874. He remained with them for the next three seasons, before departing in 1877 for other companies and and returning for a final season in 1880. His last Rosa performance was as Don José in Carmen at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre on 27 May 1881. His Rosa account over five seasons was four hundred performances in twenty operas in America and Britain. The illustration shows him as a young man when he was an important singer in the formative years of the company and could claim to be the first Carl Rosa singer as he was the first recruit.

The next decade brought concert, pantomime and opera with various companies but it was mainly opéra comique, sometimes with the celebrated Emily Soldene company. His appearances decreased after 1890 and the 1901 census lists him as ‘Operatic vocalist and music teacher’. The emphasis was increasingly on teaching. He died in London in 1932.

The Trust wish to thank Annette Leech, a descendant of Henry, for information about his career. We have lost touch with her but the assistance was appreciated.

© 2021 John Ward

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