t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

George Perren

George Perren George Perren, born about 1825 at Camberwell in the London borough of Southwark, was a leading British tenor of the mid-Victorian period. His career like many of his contemporaries began with church music; he sang at St. George’s Cathedral Southwark, the Temple Church Choir and Lincolns Inn Chapel. After concert appearances he journeyed to Milan in 1850 to study under Lamperti. On his return he made his operatic debut at the Surrey Theatre in Southwark on 28 May 1855 in Faust and Marguerite (Meyer Lutz). Three months later, on 14 August, he created the role of Raymond in the world premiere of Edward Loder’s opera Raymond and Agnes at the Theatre Royal Manchester. This was an auspicious start but the opera’s dramatic worth was not initially recognized and it received only a few Manchester and London performances. However its merits and historical significance for English opera are now appreciated and there is a contemporary recording.*

His subsequent career embraced concert, oratorio and opera and he was also a successful composer of ballads. He was probably most at home on the concert platform but this did not prevent a long association with English opera. He had two seasons with Pyne and Harrison’s Royal English Opera Company in the early 1860’s with Parepa as a colleague. Whilst there he took part in two world premieres. He participated in Wallace’s Love’s Triumph on 3 November 1862 at Covent Garden and MacFarren’s She Stoops to Conquer on 11 February at Drury Lane. He also sang in English opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. From about 1869, he managed and appeared at both the Crystal and Alexandra Palaces in opera seasons which proved popular with suburban audiences. They also provided opportunities for young singers some of whom eventually sang with the Rosa company.

Perren made only three Carl Rosa appearances in the inaugural Manchester season of 1873 when the tenor roster was depleted by illness. He made his debut as Manrico in Trovatore on 11 September and followed with Thaddeus in Bohemian Girl and Don Caesar in Maritana. Three appearances in three days averted a crisis which could have temporarily halted the season. His timely association with Rosa was brief but significant.

He retired about 1880 and settled at Reigate where as an accomplished amateur artist he painted in both oil and water colours. His other hobby was making and mounting firework displays. This hazardous pastime may have stemmed from witnessing the pyrotechnic spectaculars at the Crystal Palace. He also found time to be a local councillor. He died at Hove on 7 April 1909 and was buried on 13 April at Nunhead Cemetery in his native Southwark.

*The opera is now available conducted by Richard Bonynge on two CDs from Retrospect Opera

© 2019 John Ward

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