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Evelyn Scotney

Evelyn Scotney

Evelyn Scotney was an Australian, born at Ballarat on 11 July 1887. Her voice was discovered whilst at school in Melbourne and by 1907 she was singing in local concerts and eventually advised by Melba to go to Paris to study with her former teacher, the celebrated Mathilde Marchesi. She was accepted by Marchesi in 1910 and was one of her last pupils. Further study with Tosti in London followed before going to America in 1911 to appear with the Boston Opera Company.

The Boston debut was as Frasquite in Carmen on 2 December 1911 and over the next three seasons she appeared in concerts and took leading soprano roles in Lucia, Rigoletto, Traviata, Tales of Hoffman, and Martha. More opera followed with the Aborn Opera Company and from 1916 she toured Australia with her husband, the bass Howard White, who sadly died in 1919 on their return to America. The end of the war brought two seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, performances with the Scotti company, and another tour of Australia in 1923. She returned to Britain in 1924 as an operatic celebrity who had known both Tetrazzini and Caruso, as colleagues. Indeed she had been on stage with Caruso in Elisir D’Amore in 1921 when a burst blood vessel signalled the end of his career.

Her British concert debut was in London in April and her operatic debut with the British National Opera Company in the provinces early in 1925. The new Carl Rosa owner, H. B. Phillips, saw an opportunity and engaged her for his London season at the Lyceum. She sang as Gilda in Rigoletto on 3 June 1925 with Ben Williams as the Duke and Flintoff Moore in the title role. This, publicised as her London operatic debut, proved to be her only Rosa performance. She may have seen these early appearances as a prelude to Covent Garden but she never sang there and a British concert career followed with an Australian tour in 1929 and a few operatic appearances with the Universal Opera Company in the late 1930s. This contrasts sharply with her American operatic status. A possible explanation is that the first world war prevented an earlier Covent Garden engagement and after a second marriage and children from 1926 she may have had other priorities.

Scotney retired at the start of the second world war. However she can still be heard on recordings made for Vocalion in America and the Gramophone Company in London. Her association with the Rosa was brief but she remains one of the most famous singers to have appeared with the company and one of the few Rosa singers to have sung with Caruso. She died in London on 5 August 1967.

© 2020 John Ward

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