t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

g. H. snazelle

George Snazelle

George Henry Snazelle began life in London’s Kentish Town about 1850. Early musical influences, if any, are unknown, but as a young man he was passionate about cricket and music. He studied singing whilst working as a bank clerk and graduated to appearances as a bass at the Covent Garden promenade concerts in the early 1870s. In later years he recollected that his operatic debut was as a replacement Mephistopheles in Italian Opera at the Gaiety Theatre Glasgow in the early 1870s, but this appears to have been in 1877, two years after his Rosa debut in the 1875 London season. He made his first appearance on 7 October 1875 in the minor role of Azino in the company premiere of Balfe’s Siege of Rochelle; he repeated the role four times over the next two weeks before returning to the concert platform.

He returned to the Rosa in August 1877 and was with them for eight consecutive seasons. He also appeared in a few London summer seasons of Italian opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre when the Rosa company was resting. He made over 1,200 Rosa appearances in thirty two operas. This included three world premieres (Piccolino, Esmeralda, Canterbury Pilgrims), three British premieres (Rienzi, Golden Cross, Taming of the Shrew), two British English-language premieres (Carmen, Merry Wives of Windsor), and some company premieres. His last Rosa performance was at Drury Lane as Dancairo in Carmen on 26 May 1885. He subsequently attributed his departure from the company to a quarrel with Carl about theatre seats for his wife, which took place in Dublin in August 1884. This may have been a factor but he probably had an alternative career in mind.   

He subsequently toured in a one man entertainment ‘Music, Song, Story and Travel’ displaying his gifts as singer, recitalist, and raconteur coupled with pictorial affects from magic lanterns. This was nationally and internationally successful and extended to world tours. He visited New Zealand and whilst there in 1901 he seems to have acquired the nickname ‘Snazzy’ by virtue of his elegant appearance and unwittingly added a new word to the English language. Back home he continued as an entertainer, taught at the Guildhall School of Music, and made recordings for the Gramophone Company at the turn of the century. He briefly returned to opera with some old Rosa colleagues in the Imperial Opera Company which briefly toured the London suburbs in early 1902 before plunging into bankruptcy. This was Thomas Beecham’s first engagement as an opera conductor and he remembered Snazelle as ‘inveterate old joker’ who set fire to the stage. He was contemplating what would have been his fourth world tour when he became seriously ill. He died in London on 17 May 1912.

© 2017 John Ward

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