t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Sir Henry Wood

Sir Henry Wood

Sir Henry Wood is remembered today as an orchestral conductor associated with the London promenade concerts but he had conducted opera for the Rosa and others in his early days. He was born in London on 3 March 1869 of a family who encouraged his musical leanings and in 1886 he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music to study harmony, composition, piano and organ. Whilst there he was influenced by Manual Garcia the celebrated voice trainer and Wood himself became a singing teacher. When he left in 1888 he taught, composed, worked as a répétiteur, joined the Arthur Rouseby Opera Company as conductor in the following year but eventually left them and resumed teaching.However in 1891 he returned to provincial touring with a second Carl Rosa company, known as the Carmen Company, formed for the operatic farewell of Marie Roze, a Rosa favourite and a celebrated Carmen.

The Carmen Company began in February with Walter Van Noorden as conductor until the summer. Wood took over for the second half of the tour commencing at Blackpool Winter Gardens on 24 August and ending at Leicester Opera House on 19 December. Years later he recollected a touring orchestra of ten augmented with local musicians and that Roze reminded him of the actress Lily Langtry. He conducted about one hundred performances of a repertoire of six operas consisting of Bohemian Girl, Maritana, Carmen, Daughter of the Regiment, Trovatore, and Fadette. The last named was an English version of Maillart’s Les Dragons de Villars. He remained with opera in the following year, initially with a company formed by former Rosa singers Georgina Burns and Leslie Crotty, and followed in October by conducting the British premiere of Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) at London’s Olympic Theatre. The season ended prematurely in financial failure and Wood did not return to opera until 1896 when he conducted Stanford’s Shamus O’Brien. However, the concert platform was beckoning. He had conducted the first London promenade concert at the Queen’s Hall a year earlier and this was his last operatic engagement.

He was knighted in 1911 for services to music which happily continued until the second world war. Wood died on 19 August 1944 at Hitchin and his ashes were buried in St Sepulchre’s Church, High Holborn, London.

© 2019 John Ward

If you use the information on this page, please acknowledge the Carl Rosa Trust: www.carlrosatrust.org.uk