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Marian Burton

Marian Burton

Little is known about Marian Burton’s background but genealogical records indicate that she was born in Bermondsey in the late 1850s and that her father Robert Burton was described as ‘Gentleman’. This suggest a man who had the means to arrange vocal training for his daughter including study with Alberto Randegger at the Royal Academy of Music. She appeared on the concert platform in the late 1870s supporting eminent artists such as Charles Santley and Sims Reeves and was eventually recruited by Carl Rosa.

Burton made her Rosa debut as the Gypsy Queen in Bohemian Girl at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, on 17 August 1883 and said farewell as Frederic in Mignon at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin on 6 September 1887. She had four successful seasons making almost 600 apearances offering seventeen roles in sixteen operas. This included two world premières (Canterbury Pilgrims, The Troubador), two British English-language premieres (Mefistofele, Ruy Blas), the British première of Manon, and company première of Beggar Student in addition to the usual contralto roles.

She subsequently had great success in Australia and New Zealand from 1889 to 1891 appearing in light opera, concert and oratorio. Whilst there she is reported to have made a phonograph recording in early 1891 and was probably the first Rosa artist to have recorded. There was also another first in the same year – she was Mrs Marian Waterlow in private life and gave birth to a daughter. She returned to Britain in the following year to appear as William in a comic opera version of Douglas Jerrold’s melodrama Black Eyed Susan with new music by Osmond Carr who would later briefly own the Rosa company. This seems to have been her last engagement as increasing family responsibilities took priority over the stage. Some sources give 1954 as the year of death but she was almost certainly the Marian Waterlow who died at Goreham on Sea, Sussex, on 11 January 1939 and whose ashes were later deposited in the Waterlow family grave in Kingston Cemetery Kensington.

© 2020 John Ward

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