t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Barton McGuckin

Barton McGuckin

Barton McGuckin, born in Dublin on 28 July 1852, and presumably came from a musical family as his younger brother Albert also followed an operatic career. Barton began by studying music as a choirboy at Armagh Cathedral. He returned to Dublin in 1871 to take up a tenor post at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and receive further study under Joseph Robinson. Local engagements followed and in the autumn of 1875 he crossed the Irish Sea for concerts in England. The following year he studied with Trevulsi in Milan, returned home in November and by 1880 he had achieved a reputation in concert and oratorio which attracted the attention of Carl Rosa.

McGuckin’s Rosa debut in Bohemian Girl at the Theatre Royal Birmingham on 10 September 1880 heralded an association of some 1500 performances over fifteen seasons in thirty five operas extending from Balfe to Wagner. The illustration shows him as Wilhelm in Mignon, one of his most popular roles. His presence in the sixteen premieres listed below testifies to his importance as a singer.

World Premieres
Esmeralda
(Goring Thomas) – 26 March 1883 – London, Drury Lane.
Colomba (MacKenzie) – 9 April 1883 – London, Drury Lane.
Nadeshda (Goring Thomas) – 16 April 1885 – London, Drury Lane.
The Troubador (MacKenzie) – 8 June 1886 – London, Drury Lane.
Thorgrim (Cowen) – 22 April 1890 – London, Drury Lane.

British Premieres

I Promessi Sposi (Ponchielli) – 23 March 1881 – Edinburgh, Theatre Royal.
Painter of Antwerp (Balfe) – 28 January 1882 – London, Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Manon (Massenet) – 17 January 1885 – Liverpool, Royal Court Theatre.
Djamileh (Bizet) – 10 September 1892 – Dublin, Gaiety Theatre.
Damnation of Faust (Berlioz) – 3 February 1894 – Liverpool, Royal Court Theatre – as opera.

British English – language Premieres

Mefistofele (Boito) – 21 August 1884 – Dublin, Gaiety Theatre.
Romeo and Juliette (Gounod) – 15 January 1890 – Liverpool, Royal Court Theatre.
Otello (Verdi) – 8 October 1892 – Manchester, Prince’s Theatre.
Meistersinger (Wagner) – 16 April 1896 – Manchester, Theatre Royal.

Company Premieres

Fadette (Dragons de Villars) (Maillart) – 18 January 1886 – Liverpool, Royal Court Theatre.
La Juive (Halévy) – 28 September 1888 – Cork, Theatre Royal.
Barton McGuckin  

The five world premieres represented Carl Rosa’s support for British composers. Sadly only Esmeralda achieved popular success. The Meistersingers and Otello performances are believed to be international firsts making McGuckin the first tenor to sing them in English. The sketch shows him as Otello. The Manon première before an appreciative Liverpool audience, only a year after the world première in Paris, was a triumph for Rosa and all associated with the production. National press coverage for once focused upon opera in a provincial city and not London.

McGuckin’s last Rosa performance appears to have been in Maritana at St. George’s Hall Bradford on 27 December 1898. He remained with the company in an advisory capacity and left in the following year. Then he sang at concerts, variety theatres, taught, sometimes conducted, and even made recordings. He recorded three Irish songs for the Gramophone Company on 25 February 1905; two were issued on the Zonophone label. He also sang Trovatore and Tannhäuser with the J.W.Turner Opera Company at Perth in Scotland in September 1904. These were almost certainly his last operatic appearances. He conducted Faust for the Dublin Grand Opera Society in May 1907 when the Faust was a young John McCormack at the beginning of his international career. His last operatic engagement was as librarian at Oscar Hammerstein’s London Opera House in 1911. He died suddenly at his home at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire on 17 April 1913.

McGuckin’s operatic career was almost exclusively with the Rosa and with them he developed from operatic novice to an accomplished performer. He was deservedly one of their most famous artists and very much a Carl Rosa singer.

© 2019 John Ward

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