Billee Barlow as Mercury in Orpheus and Eurydice

Billie Barlow (1878-83)

[Born London 18 Jul 1862, died 11 Feb 1937]

Billie Barlow made her stage debut at the Opera Comique on 25 May 1878 in the chorus of H.M.S. Pinafore.  It is reported W. S. Gilbert suggested she adopt the stage name Billie, which she used for the first time as Isabel in D’Oyly Carte’s December 31, 1879, New York premiere of The Pirates of Penzance.  She played the role throughout the American tour and again at the Opera Comique when the Company returned to London in July 1880.  For Patience, Miss Barlow was back in the Opera Comique, later Savoy, chorus until returning to New York under D’Oyly Carte auspices in September 1882 where she appeared as Gomez in Bucalossi’s Les Manteaux Noirs and as Tom Tit and the Fourth Lieutenant in Planquette’s Rip Van Winkle.  In November, still in New York, she took the part of Fleta in Iolanthe, the production that was launched the same day as, though five hours later than, the Savoy first night. 

After Iolanthe’s New York run ended in February 1883, Miss Barlow left the D’Oyly Carte to tour first with E. E. Rice, and then with J. A. McCaull’s Opera Company, before returning to New York for Orpheus and Eurydice, an adaptation of Offenbach's Orpheus aux Enfers that ran from December 1, 1884, through March 15, 1885, at the newly rebuilt Bijou Opera House. This was followed by a series of operas at the Casino.  She returned to London in 1886, playing several roles at the Gaiety (most notably Carconte and, later, Edmond Dantes, in the hugely successful Monte Cristo, Junior).   She toured in the title role in Little Jack Sheppard, and then in 1888 made her first appearance on the variety (music hall) stage at the Metropolitan where she sang, among other songs, Grossmith’s “See me dance the polka.”  After a series of successes in London music halls, she went to Australia for ten months beginning in December 1891.  She continued to perform in musical theatre, pantomime, and variety in London, the English provinces, Australia, and South Africa well into the 1920s.  Billie Barlow made several recordings of music hall songs in 1903.

Page created August 27, 2001 © 2001 David Stone