Dorothy Gill as Dame Hannah in Ruddigore

Dorothy Gill (1925-27, 1931-36)

[Born Mhow, India 1891, died London 7 Apr 1969]

Dorothy Gill was born in India of Irish parents. She lived in India, Ceylon, South Africa, and France, where she entertained the troops during World War I. He stage career was launched in the early 1920s she toured for three years as Lucy Lockett in Nigel Playfair's celebrated production of The Beggar's Opera.

In December 1925 Miss Gill joined the D'Oyly Carte "New" Opera Company and the following month replaced Winifred Williamson as principal contralto, appearing as the Lady Jane in Patience, Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Katisha in The Mikado, and Dame Hannah in Ruddigore for the remainder of the season. In July 1926 the new season began with The Pirates of Penzance and The Gondoliers replacing Iolanthe and The Mikado in the repertoire, and Miss Gill added Ruth in Pirates and the Duchess of Plaza-Toro in Gondoliers to her roles.

When the "New" Company was disbanded in June 1927, Miss Gill found work on the London Stage in The Rose and the Ring, a musical fantasy at the Apollo and the Playhouse (November 1928-February 1929), and again in the same show at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (December 1929-January 1930).

Despite her absence from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, she was able to record the parts of Ruth and Dame Carruthers in the Company's 1929 HMV recordings of The Pirates of Penzance and The Yeomen of the Guard.Later Miss Gill traveled to Australia and New Zealand where she appeared once more in her familiar Gilbert & Sullivan contralto roles in 1931.

She returned to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in September 1931 with the unenviable task of replacing Bertha Lewis, who had died from injuries in an automobile accident in May, in the principal contralto roles. For the next five seasons she appeared as Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer, Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore, Ruth in Pirates, Jane in Patience, the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe, Lady Blanche in Princess Ida, Katisha in The Mikado, Dame Hannah in Ruddigore, Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard, and the Duchess in The Gondoliers until her retirement in June 1936. During this portion of her career she recorded Dame Hannah in D'Oyly Carte's 1931 Ruddigore, Lady Blanche in the 1932 Princess Ida, and Lady Sangazure in the abridged 1933 Sorcerer.

Dorothy Gill was more popular in America than in the U.K. When the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company made its long-overdue return to New York in 1934, a book of tributes ("Nothing But Toffee") was written to the Company by adoring fans and dedicated to Miss Gill. When the Company returned to New York in the summer of 1936 with a new contralto (Evelyn Gardiner), the same fans organized and delivered a petition (with nearly 2,000 signatures) to Rupert D'Oyly Carte in London calling, in vain, for Dorothy Gill's return.

Page created August 27, 2001 © 2001 David Stone