Gwladys Gowrie

Gwladys Gowrie (1920-28, 1929-34)

[Born c.1897]

Contralto Gwladys Gowrie joined the D'Oyly Carte "New" Opera Company in December 1920, and during her first season appeared in what would later be her only regular named part, that of Inez in The Gondoliers. She remained with the "New" Company until it disbanded in June 1927, playing Inez whenever The Gondoliers was in the repertoire, and filling in for a short time in December 1925 in principal contalto roles (the Lady Jane in Patience, the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Katisha in The Mikado, and Dame Hannah in Ruddigore) before Dorothy Gill arrived to make them hers.

After the "New" Company closed in June 1927, Miss Gowrie transferred to the main (and sole remaining) D'Oyly Carte Opera Company where she picked up as Inez once more. It was in 1927 that the Company made its first electrical recording of The Gondoliers, and Miss Gowrie may be heard on it as Inez. She left the D'Oyly Carte in June 1928, but returned in May of the following year:this time to simple chorus duties, Inez having been taken in her absence by another singer.

Miss Gowrie would eventually understudy the great Bertha Lewis in several of her principal contralto parts. On May 4, 1931, at the New Theatre, Cambridge, Gwladys Gowrie had to go on for Miss Lewis as Katisha in The Mikado. Henry Lytton and Bertha Lewis had been hospitalized as a result of a serious traffic accident the previous day, but the show went on with Martyn Green and Gwladys Gowrie in their roles. In his autobiography, "Here's a How-de-do," Martyn Green describes what happened after the usual curtain calls:

"The house lights were turned up; the company, including Gwladys and myself, returned to our dressing rooms. But the uproar continued from the front of the house. Fred Hobbs arrived at my room. I had to put on my wig again and return to the stage. Gwladys followed me on. And then for the first and only time in the history of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company the curtain was once more raised to permit two performers to take a personal call. Gwladys and I were both near to tears."

Miss Lewis would not recover from her injuries, and died on May 8. Over the next five months, Gwladys Gowrie and Maisie Baxter would take most of Miss Lewis's parts. Miss Gowrie appeared from time to time as the Lady Jane in Patience, Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Katisha in The Mikado, Dame Hannah in Ruddigore, Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard, and the Duchess of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.

In September 1931, however, Dorothy Gill would return from Australia as Miss Lewis's permanent replacement, and Gwladys Gowrie went back to the chorus. But in August 1932 Miss Gowrie reclaimed Inez, playing her old familiar part again, in addition to her chorus duties, until she left the Company for good in June 1934. She did fill in for Miss Gill on occasion as Katisha and Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance in 1933-34.

Page modified July 11, 2002 © 2001-02 David Stone