Kate Kavanagh (1882-83, 1884-85, 1887-99)

Kate Kavanagh spent most, if not all, of the years between December 1882 and November 1899 on tour with various D'Oyly Carte companies. Her first role was Leila with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 2 "Iolanthe" Company, from December 1882 to October 1883. While on that tour, she may have also played Celia and filled in briefly in May 1883 for Jessie Louise Pounds in the title role.

She may have left the Company for a year in October (or reverted to a chorus position), for her next appearance in a D'Oyly Carte program was in November 1884, again with Carte's "E" (No. 2 "Iolanthe") Company, when she replaced Florence Terriss as Fleta in Iolanthe and the Lady Saphir in Patience. She toured in those roles until May 1885, then disappeared from the programs again, this time for two years.

Her next role, also with Company "E," was Jenny Wren in Arthur Law and George Grossmith's one-act companion piece Uncle Samuel, from December 1887 to June 1888. Then in June 1888 she took up Kate in The Pirates of Penzance and a share (with Agnes Taylor) of Peep-Bo in The Mikado, both of which she played through December of that year. She yielded both parts to Miss Taylor in January 1889, but resumed the roles from September 1889 to February 1890 while Miss Taylor was away from the Company.

Company "E" took up The Gondoliers in February 1890, but we don't see Miss Kavanagh's name again until July of that year when she replaced Louise Rowe as Tessa. Miss Rowe reclaimed the part in October and November, but left again, Kate Kavanagh then assumed Tessa, and perhaps shared Pitti-Sing for a time with Louie Henri. Over the next eight months, until July 1891, both Miss Kavanagh and Miss Henri shared Pitti-Sing and Tessa. Miss Kavanagh also filled in as Peep-Bo in The Mikado when Agnes Taylor deputized as Yum-Yum in March and April 1891.

Miss Kavanagh then transferred to D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "B," assuming the parts of Phoebe Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard and Tessa in The Gondoliers from Haidee Crofton in July 1891. Over the next five years she was principal mezzo-soprano with Company "B" as Phoebe (September 1891-December 1892), Tessa (September 1891-June 1892, September 1895-April 1896), Chinna Loofa in The Nautch Girl (December 1891-June 1892), Nelly Bly in The Vicar of Bray (July 1892-April 1893, February-April 1896), Dorcas in Haddon Hall (November 1892-February 1894), the Ladies Saphir (July-December 1893) and Angela (August and October 1893, December 1893-February 1894, October 1894-January 1895) in Patience, Princess Kalyba in Utopia Limited (February 1894-January 1895), Hebe in H.M.S. Pinafore (January 1895-February 1896), Dolly Grigg in The Chieftain (February-August 1895), and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado (April 1895-November 1896). In April 1896, The Grand Duke joined the repertoire and Miss Kavanagh took her first principal contralto role, Baroness von Krakenfeldt, a role she would retain until The Grand Duke was dropped in December of that year.

In July 1896, when Yeomen rejoined the tour, she added Dame Carruthers to her duties. Principal contralto Alice Weathersby left the Company in November, and at that point Kate Kavanagh swapped Pitti-Sing for Katisha in The Mikado.

Company "B" became Company "C" in March 1897. From January to June of that year, Miss Kavanagh appeared with them as the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Katisha, and Dame Carruthers. In March she added Gonzaga when His Majesty joined the tour.

Contralto Ethel McAlpine joined Company "C" in June, and Louie Henri departed. Miss Kavanagh, accordingly, reverted to mezzo-soprano as Iolanthe, Pitti-Sing, Phoebe, and Felice in His Majesty.

In August 1897 she transferred to the new D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "B." Still a mezzo, her roles were Iolanthe (August-December 1897, February-June 1898), Pitti-Sing (August 1897-June 1898), Phoebe (August 1897-June 1898), Felice (August-September 1897), Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer (October-December 1897, March-June 1898), and Edith in The Pirates of Penzance (March-June 1898).

Company "B" was disbanded in June 1898, but Kate Kavanagh had two further engagements with the D'Oyly Carte organization, both in Ireland. She was briefly Nelly Bly (Company "D," December 1898-February 1899) and Hebe (Company "C," November 1899) before her career with the D'Oyly Carte ended.

Her sister Nellie Kavanagh appeared in the chorus (and took the occasional small part) at the Savoy between 1884 and 1892.

Page modified April 27, 2009 © 2002-09 David Stone