Annie Leaf as Queen of Portugal in The Queen's Lace Handkerchief

Annie Leaf (1885-86)

[Born Beverley, East Yorkshire 7 Sep 1854, died Durban, South Africa 14 Jul 1935]

Ann Eliza Leaf moved from her native England to New Zealand at the age of 8. There she achieved overnight stardom in June 1879 with Tom Riccardi's Opera Company as the dominion's first Josephine in an Auckland production of H.M.S. Pinafore. A few weeks earlier she had appeared as Aline in the island's first Sorcerer. The Riccardi Company toured throughout the country in both G&S operas, plus Girofle-Girofla and Maritana. Prior to her engagement with Riccardi, Miss Leaf's experience had been limited to amateur productions.

She must have had an amazing vocal range for, in 1881, she was drafted as a replacement Ruth in Wellington, where Cary's Opera Company was offering New Zealand's first production of The Pirates of Penzance. She would later appear in New Zealand premieres of Lecocq's Manola (Dunedin, February 1884), Bucalossi's Les Manteaux Noirs (Dunedin, March 1884), and Planquette's Rip Van Winkle (Christchurch, April 1884).

Miss Leaf then relocated to America where she made her New York stage debut in April 1885 at the Fifth Avenue Theatre as Violet in The Little Tycoon. In December 1885 she began her only D'Oyly Carte engagement, as Pitti-Sing on tour in New England with Carte's Fourth American Mikado Company. It would be a brief association. She was replaced by Annie McVeigh in January or February 1886.

Her stage career in America extended at least until October 1889 when she made what appears to have been her last New York appearance with the Burton Stanley Operatic Comedy Company at Tony Pastor's Theatre.

Page modified October 21, 2003 © 2001-03 David Stone