Flora Macdonald

Flora Macdonald (1896-1900)

Prior to joining the D'Oyly Carte, Flora Macdonald toured for a spell with J. W. Boughton's Company, appearing in Exeter as Christina in Gilbert & Carr's "His Excellency" in September 1895.

In less than five years with the D'Oyly Carte organization, Flora Macdonald appeared in at least twenty-eight Gilbert & Sullivan roles--more than any other female artist in the Company's history. Her first was the Princess of Monte Carlo in The Grand Duke, a part she assumed with D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "D" in May 1896. When Utopia Limited joined The Grand Duke on tour in October of that year she added Princess Kalyba to her repertoire. Company "D" disbanded in November 1896, and Miss Macdonald then went on the D'Oyly Carte's December 1896-June 1897 South Africa tour. She played smaller soprano roles some of which are known--Kate in The Pirates of Penzance, Peep-Bo in The Mikado, Kate in The Yeomen of the Guard, Fiametta in The Gondoliers, and Phylla in Utopia Limited. She may well have had roles in Patience, Iolanthe, The Sorcerer and The Grand Duke as well. When the Company returned to Southport as Company "B" in July, she appeared as the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury, Constance Partlett in The Sorcerer, Kate in Pirates, Peep-Bo in The Mikado, and Casilda in The Gondoliers.

In August 1897 she transferred to D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "C" as Plaintiff, Constance, Kate (Pirates), Leila in Iolanthe, Peep-Bo, Kate (Yeomen), and Casilda. She switched to Celia in Iolanthe and added the Lady Ella in Patience in October 1897. She took up Kalyba or Nekaya in Utopia in November 1897, and Lady Psyche in Princess Ida in January or February 1898, as those opera joined the Company "C" repertoire. In November and December 1897 she also deputized in the principal soprano roles of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, Patience in Patience, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Elsie Maynard in Yeomen, Gianetta in Gondoliers, and Princess Zara in Utopia.

In June 1898, Flora Macdonald became a mezzo-soprano, succeeding Dorothy Vane as principal soubrette. She gave up all her previous roles except the Plaintiff (which she kept for a short while), Constance and Kalyba, taking on Hebe in H.M.S. Pinafore, Edith in Pirates, the Lady Angela in Patience, Iolanthe in Iolanthe, Melissa in Princess Ida, Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, Phoebe Meryll in Yeomen, and Tessa in The Gondoliers. She was succeeded by Blanche Gaston-Murray at the end of the year, transferring to D'Oyly Carte Opera Company "D," where she played Laoula in The Lucky Star in February and March 1899. She eventually returned to Company "C," where, as Miss Gaston-Murray's understudy (or emergency replacement), she filled in as Pitti-Sing and Tessa in April and October-November 1900. During the latter three-week period (October 22-November 10) she also played several of her other old soubrette roles.

Her only recorded appearance on the London Stage came nine years later when she had a small part in Victor Leon and Leo Fall's "rustic romance with music" The Merry Peasant (Strand, October-December 1909). Flora Macdonald was married to baritone John Wills. Wills appeared with the D'Oyly Carte Principal Repertory Opera Company as Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers in March 1907.

Page modified June 27, 2008 © 2003-08 David Stone