Ethel Morrison

Ethel Morrison (1906-09, 1910)

[Born Wellington, New Zealand, died Sydney, New South Wales May 1951]

Contralto Ethel Morrison joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy for the First London Repertory Season, December 1906-August 1907. She appeared regularly as Inez in The Gondoliers, and as Louie Rene's understudy, filled in on occasion as the Lady Jane in Patience, the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard, and the Duchess of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.

When the London season ended, she toured with the D'Oyly Carte Principal Repertory Opera Company in the same capacity:as the regular Inez and as understudy to Theresa Rassam in the leading contralto parts. When Miss Rassam left the tour in December 1907, Miss Morrison moved up and over the next four to five months appeared regularly as Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Jane in Patience, the Fairy Queen in Iolanthe, Lady Blanche in Princess Ida, Katisha in The Mikado, Dame Carruthers in Yeomen, and the Duchess in The Gondoliers.

Miss Morrison was not, however, considered a suitable lead for London audiences, and when the Company repaired to the Savoy in April 1908 for the Second London Repertory Season, Miss Rene was brought back as principal contralto and Ethel Morrison was once more an understudy, filling in that Season as Buttercup and Katisha, and appearing regularly only as Mrs. Jones in the one-act companion piece A Welsh Sunset.

The D'Oyly Carte Principal Repertory Opera Company resumed touring in October 1908 (midway through the Savoy season), and Miss Morrison went with them, once more as principal contralto. Her roles were as they had been on the most recent tour. She remained with the Company until September 1909, when she left the D'Oyly Carte organization for the first time. She would shortly appear in London as Locrine in W. S. Gilbert & Edward German's Fallen Fairies, at the Savoy, but not a D'Oyly Carte production (December 1909-January 1910).

She next appeared in London at the Apollo as Lady Birkenhead in the musical comedy The Islander (April-August 1910), and at the Lyric in the small part of Laska in The Chocolate Soldier (September 1910). She soon left the cast there, however, to rejoin the D'Oyly Carte Principal Repertory Opera Company one last time as an emergency replacement for Louie Rene, filling in as the Fairy Queen, Katisha, Dame Carruthers, and the Duchess (and possibly Ruth and Lady Jane, as well) in October 1910. It was her last appearance with the D'Oyly Carte organization.

Over the next few years, she appeared in London in the pantomime with music Our Little Cinderella (Playhouse, December 1910-January 1911), Strauss's Nightbirds (Lyric, December 1911-May 1912), the musical play The Girl in the Taxi (Lyric, beginning September 1912), and the play Within the Law (Haymarket, beginning May 1913).

Ethel Morrison then returned to Gilbert & Sullivan, this time in Australia. She played the principal contralto roles in Pinafore, Pirates, Patience, Iolanthe, Mikado, Yeomen, and Gondoliers with the J. C. Williamson organization in their 1914 and 1920-21 seasons of Gilbert & Sullivan opera.

Miss Morrison later spent nearly two decades in America, appearing in a number of roles on Broadway in musicals and the legitimate theatre between 1924 and 1942.

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