Carl Rosa founded the company in 1873 after several successful years in America as the Parepa-Rosa English
Opera Company. The first British performance, Wallace’s Maritana, was given on September 1st 1873 at the
Theatre Royal, Manchester. For 85 years the Company toured continuously to all the major towns and cities
in Great Britain and Ireland and people will always associate opera with the name Carl Rosa.
Before Rosa died in 1889 he had already presented, among others, the first English productions of Carmen,
Mignon, and Lohengrin, in 1879, Aida in 1880 and Manon and Mefistofele in 1885.
The Company’s repertoire was large, with some 150 operas being performed over the years.
A notable event was the first performance in England of Puccini’s La Boheme, in Manchester in 1896 when
the composer attended the premiere.
Mrs H B Phillips, the last private owner of the Company, formed the Trust jointly with the Arts Council in 1952.
Since that time, the Trust has remained self-sufficient and has had to rely on the generosity of its supporters.
The Carl Rosa Opera Company’s star singers included: Sir Charles Santley, the first Flying Dutchman in this country
and who was also the baritone for whom Gounod introduced “Even bravest heart” into Faust. Zelie de Lussan, who was
a world-acclaimed Carmen and Gounod’s first Juliette in England. Eva Turner began her career in the Carl Rosa chorus
and went on to be the world’s most famous Turandot. Among other famous Rosa singers were Joan Hammond, Hedle Nash,
Gwen Catley, Krystyna Granowska and Charles Craig.
The late Sir Edward Downes, who was the Associate Music Director of the Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden, began his career as a conductor with the Carl Rosa Company.
Other well-known conductors with the Company included Eugene Goosens, 1, 2 and 3,
Sir Henry Wood, Sir Hamilton Harty and Sir Thomas Beecham Bart.
After the war Vilem Tausky CBE and Arthur Hammond were Music Directors. Conductors during this period also included
John Matheson, Alexander Faris, Peter Gelhorn, John Bell and Edward Renton.