A Brief History

Born - Hamburg, March 22nd 1842

Died - Paris, April 30th 1889

Carl August Nicolas Rosa, the founder of the institution bearing his name, was originally a violinist. He was educated at the Conservatorium at Leipsig and afterwards in Paris. In 1863 he was appointed Konzertmeister at Hamburg. Three years later he visited England, appearing as a soloist at the Crystal Palace. After a brief stay Rosa joined Bateman in a concert tour in America, where he met a famous singer, Madame Parepa, whom he married in 1867. It was his wife’s success that encouraged Rosa to form the opera company which has done so much for opera in English. Rosa conducted and directed the policy of the company.

His name, by the way, was Rose, but being so often mispronounced, he spelt it Rosa on the formation of his opera company. In 1871 Rosa returned to England with his wife, and for reasons of health proceeded to Egypt. He came back to London in 1872 where his wife died soon after arrival. Rosa then threw his whole energies into operatic management, and opened in London at the Princess’s Theatre in 1873. He gathered together the finest operatic material available, and immediate success rewarded his efforts. His season lasted six weeks, during which time his repertoire included: Figaro, Faust, The Porter of Havre (Cagnoni), Fra Diavolo, Bohemian Girl, Trovatore, The Water Carrier (Cherubini) and Siege of Rochelle. Rosa Hersee and Santley were among the singers.

Encouraged by his success Rosa returned to London the following year and opened at the Lyceum (September 11th to December 2nd). This season was even more successful than the last, and from that the Carl Rosa season became an important annual event. Rosa not only gave the first performances in English of such famous continental works as Flying Dutchman, Rienzi, Carmen, Mignon, Lohengrin and Aida, but commissioned a number of English composers to write operas for his company.

In 1880 Sir George Grove wrote: “The careful way in which the pieces are put on the stage, the number of rehearsals, the eminence of the performers and the excellence of the performers have begun to bear their legitimate fruit, and the Carl Rosa Opera Company bids fair to become a permanent English institution”. How far that prediction has been fulfilled is evident by the high standard which has been maintained in the productions by the present management, whose single ambition, firm purpose and constant endeavour, has ever been to preserve in their fullest vigour the noble traditions of the founder of the Carl Rose Opera Company.

The Carl Rosa Opera is happily still a national institution.

Its activities have influenced the musical life of every town in the British isles. Some of the great epoch making events in the world of music for which the public are indebted to the Carl Rosa Opera. It was the organisation which first produced in England or in the English tongue, Lohengrin, Aida, Carmen, La Boheme, Cavalleria Rusticana, Hansel and Gretel, Mignon, Manon, Tannhauser, Rienzi, Andrea Chenier, Othello and The Flying Dutchman. The latter great work was given by the company as long ago as 1876 at the Lyceum Theatre, London, where the company regularly appeared until this famous theatre closed.

Carl Rosa Opera Limited was formed in 1998. The aim was and continues to be, to offer the highest quality productions of music theatre and opera at affordable prices. The company has built firm foundations for its work in the North East of England, offering a wide range of diverse presentations which have included: community operas, education workshops for schools and colleges (that includes signed performances for the deaf, and children and adults with special needs); also, full professional productions of grand opera like La Boheme, sung in Italian, to lighter works, such as the first professional staging for over 117 years of the 1879 The Pirates of Penzance, in celebration of 125 years of Britain’s oldest opera company, the Carl Rosa Opera, and its launch as a registered charity.

THE CARL ROSA TRUST was created in 1957. The Trust was able to continue to award scholarships that will enable the support, study and education of notable young singers and instrumentalists and maintain his historic music library and costume collection dating back to 1873. The new productions provide invaluable opportunities to students at the beginning of their careers, to learn and develop their crafts and skills along some of Britain’s most established artists.