Ella Halman as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance

Ella Halman (1937-51)

[Born Ealing 18 Jul 1906, died Penrith, Cumbria 20 Mar 1995]

At age eighteen, Ella Halman won the Sussex County Scholarship in singing, then studied for several years at the Brighton School of Music. After touring for three years with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, she resumed her studies in London, taking her L.R.A.M. there. After some experience in concert work and teaching, was engaged by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as a chorister in May 1937.

In August 1937 she was given the small role of Inez in The Gondoliers (following the departure of Josephine Curtis) and, as understudy to principal contralto Evelyn Gardiner, went on occasionally during the 1937-38 season as Katisha in The Mikado and the Duchess of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers. During the following season she filled in on occasion as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance and the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe.

In September 1939, Rupert D'Oyly Carte cancelled the Company's tour due to the outbreak of World War II. By the time touring resumed on Christmas Day in Edinburgh, Miss Gardiner had left for Australia and Ella Halman took over as principal contralto, a position she formally assumed in the spring of 1940 and held for the next ten years. She would play all the principal contralto roles that were in the repertoire each season. Six roles were played every year:Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, the Lady Jane in Patience, the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe, Katisha in The Mikado, Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard, and the Duchess in The Gondoliers. She also played Dame Hannah in Ruddigore (1940, 1948-51) and Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore (1940, 1947-51). She recorded all eight of them between 1949 and 1951 when the Company was busily taking advantage of the new LP technology. She also sang Katisha in a 1951 BBC radio broadcast of The Mikado.

After leaving the D'Oyly Carte in August 1951, Ella Halman relocated to America where she and her husband Radley Flynn (they had married in 1940) toured along with Martyn Green in a series of Gilbert & Sullivan productions presented by S. M. Chartock. Miss Halman's roles on the 1952 tour included Buttercup, Ruth in Pirates, the Queen of the Fairies, and Katisha. The Flynns shortly returned to England where they settled in Penrith and were involved with amateur operatic societies. Radley Flynn died in 1978; Ella Halman lived another 17 years. She died in Penrith in 1995 at the age of 88.

Page modified July 30, 2002 © 2001-02 David Stone