Richard Walker as Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore

Richard Walker (1924-48, 1949)

[Born Mansfield, Nottinghamshire 18 Nov 1897, died Sydney, Australia 26 Aug 1989]

Baritone Richard Walker studied singing at the Midland Conservatoire of Music and earned his second degree (Licentiate) at the London College of Music. After two years of touring in concerts and revues, he joined the D'Oyly Carte "New" Opera Company chorus in February 1924.

During his tenure with the "New" Company, he filled in briefly as Captain Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore and the Lieutenant of the Tower in The Yeomen of the Guard (both November 1924-February 1925), and during the last season appeared as Giorgio (July-December 1926) and then Antonio (from December 1926 forward) in The Gondoliers.

The "New" Company disbanded in June 1927, and Walker joined the remaining D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Over the next four years he appeared as Antonio in The Gondoliers and, beginning in July 1929, as Guron in Princess Ida. He recorded Antonio on the Company's 1927 classic electrical set of The Gondoliers.

During the 1930-31 season, Walker filled in on occasion for Joseph Griffin as King Hildebrand in Princess Ida, and in August 1931, following the departure of Griffin, Walker added the Usher in Trial by Jury, Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance to his regular duties. During the four years spanning 1931-35 he also filled in on occasion as Sergeant Bouncer in Cox and Box, Colonel Calverley in Patience, the Earl of Mountararat in Iolanthe, King Hildebrand in Princess Ida, the Mikado in The Mikado, Sir Roderick Murgatroyd in Ruddigore, and Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers.

During the 1935-36 season he added Sergeant Bouncer (shared with Darrell Fancourt), and also filled in for Fancourt and Sydney Granville in the principal baritone roles of the Pirate King in Pirates, Mountararat, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, Sir Roderick in Ruddigore, Wilfred Shadbolt in Yeomen, and Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers. He also played the Colonel on occasion in 1937-38.

In the June 1938 revival of The Sorcerer, Walker added the Notary to his repertoire. He was still sharing Bouncer with Fancourt, and appearing regularly as the Usher, Bobstay, Samuel, and Guron, but had been replaced at some point in 1936 by Richard Dunn as Antonio, a part Walker would reclaim in 1938. Walker continued to appear now and then as Mountararat (1937-40) and also substituted as Colonel Calverley in the 1937-38 season. Between 1932 and 1939 Walker was married to D'Oyly Carte chorister Ena Martin.

Cast changes owing to the outbreak of war resulted in a realignment of duties in 1939. Walker swapped Bouncer for Mr. Cox in Cox and Box, and added Major Murgatroyd in Patience and a share of Second Citizen in Yeomen to his duties. When the 1940-41 season opened his roles were the Usher, Samuel, Major Murgatroyd, Second Yeoman, and Antonio (Pinafore had been dropped in apparent solidarity with the Royal Navy). Walker swapped the Usher for Counsel to the Plaintiff in March 1941. Between 1940 and 1942 he also filled in from time to time at Mountararat and Private Willis in Iolanthe, Pooh-Bah and Go-To in The Mikado, Shadbolt, and Don Alhambra.

In January 1943, following Sydney Granville's retirement, Walker stepped into all four of his roles:Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance, Pooh-Bah, Shadbolt, and Don Alhambra, and in September 1946 Walker reclaimed the Usher in Trial by Jury and added Private Willis in Iolanthe as well. He resumed playing Bill Bobstay in July 1947 when Pinafore was finally restored to the repertoire. Walker also filled in for Darrell Fancourt again from time to time as the Earl of Mountarartat in 1944-47, Colonel Calverley in 1946-47, and as Calverley, Mountararat, and the Mikado in 1947-48.

However, all was not roses and wine for Walker. In September 1947, Richard Watson rejoined the Company, and was given Pooh-Bah, Don Alhambra, and eventually Private Willis. He and Walker shared Sergeant Bouncer when Cox and Box was revived in 1947-48. Walker was left with the Usher, Bobstay, the Sergeant in Pirates, and Shadbolt. Walker had married D'Oyly Carte soprano Helen Roberts on July 31, 1944, and Miss Roberts's roles, too, were being cut back as new talent was joining the post-war D'Oyly Carte. On July 31, 1948, they left the Company.

Walker was doing concert work and had returned from a production of The Gondoliers in Limerick, Ireland, when he got a call from the Savoy in April 1949. While the D'Oyly Carte was in Bristol, baritone Charles Dorning had been rushed to the hospital and Walker was needed as an emergency replacement, initially filling in as Archibald Grosvenor in Patience. Dorning returned briefly May 2, but when he left for good two weeks later Walker took on an expanded repertoire as Bouncer, Counsel to the Plaintiff, Bobstay, Grosvenor, Pish-Tush, the Lieutenant of the Tower in Yeomen, and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers for the remainder of the season. Walker would also sing Bobstay for the 1949 Carte recording of H.M.S. Pinafore.

The Walkers were then engaged by the J. C. Williamson Company and toured Australia and New Zealand in Gilbert & Sullivan in 1949-51. When the Williamsons played Gilbert & Sullivan again in 1956-58, Walker played his many of his familiar roles (as well as Dick Deadeye in Pinafore and Sergeant Meryll in Yeomen), and this time directed the operas. The Walkers also presented Gilbert & Sullivan in two-person entertainments throughout the United States and Canada.

Following his 1956-58 tour, Lerner & Loewe offered Walker the part of Alfred P. Doolittle in the original Australian production of My Fair Lady. It debuted in Melbourne in 1959 and toured for the next four-and-a-half years. Following the tour, Walker settled in Sydney and later appeared in the Williamson production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In 1967 he was with the Elizabethan Theatre Company as Froch in Die Fledermaus.

From 1951 until his death in 1989 Richard Walker served as honorary president of the New York branch of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society. His memoirs, "A Man of Many Parts," were published in the Society's newsletter The Palace Peeper beginning in December 1980.

Page modified December 22, 2003 © 2001-02 David Stone