Richard Watson as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado

Richard Watson (1932-34, 1947-51)

[Born Adelaide, Australia 1903, died Adelaide, Australia 2 Aug 1968]

Richard Watson trained in his native Adelaide and then at the Royal Academy of Music. He made his London Stage debut in a single matinee perfomance of a musical fantasy called The Ladder (Daly's, June 1927). He later appeared in the one-act opera The Shepherds of Delectable Mountains (Court, June 1928), and in numerous grand operas at the Lyceum and Covent Garden (1929-32).

Watson joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in August 1932, immediately assuming the roles of Private Willis in Iolanthe and King Hildebrand in Princess Ida from Sydney Granville and the Lieutenant of the Tower in The Yeomen of the Guard from Leslie Rands. In December 1932, when The Sorcerer was revived at the Savoy, Watson added the part of the Notary to his repertoire, and in June 1933, when Flynn left the Company, Watson assumed the role of Old Adam in Ruddigore. During the two seasons spanning 1932-34 he also filled in on occasion for Darrell Fancourt as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and for Granville as Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers. He may be heard as Hildebrand on the Company's 1932 recording of Princess Ida.

Watson left the D'Oyly Carte at the end of the season, in June 1934. He toured with the Carl Rose Opera Company for six months, then returned to Australia where he appeared with the J. C. Williamson Company in 1935-36 in a Gilbert & Sullivan tour:this time appearing for the first time as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury, the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance, Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, Sergeant Bouncer in Cox and Box, Colonel Calverley in Patience, and Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore.

He was back in England from 1936-39, a period that included several further engagements at Covent Garden, then returned to Australia for another tour of Gilbert & Sullivan (and other works) lasting for the balance of the war years from 1940-45, his G&S roles including all his parts from 1935-36 plus Doctor Daly in The Sorcerer, Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore, King Hildebrand in Princess Ida, and Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers.

Watson rejoined the D'Oyly Carte in September 1947. Initially his roles were Bouncer (shared with Richard Walker), the Judge, Captain Corcoran in H.M.S. Pinafore (shared with Charles Dorning), Private Willis (shared with Walker), Pooh-Bah, the Lieutenant, and Don Alhambra. He also filled in again for Fancourt in the 1947-48 season as the Pirate King. The following season, when Walker left the Company, Watson added the Sergeant of Police in Pirates and switched to Shadbolt in Yeomen. That year when Dorning was playing Captain Corcoran, Watson played Bill Bobstay in Pinafore. He also filled in on occasion for Fancourt as Colonel Calverley in Patience. When the Company launched a new production of Ruddigore in November 1948 Watson appeared as Sir Despard.

For the 1949-50 season Watson yielded Sergeant Bouncer, and in 1950-51 Captain Corcoran was taken over by newcomer Eric Thornton. Watson retained the Judge, Sergeant of Police, Private Willis, Pooh-Bah, Sir Despard, Shadbolt, and Don Alhambra for the remainder of his D'Oyly Carte career. He left the Company again for the second and last time in August 1951, but not before recording most of his roles (Judge, Sergeant of Police, Pooh-Bah, Don Alhambra, Sir Despard, and Shadbolt) as part of the first series of LP recordings (1949-51). He also sang Pooh-Bah in a 1951 BBC broadcast of The Mikado.

After leaving the D'Oyly Carte Watson taught for a time at the University of Saskatchewan. Then in 1955 he returned to Australia and made one last grand tour with the Williamsons in G&S (1956-58) playing what were by then his customary roles. He went on to teach at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide. It was in Adelaide in the early 1960s that Watson made what was doubtless his last appearance as a professional on the musical stage:as Mr. Bumble in the original Australian production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!.

Page modified December 22, 2003 © 2001-03 David Stone