Harwood, Elizabeth Jean (1938-1990), Soprano

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Harwood, Elizabeth Jean (1938-1990), Soprano

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1938-1990

History

Elizabeth Harwood was born on 27 May 1938, and studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music between 1956 and 1960, graduating GRSM, ARMCM and LRAM. Her first opera appearance away from College was for the Buxton Opera Group in 1957 (as Michaela in "Passion Flower" - an adaptation of "Carmen"). In 1960 she went to Glyndebourne (as Second Boy in "The Magic Flute"), and won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship. With the Scholarship Elizabeth spent a year in Milan studying with Lina Pagliughi, an eminent interpreter of Verdi: during this visit she entered for the Verdi Competition in Busseto and was joint winner. On her return to the UK she was engaged by Sadlers Wells (for Gilda in "Rigoletto" and Countess Adele in "Count Ory"). She stayed with the Company learning her repertoire over five years, before her international career was launched by an invitation to join the Sutherland Williamson Grand Opera Company in an Australian tour in 1965, when she alternated with Joan Sutherland in the leading roles. On her return to the UK she was engaged by The English Opera Group (as Galatea in "Acis & Galatea") for performances in Sweden, Versailles and at the Aldeburgh Festival. The success of this production in France resulted in her engagement (as Donna Elvira in "Don Giovanni") at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1967. In that same year she made her Covent Garden debut (in "Arabella"). Also in 1967 Elizabeth took part in the internationally acclaimed Scottish Opera production of "Cosi fan Tutte" (as Fiordiligi to Janet Baker's Dorabella), which undoubtedly paved the way for Elizabeth's Salzburg debut in 1970 (in "Cosi"). The following year she performed again for the Scottish Opera (as Sophie in "Die Rosenkavalier") in another internationally acclaimed production. The reputation Elizabeth obtained in "Don Giovanni" as Donna Elvira at Aix-en-Provence attracted the attention of Herbert von Karajan, who invited her to Salzburg in 1969 (as Constanze in "Die Entfuhrung" and Fiordiligi in "Cosi fan Tutte"). The following year she was the first English soprano to perform at the Salzburg Festival - in "The Marriage of Figaro" produced and conducted by von Karajan, a role which she was to reprise in many subsequent Festivals. She performed in a number of major productions at La Scala (debut 1972), the Metropolitan Opera (debut 1975), Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, giving her last operatic performance for The Buxton Festival (in "La Colombe" at Sadlers' Wells, 1983). In addition to operatic performances Elizabeth gave numerous recitals and took part in many oratorios. She was particularly associated with "Messiah", performing over 100 times - the earliest aged 16, deputising for her mother. During the 1980s she gave a number of international tours: in 1983 to New Zealand, Australia in 1986, British Columbia in 1988, and performed many times at the Rasigueres Festival of Wine and Music. Elizabeth married Julian A.C. Royle in 1966 and they had one son, Nicholas. The family lived at Fryerning, Ingatestone, Essex, where a plaque is dedicated to Elizabeth Harwood in the parish church following her death on June 22 1990.

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