Geoffrey Shovelton (born 27 April 1936) is an English singer and illustrator best known for his performances with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in the 1970s.
After a brief teaching career, Shovelton began to perform professionally in oratorio and opera. He joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera company in 1975, playing the leading tenor roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas until the company closed in 1982. He also made a few recordings with the company. Thereafter, he continued to perform in Savoy operas and concerts, often touring in the U.S. He also directed some of these productions and various amateur productions. Shovelton has also illustrated books, journals and promotional materials, mostly in connection with Gilbert and Sullivan.
Life and career
Shovelton was born in Atherton in Lancashire. After graduating from Thornleigh Salesian College (Bolton), and the Universities of Hull and London, Shovelton began a career in education. For several years he was senior Geography master at the Salvatorian College, a grammar school in Wealdstone, Middlesex. Meanwhile, he continued to play the piano and organ and studied voice with Dino Borgioli, Roy Henderson and Denis Dowling. His musical studies at this time included voice production, oratorio, lieder and opera. In 1964 and 1965 Shovelton received awards in singing competitions at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands and Verviers in Belgium, and these decided him on a career in opera.
Shovelton first sang professionally in oratorio, performing in works including Handel's Messiah, Haydn's Creation, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and Verdi's Requiem. Early in his career he played principal roles with Opera for All, Nonsuch Opera, Chelsea Opera Group, Tayside Opera, Basilica Opera, and Scottish Opera. His roles included Roderigo in Verdi's Otello, Don Curzio in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, and Lysander in Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. His introduction to the Savoy Operas came with the touring companies Gilbert and Sullivan for All and The World of Gilbert & Sullivan.
Having joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as principal tenor during the 1975-76 season, Shovelton first played the Duke of Dunstable in Patience, Tolloller in Iolanthe, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Luiz in The Gondoliers. In 1977 he added to his repertoire the roles of Cyril in Princess Ida and Box in Cox and Box when those works were revived. He played the Defendant in a special performance of Trial by Jury in 1978 at London's Middle Temple Hall to commemorate the Bar Musical Society's first hundred concerts. In April 1979 he left the D'Oyly Carte organisation in order to tour with several other former D'Oyly Carte singers in a group that he founded, The Gilbert and Sullivan Companions. He also took other singing assignments. In 1980, he rejoined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, continuing with them until the company closed in February 1982.
Despite the closure of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Shovelton has continued to perform Gilbert and Sullivan. With the London Savoyards, he played Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore, Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, and the Defendant in Trial by Jury. Shovelton frequently toured North America with, among others, Kenneth Sandford, John Ayldon and Lorraine Daniels, with a concert programme, created by Shovelton, called The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan. In the 1990s, he performed on occasion at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England.
Each summer since 1985, he has performed in the productions of the Savoy Operas at the Gawsworth Hall Open Air Festival in Cheshire. Together with his wife, Deborah Clague, an American soprano and choreographer, he has directed numerous Gawsworth Hall productions since 1995. He has also directed Gilbert and Sullivan operas for a number of amateur groups on both sides of the Atlantic. The Shoveltons now live in the United States, where they have continued their involvement in Gilbert and Sullivan by directing productions for the Hancock County (Maine) Gilbert and Sullivan Society (2003 – 2006), among others.
Illustrations and cartoons
As an artist, Shovelton designed the programme cover for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's last night at the Adelphi Theatre, as well as for all the Gawsworth Hall productions. The New York branch of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society honoured Geoffrey Shovelton by making him its Honorary President, and Shovelton's cartoons have graced their monthly newsletter, The Palace Peeper, for over two decades. Shovelton also illustrated Harry Benford's The Gilbert and Sullivan Lexicon. He also creates Gilbert and Sullivan themed Christmas and note cards.
With the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Shovelton recorded Luiz in The Gondoliers (1977), Box in Cox and Box (1978) and Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard (1979). In 1978 he narrated the Company's recording of The Zoo. He also appears on recordings by The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan a number of compilation albums and on such opera albums as Verdi's Don Carlos. Shovelton is also a soloist in the concert video recording, "Gilbert & Sullivan Present their Greatest Hits," from Royal Albert Hall in 1983.
- Shovleton interview and photos at the Memories of the D'Oyly Carte website
- Stone, David. "Geoffrey Shovelton", Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 7 September 2003, accessed 12 March 2014
- Shovelton profile at the Memories of the D'Oyly Carte website
- G&S Festival history page
- "University of Maine Musicians Part of Ellsworth Gilbert & Sullivan Celebration". UMaine News, January 13, 2006, accessed September 8, 2011
- Benford, Harry (1999). The Gilbert & Sullivan Lexicon, 3rd Revised Edition. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Queensbury Press. ISBN 0-9667916-1-4.
- 1995 recording by The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan
- Listing of albums featuring Shovelton
- Shovelton on the Internet Movie Database
- Photo of Shovelton in Iolanthe
- Shovelton and the Last Night of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1982