Geoffrey Shovelton

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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.

Shovelton began his professional life with a teaching career, during which he began to perform professionally in oratorio and opera. He became a full-time professional singer in 1971, touring with Scottish Opera and other companies. 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. He continued to perform in Savoy operas and concerts, often touring in the US, until 2005. 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. He and his wife settled in the US, in Maine, in the 1990s. He continues to create artworks and to give lectures.

Life and career[edit]

Shovelton was born in Atherton in Lancashire, an only child. 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.[1] Meanwhile, he played the piano and organ and studied voice with Dino Borgioli, Roy Henderson and Denis Dowling.[2][3] While still teaching, Shovelton performed in amateur operatic productions and first played in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera in 1961 in The Pirates of Penzance.[4] In 1964 and 1965 Shovelton received awards in singing competitions at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands and Verviers in Belgium, and these helped him to decide to pursue a career in opera.[1]

Early career[edit]

Shovelton first sang professionally in oratorio, performing in such works as Handel's Messiah, Haydn's Creation, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and Verdi's Requiem, finally becoming a full-time singer in 1971.[4][2] 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.[3] He returned to the Savoy Operas in 1973 with the touring companies Gilbert and Sullivan for All and The World of Gilbert & Sullivan.[4][2]

Having joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as principal tenor at the beginning of the 1975–76 season, Shovelton initially played the Tolloller in Iolanthe, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard, and later that season added the roles of Luiz in The Gondoliers and the Duke of Dunstable in Patience. 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 D'Oyly Carte 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.[2] Shovelton recalled the "family spirit" of the company, writing that this was necessary in a year-round touring company where "singing takes me away from my wife and three young children for extended periods".[5]

Later years[edit]

After the closure of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Shovelton 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. From 1984 to 2005, 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.[2] He also performed with a group of former D'Oyly Carte members called G&S a la carte.[4] In the 1990s, he performed on occasion at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England[6] and with the Washington Savoyards in the US.[4]

For many summers beginning in 1985, he performed in the productions of the Savoy Operas at the Gawsworth Hall Open Air Festival in Cheshire. In 1993, he married a second time, to American soprano and choreographer Debroah Clague, who joined with him in The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan touring group.[7] Together with his wife, 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.[2] Since the late 1990s, the Shoveltons have lived in Maine in the United States, where they continued their involvement in Gilbert and Sullivan by directing productions for the Hancock County Gilbert and Sullivan Society (2003–2006), among others.[8][9] Shovelton has long served as the Honorary President of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of New York, where he gave the Jay Newman memorial lecture in 2014.[10] He continues to write and create artwork.[4]

Illustrations and cartoons[edit]

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. Shovelton's cartoons have graced the monthly newsletter of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of New York, The Palace Peeper, for over three decades. Shovelton also illustrated Harry Benford's Gilbert and Sullivan Lexicon.[4][11] He also has created Gilbert and Sullivan themed Christmas and note cards.[2]


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[12] a number of compilation albums and on such opera albums as Verdi's Don Carlos.[13] Shovelton is also a soloist in the concert video recording, "Gilbert & Sullivan Present their Greatest Hits," from Royal Albert Hall in 1983.


  1. ^ a b Stevenson, David and Elaine. "Geoffrey Shovelton talks to David and Elaine Stevenson", Memories of the D'Oyly Carte, accessed 29 May 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Stone, David. "Geoffrey Shovelton", Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 7 September 2003, accessed 12 March 2014
  3. ^ a b "Geoffrey Shovelton", Memories of the D'Oyly Carte, accessed 29 May 2014
  4. ^ a b c d e f g MacPhail, Ralph Jr. (ed.) "About the Authors", Benford's G&S Lexicon, at, accessed 28 May 2014
  5. ^ "The Fall and Rise of a Familiar Curtain", The London Magazine, June–July 2012, accessed 29 May 2014
  6. ^ G&S Festival history page
  7. ^ Dunham, Laura. " 'Two of Hearts' settles in New Portland", The Irregular, 21 August 2002, accessed 29 May 2014
  8. ^ "University of Maine Musicians Part of Ellsworth Gilbert & Sullivan Celebration". UMaine News, January 13, 2006, accessed September 8, 2011
  9. ^ Anstead, Alicia. "For he is (in fact) an Englishman; Gilbert & Sullivan veteran directs Grand production of Patience", Bangor Daily News, 30 January 2003
  10. ^ Kravetz, Dan. The Palace Peeper, April 2014, p. 4, The Gilbert and Sullivan Society of New York
  11. ^ Benford, Harry (1999). Gilbert & Sullivan Lexicon, 3rd Revised Edition. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Queensbury Press. ISBN 0-9667916-1-4. 
  12. ^ 1995 recording by The Best of Gilbert and Sullivan
  13. ^ Listing of albums featuring Shovelton

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