James Conroy-Ward

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James Conroy-Ward (born 12 April 1947) is a music publisher and retired English actor and singer best known for performing the Gilbert and Sullivan principal comic roles with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

Biography[edit]

Conroy-Ward was born at Timperley in Cheshire, England. His grandparents had been entertainers, and Conroy-Ward was exposed to the theatre early on. As a child, he performed puppet shows at children's parties.[1] He was head choirboy at his local church and attended the all-boys Altrincham Grammar School, where he performed female roles in Gilbert and Sullivan operas[2] and won the Drama Prize.[3] At the age of 12, Conroy-Ward was able to join the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Manchester playing the juvenile roles of the Midshipmite in H.M.S. Pinafore and Ko-Ko's assistant in The Mikado.[2] He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, winning the Imperial League of Opera Prize.[3] He then gained experience on stage at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, in amateur productions, and at York Repertory, Granada TV, and The London Opera Centre. In 1968, he was engaged by the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where he sang for four and a half years in the chorus and in small principal roles.[2]

In 1973, Conroy-Ward joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in the chorus and also understudied John Reed in the principal comedian roles. As was customary in that company, the understudy was also given the small principal roles of Major Murgatroyd in Patience, the Foreman of the Jury in Trial by Jury, the First Citizen in The Yeomen of the Guard, and both Antonio and Annibale in The Gondoliers.[4] He was also given the principal comic role of Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance. In the 1975 centenary season, Conroy-Ward played Lord Dramaleigh in the company's only revival of Utopia, Limited[5] and sang the role of the Herald in The Grand Duke in concert. In 1977, he added the role of Guron in Princess Ida to his repertory.

During a 1978 U.S. tour, the San Francisco Bay Area Reporter wrote, "James Conroy-Ward... handled the role of Major General Stanley in Pirates better than anyone I can remember."[6] Beginning in 1973, as Reed's understudy, he appeared frequently in all of the principal comic roles:[7] J. W. Wells in The Sorcerer, Sir Joseph Porter in Pinafore, Reginald Bunthorne in Patience, the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, King Gama in Princess Ida, Ko-Ko in The Mikado, Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore, Jack Point in Yeomen, and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.[4] Of these, Conroy-Ward most enjoyed playing Jack Point and Gama but least enjoyed playing Robin.[7]

In 1979, after the D'Oyly Carte company toured Australia and New Zealand,[8] Reed left the company, and Conroy-Ward inherited the principal comic roles, except that he yielded the roles of General Stanley and Robin Oakapple to his understudy Alistair Donkin.[9] He continued as the principal comedian of D'Oyly Carte until it closed in 1982, after which he joined a music publishing company.[4] Conroy-Ward said of the last years of the company, "I think we could have had better producers [stage directors]. I think if we'd had a few more of the Anthony Beschs coming in a little bit earlier I don't think any harm would have been done."[10]

Recordings[edit]

Conroy-Ward participated in four recordings with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. In 1976, he sang the Herald in The Grand Duke and Lord Dramaleigh in Utopia, Limited. In 1977, he sang the role of Antonio and also spoke the role of Annibale in The Gondoliers. In 1982, he was a soloist on "The Last Night".[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gaiety, p. 18
  2. ^ a b c Interview with Conroy-Ward at the Memories of the D'Oyly Carte website
  3. ^ a b Conroy-Ward's profile at the Memories of the D'Oyly Carte website
  4. ^ a b c "James Conroy-Ward" at the 'Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte' website
  5. ^ Walters, Michael. Review of Utopia, Limited in Gilbertian Gossip No 3, January 1976
  6. ^ Bay Area Reporter, June 22, 1978
  7. ^ a b Gaiety, p. 23. Conroy-Ward said that he often did a show per week for Reed, in addition to General Stanley, to give Reed a day off, but that he rarely went on as Bunthorne, since that was Reed's favourite role.
  8. ^ Wilson, p. 209
  9. ^ Donkin has stated that Conroy-Ward "suffered considerable ill health so I was playing all the patter roles ... more often than he did. See Patter magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 2, p. 4, Winter 2012, International Gilbert and Sullivan Association.
  10. ^ Gaiety, p. 21
  11. ^ Links to Conroy-Ward's D'Oyly Carte recordings

References[edit]

External links[edit]