Anne Collins (contralto)

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Anne Collins

Anne Collins (29 August 1943 – 15 July 2009) was an English contralto known as versatile operatic singer, praised for her "beautifully warm and wide-ranging timbre, and impeccable diction".[1] In a career that spanned nearly 40 years, she sang a wide range of operatic character roles and other classical pieces, including standard opera repertory, premieres, 20th century pieces, art song and other music.

Collins began her career at Sadler’s Wells Opera, from 1970 to 1976. She debuted at Covent Garden in 1975 as Grimgerde in Wagner's Die Walküre. Collins sang with most of the major British opera companies and at opera houses throughout Europe. She used her early musical training when playing the cello onstage as Lady Jane in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience in several English National Opera productions. She made 20 recordings of serious opera roles and other classical music, and her performances of several Gilbert and Sullivan roles are preserved on video.


Collins was born in Meadowfield, near Durham, the daughter of "a musical family".[2] From 1961 to 1963 she trained at Bretton Hall College, Yorkshire, intending to become a music teacher.[3] She then studied at the Royal College of Music, London, first the cello and then vocal studies; her teachers included Meriel St Clair and Oda Slobodskaya.[1]

Collins made her debut for Sadler’s Wells Opera as the Governess in The Queen of Spades in 1970. She performed with that company, through its transition into English National Opera (ENO), until 1976, in many roles, including the British stage premieres of War and Peace (Akhrosimova) in 1972 and The Bassarids (Beroe) in 1974.[4] She began her association with Gilbert and Sullivan's operas at ENO, starting with her "formidable" Fairy Queen in Iolanthe (1971). There, she also sang her four roles for the first time in Wagner's Ring cycle (1973).[5]

Collins was a particularly versatile operatic singer, including in her repertoire roles in early opera (such as Arnalta in The Coronation of Poppea), German works (Adelaide in Arabella as well as her Wagner roles), Russian opera (Clarissa in The Love for Three Oranges and Filipyevna in Eugene Onegin), French works (Antonia's Mother in The Tales of Hoffman and Ragonde in Count Ory), Italian operas (Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana, Suzuki in Madame Butterfly, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera and Mistress Quickly in Falstaff), and played English roles from Katisha in The Mikado to Mrs Sedley and Auntie in Peter Grimes. She notably played the cello onstage while singing Lady Jane in Patience for English National Opera, a role she also sang in New York and Vienna.[1][6] In The Times, Alan Blyth called it "a connoisseur's performance".[7]

Collins made her Covent Garden debut in 1975 as Grimgerde in Die Walküre and later appeared there as Anna in Berlioz's The Trojans (1977), as the Mother in Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (1983), Mary in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman (1986), the Mother Superior in Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel (1992) and Auntie in Peter Grimes (2004), the last of which she sang in several productions in Europe. At Opera North she sang the nurse in Ariane et Barbe-bleue. She sang at the Last Night of the Proms in 1976 and 1980, as well as taking part in concert performances of Patience, The Midsummer Marriage and The Gypsy Baron at the Proms. She also played in the first two of these roles both within and outside Britain.[5] She played Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Wexford in 1976. Collins was engaged at several European opera houses including Brussels, Frankfurt, Hamburg and La Scala. After her debut in Geneva in 1977 (First Norn), she returned there from 1990 to 1993 to sing Auntie in Peter Grimes, The Hostess in Boris Godunov and Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro.[8] She appeared in Ezio and Hercules for the Handel Opera Society.[9] In Ezio she "managed to steal each scene her (comparatively minor) character was in, simply by singing her lines with faultless diction so that the audience realised how unintentionally funny they were."[10] Her Glyndebourne debut was as Florence Pike in Albert Herring in 1986.[9] She created the role of the Nurse/Old woman in Ines de Castro for Scottish Opera in 1996."[6]

In 1982, she appeared in the Brent Walker Productions telefilms of Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience (as Lady Jane), Iolanthe, (the Fairy Queen), Princess Ida (Lady Blanche), The Mikado (Katisha), and The Gondoliers (Duchess of Plaza-Toro). She participated in several of the BBC broadcasts of the Savoy operas in 1989, singing the roles of Blanche and Duchess, as well as Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard and Dame Hannah in Ruddigore.[11]

Grove comments that Collins was a "versatile singer with a strong, even voice … equally at home in Wagner and in Gilbert and Sullivan";[4] Opera praised her beautifully warm and wide-ranging timbre, and impeccable diction.[1]

Collins died of cancer in Sussex, aged 65.[5][6]


Composer Work Role Conductor Date ref
Berkeley A Dinner Engagement Grand Duchess Richard Hickox 2004 [12]
Britten Albert Herring Mrs Herring Richard Hickox 2003 [13]
Britten Peter Grimes Mrs Sedley Richard Hickox 1996 [14]
Britten (arr) The Beggar's Opera Mrs Peachum Steuart Bedford 1993 [15]
Delius Margot la Rouge Licensee and Third Woman Norman Del Mar 1981 [16]
Elgar Coronation Ode - Sir Alexander Gibson 1977 [17]
Janáček Glagolitic Mass - Rudolf Kempe 1974 [18]
Monteverdi The Coronation of Poppea Arnalta Raymond Leppard 1971 [19]
Mozart Die Zauberflöte Third Lady Sir Neville Marriner 1990 [20]
Puccini Suor Angelica Abbess Richard Bonynge 1973 [21]
Stravinsky The Rake's Progress Mother Goose Kent Nagano 1996 [22]
Sullivan The Yeomen of the Guard Dame Carruthers Sir Neville Marriner 1993 [23]
Tchaikovsky Vakula the Smith Solokha Edward Downes 1990 [24]
Vaughan Williams The Poisoned Kiss Empress Persicaria Richard Hickox 2003 [25]
Vivaldi sacred music - Vittorio Negri 1976–90 [26]
Monteverdi madrigals - Raymond Leppard 1969–75 [27]
Wagner The Rhinegold Erda Reginald Goodall 1975 [28]
Wagner The Valkyrie Rossweisse Reginald Goodall 1975 [29]
Wagner Siegfried Erda Reginald Goodall 1973 [30]
Wagner Twilight of the Gods First Norn Reginald Goodall 1977 [31]


  1. ^ a b c d Milnes, Rodney. "Obituary – Anne Collins", Opera, October 2009, pp. 1206–07
  2. ^ "Anne Collins: operatic contralto", The Times, 3 August 2009, accessed 13 October 2014
  3. ^ Lingard, Judith. "Obituary, Anne Collins", The Guardian, 13 August 2009
  4. ^ a b Forbes Elizabeth. "Collins, Anne", The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, accessed 14 October 2014 (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c O'Connor, Patrick. "Obituary: Anne Collins", The Guardian, 4 August 2009
  6. ^ a b c "Anne Collins", Opera Scotland, accessed 13 October 2014
  7. ^ Blyth, Alan. "Patience", The Times, 21 March 1975, p. 9
  8. ^ Archives of the Grand Théâtre de Genève, accessed 12 November 2009.
  9. ^ a b Adam N. Who’s Who in British Opera. Scolar Press, Aldershot, 1993.
  10. ^ Richard Morrison. "Pit and pendulum – Handel Opera's 25th anniversary season finds music in better form than productions", Classical Music, 20 December 1980, p. 22
  11. ^ Shepherd, Marc. "Artist Index: Collins, Anne", the Gilbert and Sullivan Discography, accessed 13 October 2014
  12. ^ "A Dinner Engagement", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  13. ^ "Albert Herring", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  14. ^ "Peter Grimes", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  15. ^ "The Beggar's Opera", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  16. ^ "Margot la Rouge", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  17. ^ "Coronation Ode", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  18. ^ "Glagolitic Mass", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  19. ^ "The Coronation of Poppea" WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  20. ^ "Die Zauberflöte", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  21. ^ "Suor Angelica", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  22. ^ "The Rake's Progress", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  23. ^ "The Yeomen of the Guard", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  24. ^ " The Tchaikovsky Experience", BBC, accessed 14 October 2014. Recorded for broadcast; not commercially released.
  25. ^ "The Poisoned Kiss", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  26. ^ "Vivaldi Sacred Music", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  27. ^ "Artist: Anne Collins", Classical Archives, accessed 13 October 2014
  28. ^ "The Rhinegold", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  29. ^ "The Valkyrie", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  30. ^ "Siegfried", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014
  31. ^ "Twilight of the Gods", WorldCat, accessed 14 October 2014

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