Richard Temple (bass-baritone)

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Richard Temple as Strephon in Iolanthe (1882)

Richard Barker Cobb Temple (2 March 1846 – 19 October 1912)[1] was an English opera singer, actor and stage director, best known for his performances in the famous series of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas.

After an opera career beginning in 1869, Temple joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1877. There, he created most of the bass-baritone roles in the Savoy Operas, as follows: Sir Marmaduke in The Sorcerer (1877), Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), the Pirate King in the London production of The Pirates of Penzance (1880), Colonel Calverley in Patience (1881), Arac in Princess Ida (1884), the title character in The Mikado, Sir Roderic in Ruddigore and Sergeant Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard (1888). He also played the baritone roles of Strephon in the original production of Iolanthe (1882), and Giuseppe in the New York production of The Gondoliers (1890).

During the next two decades, Temple played in, or directed, a variety of comic operas, musical comedies and plays, and sang in concerts, both in London and on tour. He also taught acting and directed productions at music schools, primarily at the Royal College of Music.

Early opera career[edit]

Drawing of Temple as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance

Born in London, the son of a stockbroker,[2] Temple performed as a singer and amateur actor before making his professional stage debut at the Crystal Palace in May 1869 as Count Rodolfo in La sonnambula. He subsequently toured the provinces with opera and Opera Bouffe companies, playing the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto, among others. Of one of his early performances in opera, in a supporting role in Michael Balfe's The Rose of Castille in 1871, The Observer commented, "Possibly, the less said about Mr Richard Temple... the better."[3] Also in 1871, Temple toured with Fred Sullivan's Operetta Company, appearing as Sergeant Bouncer in Arthur Sullivan's Cox and Box.[4]

In 1872, Temple married Elizabeth Ellen Emmett,[5] but she died in 1875.[6] In 1873, Temple appeared in the very successful English-language premiere of La fille de Madame Angot, adapted by H. B. Farnie, at the Gaiety Theatre, London.[7] In 1875, Temple directed, and appeared as Thomas Brown in, a revival of Arthur Sullivan's one-act comic opera The Zoo at the Philharmonic Theatre, Islington.[7] In the same year, Temple appeared in Jacques Offenbach's Breaking the Spell.[8] In 1877 he played the title role in The Marriage of Figaro with great success at the Crystal Palace in the Rose Hersee Opera Company's production, with Florence St. John as Cherubino.[9]

D'Oyly Carte years[edit]

Temple as Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore

In 1877 Temple was engaged to create the part of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre in the first production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer at the Opera Comique, produced by Richard D'Oyly Carte. The following year, he created the role of Dick Deadeye in the company's long-running international hit, H.M.S. Pinafore. During the original runs of The Sorcerer and Pinafore, Temple also took parts in the short companion pieces that accompanied these longer works. He played Fred Fancourt in the 1877–78 revival of Dora's Dream, the title role in The Spectre Knight (1878), General Deelah in Cups and Saucers (1878–79), and Selworthy in After All! (1878–79).[7]

Temple played the Pirate King in the first London production of The Pirates of Penzance (1880–81). He next created the part of Colonel Calverley in Patience (Opera Comique, 1881), but left the company on 8 October of that year, the day before the piece left the Opera Comique to transfer to the new Savoy Theatre.[10] Temple remained at the Opera Comique where, from October–December 1881, he appeared as King Portico in a revival of W. S. Gilbert and Frederic Clay's comic opera Princess Toto.[7][11]

Temple as The Mikado of Japan

Temple soon returned to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, creating the role of Strephon in Iolanthe (1882–84), the only Savoy Opera in which he was cast as the romantic hero. During the run of Iolanthe, Temple was also co-director of the Crystal Palace opera season with Faulkner Leigh and August Manns, presenting Maritana, Faust and Il Barbiere di Siviglia.[12] Next, Temple created the role of Arac in Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida (1884) and revisited the role of Sir Marmaduke in the first revival of The Sorcerer (1884–85). He then created his most celebrated role, the Mikado of Japan in The Mikado (1885–87), whom, according to Jessie Bond, he played as "suave and oily".[13] In 1887 he created the part of Sir Roderic Murgatroyd in Ruddigore (1887). After revivals of Pinafore, Pirates and Mikado, in which he repeated his original roles, Temple played Sergeant Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard (1888–89), the final role he would create for Gilbert and Sullivan.[7]

Journeyman actor and director[edit]

Temple did not have a part in the next Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Gondoliers, when it opened at the Savoy in December 1889, but in February 1890 he was one of the replacements rushed to New York for the restaging of The Gondoliers at Palmer's Theatre, taking the role of Giuseppe. He later appeared in this production on tour in the English provinces.[14] In July 1890, he left the company again to pursue a directing career.[7] In 1891, he married Annie Maria Watts, with whom he had been living for many years.[15]

Temple as Sancho in The Chieftain

Temple was back with a D'Oyly Carte touring company briefly the following year, playing Pyjama in The Nautch Girl. He then left the company again, making occasional appearances in London in L' Impresario at the Olympic Theatre in 1892, The Golden Web at the Lyric Theatre in 1893, Miami at Princess's Theatre in 1893, Morocco Bound, with music by Osmond Carr, at the Shaftesbury Theatre and then the Trafalgar Theatre in 1893–94,[16] and Wapping Old Stairs at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1894, which he also directed.[7]

Temple returned to the Savoy and D'Oyly Carte in October 1894, replacing John Coates as Baron Van den Berg in Mirette. In December 1894 at the Savoy, he created the part of Sancho in Sullivan and Burnand's The Chieftain, and later that month played Sergeant Bouncer when a revival of Cox and Box was added to the bill. After a year's absence from the company, he returned to the Savoy briefly in 1896 to give some performances in the title role of a revival of The Mikado, and he also directed the premiere of Charles Villiers Stanford's Shamus O'Brien at the Opera Comique that year. He then appeared in the first revival of Yeomen in 1897. In December 1898 he filled in as Sir Marmaduke in The Sorcerer, and in 1899 he played Dick Deadeye again in the third revival of H.M.S. Pinafore at the Savoy.[7]

In addition to his theatre work, Temple sang in concerts, especially in the later part of his career. Of his recital at the Steinway Hall in 1903, The Times said, "It is unnecessary to say more than that the eminent artist showed how fully he understands the traditions of various schools, such as the German opera of the past ... French opéra-comique ... and the Italian buffo style."[17] At a later Steinway Hall recital he performed the then avant-garde Enoch Arden to Richard Strauss's music. Temple gave recitals in other venues, including the Queen's Hall.[18]

Later years[edit]

Temple continued to appear in various comic operas and musical comedies, including A Prince of Borneo (1899), billed as "an operatic farce";[19] The Gay Pretenders (1900), with George Grossmith senior and junior, and Frank Wyatt;[20][21] and the captain in San Toy on tour in 1901.[22] He also played Northumberland in Herbert Beerbohm Tree's production of William Shakespeare's Richard II at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1903.[23]

In October 1904, Temple appeared briefly on tour in two of his original roles – as Dick Deadeye in Pinafore and Strephon in Iolanthe. He directed Liza Lehmann's The Vicar of Wakefield in 1906–07, starring Isabel Jay, and also played the role of Burchell.[24][25] In October 1908, he returned to the Savoy to give a few performances as Deadeye in Pinafore in place of Henry Lytton. In March 1909, he played Sergeant Meryll in Yeomen.[7]

Beginning in the mid-1890s, Temple devoted much of his time to teaching acting and directing productions at music schools, primarily at The Royal College of Music where he was Professor of Elocution and Acting until the year of his death.[26] He directed many student productions with Charles Villiers Stanford conducting, including Gluck's Orfeo, with the young Clara Butt (1893);[27] the UK premiere of Léo Delibes' Le roi l'a dit (1895);[28] Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1895);[29] Verdi's Falstaff (1896);[30] Wagner's The Flying Dutchman (1898);[31] Weber's Euryanthe (1900);[32] Fidelio (1902);[33] and Schumann's Genoveva, with the young George Baker (1910).[34]

For the Royal Academy of Music, he directed Verdi's Un ballo in maschera in 1908.[35] At the Academy, as Director of the Dramatic Class,[36] his many students included Eva Turner[37] and Darrell Fancourt, who later became well known as Temple's successor in the Gilbert and Sullivan bass-baritone roles.[38] At the Royal Academy and the Royal College he taught many other students, including future Gilbert and Sullivan performers George Baker and Clara Dow,[39] and Muriel Foster, who became known as an oratorio singer.[31]

After an illness of some 18 months, a benefit was held for Temple in September 1912.[40] Temple died at Charing Cross Hospital in London the following month at the age of 66. His son Richard William Cobb Temple (b. 1872)[41] became an actor.[26] Temple is portrayed by Timothy Spall in the 1999 Mike Leigh film, Topsy-Turvy.


Temple made some records in 1902–03 for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company. His renditions of "A More Humane Mikado" and "O Better Far to Live and Die" appear on the Pearl CD, The Art of the Savoyard (GEMM CD 9991).[7]


  1. ^ Various sources give 1847 as Temple's year of birth, but English birth and census figures show that he was born in 1846. See Index of Birth, Marriage & Deaths for England & Wales, January – March 1846, St Pancras, vol 1, p. 377.
  2. ^ "Mr. Richard Temple – Obituaries", The Times, 19 October 1912, p. 9
  3. ^ The Observer, 1 October 1871, p. 3
  4. ^ Liverpool Mercury, 5 September 1871, p. 1
  5. ^ Index of Birth, Marriage & Deaths for England & Wales July – October 1872, Liverpool, vol 8b, p. 454
  6. ^ Index of Birth, Marriage & Deaths for England & Wales, April –June 1875, Camberwell, vol 1d, p. 456
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stone, David. Richard Temple at Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company (1875–1982) 2 May 2006
  8. ^ The Observer, 2 May 1875, p. 1
  9. ^ The Observer, 5 August 1877, p. 3
  10. ^ Classified ad for Patience in The Times, 8 October 1881, p. 6
  11. ^ "Opera Comique", The Times, 18 October 1881, p. 4. When Patience moved to the Savoy, John Hollingshead took over the management of the Opera Comique from Carte to produce Princess Toto.
  12. ^ The Observer, 19 August 1883, p. 3
  13. ^ Joseph, p. 260
  14. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 24 June 1890, p. 8
  15. ^ Marriage licence at Index of Birth, Marriage & Deaths for England & Wales, January – March 1891, Kensington, vol 1a, p. 316; 1881 census
  16. ^ Moss, Simon. Programme and description of Morocco Bound productions, Gilbert & Sullivan, a selling exhibition of memorabilia, Archive: Other items
  17. ^ The Times, 11 July 1903, p. 14
  18. ^ The Times, 15 May 1895, p. 3
  19. ^ The Times, 6 October 1899, p. 11
  20. ^ The Observer, 11 November 1900, p. 6
  21. ^ The Times, 12 November 1900, p. 13
  22. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 14 May 1901, p. 7
  23. ^ 11 September 1903, p. 3
  24. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 48, No. 767, 1 January 1907, pp. 39–40
  25. ^ The Observer, 16 December 1906, p. 5
  26. ^ a b "Gilbertian Memories" in The New York Times, 16 June 1912
  27. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 34, No. 599, 1 January 1893, pp. 24–25
  28. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 36, No. 623, 1 January 1895, p. 26
  29. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 36, No. 634, 1 December 1895, pp. 811–13
  30. ^ The Times, 12 December 1896, p. 10
  31. ^ a b The Times, 10 December 1898, p. 9
  32. ^ The Times, 1 December 1900, p. 14
  33. ^ The Times, 26 November 1902, p. 12
  34. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 51, No. 814, 1 December 1910, pp. 789–90
  35. ^ "Royal Academy of Music", The Times, 1 June 1908, p. 11
  36. ^ e.g., The Times, 15 December 1909, p. 14; and The Musical Times, Vol. 54, No. 841, 1 March 1913, p. 195
  37. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 55, No. 857, 1 July 1914, pp. 459–460
  38. ^ The Musical Times, Vol. 52, No. 815, 1 January 1911, p. 29
  39. ^ The Times, 5 December 1903, p. 14
  40. ^ The Times, 14 September 1912, p. 4
  41. ^ Index of Birth, Marriage & Deaths for England & Wales, October – December 1872, Camberwell, vol 1d, p. 671


  • Ayre, Leslie (1972). The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion. London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-396-06634-8. 
  • Joseph, Tony (1994). The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Bristol: Bunthorne Books.  ISBN 0-9507992-1-1

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