Opera Scotland

Catherine Wilson Suggest updates

Born Glasgow, 4 October 1930.

Died London, 11 July 2016.

Scottish soprano.

Education and early years

Catherine Wilson studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music, and sang initially as a mezzo-soprano. She returned to the Manchester college (by now the RNCM) as a successful teacher from 1980 to 1991.

Her early work was with Opera for All and Glyndebourne. In 1960 she made her debut with Sadler's Wells Opera, her first role being Cinderella. At this stage she also sang Rosina, Dorabella  and Cherubino (the first of three roles she eventually sang in The Marriage of Figaro).

She worked with Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh in 1964, recording Nancy in Albert Herring and touring with the English Opera Group to Russia and Canada. She also worked with Britten on performances of Turn of the Screw in 1972.

After her return to Sadler's Wells she added Ninetta in The Thieving Magpie and created the role of Jenny in The Mines of Sulphur (Bennett 1965). By this time she was singing more soprano roles including Adèle in Count Ory, Musetta, and Lisa in The Queen of Spades. Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus gave her an opportunity to utilise her immaculate sense of comic timing in classic operetta, including the dialogue.

Scottish Opera

Catherine Wilson made her first appearance with Scottish Opera in the spring of 1966, as Nancy in Albert Herring and Ortlinde in Die Walküre. These were followed by Countess Almaviva in 1968, the Governess in The Turn of the Screw in 1970, Freia and Gutrune in 1971, Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1972), Rosina, then Ellen Orford and Hanna Glawari in 1973. Roles taken on in later seasons included Rosalinde, Female Chorus, the Marschallin, Emilia Marty, Alice Ford and Marcellina. Eventually there was a final Britten part, the elegant mime of Tadzio's mother in Death in Venice. She created two roles with the company, Fulvia in The Catiline Conspiracy (Hamilton 1974) and Mary in Mary, Queen of Scots (Musgrave 1977).

She travelled abroad regularly with Scottish Opera in the Britten chamber works, starting with Albert Herring in Florence (1968). Turn of the Screw, the Dream and Rape of Lucretia all toured the continent regularly from Iceland to Yugoslavia, and Mary, Queen of Scots was taken to Germany.

International experience

Wilson also worked with a number of resident companies in Germany and Switzerland, while in the USA she spent a season at Santa Fe as Hanna Glawari, Musetta and, a further Britten role, Mrs Julian in the US premiere of Owen Wingrave. She also sang in Houston.

Concert work included a series of appearances under the direction of the Viennese violinist, conductor and operetta expert Willi Boskovsky.


There are not many recordings. Nancy in Albert Herring under the composer's direction is essential. Wilson also sang a Witch on the first Janet Baker recording of Dido and Aeneas, made in 1962. A disc of extracts in English of Scottish Opera's Merry Widow production gives an idea of her abilities in operetta, though sadly without dialogue.

Roles in Scotland

Rosina Bartolo's ward
Barbiere di Siviglia 1960
Barbiere di Siviglia 1961
Barbiere di Siviglia 1967
Barbiere di Siviglia 1972
Angelina known as Cinderella, Magnifico's stepdaughter
Cenerentola 1961
Cherubino the Count's page
Nozze di Figaro 1961
Phyllis an Arcadian Shepherdess and Ward in Chancery
Iolanthe 1962
Second Lady in attendance on the Queen
Zauberflöte 1962
Jenny an actress (Haidee in the play)
Mines of Sulphur 1965
Nancy from the baker's
Albert Herring 1966
Albert Herring 1967
Albert Herring 1968
Albert Herring 1969
Albert Herring 1970
Albert Herring 1971
Ortlinde a Valkyrie
Valkyrie 1966
Ninetta a servant in Fabrizio's household
Gazza Ladra 1966
Rosalinde wife of Eisenstein
Fledermaus 1968
Fledermaus 1975
Fledermaus 1976
Fledermaus 1981
Countess Almaviva
Nozze di Figaro 1968
Nozze di Figaro 1972
Nozze di Figaro 1973
Countess Adèle of Formoutiers
Comte Ory 1969
Turn of the Screw 1970
Turn of the Screw 1971
Turn of the Screw 1973
Turn of the Screw 1975
Turn of the Screw 1977
Turn of the Screw 1979
Gutrune a Gibichung, Gunther's sister
Götterdämmerung 1971
Freia sister of Fricka and goddess of love and spring
Rheingold 1971
Helena in love with Demetrius
Midsummer Night's Dream 1972
Midsummer Night's Dream 1973
Midsummer Night's Dream 1976
Ellen Orford widow and schoolmistress
Peter Grimes 1973
Peter Grimes 1980
Hanna Glawari a wealthy young widow
Lustige Witwe 1973
Lustige Witwe 1974
Lustige Witwe 1976
Lustige Witwe 1977
Fulvia a courtesan
Catiline Conspiracy 1974
Catiline Conspiracy 1978
Feldmarschallin Marie-Therese, Princess of Werdenberg (the Field-Marshal's wife)
Rosenkavalier 1974
Rosenkavalier 1978
Musetta a grisette
Bohème 1975
Alice Mistress Alice Ford, wife of Ford
Falstaff 1976
Falstaff 1977
Female Chorus
Rape of Lucretia 1976
Rape of Lucretia 1977
Mary Queen of Scotland
Mary, Queen of Scots 1977
Emilia Marty an opera singer
Makropulos Affair 1981
Polish Mother
Death in Venice 1983
Marcellina Bartolo's housekeeper
Nozze di Figaro 1986
Nozze di Figaro 1987

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