Opera Scotland

William Anderson Suggest updates

Born Dundee c1878.

Died Morden, Surrey 25 November 1941.

Scottish bass.

William Anderson was one of the most important operatic basses working in Britain in the early decades of the twentieth century. He seems to have been ranked only below the great Norman Allin and Robert Radford (both being founder directors of BNOC). All three worked extensively with BNOC as well as other companies of the time.

Anderson was born in Dundee, living at 6 Rosefield Street (off Blackness Road), and was educated at Harris Academy, in those days situated at the bottom of Park Place where the University's Bonar Hall now stands. He joined the architectural practice of Messrs James Maclaren and Son in Bank Street (opposite the Kinnaird concert hall).  He sang as an amateur and in several local church choirs, including St Stephen's Broughty Ferry, Dundee Parish Church (St Mary's) and the Ward Chapel.

When the J W Turner company paid its annual visit to Dundee Anderson auditioned, joining them shortly afterwards.  One of his first solo roles was Biterolf in Tannhäuser, which he sang on the 1903 tour.

In a long stage career Anderson was familiar with over 100 operas, and was especially admired as Méphistophélès in Faust.  He appeared with a number of touring companies, including Moody-Manners, Quinlan, O'Mara, Beecham, Carl Rosa and BNOC. In 1914 he was in Thomas Quinlan's company that toured to South Africa, Australia and Canada.  On the opening night of the British National Opera Company at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford on 6 February 1922, he sang the King in Aïda

Among Anderson's other roles were Mozart (Bartolo, Sarastro), Wagner (Hermann, Heinrich, King Mark, Pogner, Fafner, Hagen) and Verdi (Sparafucile, Ferrando, King of Egypt, Ramfis, Lodovico). He created a part in Boughton's Alkestis (Liverpool 1922) as well as Maurits in The Leper's Flute (Glasgow 1926).

After retiring from opera Anderson continued to appear in concerts as well as teaching. His wife was the Aberdonian mezzo-soprano Nellie Watt, also a member of the O'Mara company.


Sources include Obituary in Dundee Courier, Wednesday, 26 November 1941 and various reviews.

Roles in Scotland

Méphistophélès the devil
Faust 1903
Faust 1915
Faust 1916
Faust 1917
Biterolf a knight and minnesinger
Tannhäuser 1903
Cardinal de Brogni
Jewess 1915
Devilshoof leader of the gypsies
Bohemian Girl 1915
Hermann Landgrave of Thuringia
Tannhäuser 1916
Tannhäuser 1917
Tannhäuser 1927
Tannhäuser 1928
Marcel Raoul's servant
Huguenots 1916
King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle
Tristan und Isolde 1917
Friar Lawrence
Romeo and Juliet 1919
Sparafucile a professional assassin
Rigoletto 1919
Rigoletto 1925
Rigoletto 1926
Father Tom Parish Priest of Kenmare
Lily of Killarney 1919
King of Egypt
Aïda 1920
Aïda 1922
Aïda 1924
Aïda 1925
Aïda 1926
Aïda 1927
Aïda 1928
Ramfis High Priest
Aïda 1922
Aïda 1923
Aïda 1926
Aïda 1927
Mendoza a doctor
Goldsmith of Toledo 1922
Hebrew Elder
Samson and Delilah 1922
Samson and Delilah 1923
Tosca 1922
Tosca 1925
Louise 1922
Colline a philosopher
Bohème 1922
Bohème 1923
Bohème 1924
Bohème 1925
Bohème 1926
Fafner disguised as a dragon
Siegfried 1923
Siegfried 1924
Sarastro High Priest of Isis and Osiris
Zauberflöte 1923
Zauberflöte 1924
Zauberflöte 1927
Zauberflöte 1928
Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic
Otello 1923
Ferrando captain of Di Luna's guard
Trovatore 1923
Simone a cousin, aged seventy
Gianni Schicchi 1923
Gianni Schicchi 1925
Gianni Schicchi 1926
Gianni Schicchi 1927
Boatswain's Mate 1923
Bartolo a doctor, the Countess's former guardian
Nozze di Figaro 1924
Nozze di Figaro 1927
Father of Admetus
Alkestis 1924
Veit Pogner a goldsmith
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1924
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1928
Hugh the Drover 1924
Hugh the Drover 1925
King Dodon
Golden Cockerel 1925
Maurits Pasques de Chavonnes Governor of the Cape
Leper's Flute 1926
Hagen son of Alberich
Götterdämmerung 1927
Abimelech Satrap of Gaza
Samson and Delilah 1927
Don Basilio a singing teacher
Barbiere di Siviglia 1928
Barbiere di Siviglia 1930
Heinrich Henry the Fowler, King of Germany
Lohengrin 1928

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