Opera Scotland

Mary Ann Paton Suggest updates

Lady Lennox; Mrs Joseph Wood.

Born Edinburgh, October 1802.

Died Chapelthorpe, 21 July 1864.

Scottish soprano.

Mary Ann Paton had a starry twenty year career as a leading British operatic performer, valued for her beauty as well as for her vocal and acting abilities. She is most remembered for creating the part of Reiza in Weber's Oberon (1826).

Mary Ann Paton grew up in Edinburgh, where her father was a teacher. She was first put on the stage before the age of eight, her precocious talent coming to the notice of the Duchess of Buccleuch. She gradually built up a concert career, though this was slow to develop after the family removed to London.

By 1822 she was turning to opera, and first appeared in London under Morris's management at the King's Theatre, Haymarket. Her debut role, on 3 August, was Susanna, followed a few days later by Rosina. She first appeared at Covent Garden on 19 October, as Polly in The Beggar's Opera. A great popular favourite, she continued to work variously at the King's, Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres from then until her retirement in 1844. The most famous event was the launch of Weber's last opera, Oberon, which was hugely successful, in spite of the composer's death shortly after.

In 1824, largely at her father's instigation, she had married Lord William Lennox under conditions of some secrecy. The news became public only in 1826, but the marriage was already unhappy, in spite of the birth of three children. She eventually obtained a divorce, and seemed to keep the sympathy of the public while doing so. Her second marriage, to the tenor Joseph Wood, followed in 1829, and her first public appearance after that marriage was on 24 February 1829, in a revival of Oberon when she sang Reiza and her husband Huon.

An additional role she performed successfully at the King's Theatre was in Cenerentola in 1831, after which she and her husband made their first tour to the USA from September 1833 to July 1834, singing in Cinderella at the Park Theatre, New York. There was a further New York visit in 1840. Converting to Catholicism, she retired to the convent at Micklegate Bar, York, for a few months in 1843. Having second thoughts, she emerged, and with her husband resumed their careers shortly after, appearing successfully at the Princess's Theatre for a season. From 1844 she lived in retirement near Wakefield, teaching in Leeds.

She died at Bullcliffe Hall, Bretton West, nr Wakefield, Yorkshire, where she and her husband had lived in retirement.

(Main Source: Obituary in The Era).


One of her visits to Edinburgh, in early summer 1824, consisted of twelve evenings, of which several Playbills survive in NLS, supplemented by newspaper adverts (Paton's roles in brackets).

Monday, 21 June   Is He Jealous?; The Barber of Seville (Rosina); The Spectre Bridegroom.

Tuesday, 22 June   The Marriage of Figaro (Susanna).

Wednesday, 23 June   The Barber of Seville (Rosina); Brother and Sister (Donna Isidora).

Thursday, 24 June    The Lord of the Manor (Annette); Simpson & Co.

Friday, 25 June    The Duenna (Clara); Fortune's Frolic.

Saturday, 26 June   The Marriage of Figaro (Susanna); A Roland for an Oliver (Maria Darlington).

Monday, 28 June    The Lord of the Manor (Annette); Brother and Sister (Donna Isidora).

Tuesday, 29 June    Love in a Village (Rosetta); Brother and Sister (Donna Isidora).

Wednesday, 30 June   Rob Roy (Diana Vernon); The Sleeping Draught.

Thursday, 1 July    Love in a Village (Rosetta).

Friday, 2 July    Love in a Village (Rosetta); Brother and Sister (Donna Isidora)

Saturday, 3 July   The Lord of the Manor (Annette) Paul and Virginia (Annette & Virginia).

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