Marion Lowe

Sadler's Wells soprano


Molly Wilkinson (Marion Lowe), singer: born Manchester 12 September 1921; married 1940 Steven Lowe (one son; marriage dissolved), 1960 Thomas Johnston (died 1979; one son); died Wexham, Buckinghamshire 14 February 2006.

Marion Lowe was a soprano whose operatic career was entirely bound up with Sadler's Wells Opera. An attractive woman with a beautiful voice, she was particularly effective in roles such as Madame Butterfly, Mimi in La Bohème and Marguerite in Faust where the heroine has to express suffering, either mental or physical. She was also an excellent comic actress, and one of her finest roles was Felicia in Wolf-Ferrari's I quattro rusteghi, or Lady Pinchbeck in The School for Fathers, as it became in translation.

Born Molly Wilkinson in 1921 in Manchester, she studied at the Royal Manchester College of Music, as it then was. When she joined the Sadler's Wells chorus in 1943, she added Marion to the surname of her first husband, Steven Lowe, for her professional name. At that time Sadler's Wells was homeless, and toured the country, only returning to the theatre in Islington on 7 June 1945, for the premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes (in which, presumably, Lowe took part). She made her first solo appearance in 1946 as Mistress Page in Vaughan Williams's Sir John in Love. Later she sang another "merry wife", Alice Ford, in Verdi's Falstaff, a characterisation in which Alice's vivacity and great good-humour were strongly in evidence.

Singers were hard worked at the Wells in those days, and Lowe usually sang at least 50 times a season. For instance, in 1951-52 she gave 56 performances, including her three Mozart roles, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. Of these the Countess was probably her best interpretation; she was able to suggest the spirited girl Rosina that lay beneath the heartbreak of the married woman.

She also appeared as Micaela in Carmen and Charlotte in Massenet's Werther. Though Charlotte is usually sung by a mezzo, the part suited Lowe very well, both vocally and dramatically. After more than half a century I can still remember the effect of the "Air des larmes", when Charlotte rereads Werther's letters. Equally affecting was Lowe's perfomance of another Letter Scene, that of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin.

Lowe scored the greatest success of her career on 20 January 1958 , when she gave a bewitching account of Valencienne, the "faithful wife" of Baron Mirko Zeta, in a new production of The Merry Widow. The expiration of copyright meant that for the first time ever in Britain both the text and music of Lehar's operetta could be performed as they were originally written. The result was pure magic. June Bronhill as Hanna Glawari, Thomas Round as Danilo and William McAlpine as Camille de Rosillon were all excellent, and the romantic duet between Valencienne and Camille (during which she nearly became an unfaithful wife) elicited torrents of applause at every performance. The production was immensely popular and received a Royal Command Performance.

Marion Lowe also sang in many Promenade Concerts and oratorios, the bread and butter of all singers. She was particularly proud of taking part in a BBC concert in 1956 of Gluck's Alceste, with Kirsten Flagstad in the title role and Raoul Jobin as Admetus, which was later issued as a long-playing gramophone record by Decca. Lowe sang Ismene. Though Flagstad had retired from the stage by then, she was in magnificent voice, and everyone who participated shared in the success.

After Lowe herself retired, she moved to Amersham and taught singing to private pupils. She also joined the Chesham Light Opera Society and sang in several Gilbert & Sullivan shows as well as the musical Fiddler on the Roof, in which she was Tevye's wife Golde.

Elizabeth Forbes

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape