Tuesday 08 February 2005
Ruth Packer, opera singer and teacher: born London 22 October 1910; married first Tudor Davies (died 1958), second Major Ynyr Probert (deceased); died São Brás de Alportel, Portugal 12 January 2005.
Ruth Packer was a dramatic soprano of that generation of singers whose careers suffered from the six-year hiatus of the Second World War. She appeared at Covent Garden in Sir Thomas Beecham's Grand Opera Season in May and June 1939, singing Helmwige in Die Walküre (part of a Ring cycle), and was engaged to sing Gutrune in Götterdämmerung the following season - which of course never took place.
She spent the war years touring first with Sadler's Wells Opera (later the English National Opera) and then the Carl Rosa Opera Company. In the early 1950s she sang with the recently formed Welsh National Opera.
Ruth Packer was born in London in 1910. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and then in Leipzig with Elena Gerhardt, in whose house she lived for several months. Finally she studied in Vienna. After it became clear that Covent Garden would perform no more opera until the war was over, she joined Sadler's Wells Opera, for whom she sang Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and the title role of Madame Butterfly. One of the chief singers at Sadler's Wells at that time was the Welsh tenor Tudor Davies, whom Packer married as her first husband. She and Davies both left the company in 1941 and joined the Carl Rosa.
Her roles for the Carl Rosa included Leonora in Il trovatore, Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, as well as Musetta in La Bohème and the title role of Tosca. A true dramatic soprano, she was especially good in parts like Leonora and Tosca, where her temperament was in tune with the character.
In 1951 a new opera by George Lloyd, John Socman, was produced to celebrate the Festival of Britain. The premiere was on 15 May, and Packer sang Sybil, while Davies played Brother Tom, a comic friar, to riotous effect. The opera was generally well received, but soon slipped out of the Carl Rosa repertory.
Meanwhile the Welsh National Opera was inaugurated in 1946, with Davies singing Canio in Pagliacci and the title role of Faust. In 1952 Packer sang Abigail in a new production of Verdi's Nabucco; the amateur chorus in particular scored a triumph. She sang twice more for WNO, as Violetta in a revival of La traviata in 1953, and as Elena in Verdi's Sicilian Vespers in 1954, another new production that was a great success.
Packer obtained a new and effective role in 1957, when she sang Madame Defarge in the world stage premiere of Arthur Benjamin's Dickens-based opera A Tale of Two Cities, performed by the New Opera Company at Sadler's Wells Theatre in a fine production directed by Anthony Besch.
After she retired from the opera stage, Ruth Packer taught singing, first at the Royal College of Music and then privately. She was an excellent if sometimes eccentric teacher (she liked to begin her lessons at 8.30 in the morning) and her pupils included Gwynneth Jones, Anne Evans, Catherine Wilson, Katherine Pring and Helen Field.
Though Packer made no commercial records, she sang the Overseer in Richard Strauss's Elektra, conducted by Beecham for the BBC in October 1947 and recordings of this performance exist. The mouth-watering cast included Erna Schlüter, Ljuba Wellitsch, Elisabeth Höngen and Paul Schoeffler.
She spent the final years of her life in the Algarve.
- 1 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
- 2 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 3 Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
- 4 iPhone 6s camera: features to include 4K video camera and flash for selfies
- 5 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
£9464 - £12995 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will ne...
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...
£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hull based charity providing except...
£9464 - £10396 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will ne...