"Brilliant" Robert Hugill
Carol Rowlands as Babulenka
The Gambler, Grange Park, 2007

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Frieze of pictures showing Carol Rowlands, mezzo soprano in various roles

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Modern, classical and cabaret

Carol Rowlands, mezzo soprano, in a studio portrait

Carol's experience ranged from classical opera to more modern works, in which she was particularly active in later years. She also sang in cabaret and light music ensembles.




A pattern perhaps seems to emerge, in that Carol tended towards the twentieth century, but she was in fact equally eloquent in the classical and romantic spheres. She performed the role of Waltraute in Die Walkure for Scottish Opera; Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro for several companies, including Scottish Opera and Opera Factory; The Second Lady in The Magic Flute for Scottish Opera; Despina in Cosi fan Tutte at Longborough; Berta in Il Barberiere di Siviglia for Holland Park and Tisbe in La Cenerentola for Opera Northern Ireland; the title role in Offenbach's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein for Scottish Opera-go-round; Cherubino in Figaro (Malta) and Satirino in Cavalli's La Calisto (Batignano). She also toured America for three months in 2003 with London City Opera in the role of Suzuki in Madame Butterfly – a role in which she made a strong impact on the production.

Solo career

Early in her solo career Carol twice sang the role of Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, once for Scottish Opera-go-round and once for Opera South, and she also performed the role of Carmen at Holland Park in the early nineties. She also fulfilled two further ambitions at that time by singing Amneris (Aida) and Tatyana (Eugene Onegin) for small companies.



This is not Carol's life story – it is the formal sort of "biog" that all performers assemble to summarise their successes over the years. However, it gives a good flavour of her operatic work, which spanned more than thirty years.

For the first seven of those years [she said], she built up her knowledge and skills in the areas of stagecraft and interpretation performing with the chorus of Scottish Opera, during which time she played many small roles, for instance (her first) The Beggar Woman in Britten's Death in Venice; Hero and Summer in Cavalli's L'Egisto; three small Verdi roles – Giovanna in Rigoletto, Annina in La Traviata and Inez in Il Trovatore; and by Mozart, The Third Boy in The Magic Flute and the Second Bridesmaid in The Marriage of Figaro. She played The Lady Artist in Berg's Lulu, Leila in Iolanthe, Mrs Einsford-Hill and the Maid in My Fair Lady, and Sutton in Weill's Lady in the Dark – and more.

Lighter singing

Also during that period she had extensive experience of lighter singing, being one fifth of a very successful cabaret group, The Moonlighters, who gave numerous performances over Scotland and on radio and TV over several years. This is an area of her singing which she still enjoys greatly and is keen to maintain.

Broad-ranging styles

Carol's freelance career continued along the lines of broad-ranging styles, periods and even tessituras, to some extent: she had a wide vocal range, and, as tends to be the requirement of the modern-day mezzo, acquitted herself convincingly in all areas of the voice, from alto to high mezzo. She particularly shone in roles which required emotional dramatic intensity and also had a real flair for comic timing and physical and facial expressiveness. She could be refreshingly unselfconscious and uninhibited on the stage.

Individual stamp

Roles to which Carol successfully brought her own individual stamp include Mrs Grose in The Turn of the Screw, which she played three times, twice for Broomhill Opera (the second time in the acclaimed Elijah Moshinsky production at The Wilton's Music Hall) and once for the Nationale Reisopera, Netherlands. Also Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress for English Touring Opera, Judy in Punch and Judy by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, for Music Theatre Wales, Goneril in Toshio Hosokawa's Vision of Lear (the first British production of this piece – mounted by the Memos Collective).