Frederic Austin had an important career as a baritone, particularly in the leading roles of Wagner. He went on to play an influential part in operatic management, and was an important teacher.
His debut was as Gunther in Götterdämmerung, when Hans Richter conducted the famous English Ring at Covent Garden in 1908. When the cycles were performed by the Denhof company a couple of years later, he repeated that part, having sung Wotan at the previous three evenings. He quickly added the Dutchman and Sachs to his Wagnerian repertoire.
One of his greatest successes came in 1920, when he prepared an edition of the by then largely forgotten Beggar’s Opera. This opened at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, and ran for a couple of years as well as touring. Austin himself appeared in the early performances, singing Peachum.
He then collaborated, from 1922, on the management of BNOC, which toured successfully through the twenties. During the later phases of this he also worked with Sir Thomas Beecham on a scheme to create the Imperial League of Opera, an interesting attempt to initiate an early form of corporate sponsorship – prosperous individuals and businesses in specific communities were invited to provide financial support for the company’s visits. Sadly, while some cities had a positive outcome, the results of this were not uniformly encouraging – the onset of the great depression can hardly have helped.
Courtesy: Opera Scotland