Dame Bridget Cicely D'Oyly Carte
DBE (March 25 1908
– May 2 1985
), was the granddaughter of impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte
(1844–1901) and the only daughter of Rupert D'Oyly Carte
(1876–1948) and the former Lady Dorothy Milner Gathorne-Hardy (1889–1977). She became head of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
from 1948 until 1982.
Life and career
Bridget D'Oyly Carte was born at Suffolk Street, Pall Mall
, London, and educated in England and abroad. In 1926, when she was only 18, she married her first cousin, John David Gathorne-Hardy, the fourth Earl of Cranbrook
(1900-1978), an explorer and naturalist. They soon separated and finally divorced in 1931, and she resumed her maiden name by deed poll
in 1932. She then resumed her education at Dartington Hall
from 1931 to 1933, a school with a long musical tradition, taking courses in dance, teacher training, art and design. There she met designer Peter Goffin
who became a long-time friend.
The death of her only brother, Michael, in 1932 made Bridget the heir to her father's hotel and theatre interests. As a child, however, she had been reluctant to assume the family legacy. She later told The Gramophone magazine:
- "At home, you know, we weren’t allowed to hum Gilbert and Sullivan; in fact we were fined for it, because it annoyed my father. We were allowed to sing it properly, but my brother and I couldn’t – in my family the fact that I wasn’t Mozart at about three years old was thought of as rather disappointing. So I went through a phase when I was very anti-Gilbert and Sullivan; I became rather a highbrow, and my father thought I was a bit of a snake-in-the-grass because of it.
From 1933 to 1939, Bridget was an assistant to her father at the Savoy Hotel, taking responsibility for furnishing and interior decoration, for which she had training and aptitude. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, however, she undertook child welfare work and continued with it until her father's death in 1948. Shortly after her father's death she sold the family's country house, Coleton Fishacre, Devon, which had been built for her parents in 1925. In 1949 she bought Shrubs Wood, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, designed by the art deco architect Serge Chermayeff. Here she pursued her love of gardening and gave summer parties for disadvantaged or disabled children.
Managing the family interests
When her father died in 1948, she inherited all his interests including the Savoy Hotel group and the family’s opera company, which presented the Savoy Operas
from 1875 to 1982. She did not succeed Rupert D'Oyly Carte as chairman of the Savoy Hotel group, in which she retained a large shareholding, but she became an active director. She moved into a suite in the Savoy Hotel and resumed control of the furnishing and decoration departments. When the Savoy Group acquired them, she took interest in the soft-furnishing company, James Edwards, and was chairman of the royal florists, Edward Goodyear Ltd. She became vice-chairman of the Group in 1971 and was its president at the time of her death.
At first, Bridget "did not feel qualified to sustain the responsibility" of running the opera company. Nevertheless, she was determined to prove herself. An important move was to hire Frederic Lloyd as General Manager in 1951, which position he continued to discharge until the company closed. In running the D'Oyly Carte Opera company she took steps to keep the productions fresh, engaging designers to redesign the costumes and scenery. Her old friend, Peter Goffin, who had previously redesigned The Yeomen of the Guard and Ruddigore for Rupert D'Oyly Carte, designed a unit set in 1957 to facilitate and reduce the cost of touring. He also produced new settings and costumes for Patience (1957), The Mikado (1958 – settings only, most of the celebrated Charles Ricketts costumes being retained), The Gondoliers (1958), Trial by Jury (1959), H.M.S. Pinafore (1961), and Iolanthe (1961). Princess Ida was redesigned by James Wade in 1954.
Bridget claimed that the most important function of the operas, which in later years she advertised rather as musicals, was "to bridge the generation gap and link serious music to pop. She televised and had films made of some of the operas, engaged Sir Malcolm Sargent to conduct performances at the Festival of Britain season in 1951 at the operas' original London home, the Savoy Theatre, and supported an increasing number of tours of the United States. In 1960 the company's own touring orchestra was formed as a change from the ad hoc recruitment of players at each venue. In 1975 the company produced a centenary season at the Savoy Theatre, in 1977 it gave a royal command performance at Windsor Castle, and in 1979, for the first time, it toured Australia and New Zealand.
Setting up the charitable trusts
With the approaching end of the D’Oyly Carte monopoly on Gilbert and Sullivan
performances, when the copyright on Gilbert’s words expired in 1961, Bridget D'Oyly Carte set up the charitable D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust to continue to present the operas. She endowed the trust with the company's scenery, costumes, band parts, recording rights and other assets, together with a cash endowment of £30,000. She formed Bridget D'Oyly Carte Ltd to manage the opera company, with herself as chairman and managing director. Finally, mounting losses, and the refusal of the Arts Council to provide a grant, forced the closure of the company in 1982. A legacy from her private fortune enabled a new company using the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company name, beginning in 1988. That company performed short seasons until 2003.
In 1972, she founded the D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust – entirely separate from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company – supporting charitable causes in the fields of the arts, medical welfare and the environment. In 2001, the trust endowed the D'Oyly Carte Chair in Medicine and the Arts in the UK at King's College London with £2 million.
In the 1970s, Bridget became the tenant of the semi-ruined Barscobe Castle, Balmaclennan, a small seventeenth-century fortified house in south-west Scotland, which she restored. In 1974 she was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Musicians
of Great Britain, and in 1975 was created a DBE
. Always shy, old-fashioned and formal, Bridget appreciated simplicity and avoided parties and social events as much as possible. For her Who's Who
entry she listed her recreations as, "country living and gardening; reading, theatre and music.
A smoker, Bridget died of lung cancer in at her country home in Shrubs Wood, Buckinghamshire at the age of 77. Her remains were cremated. She left a fortune of £5,479,888.
- Joseph, Tony (1994). D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 1875-1982: An Unofficial History. London: Bunthorne Books. ISBN 0-950-79921-1
- Who's Who, 1984, A & C Black, London, 1984, ISBN 0-7136-2385-3
- C. M. P. Taylor, "Carte, Dame Bridget Cicely D'Oyly (1908–1985)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004accessed 28 June 2007
- The Gramophone, March 1975, pp. 1630-33.
- The Times, London, 3 May 1985
- W. S. Gilbert Society Journal, 1/2 (autumn 1985), 42–44
- Savoy Standard, 21 June 1985
- Green, Martyn, Here's a how-de-do: travelling with Gilbert and Sullivan (1952)
- C. Rollins and R. J. Witts, eds., The D'Oyly Carte Company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas (1962)
- Jacobs, Arthur, Arthur Sullivan: a Victorian Musician, 2nd ed. (1992)