Death of a popular British soprano

Death of a popular British soprano


norman lebrecht

July 12, 2016

Friends report the death last weekend of Catherine Wilson, a busy operatic soprano at Sadlers Wells, Opera North, Aldeburgh and Scottish Opera.

A versatile performer, she created the title role in Thea Musgrave’s opera Mary Queen of Scots and she was much in demand for Britten roles: Governess in Turn of the Screw, Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nancy in Albert Herring and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes. A full list of her roles with Scottish Opera, where she sang from 1960 to 1987, can be read here.

A strikingly beautiful woman, Catherine turned 80 this year.

She was married to the conductor Leonard Hancock, who died in 1999.

catherine wilson


  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I loved Catherine Wilson, she was a delightful lady and as talented as she was beautiful. Despite being less than half her age, many of my fellow students would often say ‘Lucky old Lenny…’

  • Una says:

    Knew them.both from Scottish Opera. Sad news for sure …

  • Bob Goldsmith says:

    Lovely to hear Catherine Wilson singing in Fledermaus, the first production I saw as a child. Those voices flood back, that imperious czardas, and see her tall and red-haired. Is this recording availible to buy? Such happy kemories

    • Nick says:

      Just for information, excerpts from Catherine’s Scottish Opera Merry Widow are available on a double CD (the other opera excerpts are from Ballo with Charles Craig and Christina Deutekom – both conducted by Alexander Gibson) on the CFP Silver Double label.

  • Johannes Bos-Beijer says:

    A dear colleague at the Santa Fe Opera and a humourous correspondent. I shall miss her.

  • Nick says:

    I knew dear Catherine for more than 40 years. Visiting Glasgow during Scottish Opera’s glory days, the opportunity of seeing her in some of her many roles was always such a joy. Being privileged to enjoy one of the beautifully arranged dinner parties that Leonard and Catherine frequently hosted in their lovely Glasgow flat was equally special. She was very much a company artiste working in a company with colleagues whom she held dear and who always held her in the highest regard.

    Her last few years were marked by ill health which she bore with her usual dignity and fortitude. One of my fondest memories is of a telephone conversation some five or so years ago. She had been asked to appear in the film version of the play “Quartet” with Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly (with whom she had appeared on stage 35 years earlier – she as Rosalinde and he as Frosch in David Pountney’s production of Fledermaus), Michael Gambon and Dame Gwynneth Jones. Suddenly she apologized for having to stop the call. “The studio car has just arrived!” Although her part was what would in earlier years been called a cough and a spit, she was tickled pink to be asked to appear in her first film as she approached her 80s!

    RIP dear Catherine.

  • Kate evans says:

    Catherine was my first teacher at the RNCM before she retired. Her detail to acting thru song got me into finals of Freddie Cox competition even though i was competing with far more developed singers and I continued to study with her on and off throughout my career whilst in Germany. I visited her often in her late years and stayed at her home often when visiting from Germany and we shared many an amendillo sherry and talked about love life ! My regret was not visiting her these last few years due to work commitments. Catherine you were sometimes like a mother to me or an older sister and I shall remember you fondly. Love and kisses. Kate Radmilovic (Milner Evans)

  • Iain Scott says:

    I was astonished twice reading the roles Catherine Wilson sang-most of which I heard. Firstly the sheer diversity of her voice and acting and then the sheer diversity of operas performed by Scottish Opera. Wow. Thank you to both Catherine and Scottish Opera for enriching my musical life.

  • Eileen Allwood says:

    I was in digs with a Catherine Wilson in Didsbury in 1947 She was studying Opera in Manchester with her friend Ann. Their homes were in Yorkshire She was a lovely hard working girl with striking auburn hair in a plait round her head. I thought she married a doctor. Sadly we lost touch with each other Is this the same person do you think ?