Radio, Television and Stage Star - Maureen Howard




STAGES with Peter Eyers show

Summary: Melbourne born soprano Maureen Howard was beloved by audiences and critics alike. At twelve years of age, she was a regular voice on the weekly 3DB Radio programme Swallows Juniorsand she later won the Vocal Section of television's Swallow's Parade. Though she studied singing from an early age, she wanted to be a hairdresser and, it was serendipitous that one of her 'clients' was associated with the two major theatre entrepreneurs J.C. Williamson and Garnet H. Carroll Management. A simple conversation during a hairdressing appointment gained Maureen a stage audition for J.C.Williamson at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne . They had just opened their production of My Fair Lady. The following week, the same 'client' arranged an audition for Garnet H. Carroll at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne and she was immediately offered a contract for Chorus - and later 'stand-by' for Marian the Librarian - in The Music Man. As would occur many times during her early career, Maureen went on in the star's role. In April of 1961, she was cast in Lock Up Your Daughters with an additional song especially written for her character by the conductor Dobbs Franks. In August that year, she performed in Loesser's Most Happy Fella with Inia Te Wiata and Ronal Jackson. Later that year, Garnett H. Carroll Management cast her as June Bronhill's 'stand-by' in The Sound of Music and, again, Maureen was frequently seen in the role of Maria. In 1962, Maureen Howard won First Prize in the celebrated Sun Aria and left her contract for The Sound of Music. She was a frequent face and voice on television especially on the popular Sunny Side Up in 1963. After study, a year in Italy and then London - with the noted teacher Vera Rózsa - her operatic career started with Puccini's Tosca in 1967 - starting her career at the top - with the Elizabethan Trust Opera. The production opened at the Perth Festival on February 11th and featured Reginald Byers and the Hungarian baritone Alexander Major as Cavaradossi and Scarpia along with the twenty-seven years old Maureen Howard. Her operatic debut was a success, with one critic writing "She may not be as imperious as some Toscas, but she certainly is more vocally secure than many ... A powerful voice which is always beautifully controlled, and dominated the stage." The same year, she performed Zerlina in Don Giovanni with a stellar cast featuring Neil Warren-Smith, Marcella Reale, Rosemary Gordon, Robert Gard, Ronald Maconaghie and John Germain. It was a controversial production directed by the young Jim Sharman. A production of Die Fledermaus as Rosalinda (and June Bronhill as the maid, Adele) was a hit with audiences. Next came performances of Venus in Tannhäuser, Tebaldo in Don Carlo, Liù in Turandot, Micaela in Carmen and the cover of Minnie in the Australian premiere of Puccini's La fanciulla del West. Her career reached a new high with her assumption of Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly in 1969 with a new production mounted especially for her talents. As a company member, she was also cast as Felice in Wolf-Ferrari's School for Fathers, Josephine in HMS Pinafore, Elsie Maynard in Yeoman of the Guard along with Giulietta in a concert version of The Tales of Hoffmann. Along with Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly, the roles of Nedda in Pagliacci and Musetta in La bohème fitted Maureen Howard to a tee. To many audiences, her performances in all three roles have never been surpassed by an Australian born performer. She created Musetta in the famous La bohème production by Tom Lingwood in 1971. "Maureen Howard's Musetta stole the show ... she has the wonderful ability for stance, stage presence and poise of hand which just fix one's eyes upon her." During the following season, she performed her first Mimi in the same production. Her debut as Nedda came in 1972 and she was usually cast alongside the Canio...