Harrison, William (1813-1868) (DNB00)

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HARRISON, WILLIAM (1813–1868), vocalist and operatic manager, the son of a coal merchant, was born at Marylebone, London, 15 June 1813. He made his first appearance as an amateur concert singer in 1836, and then became a pupil at the Royal Academy of Music. During 1837 he appeared as a professional singer at the concerts of the Academy and the Sacred Harmonic Society. On 2 May 1839 he appeared on the stage at Covent Garden in ‘Henrique,’ and afterwards at Drury Lane as Thaddeus in Balfe's ‘Bohemian Girl’ (1843), Don Cæsar de Bazan in Wallace's ‘Maritana,’ and in Benedict's ‘Bride of Venice’ (1843) and ‘Crusaders’ (1846) on their first production. He afterwards played at the Princess's and the Haymarket, and in August 1854 went to the United States with Miss Louisa Pyne. On their return they joined in a scheme for establishing an English opera company. The first season commenced at the Lyceum Theatre on 21 Sept. 1857, with an English version of Auber's ‘Les Diamants de la Couronne.’ In the following year Covent Garden Theatre was engaged, and performances were given there every winter up to 19 March 1864. At first the undertaking met with great success, but it gradually languished. The company, however, produced the following new operas: Balfe's ‘Rose of Castille’ (October 1857), ‘Satanella’ (December 1858), ‘Bianca’ (December 1860), the ‘Puritan's Daughter’ (November 1861), ‘Blanche de Nevers’ (November 1862), and the ‘Armourer of Nantes’ (February 1863); Wallace's ‘Lurline’ (1860), and ‘Love's Triumph’ (1862); Benedict's ‘Lily of Killarney’ (1862); Mellon's ‘Victorine’ (1859); and William Howard Glover's ‘Ruy Blas’ (October 1861). On 8 Nov. 1864 Harrison opened Her Majesty's Theatre as sole manager with an English version of Gounod's ‘Faust;’ the season terminated on 16 March 1865, with Harrison's benefit; the opera was ‘Maritana,’ with selections from the ‘School for Scandal,’ in which Harrison took the part of Charles Surface, his first appearance in non-lyrical drama. His last appearance was at Liverpool, in May 1868, as Fritz in the ‘Grand Duchess of Gerolstein.’ He died at Kentish Town, 9 Nov. 1868, and was buried at Kensal Green. He married a daughter of Mrs. Maria Clifford, the actress, and left two sons. Harrison translated Massé's operetta, ‘Les Noces de Georgette,’ and produced it at Covent Garden in 1860 as ‘Georgette's Wedding.’ In addition to a tenor voice of remarkable purity and sweetness, he had the advantage of being an excellent actor.

[Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians; Cooper's Biog. Dict.; Era, 15 Nov. 1868, p. 10; articles on Balfe, Michael William, and Benedict, Sir Julius.]

C. L. K.