Leonora Braham as Patience in Patience

Leonora Braham (1881-87, 1896)

[Born Bloomsbury, London 3 Feb 1853; died London 23 Nov 1931]

Born Leonora Lucy Abraham, Leonora Braham made her professional stage debut, probably in 1874, at St. George's Hall, London, in a revival of Gilbert & Clay's Ages Ago with Mr. and Mrs. German Reed. She remained with the German Reeds for several years, but left the stage in 1878 and migrated to Montreal with her husband. In 1879 she was engaged by Gilbert and Clay to play the title role in Princess Toto in New York and, later, in Boston. In 1880 she appeared as Dolly in Alfred Cellier's The Sultan of Mocha, again in New York.

Upon returning to England, she rejoined the German Reeds briefly, and then was signed by D'Oyly Carte to create the title role in Patience at the Opera Comique in April 1881. She remained the Company's principal soprano through March 1887, creating the roles of Phyllis in Iolanthe, Princess Ida in Princess Ida, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, and Rose Maybud in Ruddygore; and playing Aline in The Sorcerer in the 1884-85 revival.

Having married fellow D'Oyly Carter J. Duncan Young in 1886 (her first husband had died while they were in North America), Miss Braham left the Savoy in March 1887 to give birth to her second child. She and her husband traveled to Australia later that year, appearing there in a number of operas including Princess Ida, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, Patience, and Iolanthe. She was back in England from 1888 to 1890, on stage in London and the provinces, though not in Gilbert & Sullivan. She then went to South America on two occasions with Edwin Cleary's English Comic Opera Company, playing Yum-Yum, Phyllis, Josephine in Pinafore, and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance for audiences in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Valparaiso, Lima, and elsewhere. The Company was shipwrecked on their second return to England, but undeterred by the perils of ocean travel, she soon embarked on two years touring South Africa with a repertoire of operas including Gilbert & Sullivan.

In February 1895 Miss Braham was back in London, appearing at Daly's Theatre in An Artist's Model. She was then engaged by D'Oyly Carte again from April to December 1896 to play Julia Jellicoe in The Grand Duke on tour with Carte's Company "B." In this, her final, engagement with the D'Oyly Carte organization, she also played Phoebe in The Yeomen of the Guard and Yum-Yum in The Mikado for portions of the tour.

From 1897 to 1912, Miss Braham continued to perform in London, the British provinces, and New York. In retirement, she retained her interest in Gilbert and Sullivan, and wrote of her G&S memories, "Happy Wanderings of a Savoyard," in The Gilbert & Sullivan Journal, October 1926. In March 1930 she participated with Jessie Bond and Sybil Grey in a Gilbert & Sullivan Society reunion of the original "Three Little Maids from School." Her last years were difficult, however. She was obliged to live apart from her husband who was confined to a nursing home, and she herself was living in poverty at the time of her death in 1931.

A detailed account of her life and career is contained in a series of articles by Robert Binder in The Palace Peeper, newsletter of the New York branch of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, running from October 1982 to April 1983.

Page modified July 29, 2010 © 2001-10 David Stone