Joyce Wright as Iolanthe in Iolanthe

Joyce Wright (1947-62)

[Born Leicester 23 Jun 1922]

Betty Joyce Wright was raised in Glasgow where she received musical training from the age of eight. Before auditioning for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, she had considerable musical experience at Midlands' musical festivals, in choirs, and on the amateur stage, including a period with the Glasgow Players. She was also a professional pianist in a dance orchestra.

She joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company chorus in June 1947, and during the following (1947-48) season shared Leila in Iolanthe and Peep-Bo in The Mikado with Joan Gillingham, and filled in on occasion as Edith in The Pirates of Penzance and the Lady Saphir in Patience. Over the course of the 1948-49 season she assumed an assortment of small parts:First Bridesmaid in Trial by Jury, Saphir in Patience, Leila, Peep-Bo, Ruth in Ruddigore, and Giulia in The Gondoliers. She also filled in briefly as Hebe in H.M.S. Pinafore and Edith in Pirates, Phoebe Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Tessa in The Gondoliers that year.

In August 1949 Miss Wright added Kate in The Pirates of Penzance to her regular duties, and also substituted from time to time for Miss Gillingham as Edith, Tessa, and Pitti-Sing in The Mikado during the 1949-50 season. She retained her seven roles (Bridesmaid, Saphir, Leila, Peep-Bo, Ruth, Giulia, and Kate) through the following season.

Then in September 1951 Joan Gillingham was forced to leave the Company due to illness. Joyce Wright moved up to principal soubrette, taking leading roles in all the full length operas in the repertoire at the time:H.M.S. Pinafore (Hebe), The Pirates of Penzance (Edith), Patience (Lady Angela), Iolanthe (Iolanthe), The Mikado (Pitti-Sing), Ruddigore (Mad Margaret), The Yeomen of the Guard (Phoebe Meryll), and The Gondoliers (Tessa). She played these roles, with the exception of Angela, for the next eleven seasons. Angela was given to Beryl Dixon in 1956, but reclaimed by Miss Wright when Miss Dixon left the Company in 1960. Joyce Wright left the D'Oyly Carte herself in June 1962.

She was for a time married to D'Oyly Carte comic baritone Peter Pratt. During her years with the Company she recorded Kate (1949 Pirates), Giulia (1950 Gondoliers), Peep-Bo (1950 Mikado), Hebe (1960 Pinafore), and Tessa (1961 Gondoliers). She also sang Peep-Bo in a 1951 BBC broadcast of The Mikado and Tessa in a BBC Gondoliers in 1958 or 1959.

Upon leaving the Company, Miss Wright appeared in The Yeomen of the Guard in the 1962 Festival of the City of London at the Tower of London. She also did some work in BBC television and produced Gilbert & Sullivan for amateur companies throughout England. A talented artist, she designed and hand painted lampshades with a Mikado motif that she marketed through The Savoyard in 1966. They are much admired by connoisseurs.

Page modified August 26, 2007 © 2001-07 David Stone