The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Marion Hood

Marion Hood as 'Joan of Arc'

A carte-de-visite portrait of the English soprano Marion Hood (1854-1912), who performed in opera and musical theatre. She is perhaps best remembered for creating the role of Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance in London.

Born Sarah Ann Isaac in Liverpool on 1 April 1854, she was performing on the music hall stage as a child of eleven under the name Marion Isaac. By 1876 she was a singing star in Hull, and she soon headed for London and a course of study at the Royal Academy of Music, with the view of appearing on the grand opera stage or the concert platform.

In March 1880 she accompanied Harriett Coveney to a rehearsal of The Pirates of Penzance at the Opera Comique. She was introduced to W. S. Gilbert, who shortly arranged an audition. She sang the ‘Shadow Song’ from Meyerbeer's Dinorah, and was immediately offered the part of Mabel. It was in this character that she made her London Stage début. She would play Mabel until January 1881, when she left the stage and married her second husband. This was her only engagement with a D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

She returned to the stage in August 1881 as Constance in the first production of Claude Duval at the Olympic Theatre. After subsequent engagements at the Alhambra and Avenue Theatres she made a provincial tour in grand opera, appearing as Marguerite in Faust, both in the countryside and at the Crystal Palace. She then returned to comic opera, this time at the Gaiety, where she appeared in Billee Taylor (1885) and Little Jack Sheppard (1885-86), before creating the title role in Stephenson and Cellier's Dorothy (September 1886). The production soon transferred to the Prince of Wales's, where it enjoyed enormous success, but illness forced Hood out of the cast after about 350 nights.

When she recovered, she returned to the Gaiety where she starred in such shows as Monte Cristo Jr. (1887), Miss Esmeralda (1887-88), Frankenstein (1887-88) and Ruy Blas and the Blase Roue (1889). She twice toured America with Gaiety Companies (1888-89 and 1889-90). In 1891 she returned to the Opera Comique in a burlesque of Joan of Arc, and appeared in the same show in September when it was revived at the Gaiety. Her last appearance on the London stage may have been as a member of the crowd in court in Trial by Jury at the Nellie Farren benefit held at Drury Lane in March 1898.

She died in Thanet on 14 August 1912.

Photographed by William and Daniel Downey of London and Newcastle.


Code: 123826
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© Paul Frecker 2019