An artist who had the unusual distinction of first singing soprano roles and then all the contralto roles in the D'Oyly Carte Company was Edinburgh-born Ann Drummond-Grant, who joined the D'Oyly Carte in 1933 .
She left the Company in 1938, and, after further training, returned in 1950 as a contralto, taking over all the leading roles from a long line of distinguished contraltos which included Ella Halman, Evelyn Gardiner, and Bertha Lewis.
She was a dignified and handsome woman, with a voice to match her presence. Her contralto had a warm, velvety, smooth, round quality, and her interpretation of Hearts do not break from "The Mikado" and Oh foolish fay from "Iolanthe" were two of her very best numbers. Sad is that woman's lot from "Patience" and There grew a little flower from "Ruddigore" were musical numbers well suited to her, and her portrayal of the Duchess of Plaza-Toro, performed by her as a large and dominating woman, full of barbs, innuendo, and acidity. Although she made her Duchess a human woman as well, and not a 'vinegar bottle' all the time; and as Fairy Queen in "Iolanthe" she ruled her fairies with a rod of iron, slightly touched with tenderness.'
She was married to the conductor of the D'Oyly Carte, Isidore Godfrey and on September 11th, 1959, the world of Gilbert and Sullivan was shocked and stunned to hear that she had died on that day. It was announced over the radio and on TV, and, although many of her fans knew she was ill, they were not prepared or ready for her untimely death.
Ann Drummond-Grant's first spell with the company was from 1933 to 1938 and the second from 1950 to 1959. She played the parts of Aline, Plaintiff, Josephine, Buttercup, Ruth (Pirates), Patience, Lady Jane, Ceilia, Phyllis, Fairy Queen, Lady Psyche, Princess Ida, Lady Blanche, Katisha, Zorah, Dame Hannah, Elsie Maynard, Dame Carruthers, Fiametta, Gianetta and Duchess of Plaza Toro.
(Gilbert and Sullivan WeBring and Image ©National Portrtait Gallery)