16 Facts About Augustus Harris


Sir Augustus Henry Glossop Harris was a British actor, impresario, and dramatist, a dominant figure in the West End theatre of the 1880s and 1890s.


Augustus Harris remained in charge at Drury Lane for the rest of his life, and in 1888 took on the additional responsibility of running the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden, modernising its productions and repertory and abandoning the old convention that all operas, whatever their nationality, were sung in Italian.


Augustus Harris changed the name of the theatre to The Royal Opera House in 1892.


In 1892 Augustus Harris took over the failed Royal English Opera House and turned it into a successful music hall with the new name The Palace Theatre of Varieties.


Augustus Harris was born on 18 March 1852 in the Rue Taitbout, Paris, near the Salle Ventadour, where his father was stage-manager of the Comedie-Italienne opera company.


Augustus Harris made his debut as an actor in the role of Malcolm in Macbeth in September 1873 at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, in a company headed by W H Pennington, Genevieve Ward and Tom Swinbourne.


In 1876 Augustus Harris was appointed resident stage-manager at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester, and by the end of that year, when he staged the pantomime Sindbad [sic] the Sailor for Charles Wyndham at the Crystal Palace, he had established a high reputation: one reviewer wrote that the management could not possibly have a better stage-manager than Augustus Harris.


In 1882 Augustus Harris engaged leading German singers and the conductor Hans Richter for a season of German operas that included the first British performances of Die Meistersinger and the first production anywhere outside Germany of Tristan und Isolde.


Augustus Harris assembled a syndicate of influential backers including Lord Charles Beresford, Earl de Grey and Henry Chaplin and took over the lease of the house in early 1888.


At Covent Garden, as earlier at Drury Lane, Augustus Harris was keen to present new works; his 1894 season included the world premiere of Massenet's La Navarraise and the British premieres of Massenet's Werther, Puccini's Manon Lescaut and Verdi's Falstaff.


Augustus Harris made the auditorium of the Royal Opera House both brighter and darker: he introduced electric lighting in 1892, and instituted the practice of lowering the house lights completely during performances, to the chagrin of those in the expensive seats who were used to directing their attention to their fellow operagoers as much as to the opera.


Carte commissioned the theatre and opened it in 1891 with Arthur Sullivan's romantic opera Ivanhoe, which ran exceptionally well ; he followed it with Andre Messager's The Basoche, for which Augustus Harris adapted the original French dialogue into English.


Augustus Harris took his company to Windsor Castle in 1892,1893 and 1894 to give Command Performances for Queen Victoria and her family and court.


In 1895 Augustus Harris persuaded Adelina Patti to return to the stage for a final series of performances.


Augustus Harris was appointed a sheriff of the City of London in 1890, and was knighted in 1891 in recognition of his contribution to the state visit to Britain of the German Emperor.


From 1888 Augustus Harris co-wrote them: his collaborators are shown in brackets:.