Webster Booth

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Webster Booth (1902-1984) was a British tenor and actor.


Born Leslie Webster Booth (21 January 1902 – 21 June 1984), he was better known by his stage name, Webster Booth. He is largely remembered today as the duettist partner of Anne Ziegler, but he was also one of the finest British tenors of his generation and was a distinguished oratorio soloist.

His first appearance was in Yeoman of the Guard for the D'Oyly-Carte Opera Company in Brighton in 1924. His first appearance in London was in The Three Musketeers in 1930. He married Anne Ziegler on 5 November 1938 and they embarked on their famous duettist variety act in 1940. They made over 800 recordings over the years; starred in three musical plays, The Vagabond King (1943), Sweet Yesterday (1945) and toured in And so to Bed" (1953–1954); and appeared in several musical films in the 1940s. They made frequent broadcasts together. In 1948 they went on a successful concert tour of New Zealand and Australia; and managed to do several broadcasts in South Africa while their ship was sailing around South African ports. During these years, they also toured in their own production of A Night in Venice. When musical tastes changed in the 1950s they therefore decided to emigrate to South Africa in 1956 where they continued their stage work as well as teaching singing in their Johannesburg studio. They made numerous appearances in the country over the next 22 years, beginning with a ‘B’ tour to rural areas and smaller towns in 1956 and roles in Spring Quartet for Leonard Schach in Cape Town in September 1956. In 1955 Booth and Ziegler did a concert tour of the Cape Province, South Africa. They were invited back for a more extensive tour of southern Africa the following year and, after some heart searching, decided to leave the UK and settle in South Africa in July 1956. They did many shows, concerts and broadcasts and ventured into producing musicals for amateur operatic societies.

They established a school of singing and stagecraft in Johannesburg, made an LP recording of their popular duets translated into Afrikaans and trained many promising singers. For the first time in their careers they appeared in non-singing roles in various plays. Booth was the Prawn in The Amorous Prawn in 1961, and he and Ziegler played Mr and Mrs Fordyce in Goodnight Mrs Puffin in 1963. Booth turned the clock back in 1963 when he played Colonel Fairfax in The Yeomen of the Guard for the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society at very short notice. He also played the non-singing part of the circus barker in Smetana's The Bartered Bride for the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal in November/December 1966 shortly before he and Anne left Johannesburg to live in Knysna in the Cape Province. Booth was tenor soloist at the Port Elizabeth Oratorio Festival under the direction of Robert Selley from 1958 to 1962, and under the direction of organist, Keith Jewell he sang in the first performance in South Africa of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius in Cape Town, a work in which he had often sung in the United Kingdom. He had always wanted to sing the bass solos in oratorio and when he and Anne moved to the coastal town of Knysna in 1967 and he became conductor of the Knysna and District Choral Society, he sang the bass arias in excerpts from Mendelssohn's Elijah. Ziegler and Booth gave their farewell concert in Somerset West in 1975, believing that their singing days were at an end. They returned to the United Kingdom in 1978 where they broadcast on BBC radio, appeared on television in the Russell Harty Show and made personal appearances throughout the United Kingdom in An Evening with Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

See also Anne Ziegler



Tucker, 1997

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