Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Apr 18, 2012

Joseph Hislop (Tenor) (Edinburgh, Scotland 1887- Upper Largo, Fife / county, Scotland 1977)

He was a lyric tenor who appeared in opera and oratorio and gave concerts around the world. He sang at La Scala, Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, and the Opéra-Comique, Paris, as well as forging a remarkable career in Denmark and Sweden, where he was made a Knight of the Dannebrog and a Knight of the Order of Vasa. He toured America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Hislop is notable for having been the final teacher of the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling and for developing a number of fine British singers through his post-War work at the Guildhall School of Music and at Sadler's Wells. After retiring to Fife, he taught the Scottish baritone Donald Maxwell.
Joseph Hislop was born in the city of Edinburgh, at 16 Beaumont (sc. Bowmont) Place, in 1884. He was a pupil and chorister at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral School, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, under Dr Thomas Collinson and at the School of Arts (now Heriot-Watt University) where he studied photoprocess engraving. His early employment was in photo-press engraving at Hislop and Day (Edinburgh), then in Glasgow. Subsequently he studied at Bolt Court in London, learning the new three-colour process. Hislop was aware of his vocal ability, but his chances of making a progression into the professional ranks of classical music were dismissed by Dr Collinson. He was sent from Bolt Court to Gothenburg to introduce the latest photoprocess methods to a firm in that Swedish city
While living in Sweden, he joined a Stockholm male voice choir; but his exceptional voice stood out from the others and he was persuaded to abandon his initial career and train in Stockholm for the operatic stage. He was taught by Dr Gillis Waldemar Bratt, a medical throat specialist who also sang. Then, uniquely for a non-Swede, he was accepted as a student at the Opera School in Stockholm. He made very rapid progress, and appeared in a performance of Faust at the Royal Swedish Opera in 1914. He then went to Milan to further his training, and within a fairly short time he was singing leads in such major Italian opera houses as La Scala, Milan; La Fenice, Venice; the San Carlo, Naples; and the Teatro Regio, Turin.
Hislop made his London debut at Covent Garden, as Rodolfo in La bohème, in 1920. He was a great success, and he went on to receive acclaim for his performances in Rigoletto, La traviata. He continued singing at Covent Garden until 1928. In 1924, he appeared opposite Nellie Melba. In 1926 he sang (Gounod's) Faust opposite Fyodor Chaliapin as Mephistopheles.
He established a successful career in America, and first appeared (again in Faust) in Chicago in 1920. He toured in North and South America: he was warmly received in Buenos Aires in Argentina. In addition to his Verdi and Puccini roles, he was also a distinguished Roméo and Des Grieux in Manon. He made extended tours in Australia and New Zealand (where his associate artist, with whom he literally came to blows, was the pianist Isador Goodman) and South Africa. In Stockholm he received Royal honours, including the Literis et Artibus (1922) and the Order of Vasa in 1929. In Denmark he received the Order of the Dannebrog in 1926. He was appointed Professor of Singing at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, Stockholm, remaining there until 1948. His students in Sweden included Birgit Nilsson and Per Grundén in Stockholm and Jussi Björling in Gothenburg. He also taught in London at the Guildhall and also supervised singers at Sadler's Wells.
Hislop was married twice, first to Karin Asklund and then to Nancy Passmore (daughter of Walter Passmore). He died at his home, Lundin Links, in Fife, and was cremated at Kirkcaldy. He had lived in Fife for a number of years with his second wife, who survived him.  

Chronology of some appearances

1914 Stockholm Royal Swedish Opera Faust (Faust)
1920 London Covent Garden La bohème (Rodolfo) 
1920 Chicago Opera House Faust (Faust)
1924 London Covent Garden Faust (Faust)



Zonophone, London 1914-06-18
Rigoletto (Verdi): Questa o quella  X-3-42204
Rigoletto (Verdi): La donna e mobile X-3-42204
Queen of the Earth (Pinsuti) Z-042071
HMV, London 1922-06-01
Boheme (Puccini): Che gelida manina DB522 2-052232

HMV, London 1923-11-21
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti): Tombe degl'avi miei DB695 2-052248
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti): Fra poco a me ricovero DB695 2-052249
Rigoletto (Verdi): Ella mi fu rapita DA226 7-52252

HMV, London 1923-11-22
Rigoletto (Verdi): Parmi veder le lagrime DA226 7-52253

HMV, London 1923-12-20
Madama Butterfly (Puccini): Dovunque al mondo with Gilly and Parnis DB743 2-054140

HMV, London 1924-12-15
Mignon (Thomas): Ah, non credevi tu DB822 2-052269
Ballo in maschera (Verdi): Ma se m'e forza perderti DB822 2-052268

HMV, London 1925-10-19
Lee MacGregor's Gathering (Lee) DA749  6-2328

HMV, London 1925-12-14
Manon (Massenet): Le rêve (w. Selma d'Arco) unpubl. Cc7508

HMV, London 1926-05-13
Forza del destino (Verdi): Solenne in quest'ora with Apollo Granforte DB939 2-054158

HMV, London 1926-05-28
Werther (Massenet): Pourquoi me reveiller DB944 2-032101

HMV, London 1926-06-09
Faust (Gounod): Salut demeure chaste et pure DB944 2-032102

HMV, London 1927-06-20
Rigoletto (Verdi): E il sol dell'anima with Schoene DB1127 2-054179

HMV, London 1928-06-22 (public performance)
Faust (Gounod): Rien! En vain j'interroge with chorus unpubl CR2097-1,1A
Faust (Gounod): Mais ce Dieu, pt 1, pt 2 with Chaliapin unpubl CR2099-1,1A, CR2100-1,1A
Faust (Gounod): Nous nous retrouverons with Laugier, Chaliapin and chorus DB1189 2-034047
Faust (Gounod): Salut, demeure chaste et pure DB1189 2-032143
Faust (Gounod): Vous qui faites l'endormie with Chaliapin unpubl CR2109-1

HMV, London 1928-12-06
To the Children (Sergey Rachmaninov) B3154 7-2271

HMV, London 1929-05-06
Fortunio (Messager): The grey house B3154 7-2504

HMV, London 1929-05-15
Of a' the airts (arr Ross)   B 3155 7-2469
Turn ye to me (arr Gibilaro)  B3155 7-2508

HMV, London 1929-07-10
Tosca (Puccini): E Lucevan le stelle DA1063 30-940
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): No! Pagliacco non son DA1062 30-943

HMV, London 1929-07-12
Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Morning was gleaming DB1351 32-731
Carmen (Bizet): La fleur 32-733 unpubl.

HMV, London 1930-09-22
Friederike (Lehár): A heart as pure as gold B3590 30-4544

HMV, London 1931-01-29
A pair well matched (Ronald) B3816 30-5767

HMV, London 1931-02-09
Down in the forest (Ronald) B3817 30-5769

HMV, London 1932-12-12
The Island Herdmaid (arr Kennedy-Fraser) B8042

HMV, London 1933-03-08
An Island Sheiling Song (arr Kennedy-Fraser) B8042


  1. ....not forgotten....wonderful chanter !!!

  2. I know nothing of opera of J Hislop but found this because I have a book signed by him. Fascinating!