VERNON, Howard (1845-1921)


VERNON, Howard (1845-1921)
actor
was born in Collins-street, Melbourne, in 1845. His name was originally J. Lett. He developed a pleasing light tenor voice and joined an opera company which went to India. There he organized a company of his own, which went to China and in 1877 to Japan, where he was one of the earliest actors of European birth to appear on the Japanese stage. He visited England and played Ange Pitou in La Fille de Madame Anaot, and Fritz in La Grande Duchesse, with the Alice May company. Vernon then crossed to America and played with Emilie Melville at San Francisco. He returned to Australia and took parts in light operas such as Gaspard in La Cloches de Corneville, and Pippo in La Mascotte. His reputation was, however, not fully established until he began to play in Gilbert and Sullivan operas. From 1881 when he took the part of Bunthorne in Patience to 1890 when he was Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers, Vernon was in each Gilbert and Sullivan production in Australia, in most cases creating his part, and playing in revivals in later years. His Ko Ko in The Mikado was his masterpiece, but he was excellent in everything. His singing voice deteriorated as he grew older, but his rendering of patter songs was very good, his diction was admirably clear, and his dry humour was used with such artistic restraint that he never seemed to be out of the picture. After a retirement he played King Paramount in Utopia Ltd in 1906, and afterwards travelled with a company in New Zealand and played for some years in Great Britain. He returned to Australia in 1914 and retired from the stage. In 1920 he was given a benefit, and he died at Melbourne on 26 July 1921. He left a widow, Vinia de Loitte, a singer of ability, two sons and two daughters by an earlier marriage.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July 1921; The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 27 July 1921; Vinia de Loitte, Gilbert and Sullivan Opera in Australia; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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