Marion Studholme obituary

Other lives: Opera singer with a high, light and marvellously clear voice

My mother, Marion Downie, who has died aged 88, was better known in the music world as Marion Studholme and regularly appeared on BBC Radio’s Friday Night is Music Night. She also sang the role of First Niece on the world premiere recording of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, with Peter Pears in the title role.

Having left the Royal College of Music, London, in 1947 she joined the chorus of the Sadler’s Wells Opera. Within months she was offered leading roles such as Zerlina ( Don Giovanni), Despina (Così Fan Tutte) and Rosina ( The Barber of Seville). She will be remembered for her high, light and marvellously clear voice.

With her husband, the actor Andrew Downie, whom she met when they were fellow students at the RCM, and married in 1952, she performed in shows at the Edinburgh festival directed by Tyrone Guthrie. In the early 1960s she again worked with Guthrie and starred with Andrew, as the young romantic leads in productions of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore, which opened in the West End and went on to New York and tours of America and Canada.

Marion was born in Liverpool to John Studholme, an engineer for the water board, and his wife, Daisy (nee Dutton), and went to Childwall Valley high school during the years of the second world war. She would often take the chance to visit family and friends when on tour.

Having decided to retire from singing during the mid-70s, Marion started a new career teaching at the RCM. Her pupils have fond memories of her quirky expressions. They also remember her being firm and demanding, but always with a terrific sense of humour.

Marion enjoyed helping out her friends and students. Sometimes, if a student was short of funds, my mother would give them a “Mars bar lesson”, charging them one chocolate bar instead of her usual fee.

She had a lifelong passion for gardening and in the past few years took a great interest in the lives of her grandchildren.

Andrew died in 2009. Marion is survived by my brother Alistair and me, and her grandchildren, Andrew, Caitlin and Calum.

Fraser Downie

The GuardianTramp

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