About Agnes Nicholls, CBE
<The Times, September 22, 1959>
Lady Harty, C.B.E., known by her maiden name of Agnes Nicholls as a distinguished soprano, died yesterday at the age of 82. Although she never sought a continental reputation she had sung in America, and at home she achieved in her time a leading position both in opera and concert singing. She was the widow of Sir Hamilton Harty.
Agnes Nicholls was born at Cheltenham on July 14, 1877, and was trained at the Royal College of Music by Visetti. As a student she thrice sang before Queen Victoria and jumped suddenly into fame by singing the soprano in Brahms's "Requiem" at sight at the age of 19. She made her operatic debut at Covent Garden in 1901 and she sang there in Richter's production of "The Ring" in 1908 both as Sieglinde and Brunnhilde. Although her career in opera was intermittent she also sang for Denhof, Beecham, and the British National Opera Company, of which she was a director, and her roles were as varied as the Queen of the Night, Isolde, and Alice Ford in "Falstaff".
She had a voice that combined purity and warmth and tone, and she became an acceptable oratorio singer at the chief festivals. Parry wrote many leading parts for her and she was the first to sing the role of the Blessed Virgin in Elgar's "The Kingdom". She continued to sing after her marriage in 1904 to Hamilton Harty, who was then making his reputation as an accompanist and who was later to become conductor of the Halle Orchestra. As late as 1933 she sang the part of Elisabeth in a production of "Tannhauser", but perhaps as a result of over-exertion during the First World War (for her public services she was appointed C.B.E.) her voice disapperared and her singing career ended as suddenly as it had begun. Thereafter she devoted herself to teaching and coaching. Sir Hamilton Harty died in 1941.