EVANS,  Nancy [1915 - 2000]

For over a hundred years the firm of monumental masons founded by the Evans family has plied  their trade from premises at 207 Smithdown Road. Thomas Herbert Evans was one of the family who ran the business a century ago and in 1915 his wife gave birth to a daughter, Florence Annie. Using the name Nancy Evans, she became one of the country’s leading operatic singers for whom Benjamin Britten created the role of Nancy in his opera Albert Herring.

Nancy Evans was born on 19th March 1915 at 36 Granville Road L15. The family then lived briefly at nearby 39 Egerton Road L15, before moving in the mid-1920’s to 17 Menlove Avenue L18. She was educated at Calder High School and was trained by John Tobin, one of the area’s leading conductors and music teachers, who directed the Liverpool Repertory Opera Company. Another pupil of Tobin was a young girl named Irené Eastwood, who also lived in the Mossley Hill area, and the two became close friends. Irené would later change her name to Anne Ziegler and enjoy a very successful singing career with her partner and husband Webster Booth.

Nancy made her operatic debut in Liverpool aged seventeen in the role of the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and in the same year made her first BBC broadcast. Her father Thomas had Decca make a private recording of his daughter and they promptly signed her up for a recording of Dido and Aeneas. In 1939 she was employed for a season at Covent Garden under the conductorship of Sir Thomas Beecham. It was there that she met Beecham’s assistant artistic director, Walter Legge, whom she married in 1941. Their daughter Helga was born in 1942.

The wartime years saw her engaged in an odd mixture of engagements which included appearing with Tommy Trinder and the Crazy Gang at the London Palladium, touring Europe and the Middle East entertaining troops with ENSA and making her Proms debut under Sir Adrian Boult.

In 1946 she alternated with Kathleen Ferrier in the role of Lucretia in the premiere of Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia. The producer of the opera was Eric Crozier and Nancy Evans fell in love with him. Already estranged from Walter Legge, they divorced and she married Crozier on Boxing Day 1949. Crozier and Britten were a major influence on her later career. The magnitude of her success was reflected in her making over 300 broadcasts for the BBC, performing at thirteen successive Proms seasons and working with the greatest accompanists and conductors of the age.

She continued performing until her retirement in 1990, a year in which both she and Eric Crozier were awarded OBE’s. He died in 1994. Nancy Evans died at a nursing home near Aldeburgh on 20th August 2000.

36 Granville Road L15

Nancy Evans family home at the time of her birth in 1915

39 Egerton Road L15

Evans family home in Wavertree.

17 Menlove Avenue L18

The house in which Nancy Evans lived whilst attending Calder High School


The Wikipedia entry is very basic. Better reading is the obituary in The GuardianThe Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a very comprehensive account of her life. Clips of her performances can be found on YouTube.