Dramatic soprano and impresario who brought opera to local audiences
BEST KNOWN as a dramatic soprano, Anne Freeman, who has died of cancer, aged 72, only discovered her passion for singing and opera half way through her life. Born in London 10 days before the end of the Second World War, Anne emigrated to Australia with her family as a young child for a short period before they returned to London and settled in Stanmore, her parents becoming founder members of Stanmore and Cannons Park United Synagogue. Anne, who went to North London Collegiate School and then to Bedford College where she acquired a degree in English, was involved in starting a B’nei Akiva group at the synagogue.
In 1968, a year after graduating, Anne went to Israel to do a World Union of Jewish Students postgraduate year programme and stayed for three years, working as editor of the magazines, Scopus and Christian News from Israel. On her return in 1971, she became assistant editor on the academic journal Minerva and then project officer for a programme which developed educational materials on Jewish topics for youth and community workers, at the same time studying psychotherapy to help her in the work.
In 1974 she started her career as an information officer for major advertising agencies, doing desk research on a variety of topics, including the relative size of the ears of African and Indian elephants, and finally became Head of Information, Europe, for the global marketing communications company Y& R (Young & Rubicam), which she left in 1988 due to ill health.
In the meantime, she had taken up opera singing, initially at Opera Integra, a semi-professional group founded by her first singing teacher, Brian Galloway. At first Galloway had categorised her as a mezzo soprano, but a friend from the opera group later heard her sing a soprano aria, after which she took on soprano roles, while still singing the mezzo repertoire with Integra, notably as second lady in The Magic Flute.
Anne later changed her teacher and she was encouraged to concentrate on the dramatic soprano repertoire. She performed as a professional soprano in several concerts and in engagements for The Evergreen Singers and finally received her Equity card in 1991. She moved away from Opera Integra and performed several times for The City Lit Opera, including the role of first lady in The Magic Flute. In 1995 she launched her own company, Capital Opera, which specialised in concert performances of opera. Among the locations where she performed concerts three or four times a year were Lauderdale House in Highgate and the St John’s Wood Synagogue. These concerts were very often in aid of charities, including Macmillan Cancer Care, Age Concern, St John’s Hospice, Jewish Care and The Sternberg Centre. She not only donated all the proceeds but also paid all the costs of the concerts and rehearsals herself.
She took a great interest in literature and was a member of a book group which started in the late 1990s and which she chaired from 2005 till 2011. Like other members, she also gave presentations to the group.
Apart from her family she is mourned by her many friends. She was devoted to her nieces, Zara and Kezia, and her nephew, Joel. She also took an interest in her extended family, the descendants of her maternal grandmother’s siblings. Overall, she had a difficult life which she confronted with a determination to focus on the positive. She is survived by her brothers Simon and Jeremy.
Anne Freeman: born April 27, 1945.
Died June 14, 2017