Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Opera [Mr William Saurin Lyster]

1874
Tom Durkin and The Weekly Times (publisher)

from the series ‘Masks and Faces’
lithograph on paper (sheet: 33.0 cm x 19.0 cm)

William Saurin Lyster (1828–1880) was an Irish operatic impresario who introduced serious opera to the colonies. Aged about twenty, he joined a theatre company in Boston; he later formed an opera troupe and became the third husband of one of its prima donnas, Georgia Hodson. He brought his company with full chorus and orchestra to Melbourne in March 1861. Initial losses turned to triumphant successes, as they toured a tremendous repertoire through the colonies and New Zealand over the next six years. In August 1868 he took his company for a short, unsuccessful season in San Francisco; having collected singers, scores and stage machinery abroad, he returned to Melbourne in early 1870. As lessee of the Princess’s Theatre he entered into a series of co-operations and collaborations with various visiting groups, alternating English and Italian operas and companies in Adelaide, Melbourne and elsewhere. In 1877 he introduced Wagner to Melbourne with Lohengrin, and lost money on Aida. In failing health, he took an overseas break, but came back to reopen in Melbourne with a new company in March 1879. When he died the following year, at 52, the papers reported ‘Some years ago Mr Lyster was attacked by one of the most terrible diseases to which the constitution of man is subject, and from which there is rarely an escape except into the grave, which has now closed over him.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2016

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Tom Durkin (age 21 in 1874)

The Weekly Times

William Saurin Lyster (age 46 in 1874)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

A Goldfields Member
A Goldfields Member
A Goldfields Member
A Goldfields Member

Showing character

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2016

Joanna Gilmour on Tom Durkin playing with Melbourne's manhood.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency