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Clarice Maude Lorenz (1906–1981)

by Paul Bentley

This article was published:

Clarice Maude Lorenz  (1906-1981), opera company founder, was born on 2 October 1906 in Sydney, elder child of New Zealand-born Gerald Carroll, wharf labourer, and his locally born wife Mabel, née Steadman.  Completing her education—possibly at a private school at Edgecliff—she became a music teacher.  On 25 June 1924 at St James’s Church of England, Sydney, 17-year-old Clarice married Norman Stanley Clinton Wesley Hinvest, a 27-year-old photographer; they divorced on 25 March 1930.  She married Carl Theodore Lorenz, an optician, on 31 December 1932 at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Sydney.

In 1938 Mrs Lorenz was a member of a committee to form an opera company in Sydney.  World War II frustrated its efforts.  The 1948 opera season of Gertrude Johnson’s Australian National Theatre Movement in Melbourne stimulated attempts, through the singing teacher Marianne Mathy, for Sydney to follow suit.  Lorenz, whose pre-war interests in opera had been complemented by experience in charities and music societies, became a founder (1949) and the honorary managing director of the semi-professional New South Wales National Opera.

This company launched its first season in Sydney at the Tivoli Theatre on 7 March 1951 and presented operas in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, country towns of New South Wales and Queensland, and New Zealand.  The repertoire included Carmen, A Masked Ball, Tosca and two works by Australian composers, John Antill’s Endymion and Arthur Benjamin’s The Devil Take Her.  In 1952 the NSW National Opera Company joined forces with the Australian National Theatre Movement for a season of operas in Melbourne and Sydney.  Their initial co-operative spirit soon faltered.  When Lorenz re-registered the New South Wales company as the National Opera of Australia, thus breaching an understanding with Johnson to use this name for a future combined company, further collaboration was impossible.  Following the establishment of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1954, Lorenz and Johnson were appointed to the board of its opera company in 1955.  When it became apparent that the two women could not work together, both resigned.

Criticism of Lorenz’s management of the National Opera of Australia came to a head in 1955, due to resignations by key people and concerns about the company’s finances.  When the Actors’ and Announcers’ Equity Association of Australia became involved in the dispute, it concluded that she was 'attempting to carry out work of which she has little knowledge' and that the executive of the National Opera, 'in blindly supporting her', was acting against the company’s best interest.

The National Opera of Australia gave its last Sydney performance at the Palladium Theatre on 2 April 1955; country tours followed in 1956 and 1957.  Lorenz resigned in March 1957.  The critic Martin Long commented that the company did not produce 'anything above the standard of good, commonplace, provincial enterprise', but Roger Covell later remarked that its performances were in no way inferior to many presented later by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust companies.

H. C. Coombs described Mrs Lorenz as 'dark-haired, ruddy in complexion, opulent in figure, with a theatrical and somewhat imperious manner'.  The historian Frank Van Straten saw in her 'passion, determination, an ability to tame and harness bureaucracy and a knowledge of the value of fostering friends in high places'.  Charles Buttrose was critical of her 'possessive authority' and her 'amateurish interference', but the singer Alan Light spoke with admiration of her ability to keep the company together despite the odds:  'She attracted lots of affection from most of the singers. They needed her drive. She was a mother figure'.

Within six months of her resignation from the National Opera, Lorenz formed the Australian Stage and Society Club, an enterprise that lasted until 1967.  She opened a New South Wales College of Music at North Sydney during the 1960s.  Charitable organisations that benefited from her energy included the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society (Adult Deaf Society) of New South Wales, the Australian Red Cross Society, the Scarba Welfare House for Children, the Travellers’ Aid Society of New South Wales and the Food for Babies Fund & Good Samaritan Association.  Her husband Carl, an unsung source of National Opera funds, died in 1971.  In August 1976 she was honoured by a testimonial concert at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music and in December she was appointed OBE.  Survived by the daughter of her first marriage, she died on 21 March 1981 at her Manly home and was cremated.  Her portrait, by Hayward Veal, is held by the State Library of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Covell, Australia’s Music, 1967
  • J. Cargher, Opera and Ballet in Australia, 1977
  • H. C. Coombs, Trial Balance, 1981
  • F. Van Straten, National Treasure, 1994
  • A. Gyger, Australia’s Operatic Phoenix From World War II to War and Peace, 2005
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 March 1955, p 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 1981, p 6
  • J. Dudley papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Denis Wolanski Library press clippings and program files (National Institute of Dramatic Art Archives)
  • private information

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Paul Bentley, 'Lorenz, Clarice Maude (1906–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Carroll, Clarice Maude

2 October, 1906
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


21 March, 1981 (aged 74)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.