Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Florence Maude Young (1870–1920)

by Joan Maslen

This article was published:

Florence Maude Young (1870-1920), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

Florence Maude Young (1870-1920), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38782/1060

Florence Maude Young (1870-1920), actress and singer, was born on 2 October 1870 in Melbourne, daughter of Henry Henrard Young, jeweller, and his wife Elizabeth, née Tonkin, both English born. Florence attended Fitzroy Ladies' College. Her ambition for a stage career was thwarted by parental opposition until her father's Collins Street business failed during the land boom.

After an appearance with the Melbourne Liedertafel, she made her debut on 14 June 1890 as Beatrice in the Nellie Stewart Opera Co.'s production of Boccaccio. Miss Young then auditioned for J. C. Williamson and on 25 October played Casilda in the first Australian production of The Gondoliers. Although at this time her voice was untrained, her performance began a long line of successes in comic operas. She played Corisandre and Rosette in Ma mie Rosette, Yvonne and Paul in Paul Jones, Bettina and Fiametta in La Mascotte, and Dorothy Bantam and Lydia Hawthorne in Dorothy. Her Gilbert and Sullivan roles ranged from Patience and Elsie Maynard to Katisha. In 1895 she took the first of several principal boy roles—in Williamson's production of the pantomime Djin Djin—for which her figure, acting and singing made her an obvious choice.

On 8 February 1897 at St Peter's Anglican Church, Melbourne, Florence married Robert Campbell Rivington. That year they went to London, where she appeared with George Musgrove's company at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and next to South Africa where she was prima donna in Lockwood and Leville's company. Returning to London to play Dick Whittington in pantomime at the Fulham Grand Theatre (1898-99), she later toured England with a company performing Falka. Following these engagements, she became a pupil of Mme Marchesi in Paris. Enthusiastic about her dramatic soprano voice, Marchesi was annoyed when, within a year, Florence accepted Williamson's offer of an engagement in Australia rather than training for grand opera. Florence Young also visited the United States of America where she saw the natural performances of popular American actresses and subsequently adopted their approach.

Back in Australia in 1901, she appeared for Williamson as Poppy in San Toy. In 1904 she separated from her husband who was granted a divorce in 1912 on the grounds of his wife's desertion. As comic opera gradually gave way to musical comedy, she shone in productions such as The Country Girl, The Geisha and The Girl in the Train; her best dramatic roles were in The Duchess of Dantzic and The Climax.

Recognized as the unofficial star of the Royal Comic Opera Co., Florence Young became one of the great favourites of Australian audiences: her first-night appearances elicited rapturous demonstrations. She seldom missed a performance and was noted for her generosity towards colleagues. In her later career she appeared in The Pink Lady, The Cinema Star, Katinka, Theodore and Co. and Maytime. Both her sisters—one of whom married (Sir) George Tallis—and two of her brothers appeared on the Australian stage. Florence Young died in Melbourne on 11 November 1920 of a cerebral haemorrhage and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • T. D. M. de Warre, Through the Opera Glasses (Syd, 1908)
  • Australasian, 3 June 1893, 25 May, 10 Aug 1912
  • Punch (Melbourne), 28 May 1908
  • Age (Melbourne), 12 Nov 1920
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Nov 1920
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Nov 1920.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Joan Maslen, 'Young, Florence Maude (1870–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Florence Maude Young (1870-1920), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

Florence Maude Young (1870-1920), by May and Mina Moore, 1910-13

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38782/1060

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Rivington, Florence

2 October, 1870
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


11 November, 1920 (aged 50)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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