Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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HUGHES , ( ROBERTS ), MARGARET (‘ Leila Megáne ’; 1891 - 1960 ), singer ;

b. in Bethesda, Caerns. , 5 Apr. 1891 , one of the ten children of Thomas Jones , a member of the Caernarfonshire police force , and Jane Phillip (née Owen ) his wife. In 1894 the family moved to Pwllheli but her mother d. when she was 7 years old. Her father sacrificed much to give her a musical education. She had singing lessons for a period with John Williams , conductor of Caernarfon Choral Society , and in 1907 she made her first solo appearance singing ‘ Gwlad y delyn ’ ( John Henry ). Soon afterwards she received her first contract to sing in a concert, in Abersoch , for which she received an acknowledgement of 15 shillings. One of those who heard her sing in that concert was Harry Evans ( DWB , 235) , who prophesied that she would become a famous singer if she had a competent tutor.

In the Anglesey eisteddfod at Beaumaris in 1910 she entered a competition for the first time and won first prize for singing ‘ Gwraig y pysgotwr ’ ( Eurgain ), with Thomas Price ( 1857 - 1925 ; DWB , 793) and T. Osborne Roberts (see below) adjudicating. Also that year (against more than 50 competitors) she won the open contralto solo in the national eisteddfod at Colwyn Bay , and was highly praised by the adjudicator , David Evans ( 1874 - 1948 ; see above) . Soon afterwards she was brought to the attention of George Power (a successful singing tutor in London ) by Mrs. Ernest Taylor , who had heard her sing in Llanbedrog , and she later entered the Royal Academy of Music . In London (under the name Megan Jones ) she came into prominence in ballad concerts, and was assisted by David Lloyd George (see below) and others to study for a further six years in Paris under the famous singer Jean de Reszke , who had been a student of Cotagni in Turin . After adopting the name Leila Megáne (on de Reszke 's advice) she received her first professional contract, a two-year agreement to sing Massenet in the Opera Comique , Paris . The dress which she wore in the Paris opera is now in the Musuem of Welsh Life at St. Fagans . At the beginning of World War I she was in France and spent a period entertaining injured soldiers , which drew the attention of prominent politicians , among them Lord Balfour , Bonar Law and ( Sir ) Winston Churchill .

After singing in various opera houses in France and Monte Carlo she gained a five-year contract to sing in Covent Garden , where she made her début in Therese ( Massenet ) in May 1919 , with Lloyd George and Melba , the famous singer , in the audience. In 1920 she sang for the first time in a concert in the Aeolian Hall , and for eight years she sang regularly in the Queen's Hall under the direction of Sir Henry Wood . After a successful tour of Europe , where she sang in La Scala ( Milan ) and Moscow , she was invited in 1923 to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House , New York . She m. (1) in New York , 21 Mar. 1924 , T. Osborne Roberts who had accompanied her in concerts at home and abroad. They later made their home in Pentrefoelas . She popularised several songs composed by her husband, among them‘ Y Nefoedd ’, ‘ Cymru annwyl ’ and ‘ Pistyll y llan ’. She retired in 1939 .

Leila Megáne had a rich, mature, contralto voice, and her performances were characterised by much warmth. Among the items which she recorded circa 1920-25 are selections from French opera (sung in French ), works by Handel , Welsh songs, and Elgar 's Sea pictures , with the composer himself conducting the performance.

She m. (2), 6 Oct. 1951 , in Llanrwst , William John Hughes , Efailnewydd , one of her contemporaries who had performed in many concerts with her before she went to the Royal Academy of Music . In Pwllheli national eisteddfod , 1956 , a scholarship bearing her name was established for young Welsh singers studying at the Royal Academy of Music . She d. suddenly in her home, Melin Rhydhir , Efailnewydd , near Pwllheli , 2 Jan. 1960 , and was buried in Penrhos , Pwllheli .

Sources:

  • ‘A Springtime of song’ (her autobiography in typescript, dated 24 Jan. 1934 , which was in the possession of Mrs. W. O. Jones, Holywell , in 1960 );
  • The Liverpool Daily Post , 8 Oct. 1951 and 4 Jan. 1960 ;
  • Welsh Music, the journal of the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music , 3, 8 (1970) , 35;
  • information from her daughter, Effie Isaura Osborne-Hughes, Pwllheli ;
  • Megan Lloyd Ellis , Hyfrydlais Leila Megáne , Llandysul, 1979 (1979) .

Author:

Huw Williams, (1922-2002), Bangor / Prestatyn

Published date: 2001