Olive Sarah Gilbert (22 November 1898 - 19 February 1981) was an operatic singer and actress, who performed in many of Ivor Novello's musicals.
Gilbert was born in Carmarthen, Wales.
By 1919, she began her professional career in contralto and mezzo-soprano roles with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, such as Carmen, Delilah, Mignon, Nicklaus and Suzuki. She performed for many years with that company, receiving warm reviews. Of her Fricka in Wagner's The Valkyrie in 1929, The Times wrote, "The greatest individual performance last night was that of Miss Olive Gilbert, who conveyed the cold fury of Fricka in spirited singing which always remained full-toned".
Gilbert debuted in musical theatre in May 1935, in Ivor Novello's Glamorous Night at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She remained with Novello, taking starring roles in his musicals until his death in 1951. She also assisted him in organizational work as a sort of personal assistant. At Drury Lane, she starred in Novello's Careless Rapture (1936), Crest of the Wave (1937) and The Dancing Years (1939). She was also the contralto voice in the unusual female duet from The Dancing Years, "The Wings of Sleep". Mary Ellis sang the soprano part. She also played Frau Kurt in the 1948 film of The Dancing Years (1948).
Next, Gilbert appeared in his Arc de Triomphe (1943 at the Phoenix Theatre, Perchance to Dream (1945 at the London Hippodrome), and King's Rhapsody (1949 at the Palace Theatre). One of her most famous performances was in the long-running Perchance to Dream, in which she sang "We'll Gather Lilacs in the Spring". She sang the song at Novello's cremation.
In 1961 at the Palace Theatre, she first played Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music, remaining in that show for its entire five-year run. She played the housekeeper in Man of La Mancha in 1968 at the Piccadilly Theatre. In the early 1970s, she toured in Bless the Bride, as Ernestine in Perchance to Dream, and as Countess Vera in King's Rhapsody.
Gilbert died in 1981, in Hove, Sussex, at the age of 82.
^ "Opera", The Times, 28 August 1919, p. 8, col. E,
^ "Miss Olive Gilbert", The Times, 20 February 1981, p. 16, col. G,
^ "Carl Rosa Opera, Tales of Hoffmann", The Times, 19 May 1925, p. 14, col. D,
^ "Carl Rosa Opera. The Valkyrie at The Lyceum", The Times, 13 July 1929, p. 12, col. C