Dora Labbette was a well-known and much admired successful concert and opera singer during the period 1920/1943. She is best remembered by music historians for her assumption of the name Lisa Perli for opera. In those days it was very seldom impressarios would engage a native-born singer to appear in opera. Her successful début in 1935 as Mimi in La Bohème is the stuff of legend. She later performed other roles internationlly such as Mélisande, Marguérite (Faust), Mignon and Desdemona.
Dora’s first home in St John’s Wood was at 70 Carlton Hill, to which she moved with her husband David Strang in 1918. David was the son of William Strang, the painter and etcher whose blue plaque adorns no. 20 Hamilton Terrace to this day. In the picture above, David is the acompanying guitarist. William and his wife Aggie are on the right. Her marriage was short-lived because David insisted on Dora abandoning her musical career, which she refused to do. So Dora packed up and left St John’s Wood for 10 years or so. They were divorced in 1926.
In 1930 she moved back into 44 Marlborough Hill, then a spacious detached house sadly destroyed during the war. After a brief period in Hampstead Garden Suburb, she returned to St John’s Wood in 1942, to a flat at 8 Neville Court,which she took over from another well-known singer of the day, Noël Eadie, a longstanding friend. Here, during the blitz she was an ardent fire-fighter. While fearlessly patrolling the roofs of the neighbourhood, she said she would never risk her neck saving the Baptist Church nearby, which she considered an architectural monstrosity. Her flat had a front-row view of the pedestrian crossing on Abbey Road, later made famous by the Beatles.
Towards the end of the war, Dora moved to the country. The family association with the Wood did not end there, because her son Paul set up his home on Hamilton Terrace, to which she was a frequent visitor throughout the rest of her life. Dora died in 1984.