b. Marie Susan Etherington, 15 July 1864, London, England, d. 15 October 1942, London, England. Intent upon a singing career, Tempest studied classical voice but her first stage work was in minor roles in musical comedy and operetta. Her breakthrough came when she took over the title role in Erminie (1885). The show’s long run put her on the brink of stardom and this was consolidated when a similar thing happened with Dorothy (1886). Taking over the lead from Marion Hood, she was largely responsible for making the show the hit it then became; its 931 performances were then a record. Her public profile was raised when she shocked conventional society by having an affair with the show’s producer. She continued playing leading roles in musical comedies such as Doris (1889) and The Red Hussar (1889), appearing in the latter on Broadway in 1890. Tempest’s London success was repeated in New York and she capitalized on this popularity by making a number of tours in musical comedies and operettas.
Back in London’s West End in 1895, Tempest starred in George Edwardes’ productions such as An Artist's Model (1895), following this with a huge success, Lionel Monckton and Owen Hall’s The Geisha (1896). Until the end of the century she continued to play musical roles, including appearing in A Greek Slave (1898) and San Toy (1899), but then switched to dramatic roles although these were often in sophisticated comedies. This change of direction did not adversely affect Tempest’s popularity and she retained her standing in the British theatre through the 20s and 30s. In 1937 she was honoured by King George V, becoming a Dame of the British Empire.