Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fred Clifton: a G&S player unveiled...


Fred Clifton. Yes, the whole world of Gilbert and Sullivan scholarship knows of Fred Clifton. He’s the comic actor-singer who almost was. The man who after having played supporting roles in The Sorcerer (Notary) and HMS Pinafore (Bobstay) was intended for the London role of the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance. But a certain Rutland Barrington begged for the part … so Fred’s chance for fame was pretty well lost. And it never really came again.

David Stone has summarised the central part of ‘Fred’s’ career on his G&S archive site, so I am not going to repeat that here ... I’ll just put in the bits about his life, rather than his career, that I’ve discovered.

 So, to start with, who actually was Fred? We have been longtime told that he was born in Birmingham, 29 May 1844. And guess what, half of that, I now discover, is right! And it is the date that is right! ‘Fred’ was actually born in Dudley, and it was his father’s name that was Fred. He was Tom. There they all are, in Castle Street, Dudley, in the 1851 census: Fred the hairdresser from Peterborough, mama Eliza, and four children of whom Tom is the oldest.

Oh, and their name is not, of course, Clifton. Fred was born Thomas Hunsler Green. How’s that for a discovery. And how did I discover it? Well …

Let’s dip into the early career. Someone said that ‘Fred’ started his career at Reading in 1861. Perfectly possible, but the first reference I’ve found to ‘Fred Clifton comique’, in tiny provincial  concerts, comes a year or two later.

But very soon, it’s ‘Mrs and Mrs Fred Clifton’. Really? I have to admit I never really believed it. ‘Marriages’ were not always of a fact in the Victorian theatre. But this one was a fact! And the lady? She was Mdlle Therese Brunelli, from Italy, pupil of San Giovanni (or sometimes ‘Don Giovanni’), prima donna La Scala, Milan, soprano …

Now ‘Mdlle Brunelli’ wasn’t rubbish. During her career she sang major roles in London. But she was no Italian. Of course, she didn’t know that Census records would one day be on the internet, so in 1871, when Tom was pretending to be ‘Fred Clifton’ she blithely put herself down as Mrs Ellen M Clifton, born Teignmouth, Devon. 

Well, she was actually born Ellen Matilda Hird in Shaldon, across the water from Teignmouth, and she married Tom Green 13 November 1862 at Liverpool. And it was from that marriage record that I found out that ‘Fred Clifton’ was really Tom Green. 

The couple performed together in music halls and the like for several years (‘Mr & Mrs Fred Clifton, burlesque operatic, high and low comic, duettists and solo comic and sentimental singers’), often around the Hull or Sculcoates area where Ellen’s folk (father was a customs tide-watcher) lived. Dioramas, operettas, music-hall sketches – I have a long list of minor dates – until Mr D’Oyly Carte (agent) discovered ‘Therese’. And next thing she was up in London, starring in the title-role of Black Crook at the Alhambra!

At the same time, Fred was traipsing round with the Eldred opéra-bouffe company, and then as a support to Jolly John Nash in his ‘musical, mimetic, Protean’ act..

And then, somehow (I’m sure someone knows how), he, like Messrs Grossmith and Barrington, moved out of the ‘entertainment’ business and into Mr Carte’s company ..

Also, around about that time, it seems that ‘Fred’ dropped Ellen, and waltzed off with a lady who appears to have been a chorine named Mary or Marie Glover. They promptly had one daughter in England (while ‘Therese’ staunchly still billed herself as ‘Mrs Clifton’) and then fled across the Atlantic, as ‘bigamists’ in those days had a habit of doing, to where ‘Fred’ would find a moderate career and an obviously fulfilling family life which produced six more (illegitimate) children before his death in 1903.

‘Therese’ put an end to her singing career in the early 1880s, and can be seen in the 1891 and 1901 census working as an attendant at the Lunatic Asylum at Banstead in Surrey …

Marie? Couldn’t care….

And that’s it.

So there you are. The details and facts which the various articles on Fred’s professional career, and all those G&S books don’t tell you, here they are! … come on, it only took me twenty years ..

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Frederick save us...". The tale of 'Ugo Talbo'.

TALBO, Ugo(aka TALBOT, Hugh) [BRENNAN, Hugh] (b Portobello Barracks, near Dublin 15 October 1844; d Detention Hospital, Stockton, Cal 31 October, 1899)

A middle-aged San Francisco Italian singing teacher died in Stockton’s Detention Hospital on the last day of October 1899, and the news made the national and even the international press. ‘The famous tenor’ ‘once well-known as an operatic tenor in the companies of Adelina Patti and others’, rattled on the obituaries, without getting too precisely factual. Signor Talbo had nurtured his myth well.

He wasn’t, of course, Italian. And, truthfully, he’d only intermittently pretended to be. ‘Famous’ he had never been. Not even for five minutes. And Adelina Patti? Not to mention ‘all the principal tenor roles with Titiens, Nilsson, Lucca, Albani, Trebelli and many others...’ as he had claimed on another occasion. Well, there was just a tittle of the truth in there. He actually had sung in Italian opera with Nilsson. And Trebelli. Also Gerster and Marimon and Marie Roze, not to forget Alwina Valleria, Deméric-Lablache and Helene Crosmond. And, yes, sometimes in principal roles. But not very often. And the rest? Hummm.

Hugh Brennan was born at Portobello Barracks, near Dublin, the son of one Edward Brennan and his wife Margaret. He is said to have been a youthful choirboy. Why not? But probably not in Ireland. For at some stage – and it was before the 1851 census -- young Mr Brennan and his parents and siblings relocated to London, and they can be seen living in Blewitt’s Buildings, Holborn – Edward 46 a pensioner and blind, Margaret 39, Elizabeth, Ann, Sarah, William, Hugh and Richard. The children were born in Gloucester, three different places (barracks?) in Middlesex, and the last two in Ireland. I suspect Edward had been following the flag (there’s one of that name in Chatham barracks in 1841). Maybe that’s how he was blinded.
By 1861, Margaret is a widow, living in 16 Thavies Inn, Farringdon, with her brood, and Hugh is described as a lawyer’s clerk. And it was while he clerked that he began his career as a tenor. An amateur tenor. 

My first sighting of him is in January of 1868 when he turns up in a performance of Barnett’s The Ancient Mariner given by a group called the Westbourne Society at the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the second and third in May of the same year, when he can be seen at the Hanover Square Rooms, first hosting a concert for All Saints Convalescent Hospital, Eastbourne, and then in a benefit concert given by the dilettante group the Moray Minstrels for the City Orthopaedic Hospital. He is referred to as ‘one of the Moray tenors’ and it is reported that he ‘gave a song composed by Schumann and entitled ‘She’s of all that’s fair and lovely’’. He sang the same piece on 18 June at a matinee at St George’s Hall. Again, on 13 May 1869, at something like twenty-four years of age, he can be spotted at the Queen’s Rooms, Hanover Square, taking part in a Grand Amateur Concert for the same All Saints’ Convalescent Hospital, Eastbourne, alongside the Misses Connor, Mitchell, Tennant, and Richards, Lord Kilcoursie, the Rev William Henry Bliss Mus Bac and ‘a chorus of 80 ladies and gentlemen’. He is, of course, at this stage, still Mr Hugh Brennan. And still a gentleman amateur.

By the time of my next sighting, Mr Hugh Brennan is gone for good. He has disappeared into the northern part of Italy and metamorphosed into Signor Ugo Talbo. It is September 1872 and he is singing the Duke in Rigoletto at Treviglio near Bergamo. Then, in early 1873, he is mentioned as having appeared at Livorno in Faust, which seems to have been in 1871, as well as Alvaro in La Forza del destino, and later the same year someone inserted a little para in the press which was duly picked up by a bundle of those journals of the world with nothing better to fill their columns: ‘Milan is in ecstasies over the ‘beautiful and robust voice’ of a new tenor, Ugo Talbo’. Those other papers clearly took the piece at face value, but The Era was having none of it: ‘In London amateur circles he used to be plain Hugh Brennan’ it sniffed. The Musical Worldwas kinder with its description of ‘the former popular amateur tenor of the fashionable Moray Minstrels’.
Now, whether Signor Ugo was giving Milan ecstasies as a student or, already, as a fully-fledged performer, I cannot be sure. I lean to the latter. He was nearly thirty, it was surely way past time to be beginning. Later he would claim to have sung all round Europe alongside just about any star soprano you care to pick during the mid-seventies. Was that what he was doing? I spot him in late 1873 and early 1874 doing a run of operas at the Italian opera of Nice, where he sang Rigoletto et al alongside the Borghi-Mamos, mother and daughter, and back there again in 1875 in concert (‘Une charmante voix de ténor, son succès a été complet’) but that’s all. A fellow singer who later worked with him on a number of occasions commented that Talbo had ‘sung in Italian opera in Europe and one season at Her Majesty’s Opera, London’. The second half of that story (and the chap was there!) is wrong, so is the first half any more likely to be true? And if he was being a primo tenore in Europe between 1872-6 why was it never reported in the music journals? Give or take a Rigoletto at Treviglio. And likewise why, when he finally returned to Britain and the Italian opera there, was there no ‘of the principal theatres of Italy’ or even something more specific attached to his name in the traditional fashion.
That return to Britain happened in 1877, when Ugo Talbo drew the prize that every British tenor sought: a contract as a principal tenor at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Mapleson’s Italian Opera. I imagine, from what followed, that it was a five-year contract, even though it eventually fizzled out before five years was up.

The 1877 Italian opera season at Her Majesty’s opened on 28 April, and the featured tenor of the early part of the season was the very appreciable Giuseppe Fancelli who appeared as Pollio, Faust, Alfredo, Roberto il Diablo, Edgardo in Lucia and Riccardo in Ballo in maschera in the space of its first weeks. Gradually the newcomers made their appearance: the diminutive Carrion as Gennaro, Millet Cabero as Manrico, Gillandi as Faust, and finally on 4 June Ugo Talbo as the Duke in Rigoletto. The new Irish tenor shared the limelight with Canadian Alwina Valleria (Gilda), French Zélie Trebelli (Maddalena), and Irish-American Brocolini (Sparafucile) with only the baritone Galassi in the title-role maintaining the kosher Italian element in this performance of Italian opera. And he apparently did all right. The Era dubbed him ‘a new tenor of considerable merit’ and continued ‘Signor Talbo may be congratulated upon the possession of no ordinary qualifications for the post of first tenor. He has an excellent voice, of good compass, and sympathetic in quality. It is brilliant and effective especially in the upper portion and what is to be mentioned with satisfaction is that Signor Talbo does not indulge in the vibrato which so distresses the ear of the auditor and wears out the voice of the artiste. Signor Talbo has, besides, a good stage presence and his acting is characterised by earnestness. Altogether the new tenor made a decidedly satisfactory debut.’
The Times was a little less sure, as it welcomed‘another new tenor, an English gentleman who under the assumed name of Signor Talbo gave a very fair representation of the adventurous Duke of Mantua.’ ‘Signor Talbo has a very pleasing tenor voice and in his opening air ‘Questa o quella’ satisfied the audience so well that he was called upon to repeat it. The impression left by his performance generally, however, was that, though manifesting decided promise, and not forgetting the encore accorded to ‘La donna è mobile’ or that accorded to the quartet in the last act, with which his delivery of ‘Bella figlia dell’ amore’ had unquestionably something to do – Signor Talbo has much to learn, and can only be regarded, at present, as a first class amateur ’.
Doesn’t sound as if he’s been running around Europe as primo tenore to Adelina Patti and co, does it?

A few days after Hugh’s debut, Mapleson rolled out the tenorial big guns of the season. Wachtel as Raoul to the Valentine of the well-liked Caroline Salla, and the ageing Tamberlik as Rossini’s Otello. So it wasn’t until 26 June that Signor Talbo got his second performance. But then, on 13 July, like Carrion (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Roderigo in Otello, Tamino, La Figlia del Reggimento), and unlike the other two newcomers, he was allotted another role. Ugo Talbo was given a crack at the title-role of Faust (2 July ‘his third appearance’, 13 July, 25 July)Marguerite: Christine Nilsson, Mephistopheles: J-B Faure and Siebel: Zélie Trebelli. After Nilsson came another great prima donna for Ugo’s scalp-belt. Etelka Gerster arrived and succeeded to the role of Gilda and on 24 July Signor Talbo appeared as Mantua alongside her and the splendid Rigoletto of del Puente.
The Times encouraged while criticising: ‘Signor Talbo is somewhat overweighted in the important character of the Duke, being young, inexperienced and as yet unable to turn to best advantage a voice that, when he has obtained complete control of it, may serve him to excellent purpose. At present he is rather too apt to force it and thus to deteriorate its quality, besides imperilling that most essential of requirements, correct intonation. Nevertheless, persevering study may do much and we have good hopes of this young English singer’.
Three Rigolettos, three Fausts and one act of Rigolettoat the Crystal Palace (21 July) on the occasion of Mapleson’s Benefit. Nowhere in the league of Fancelli (who had played Lohengrin in the last days of the season), nor indeed of Carrion – the established Wachtel and Tamberlik. of course, being hors concours – but no disgrace either. The Musical Times was not convinced, and – having earlier praised his Rigoletto (‘a really good tenor voice, and a very fair stage presence, the ‘high C’ being as usual the passport to the favour of a large portion of the audience’), summarised at the season’s end ‘Signor Talbo must be mentioned as a vocalist who has gradually worn out the welcome accorded to him on his debut’. ‘Signor Talbo’, however, continued his upward soar, and in August he went on a two-months concert tour in Denmark, Sweden and Norway with Trebelli, Conrad Behrens and Alwina Valleria. 
But when the Mapleson company – without its international stars -- went out on tour, Signor Talbo was not included in the team. Fancelli shared the tenorial duties with Bettini and Francesco Runcio. But he did play one performance. While the team was in Dublin, the tenor took a sickie. Marthawas due to be played and it appears the other tenors were unable to cover it. Signor Talbo was summoned, and the hometown critic cheered for ‘Mr Brennan’ on his ‘first appearance in his native country’ ‘by his performance on Tuesday evening Mr Brennan has proved himself facile princeps amongst the tenors of the present company’. Better than Fancelli? Bettini? Even Runcio? Or was this just chauvinism?
The company returned to Her Majesty’s Theatre for further performances and there was still no Signor Talbo to be seen, but on Boxing Day Mapleson swapped his Italian opera for a season of English opera, played by a group of singers most of whom could not normally have aspired to the heights of a Mapleson company. George Perren was the most consequent of the tenor team, alongside Talbo, Edward Cotte and Dudley Thomas. Rose Hersee, Mathilde Bauermeister (normally a supporting player), Helene Crosmond, a striving Irish soprano who called herself Anna Eyre, Manchester’s Carina Clelland, Pauline Rita, Elizabeth Purdy and Bessie Palmer were amongst the ladies of the company, Signor Franceschi (ie Frank Barrington Foote), Frank Celli, Henry Pope and George Fox the other principal men.
The feature of this ‘short winter season’ was the production of an English version of Flotow’s L’Ombre otherwiseThe Phantom (12 January 1878).Miss Bauermeister (Vespina), Mr (sic) Talbo as Fabrizio, Fox (De Mirouet) and Miss Purdy (Gina) were the featured players, and the first named was apparently the only one perfect in her part. But the tenor was well enough liked and The Era volunteered: ‘Mr Talbo, the young English tenor who was recently a member of Mr Mapleson’s Italian company, appeared with considerable success as the hero. When he has made himself completely familiar with the opera he will be a very satisfactory representative of the character. He looked the part well, and sang with much grace and expression the pretty tenor music, the romance in the third act evoking hearty applause, the last verse having to be repeated. Mr Talbo in unquestionably an acquisition in English opera and appears likely to become a favourite’.
L’Ombre didn’t prove to be much of a favourite, but was played half a dozen times, and Talbo had more joy when he picked up his old role in Faust (25 January)The young Helene Crosmond, as Marguerite, attracted the bulk of the attention, but The Times nodded ‘Mr Talbo’s Faust exhibited marked improvement. He too has a voice seriously worth cultivating’. The Era dubbed him ‘passable’ and commented ‘more refinement would certainly have done greater justice to Gounod’s lovely music’.
When the season at Her Majesty’s was done, Talbo went back on the road. Mapleson’s 1878 road company used Bettini as its principal tenor and Runcio and Talbo in support. Talbo was given the part of Carlo in Linda di Chamonix and Manchester nodded ‘a tenor new to us acquitted himself well as Carlo’. 
The prospectus for the 1878 town season included Signor Talbo amongst the tenors of the company, but it doesn’t seem as if he actually appeared on the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre during its course. Fancelli and Bettini were still there, and Runcio was given La Traviata, but Mapleson had also hired the ringing Marini (who took Rigoletto) and Campanini, who not only sang Faust but also the brand new Carmen. Signor Talbo was one tenor de trop, and his season was limited to the odd opera concert with the Mapleson team at the Albert Hall and a performance at the Crystal Palace (20 July) for Mapleson’s Benefit, when he appeared as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni alongside Valleria, Trebelli, Crosmond and del Puente.
And that Don Giovanni seems to have been Signor Talbo’s last performance under his Mapleson contract. In the next twelve months I have spotted him singing in the odd concert – one for St Katherine’s Home (23 May 1879) where he is still billed as ‘by permission of Mr J H Mapleson’, another giving his ‘M’appari’ for the harpist John Thomas (26 June), but otherwise it appears that he sat around – like so many of Mapleson’s long-term-contract but no-more-needed players – doing nothing, until he was released or loaned out.
When Signor Talbo turned up again, however, he had regressed to being ‘Hugh Talbot’. For he had been released or loaned out by Mapleson to Mr R D’Oyly Carte to create the principal tenor role in the successor to the wildly successful comic opera HMS PinaforeThe Pirates of Penzance. He also turned up on the other side of the Atlantic, for the production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s newest piece was to take place in New York. It appears that he owed his new job to his Faust partner. Helene Crosmond had been offered the role of Mabel and, according to a letter from Carte to Sullivan which survives in Britain’s Theatre Museum, had failed to come to financial terms with Carte ‘but she recommended a tenor, Hugh Talbot, who sang under the name of Talbo.  He wants to go and would be cheap.  I know of no one. Power or anyone like that w[oul]d not be listened to in New York. Helene Crosmond says that Talbo is the best Faust she has ever played with.’ So he wanted to go, did he. I wonder why. Anyway, thanks a heap Helene. And I wonder what your other Fausts – Bettini, Gillandi and Campanini himself – would have thought of that comment.
Carte and most of his cast crossed the Atlantic on the Galliaarriving in New York on 10 November, and they opened initially with a performance of HMS Pinafore directed by Gilbert and conducted by Sullivan. This production was, in theory, to show Americans how Pinafore, sadly mutilated in many of its local productions, should be done, but by and large America refused to be impressed by it, or by the leadings players Blanche Roosevelt (‘Mme Rosavella of the Royal Italian Opera and Opera Comique, London), Hugh Talbot (‘Signor Talbo of Her Majesty’s Opera, London), music-hall comic singer J H Ryley and concert contralto Alice Barnett. The Clipper bid ‘Mr Talbot’s singing as Ralph was quite unsatisfactory – his voice is a small tenor, not without sweetness, but of so limited a range that he is unable to cope with the upper notes of his score’. This of a man who had sung Mantua at Her Majesty’s Theatre and been encored?
The month’s season of Pinafore, however, served principally to get The Pirates of Penzance on to the stage, an exercise which did not go without hiccoughs, no little thanks to Mr Talbot. John Brocolini, who played the Pirate King, recounted many years later. ‘He was [good]so far as his singing went, but he was an indifferent actor and as for his committing the lines of his part to memory, it seemed to be an impossibility. It came to the day before the performance of The Pirates at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York. The other principals had been ‘letter perfect’ in their dialogue for a week, and had discarded their manuscript parts days before, but Talbo still clung to his and had to refer to it in nearly every speech. We all began to feel anxious as to the result, and Gilbert, who had evidently been doing his best to control his temper, could stand it no longer. Talbo stopped in a speech and then consulted his manuscript. Gilbert got up from the table at which he was sitting, conducting the rehearsal. ‘Mr Talbot’ – he never called him Talbo – ‘are you ever going to know your lines?’ ‘I hope so Mr Gilbert but this is new business for me and I suppose I am rather slow at it’. ‘We are to play this opera tomorrow night and you know no more of your lines than you did on the first day you got them’.
Talbo was a quick-tempered Irishman, and Gilbert’s brusque manner irritated him. He looked up and replied with a dangerous flash in his eye. ‘Suppose we go on with the rehearsal, Mr Gilbert, and we can talk it over later’. The rehearsal was resumed but, in a few minutes, the same trouble with Talbo occurred again, and as he stopped to read his lines from the manuscript Gilbert’s patience gave way. Throwing his hands up over his head he exclaimed: ‘Great heavens, when God made a tenor he spoiled a man!’
Talbo threw down his manuscript and made a rush at Gilbert with his fists clenched and in a towering state of anger and with threats that he would smash his Scotch head in. The women shrieked and ran to the back of the stage, but the men jumped in between the maddened tenor and the author of the libretto, who stood quietly looking down at his antagonist with an immovable countenance. Several of us got Talbo away at last and with an apology to the women for his display of temper, he turned and calling out to Gilbert, ‘You can get another tenor to sing your opera’, left the theatre and went home.’
They were obliged to cozen him back or postpone the production, and in the end Brocolini and Ryley learned his lines and eased him through the first night. But he did not go down well. A seemingly measured review in the Clipper, which was devoted naturally more to the new work than the players, found everyone except the tenor and the soprano ‘deserving of praise’ but shook its head ‘Mr Talbot impresses one most unfavourably as to his capabilities either as an actor or a singer’. The Daily News reported ‘The tenor, Mr Talbot, was the one weak member of the company’. The New York Dramatic Mirror let loose with pure abuse accusing him of ‘effeminate bearing and [a] simpering manner that no doubt would be charming in a young miss straight from the confines of a select boarding school, but on the stage they are loathsome and disgusting’ and of a ‘weak, uncertain voice of nasal quality and limited volume’ as well as of not knowing his lines. Perhaps it was first night nerves, for by the time the company – a couple of weeks into the season – played a flying matinee at Brooklyn’s academy of Music Talbot was credited with ‘a fine, light tenor voice ... he had many excellent numbers and sang them all handsomely’. However ‘it is rather singular, however, that after so many performances he should have tripped in his lines’.
Gilbert and Sullivan history says that Talbot was sacked from the Pirates of Penzance company after arguments with Gilbert and/or Carte. But although this was certainly envisaged – and a letter written by Sullivan soon after opening night confirms already that ‘we shall have to get rid of him’ -- if he was, it wasn’t yet. He did, however, quit the Fifth Avenue Theatre, as he was deployed to the B company, introducing the piece to Philadelphia at the South Broad Street Theatre Philadelphia (9 February), and then to John Stetson’s company, which was presenting the Boston premiere at the Globe Theatre (8 March) with the whole original Broadway cast of principals. The Mirror nodded‘although a little awkward [he] worked into the music and business with considerable cleverness. His voice is not very strong, but it is consistent with itself and sufficient for the general demands upon it here made’.  However, at the end of the month it was reported that ‘Hugh Talbot of the Piratescombination is at the Parker House. A third-rate tenor is attempting the part of Frederick with the co vice Talbot.’ But it wasn’t the end. In the week of 19 April both Talbot (‘the favourite tenor’ New York Dramatic Mirror) and Miss Roosevelt were back in their ‘original parts’ and the said Mirror, which had so damned the tenor on opening night in New York, turned volte face with the sort of extravagance that makes one so doubtful of theatrical criticisms around this time and place: ‘Mr Talbot has long been recognised as one of the leading artists in Europe… has sung all the principal tenor roles with Titiens, Nilsson, Lucca, Albani, Trebelli and many others. This is the first season of Mr Talbot in such pieces as The Pirates and Pinaforeand his acting is full of dash and vigor which have made him so popular in the old country’. The Boston season of Pirates ended 8 May and ‘Hugh Talbot of the Pirates comb will rest at City Point for a few weeks before his departure for Europe.’
But he didn’t. A month later he was advertising ‘primo tenore in English opera’ … ‘will rejoin Mapleson’s Opera Company in January 1881… in the interval he will accept engagements in English opera, oratorios, concerts...’ His advertisement trumpeted that he had a repertoire of 52 operas, had actually played in 28 of them, and alleged that he’d played La Traviata, Martha, Rigoletto, La Sonnambula, Don Pasquale, Don Giovanniand Normaat Her Majesty’s Theatre. Address c/o his new friends the New York Dramatic Mirror.
Talbot didn’t rejoin Mapleson. Mapleson, who’d been touring America very happily with Campanini and Runcio as his tenors, obviously didn’t need him. In fact, he never again returned to Britain. But he did return to the opera, to give at least a handful of those 52 roles in his repertoire. His first engagement, in the later months of 1880, was as principal tenor with a little troupe organised by the baritone Tagliapetra featuring the young Marie Litta as its lead soprano, Signor Baldanza and Anna Rossetti as its alternates and L H Gottschalk as its bass. Columbus, Ohio, credited him with ‘a clear, pleasing voice’ in Il Trovatore, Faust and Martha. But elsewhere the press reported ‘The people of Memphis did not like Ugo Talbo’s singing, but they hold on to his private baggage with a fond attachment’. Tagliapetra’s company ground to a halt in New Orleans in December, just in time for Talbot to head back to Boston and Blanche Roosevelt.
Miss Roosevelt had spent some of her time during their last Boston date chatting up the aged poet Longfellow, and as a result she was producing (after several earlier announcements) an operettic version of his The Masque of Pandora with music by the Carte conductor Alfred Cellier. Blanche of course played Pandora. Hugh Talbot (sic) was Epitmethius. The piece came out at the Boston Theatre on 10 January, following a record week by Mapleson’s opera with its new tenor Ravelli, and it was an unqualified non-success. Ugo was condemned as ‘almost as lifeless as he was as Frederic’. The most work he seemed to have done was chatting about himself and the Tagliapietra disaster to the press.

However, if Mapleson didn’t need Signor Talbo, his main American rival, Max Strakosch did. Strakosch and Clarence Hess had been touring an English opera company around the country with some success and more quarrels. And with Mrs Mapleson, otherwise Marie Roze, as one of its prime donne. Arthur Byron and Johnnie Perugini were the tenors. Neither of them seemed to appeal to the critics, and neither of them seemed to appeal to the other. Eventually it came to tenor versus tenor fisticuffs, and to the departure from the company of Perugini. Ugo Talbo and his 52 operas were hired as a replacement. Since Marie Roze had departed as well, the company was now headed by the very appreciable Ostava Torriani, with Laura Schirmer as second lady, Lizzie Annandale as contralto and George Conly as bass. Talbo got to give his Faustand Mefistofele and probably one or two more roles for a few weeks, before the company faltered at Akron, and Strakosch did a hasty up-class of his team, before the important date of Philadelphia. Signor Talbo was replaced by Campanini and Brignoli!
In August of 1881 Signor Talbo headed west to San Francisco to join another opera company, one under the direction of Inez Fabbri, which was announcing the first Californian production of Carmen in English. A certain Fiorenza d’Arona was to be the Carmen, and Signor Ugo Talbo would be Don Jose.
Mme Fabbri’s rate of success as an impresario was not impressive, but she got this one on, even though in, apparently, a palpably under-rehearsed state. The Mirror assures us that there was ‘a large and fashionable audience’ for the premiere (‘Signor Talbo … a clear strong voice which he used with excellent effect but his acting was scarcely up to standard’), but for the second performance so few customers turned up that she cancelled the performance. She summoned in Laura Bellini to do Lucia, she announced Il Trovatore with the other tenor of the affair, Montegriffo, as Manrico, she announced La Dame blanche with Signor Talbo, and then she closed down ‘for the meanwhile’. ‘Attendances have been very poor’.  ‘The opera season is a failure’. So Madame Fabbri swept up her company and put them aboard a ship for Oregon. They limped back a few weeks later ‘with more glory than gold’ and the last that was heard of the affair was that the unpaid singers were suing Madame for the wages she had never paid.

Hugh Brennan’s introduction to California might have been disastrous, but in the end the Fabbri engagement turned out to be a good thing all the same. For ‘Signor Ugo Talbo’ as he decided to remain, and he stayed for the whole of the rest of his life in California, living sometime in Stockton, but mostly in San Francisco. He gave concerts from time to time – I have spotted him in a Philharmonic concert at Platt’s Hall on 3 February 1882, and it appears that he was well liked. ‘Ugo Talbo’ reported the Examiner‘who followed with the recitative ‘Ye people rend your hearts’ and the aria ‘If with all your hearts’ from Elijah was enthusiastically encored. The gentleman sings with considerable taste and is possessed of a voice of good quality. His rendering of the aria was in good style and he displayed some feeling, but in the Preghiera from Stradella which he sang later in the evening he displayed to the full his chief fault of vocalisation, that of straining after effect by forcing his voice.’ The Chronicleon the other hand decided that ‘Mr Talbo has never displayed that genuine vocal power he possesses so well as in the Stradella selection. His full, sympathetic tenor is beginning to ring through our social circles and he is fast acquiring a pleasant popularity.’
The ‘social circles’ proved decidedly useful allies, for, in the years that followed, Talbot established himself, alongside a genuine ex-star of the opera stage, the much older Karl Formes, as a fashionable west coast singing teacher, and his name lives on (insofar as it does) as one of the earliest teachers of the San Francisco-born baritone Dennis O’Sullivan. 
Ugo Talbo found the respect in California, and as a teacher, that he had rarely found in the rest of America and as a singer, sufficient indeed to have his death reported in the newspapers of both coasts of America. And what reports!  ‘He was a noted singer in England thirty years ago and has prominent relatives there. He was once an officer in the English army…’ ‘a celebrated tenor and leading man for Patti. He was well connected in England…’
Well connected? Elizabeth was a milliner, Anne a draper’s saleswoman, Sarah a schoolmistress, Richard a teacher…

Heigh ho. Those same newspapers who had, and who have, so often, missed the passing of so many a sometime genuine star of the stage and of music, got him. Bully for Mr Brennan.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Who was who in Arthur Sullivan’s ZOO


The little musical play The Zoo, score by Sullivan and libretto by B C Stephenson, had a life of only a few weeks in the nineteenth century. But the ‘rediscovery’ and publication of its score in the 20th century has led to the piece finding its way into the modern repertoire and onto disc, as well as into all sorts of Sullivan-orientated books and websites. And there, as often as not, we find facsimiles of the original playbill …

Does anyone ever ask, ‘who were these people?’. Well, Gilbert scholars know all about the horrid Henrietta Hodson, adulterous member of a grand theatrical family, ultimately wife of the even horrider Labouchère of parliamentary infamy, and a sometime burlesque actress, who got into an oft retold war of words with WSG. Edgar Bruce, too, is rather more than a footnote as a producer and actor.

But what about the juvenile singing couple? Carlos Florentine? Is that for real? Gertrude Ashton? I knew that was a stage name, and I knew something of her brief life and musical career …
So a few years ago I decided to find out more. 

Gertrude turned into a rather long article, so I’ll post her later. Also my photograph of her is in New Zealand and I’m in Australia. So let’s start with Carlos. I don’t know of the existence of any portrait of him … so until I dig up some pictorials, there are I’m afraid no illustrations here. But there’s plenty of text!

FLORENTINE, Carlos (b ?NYC 12 April 1847; d 319 West 30th Street, NYC 7 May 1890)

I don’t know whether Mr (or Signor) Carlos Florentine was really thus christened or not. We have only his death certificate, on which he – well, someone -- says that his father was James Florentine, and his mother Elizabeth, to go by. Strangely they (and he) do not seem to appear on any census papers or in any other records.

The New York Heraldrelated, by way of an obituary, a tale of him living among the Indians in the far West, singing to the trees, until a stranger told him to go have his voice trained, so off he scooted to Europe. Yes, well, maybe.

To tell the truth, I really wouldn’t have bothered about investigating Mr Florentine, except that, for a few weeks of his life and minimal career, he created and played a role which has made him reference-book and Internet worthy.

The first sighting I make of Carlos, is at 27 years of age, arriving in Britain aboard the Celtic, from New York,31 October1874. In the following months, he managed to get himself – with apparently no previous stage experience – hired by Marie Litton, on a three years contract, to open with a short season at the St James’s Theatre, 27 March 1875, playing the small part of Yussuf, the slave dealer, in Brough’s Conrad and Medora,as an afterpiece. His ‘first appearance on any stage’ was greeted indifferently: ‘a very fair voice and some skill in using it, though a few faults excusable in a novice were perceptible’, ‘good make up and a very musical voice’, ‘failed to produce the success that was expected of him’.
Half way through the season, Miss Litton changed her afterpiece, and produced a new burlesque operetta entitled The Zoo. Henrietta Hodson who had starred in the burlesque was again the star, with the singing actor Edgar Bruce, and with Mrs Cave-Ashton brought in to give vocal values as ingenue. Opposite her, Mr Florentine played Aesculapius Carboys, a lovesick apothecary. Henrietta Hodson and Bruce stole the show, Mrs Cave-Ashton sang delightfully, and Florentine was dismissed in a few words. ‘Sang smoothly’. After a few weeks, Miss Litton’s season ended, and Bruce took the piece to the Haymarket for a fortnight. And then Miss Litton decided she didn’t really need Mr Florentine for three years. Or, actually, any more at all. But she had given him his place in musico-theatrical history: for The Zoowas composed by Arthur S Sullivan.

Mr Florentine said he was off to Italy to study for the opera. The press commented sourly: ‘He must study acting also, for at present he is a mere novice’. But he didn’t go. He went home.

He came back to London for the next two seasons, and got himself a spot for several months at the third-rate concerts at the Royal Aquarium (‘The Mountebank’ by Vivian, Weidt’s’ How fair thou art’, Levey’s ‘The Happiest Land’ &c). On one occasion the American Signor shared a bill of Irish ballads with the German Mathilde Zimeri. He sang at Jennie Lee’s Benefit, Wilhelm Ganz’s at home, Mr Greenhill’s concert at Langham Hall (Pinsuti’s ‘The Raft’), the Alexandra Palace Proms (rather on a par with the Aquarium), at Rivière’s proms under Alfred Cellier, and when the Chicago musician, S G Pratt, mounted a London concert he lined up with Mesdames Valleria, Sterling and Rosavella and Signor Foli on a very transatlantic bill. He also (2 July 1877) staged a concert of his own with Sterling, Liebhart, Enequist and Foli billed alongside some nonentities.
At the same time, he immersed himself in London men’s club musical life: I spot him at a meeting of ‘The Circle’ alongside Comyns Carr, Alma Tadema and Walter Pelham.
However, the adventure came to an end 25 April 1878, and Carlos took a ship from England back to America for the last time.

His obituary (and, amazingly, he had several) claimed that he did not make music a profession when he returned home. But it looks as if he tried to. He became attached to several churches, notably George H Hepworth’s Madison Avenue Church, he sang occasionally in concert and sponsored his own, from Chickering Hall (24 November 1879) to the ill-named Grand Opera House (11April 1880) to the Scottish Rite Hall, he became the musical relief to lectures serious (Dr James L Harley) or humorous (Alfred Post Burbank, stereopticon), and he even returned to the stage and Sullivan’s music when he was cast as Colonel Calverley in Patiencein Blanche Corelli’s very tatty touring company. He joined up for a while as a minstrel with Haverly’s Mastodons and Haverly also used him in The Merry War in the 1882-3 season. In 1883, he played on the road with Eugene F Gorman’s Criterion Company. Charles H Drew was the vocalist, and Carlo (sic) was listed as ‘comedian’.

Finally, he settled down as a church singer in New York, ultimately at the Presbyterian Church at 123 West 12th Street. If he had a day job, nobody mentioned it. He still appeared here and there in lesser concerts – as late as May 1890 I spot him listed on a variety bill at the Tabernacle, Jersey City.

I don’t think he made it. That week, he died ‘of pneumonia and heart failure’, aged 42, leaving a wife (?) of whom the tale is told in another of my articles. She was the divorced wife of Brooklyn basso ‘Signor Brocolini’, née Lizzie Fox, and the who-was-to-blame tale of that disaster is told under Brocolini. She doesn’t appear in censi after her remarriage either.

And that was the life – the professional one anyway – of Signor Carlos Florentine, who would be quite forgot had Marie Litton not produced three weeks of a little afterpiece …

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Beside the seaside.... or, Out with the old, in with the new ..

When you live a few hectometres from the ocean, in the sun and the sparkling sea spray, and your 21st century home is into its second decade of life ....

Rust. That lovely salty sea spume that you so enjoy sniffing in the air? It is eating away at anything metallic on the outside walls of the buildings.

And the greatest sufferers are those unsightly but necessary objects called air-conditioning units.

Well, not wishing to have my home look like a clapped-out, back-street Hong Kong brothel, I decided: 'I will sand and paint the little monsters'.

Innocent I. Look upward, Kurt. I am on the ground floor. And the flats above me have their units pasted to the outside walls, from where they can drip not only water onto my head but also litres of rust. Yes, they have rusty bottoms. And rusty insides. Cosmetics is not sufficient. Before long, these things are going to implode in a shower of ferrous oxide. Sigh.

Better get a quote from Clarence Coast Air Conditioning of Yamba. So, five units at .... arggggh! HOW much..? Well, I'll start with the two in my 'home' apartment.

This morning, at precisely 8.15 am, when I'd just slipped my djellabah on and my teeth in, the door ratatatted. And there were two bonny young men all ready to start the job. 'Go for it' gulped I, mentally retarding breakfast at the Main Beach Kiosk for brunch at the same lovely spot.

Well, now I understand! The price, I mean. I thought I was just replacing the rusty outside bit. No! for my money I got entirely new systems, which it took the two lads (who didn't lean on any shovels, or take any time out for mophone calls) until 2pm to instal ...

I was im-pressed. I shall pay the bill the moment it arrives.

And now, having missed both breakfast and brunch, I find the Kiosk is closed ... so I shall crack a chilled chardonnay and sit on the part of the terrace where I WON'T get ferrous oxide rain, and look at my very smart new air conditioning units...


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Gilbert and Sullivan prima donna mystery solved

Who WAS Emilie Petrelli? Well …

‘When Emilie Petrelli, soprano, appeared, from nowhere, in Brighton in 1874, the press assured its readers that her name was really and truly Petrelli and that she was British-raised of an Italian father.

One part of that, at least, in fact practically the whole jolly lot, was clearly not true. There is no one by the name of Emilie Petrelli in any register of documents in the British Isles. So how could I find out who this lady really was, whence she came and whither she went?  Well, one just has a shot. I did. And I found a jigsaw which clicked together suspiciously well. Or I thought it did. 

Emilie de Nigris was born – either in Naples or in France, according to the censi – the daughter of Giovanni Battista de Nigris (1793-1871), a language teacher, and his English wife, Emily. John was teaching in Jersey in 1851, but by 1861 the family was in Liverpool, and on 16 February 1861 the Saturday Evening concerts presented ‘Emilietta de Nigris aged 8, the juvenile Mozart and the Infant Sappho combined ... who has appeared before the Emperor Napoleon and the King of Sardinia…’. This ‘juvenile Thalberg’ apparently specialised in florid playing and florid vocalising. The de Nigrises moved on to Brighton during the sixties, and Emilie can be seen performing in Guernsey and in Weston-super-Mare before, with the dawn of the seventies – and the death of her father --  she vanishes.

And in 1874, Miss Emilie Petrelli (‘splendid contralto singing’) appeared at Brighton Theatre Royal singing ‘Should he upbraid’ and ‘Comin thru the rye’ between the pieces, and in Mortier de Fontaine’s concert at the Pavilion, before ‘this young lady of great promise’ mounted her own concert (1 February 1875). 
At some stage, she enrolled at George Lansdowne Cottell’s London Conservatoire of Music and appeared at the concerts of that unassuming institution, before in October 1878 she won an engagement at the Covent Garden proms. She next became visible at the Royal Aquarium concerts (Wallace’s ‘Song of May’, Guernsey’s ‘O buy my flowers’, La Fille du régiment with Jose Sherrington) but she was seen mostly in the various concerts arranged by Cottell.

On 13 September 1879 she was introduced the theatre public, when she played one week as Josephine, at the Olympic Theatre, in the breakaway production of HMS Pinafore. She was judged ‘an exceedingly fascinating Josephine’ with a ‘youthful excellent voice and a graceful appearance’ and was promptly hired for D’Oyly Carte’s touring company, replacing Elinor Loveday, in the same role. When the tour company played the mock-up copyright performance of an approximate The Pirates of Penzance at Paignton, Mlle Petrelli was the first British Mabel.
Following the tour (which confusingly lists a Mr F Petrelli among its chorus) she joined the company at the Connaught Theatre to play Marie in a production of Le Voyage en Chine (27 May 1880), and took over from Constance Loseby as Stella in the Alhambra’s hit production of La Fille du tambour-major, scoring a very decided successShe remained at the Alhambra to feature behind Miss Loseby as Lisette in Mefistofele II (‘Man is the Monarch of creation’) before, on 22 January 1881, crossing to the Opera Comique to succeed to the role of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzancefor the last months of its run (‘graceful and agreeable stage presence combined with sufficient vocal skill ... a very acceptable representative of her role..’).

Emilie could have stayed with the Carte company. She was cast in the title-role of the succeedingPatience, but apparently found the role too soubrette-like, and threw the part up before opening.

She moved instead to the Philharmonic for a reprise of Le Voyage en Chineand in December 1881 returned to the Alhambra to play the Princess Desirée to the Black Crookof Miss Loseby. The following year she played the leading role of Dorothy in Edward Solomon’s The Vicar of Bray before taking a job as Miss Cherry Tart (otherwise ‘Beauty’) in the pantomime Beauty and the Beast at the Queen’s Theatre, Manchester. ‘Miss Emilie Petrelli’ quoth the local critic ‘has the advantage of not requiring artificial aid to enable her to look the part to perfection. She acts with grace and freedom and sings with more than ordinary ability and finish’.
I spot her once more, at the Edinburgh Lyceum, the following year, as Fairy in Little Red Riding Hood, and then …

While Mlle Petrelli goes into suspended animation for a decade, Signorina de Nigris shows up again, in concert in modest company at Brighton. Odd.

And then, in 1894, after more than a decade, Mlle Petrelli resurfaces, tacked into the musical comedy King Kodak at the Lyric Theatre. During the next few years she was seen in the odd concert; singing ‘Ernani involami’ at J A Cave’s Benefit, pushing de Leuville’s ‘The First Kiss’, singing ‘Ah fors’e lui’ and ‘Bel raggio’ with a telepathist at Steinway Hall, billed as ‘of the Milan and Paris concerts’. Really? She is ‘of The Elms, Campbell Road, Croydon’.
In 1898 she turned up at Kilburn in a little show called The Pasha(‘Carmena’) and my last sighting of La Petrelli is playing the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at Birmingham in 1898-9.

But it’s not my last sighting of Miss de Nigris. I spot her singing at Brighton’s West Pier, I spot her mother’s death in 1906 at the Steyning Union Workhouse, I spot her playing piano for scripture readings in 1908, in a flat at 91a Ormiston Road, Hammersmith in 1911, and in 1925, ‘Emila de Nigris’ died in Willesden at recordedly 91 years of age. Victorian scribal error, I think. 71 is more like it.

So, are Mlle Petrelli and Signorina de Nigris one and the same person?
Most of the pointers were a little bit positive, but … 

And, then … Advertisement in the Hastings and St Leonard Observer: ‘Madame Emilie Petrelli prima donna Covent Garden ...’ not only giving lessons, but still singing! ‘RAM’ ! ‘pupil of Randegger’. And more such, between 1904 and 1915. ..!

In 1909: ‘Madame Petrelli RAM’ ‘late pupil of Signor Randegger and of Signor Fiori’, ‘professor of breathing voice production’ and the ‘Petrelli modifications of the old Italian art of singing… Madame Petrelli’s Vocal Academy, The Priory, Belvedere, Kent. (Voice trial free by appointment)’.

I thought I had better start again.

What about ‘singing lessons by a lady, student at the Royal Academy of Music, who learned voice production under Signor Randegger and was a pupil of Signor Fiori for four years… Miss Ethel Lloyd, 54 Acacia Rd., St John’s Wood NW’?   Naaaaah.

But around the corner the truth was there, just hiding…

A number of years of searching further on, another little herring (was it red?) surfaced, to throw into the pool. Emilie offered copies of ‘The First Kiss’ for sale (in 1895) from ‘her home’ at The Elms, 18 Campbell Rd., Croydon. Well, in 1898 and 1901 The Elms was occupied by orchid-growing Dr Frederic Fitzherbert Hills and his wife … Emily Mary Jane Hills.  Emily. In 1911, the widowed Mrs Hills is living in Eastbourne and … a professor of singing... hello, hello!

YES! Mrs Hills was born Emily Mary Jane Peters in 1859 … so throw the pieces of the jigsaw in the air, scrub the de Nigris non-connection, the fibbing little lady is found. Emily Peters. Why didn’t I guess? Father James Peters, mother Emily née Flint. Christened at St Bride, Fleet Street… there they are in Brydges Street, Covent Garden in the 1861 census, and father is twenty-seven and … a vocalist… from … Brighton! I had all the clues, why didn’t I find this before? De Nigris be damned! In 1871, there they are, mother and daughter, in Windmillhill, Herstmonceux. By 1891, she is Mrs Frederic F Hills and the couple are living in Devon House, Whitehall, Gloucestershire where the good Doctor is running a medical practice, in 1901 they are in The Elms, Croydon …

Frederic died 3 March 1909, at the Priory, Belvedere, aged 55. 
Emily in 1925.

When you know the facts (well, I can’t find the marriage, but…), it all fits in! De Nigris Schmigris! And won’t the Gilbert and Sullivan fraternity be happy …

PETRELLI, Emilie[PETERS, Emily Mary Jane] (b Brydges Street, Covent Garden 1859; d 17a Derwent Rd, Anerley, Kent 23 January 1925)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Does anybody still eat ... breakfast?

I don’t eat breakfast, I haven’t since the years when I travelled, and stayed for periods in such superior bed-and-breakfast places as the unmatchable Hermitage Court Farm in the Isle of Wight and the Bayview Guesthouse in Jersey. My goodness, those were breakfasts! Black sausage, smoked salmon, poached eggs …

Nowadays, one meal a day is enough for me. At Gerolstein, it’s usually early evening. Or sometimes at midday. But never at 8.30am. So, what got into me today?

Up 7.30am, and down to the village for some ‘shopping’, but on the way back I walked right past my front door and on down to the beach … the Kiosk was calling me back!

And so I spent half an hour sitting by the seaside with a large coffee, a bacon and egg muffin with cheese ($4.50) and a ‘small’ pottle of crisp hot chips ($4), watching the wonderfully happy people swimming, surfing, splashing, paddling ...

The chips were an exaggeration. I was on my own today, not sharing! I gave half of them to the children at the next table. Finally, I wobbled up the hillside homewards (my home is on the top of the hill, behind the right-hand umbrella) and fell back into bed!

Well, I might not get back into the habit of matinal food, but I‘ll do it again. Without the chips, maybe! Perhaps it’s as well the Kiosk closes for the winter season this weekend…

Addendum: 24 hours later. Devouring a featherlight chicken, cheese and avocado toastie with coffee at .. the Kiosk!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cyclone Renee, or when the family hits town

A week has careered past since I took up residence at my Winter Palace, and I must say it’s been a not uneventful week … crowned by a delicious massage at Yamba Remedial massage, and then, on Saturday, cyclone Renee hit town.
We zoomed out to do some shopping, and then, come the evening, we repaired to Angourie and the grand Barbaresco restaurant. I’ve already eaten out three times in the week … and very well too, beautiful Indian food at the superior spot now called Indian Fusion, at the next-door-to- home snackery once called Pippi’s and now splendidly refurbished under the name ‘Sandbar’, but when Renee zooms in from Grafton …

You see, we both Like Food. I don’t mean big old plates of meat and three veg to fill an empty belly, but Food to be tasted and mulled over and enjoyed. We are lucky. Yamba has a quite a number of good and even very good restaurants. But when the family come to town we have … wheels: so Angourie and Barbaresco it is!
We rolled up to the lovely spot at 6pm on the dot, and hadn’t been seated more than a few minutes before the place was buzzing … full house soon … Barbaresco is NOT a secret! The noise level at the previously quiet spot rose dramatically, piped music (why?) chimed in, and I had to strain my underpowered ears to hear the conversation. But my blood orange margarita arrived and I dived blissfully in …

What else is there to say? The meal was as blissful as the margarita(s). To wit: I started with beef carpaccio with parmesan 

and Renee chose the grilled local prawns. 

Sounds simple? No. There are 32 ways to cut and season a carpaccio, 33 to grill and serve -- or ruin -- a plump fresh prawn. We shared a little of each other’s …

Then the main course. Yes, I was having two courses! Mine was green tagliatelle with white fish and pippis … a nice, light dish for a hot and humid night … 

Renee chose the fish of the day: a luscious, thick piece of Jewfish on lentils … 

And somehow the second margarita appeared …

My capacity metre registered ‘satisfied’ as I supped the last delicious mouthful, but Renee was eyeing the dessert menu! So we shared a perfect honeycomb semifreddo … the ideal finale to a first-rate meal.

I really like Barbaresco, and one of things I like about it is that, when you return, most of the same familiar faces are there … you feel ‘at home’, relaxed … oh, and did I mention the food?

Renee dropped me off at the Cove at 7.30. A glass of cold white and the Commonwealth Games? The TV was showing, for heaven’s sake, little girls playing 7-a-side rugby. After little girls failing to synchronise dives, and little girls falling off gymnastic apparati, it was too much for me. I switched off, left the wine in the fridge and found my bed.

But it was not over! My facebook tinkled at 8am. Come for a swim and a coffee at the beach. So I put on my new blue surf shoes, and my fish-pattern badehose, and headed for Main Beach. Main beach was already occupied by Sunday swimmers and a pod of friendly dolphins, but with the help of my shoes I was able to walk out through the waves without incident and have a really good dip.

Coffee. Why not. There is a little place called the Main Beach Kiosk right on the beach … coffee ordered … oh gosh, look what that man’s got. What a super plate of breakfast. We looked at each other. One between two? So for the first time in yonks, I ate breakfast .. avocado, smoked salmon, poached eggs … oh yum. This is a discovery! And just down the hill from my place. I shall be a regular.
Alas, I won’t. ‘The Season’ ends next week. It is officially winter. And the Kiosk closes till spring. Oh well, just as well, I shouldn’t really get back into breakfasting ..

So Renee has trundled back to Grafton. But she and Captain Joe will be back soon … with Darby, Harry, Eli, Noah, Mia (in descending order of age) … Rachel having already gone back to University ..

I had better get into training. I can feel those underused calves aching from breasting the waves… I'd never be able to get astride a dolphin at this rate.

I dont know why blogger has decided to change the spacing and design of my pages, but they ways of blogger are not quite clear ...