Friday, May 13, 2022

A Gaiety Girl, or how to write a sensational headline.


Today, I bumped into this article ...

My! A Gaiety Girl? Whatever that means. One of the Big Six? Or a walk-on? Clearly a little bit iffy ... all this business with jewellery and bouncy cheques.  Let's have a wee investigate ..

Nellie Stanton. Ellen Agatha Ursula née Cassidy (b Mile End 20 October 1882; d Farnborough 10 February 1966). Daughter of an Irish County Council schoolmaster. 'You common, horrible little person' to a Bond Street jeweller seems a bit ... um .. round the wrong way.

A Gaiety girl. Really? Well, I have every Gaiety show programme from night one. No Miss Cassidy or Mrs Stanton that I can see, even though the showponies and 'thinking roles' are all listed. But yes, there she claims, in the 1911 census, to be 'an actress'. Maybe the Gaiety Theatre, Hastings? 

Well, perhaps she married a moneyed swell ('L600 for the builders') and climbed from Mile End to Bond Street via Earl's Court.  Let's have a peep at Mr Herbert Stanton (b Nether Heyton, Northants 21 January 1877). There he is, in 1901, living in the Anchor Inn, Stamford, working as a 'brewer's clerk'. In 1907 he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for embezzlement as 'an habitual criminal'.  The records show that he was 5ft 2 3/4ins.  Horrible little person!

Well, Nellie can't have had very high aims to have married him! The episode of the jewels seems to bear all the marks of some kind of scam. And no, I don't imagine that Mr Freedman was entirely clean of the odd bit of shady doings. But I also suspect he was a class or two above the gushing, then furious Nellie. I rather get the feeling that she was a bit of an amateur con lady, and no match for 'Cecil' who had, doubtless, seen it all.

I'm still not quite comfortable with this story. Just what was the relationship between 'Nellie' and 'Cecil' which, after a dozen years of acquaintanceship ended in a totally stupid lawsuit?

Bzzzzzing!!!!!!  Cecil Freedman of 13-14 New Bond Street and 16 Park Lane. Wife Henrietta Maud née  Haeberlin ...  

Courtesy of ebay: Miss Haeberlin as a baby. And her mother (née Louisa Maud Webster), wife of a wealthy iron ore merchant ...

'Cecil' was actually Moses Tobias Freedman ...  I see he died 20 August 1931 in Frankfurt, aged 52.

End of investigation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Mr Walton of the Princess's Theatre


Work in progress!  

WALTON, Thomas James (b ?Barnsley ?1799; d Warren Street, Tottenham Court Row 17 July 1847)


A while back, one of the world’s top theatre historians asked me ‘who was this Mr Walton of the Princess’s Theatre?’ I could only answer, ‘well, he was Mr Walton of the Princess’s Theatre’. So I thought I had better find out more.


Tom Walton was apparently born in Yorkshire. Or somewhere up thataway. His death registration says it was in 1799, but other sources (including some alarmingly incorrect www family trees!) say anything back to 1793. On his early life I have no information, but I assumed that he was, at some stage, a provincial actor and singer. 


However, he makes a first appearance in any document, to me, at Leicester, 29 August 1822, when he married a Miss Sophia Hafford, of Hinckley. He was described, for the occasion, as a ‘commercial traveller of Barnsley’. So, the singing -- as a day job -- was not for just yet.


But it was soon. By May 1825 there he is at the Theatre Royal, York, stepping in for Bellamy in My Native Land. And then in August singing 'Friendship and Love' between the pieces 'in very spirited style' 'Mr Walton has a fine voice and only wants judicious teaching to attain a high rank in the profession'.


He went in pursuit of that rank in 1827. I see him sailing for America on the brig Billow, in the company of wife, infant son, and Henry James Finn, of the Boston Theatre. He had been engaged as singing gentleman for that house. Tom played several seasons in Boston – roles from Henry Bertram to Prince Felix --  and, over the next decade, left, as legacy, his name on a sheaf of songs and arrangements, often penned by local poets, ‘sung by Mr Walton at …’. 'O life hath its seasons' (Fdk S Hill), 'O welcome the moment' (Rufus Dawes), 'With a Helmet on his brow', 'Come brothers arouse', 'Some Love to Roam', 'The Regatta Boat Song' (Samuel F Glenn), 'A Hunter's Life', 'Mary of the Wild Moor', his own arrangements of 'A Sailor Returned from a Cruise' and of Rossini as 'Hark the Lovely Bugle Sings' and occasionally a borrowed hit from across the seas ...


In 1828, he seems to have appeared at Richmond Va, Rhode Island, at the Chatham Theatre (Zekiel Homespun in The Heir at Law), and later at the Sans Souci (Belleville in Rosina), at Castle Gardens ('Bound Prentice to a Waterman', 'The Bonnie Breast Knot', 'The Banner of Freedom') and the Bowery Theatre (Guy Mannering), and he acted and took part in the management of Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre and, subsequently, of the Baltimore Theatre and, briefly, Washington’s National Theatre.

Providence, RI 1828

 I spot him in Philadelphia as Figaro to Elizabeth Feron’s Rosina, Felix to her Cinderella and Adolf (!) to her Linda in Der Freischütz (1833), in Boston playing the title-role in John of Paris, teamed with Mr and Mrs Wood as Figaro, in Love in a Village and as Cedric in The Maid of Judah (1833), with Mrs Austin in The Beggar’s Opera, The Duenna, Cinderella, Abon Hasan, Music and Prejudice (1834) and with the Woods, once more, as Lorenzo in Fra Diavolo, in Der Freischütz, The Duenna et al.


He moved from comedy, to drama and to opera -- from Jabber in Second Thoughts to Colonel Jarvis in The Fall of the Alamo to The Mountain Sylph ... accompanying Miss Graddon (La Sonnambula, John of Paris), Caradori Allan (Don Giovanni, The Barber of Seville, Love in a Village, Cinderella, La Sonnambula) or, ultimately, Jane Shirreff and John Wilson (1839) … from New York's Park Theatre to Philadelphia's Chestnut Street Theatre, to Boston, Washington or the Holliday Street Theatre, Baltimore.


And then, after over a decade, in which he had established himself as one of the most useful operatic supporting players in America, and also as a popular singer and songwriter, he turned on his tracks and headed back to England.


He made his first appearance on his return 1 April 1839 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in Lodoiska, but I don’t confirmedly see him again (there are a few 'Mr Walton's about) until he turns up at the Surrey Theatre, in 1841-2, playing opera, burlesque (Adalgisa in Norma 'with Bellina's music') and comedy (Dick in My Spouse) and drama (Jack Junk in Jack Junk, Friberg in The Miller and his Men).

In 1843, however, he found his niche. Mr Maddox opened the new Princess’s Theatre as a home for English and foreign opera, and Mr Walton was engaged for the company. He opened in La Sonnambula (Alessio), played Lockhart in Lucia de Lammermoor, in the pantomime The Yellow Dwarf, the drama Duprez, returning to opera in Tancredi (Ruggiero), I Puritani (Walter Walton), Der Freischütz (Kilian), La Gazza Ladra, Geraldine (Lord Nottingham) as well as the musical plays The Swedish Ferryman, The Flower of Lucerne, Twice Killed and with Rebecca Isaacs, Paul Bedford and Mrs Grattan in the pantomime The Magic Mirror, or The Hall of Statues.

The Princess’s second year saw reprises of pieces such as Fra Diavolo and La Sonnambula, the production of Lucrezia Borgia (Gubetta) and the advent of Anna Thillon to play The Syren (Duke of Popoli). A play version of Don Caesar of Bazan was also mounted, in which Walton played King Charles II, and the year ended with Balfe’s Les Quatre Fils Aymon with Walton as the Baron de Beaumanoir.

In 1845, Le Duc d’Olonne (Mugnoz) was brought into the repertoire, and 1846 saw Richelieu, the spectacular masque The Ruins of Athens, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Justice Shallow), and The Welsh Girl (David) as prelude to Loder’s new opera The Night Dancers (Godfrey) and Rodwell’s The Seven Maids of Munich (Baron de Bristlebach).

Walton directed the masque, and I suspect that as stage manager and acting manager of the house, he may have been responsible for the mounting of others of their productions.

1847 started with more of the same. A production of Anne Boleyn (Rochefort) and the lighter The Barcarolle (Marquis di Felino), the play The King of the Brigands in which Walton sang a glee, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, more The SyrenKing Lear (King of France), Werner, a musical drama The King and the Piper, and the inevitable Guy Mannering.


In July, Tom was off, ill, for a few days. And then he was dead. The official verdict was ‘died by poison improperly administered’. Just that. No details. Administered by whom? What poison? Well, a friend turned this paragraph up in an American newspaper: ‘The inquest found that Walton suffered from a painful disease, and to relieve the pain had taken large doses of opium and morphia. Mr Walton compelled his widow to buy and give him on two separate occasions double the quantity prescribed by his medical attendant. Mr Parker, a surgeon, said Walton took 16 and 1/2 grains of opium.  Parker had known people to be killed by 4 and 1/2 grains, and 6 to 10 grains were considered deadly poison. The verdict was suicide by overdose of laudanum taken to relieve the suffering caused by his disease.’.


Sophia remarried in 1854 (14 February) a chemist and druggist (!) by the name of George Fowke. A witness was Thomas James Walton. That was her son ..  The marriage ended in divorce. But the son lived till 1907 and bred freely, so I guess there are some Waltons around today ... 


And that is the story – or as much of it as I have been able to exhume -- of ‘Mr Walton of the Princess’s’. And a lot of other places. 



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Arnot Sisters, or reopening a shut-down mine

The brain of my computer is bulging with Stuff. Unfinished and abandoned books and projects, sketched articles and fun research going back to the days before computer were invented. Many, many thousands of pages of diggings from closed-down mines.

My own brain, happily and however, is still sufficiently functional to remember vaguely what is stored away in the tailings of my working life, and sometimes and for some reason I go back and quarry in one heap or another. Today was one such.

Amongst a pile of non-theatrical Victorian cartes de visite, I came upon one labelled 'Jeannie Arnot'. Photographed in India. The brain went "click" ...

Some years ago, I researched and part-wrote a little book about the Lydia Thompson 'British Blondes'. But I got sidetracked into another project. Then, I was asked to write a piece for a learned Franco-German journal, so I gutted my text for the Blondes book and published its heart of some 30 pages. 

The left-overs still sit amongst those tailings, and they include a biographical sketch of 'Miss Jennie Arnot' and her sister Lou. So, today I snipped out the section in question, updated it, and here it is, twinned with its relevant photo.

Talking about the American girls who joined the Thompson troupe:

"Amongst the newcomers were two American sisters. Amazing how often there were sisters…

This pair were a somewhat better bargain than the multiple Logans, and they had been in show business with some success since an early age. They called themselves Louise and Jennie Arnot, but their real name was McLaughlin and they had begun their theatrical careers in the 1850s as members of the Marsh Children’s Comedians troupe ‘every one under 13 years of age’. Louise, who was with the company from 1854, latterly wasn’t under 13, but ‘Little Jenny Arnot[t]’, who seems to have joined up in 1859, was. In the 1860 census, when the troupe is playing Nevada, she is listed as 8 years old to Louise’s 15. Tut! Her date of birth was 11 July 1850.

Well, they were born in Rochester, NY, the daughters of and Irish boatman by name John McLaughlin and his wife Mary Jane. The Mc Laughlins were trusting parents, for their daughters traipsed off, in the care of Mr and Mrs Marsh, not only to New Orleans, Nevada and San Francisco – where Louise played leading lady, from burlesque princes to Lady Macbeth, opposite the Marsh’s hugely puffed young son -- but thence to Australia (December 1860) and New Zealand, where they stayed for a number of years.

The troupe of children, the ‘Arnot’ girls at their head, was highly successful, but Mrs Marsh proved less than efficient as a duenna. In 1863, Louise climbed down an alleged knotted sheet, provided by her little companions, into a carriage occupied by a handsome star wire-walker, and zoomed off to get married. The wire-walker and all-round acrobat was a man of some notoriety who called himself ‘Henri (or Henry) Bartine’. The Australian records tell us he was actually named Mahan[y] or something approximating that, and that he couldn’t decide whether he was English or American. I see he actually arrived in Australia ('equestrian' 'aged 24') along with the Stoneham family, travelling steerage, in 1862. The previous year he had been, for three weeks, a 2nd Lieutenant in the New York Infantry. And between times he had been in gol. And I do see a record for a Henry Mahan and a Mary S McLaughlin getting wed in Sydney in 1863. I think that might be Mary Louise.

Anyway, Henry and Louise had a daughter, Jennie Mahany (b Fitzroy 18 February 1864), and apparently two sons, Henry James ?Mahony Bartine (1865), who died aged one, and Henry (1867) who died as an infant, before Henry apparently caught his wife in an act of seeming infidelity, whacked her, and she fled, in 1868, to a ship which was heading back to America. Bartine had her luggage unloaded, Louise went to court and got it reloaded, got a protection order … End of marital chapter, but not of her career.

‘Little’ Jennie apparently stuck with Louise, and we are told that she, too, acquired a brief Australian husband before they finally did quit the country. By 1869, they were back in San Francisco with the forgiving Mr Marsh, his son and the latest version of the troupe. By the 1870 census, the two siblings, all husbands shed, can be seen in New York: Miss Louise Arnot (26) and daughter Miss Jennie ?Barnot (6), plus Miss Jennie Arnot (20) and Mary Arnot (48), who, I guess, was mother. 

And their adult careers are about to begin. It is 1870 when I spot the two girls joining up with the Lydia Thompson troupe. Louise had been a leading lady with Marsh and in Australia, but as a full-blown performer she had to retreat to supporting roles behind somebody such as the Queen of Burlesque. Jennie had specialised in sprightly soubrette parts both in the juvenile troupe and, from her early teens, in burlesque: and she carried right on playing the same sort of parts with the best burlesque troupe in the country. For both girls were decidedly useful. Marsh’s training had covered all aspects of theatre: acting, singing, dancing. The fine-looking Arnot girls could play in the burlesques, in the supporting comedies, deliver song and or dance solos, and Louise, with her strangely ‘mannish’ and deep voice was a natural for pants parts.

The troupe opened at Wood’s Museum, with Jennie cast as Cupid in Paris, Ochobrand in The Forty Thieves, and Brunette in St George and the Dragon, before heading out on the road.

In January 1871 the company presented Paris, Sindbad, Richard III or Bad Dickey and Lurline at New Orleans. Behind Eliza Weathersby, Lizzie Kelsey, Minnie Walton and Kate Heathcote, Louise took the part of the heroine’s attendant, Wavelet, originally played by pretty Nellie Hope, but since by none other than Willie Edouin in travesty. ‘She is justly becoming a great favourite with our people’ commented the local press. She played William in Black-Eyed Susan and five characters in In and out of Place, appeared as the Sultan in Sindbad and Jupiter in Paris, and later took up the part of the Count to Jennie’s Lady Una in Lurline as the company went through its usual changes of personnel. She ‘possesses the happy facility of doing everything she touches well’ agreed the newspapers.

‘The captivating’ Jennie played in the afterpieces, supporting Lydia in A Day in Paris. The tour ended in June, and so did the Arnot girls' time as Blondes. Lydia and her husband headed to England to stock up on ‘real’ British blondes, and the girls moved onwards to the next part of their long career."

That was where my original piece stopped. But not my curiosity. So when the photo of Jennie surfaced on ebay, I reactivated my search for the whatever happened to of the Arnot girls.

Louise quickly found a new husband. Quite when and where she acquired him I haven’t yet tracked down, but in February 1870, already, the Clipper states that she is the wife of John Wilson, a well-known Scots circus proprietor. Even though Tony Pastor seems to have continued to bill her as 'Louise Bartine'. Wilson died in Hamburg in 1876, and Louise subsequently became Mrs Thomas Patrick Gunn, wife of her much younger partner in her vaudeville sketches and sometime 'stage director of the Lafayette Theatre'.


I have found her will. She died in Manhattan 19 August 1919 and her legatees were husband Thomas (b 30 December 1872); daughter Jane or Jennie originally 'Bartine' or Mahanna (!), later Gunn, in 1860 Mrs Edwin Frank Mayo (eig Maguire, son of the actor Frank Mayo), at some stage 'wife of Frank David of the Conried Co', then, it seems, Mrs Jane Rasmussen (d Brooklyn 10 January 1929); and sister Jennie Bebus ...

I have also found a marriage listing for 10 May 1920 for Thomas P Gunn and Jane Rasmussen! Marriage with deceased wife's daughter! Well, she was, nevertheless, a decade older than he. Thomas went on with a stage and silent screen career and I guess it is he playing Sherrif Ike Vallon in the original Show Boat. He also went on to a third wife (a much younger one, this time!), and died in New York, 1 December 1943. 

After her putative divorce from her mysterious Australian husband, Jennie married the actor, Davenport Bebus (b 1848; d NYC 10 July 1897). Bebus was a gambler, convinced he could break the bookmakers' bank, and when his losses got too great, he threw himself terminally into the North River at 81st Street ... he was buried by the Actors' Fund. There were a daughter, Edith (b NYC 6 January 1887; d Dunellen 1960, Mrs Schaefer) and a son Davenport (b NYC 2 October 1888; d Bridgewater NJ 1959), from the marriage. Jennie Elizabeth Bebus aged 65 can be seen in the 1915 census of New York living in Church Avenue, Kings, listed as 'mother' of either one L P Kerr or his wife Daisy. Odd. Or just an error? In 1920 she's in Franklin, NJ, then, till 1931, in Dunellen, Plainfield NJ where she died in the April at the age of 81.

Well, that's the facts and figures (e&oe) all tied up pretty neatly. Both girls had plenty more career after their spell as Lydia Thompson satellites, but little which would match those glory days. Louise was touring the vaudeville circuits with a company in sketches (Fun on the Bristol, Coon Hollow, Charles Horwitz's Regan's Luck, My Friend from India) up till 1907 and her sixties. Jennie seems to have retired in the 1880s after her (re-?) marriage and motherhood.

Oh, I wonder what became of 'Henry Bartine'.



Monday, May 9, 2022

Brünhilde from Boston and Janet from Canterbury ..


Interesting bit of theatrical ephemera today ...

A programme from John Stetson's Boston Globe Theater 1 October 1877 for a play based on a part of the Nibelung saga (here oddly described as 'the German Iliad') and seemingly manufactured to allow the melodramatic actress Fanny Janauschek to appear as Brünnhilde/Brunhild.  

The Wolsung saga was in the news. Wagner's tetralogy had been produced in Europe, so it was hardly surprising to see other folk in other countries leaping on to the Scandinavian subject matter.

Boston and Mme Janaushek gave their production a splendid send off, with plenty of explanation for Bostonians not yet familiar with the Wolsungs and their friends

But Mr Ahrendt was not the author of the play. In the small print of the bills, the author was credited as Janet Tuckey of London. Who? How? 'dramatisation by'? An original drama then, and not a translation or adaptation of a German or Scandanavian one? And how did Miss Tuckey, over there in Canterbury, get her play put on by the drama queen of the United States of America?

Well, Miss Tuckey was not quite unknown. And her family, indeed, even slightly notorious. 

She was born in Castletownroche, Doneraile, Cork, Ireland, the first daughter of Charles Caulfield Tuckey, the young physician of the local Dispensary, and his wife (9 November 1843), Emily, daughter of William Lloyd of Limerick. Charles progresssed in his career from Donerail to England and ultimately settled in Canterbury, by which time he had established a name as an advocate of homeopathy.  Of his two sons, the elder became an event more fervent homeopathic doctor (and hypnotist and all sorts of more or less alternative practices), and the younger took to the church. Of the three daughters, Isabel married (Mrs Crofts) and died in India in her thirties, Debby also eventually wed (Mrs Gason) and survived her sisters, and Janet ...
Much has been written about the Tuckey medical men, and Janet usually gets a mention. But the writers clearly know very little about her. And I have had to dig deep, finding more questions than answers. And of the first thirty years of her life, I have found nothing. Then, in 1875, she surfaces as the co-author of a volume English Gipsy Songs. Written in Rommany with metrical English translations. The other two contributors to the volume were the eccentric American 'gipsy specialist' Charles Godfrey Leland and Edward Henry Palmer, professor of Arabic at Cambridge University. So how does a doctor's daughter from Canterbury get attached to such as Leland and Palmer. How does 'a young lady already known by some vers de société published in Chamber's Journal,  learn the Rommany language and/or its Persian and Indian relatives? Maybe some day I will find out.

Anyway, the Gipsy Songs, and Janet's contribution -- notably a piece entitled 'Told Near Windsor' (which got Royalty into its strains) was very favourably noticed ... 'The young lady's work considerably outshines that of her collaborateurs; it is less self-conscious and conventional; it is more spirited, dramatic and forcible ...' (Daily Mail)

The mid 1870s were a time of change for Janet and her family. Mother Eliza died, and father married again. But, what did Janet do next in the literary world? After such praise. More Rommany songs? More poetry? Maybe. But her next major work was to be quite different ... it was Brunhild (sic).

From jolly gipsies to full-scale dramatic theatre. The 5-act tragedy Brunhild. I suspect that this was an Englished version of Emmanuel Siebel's pre-Wagner play which Fanny had played in Germany in the 1860s, but it was neverthless a fine version and, after its April 1871 premiere in Boston, Januschek scored in the role of Valkyrie no 1 all over again in America.

Fanny J went to the well again and produced another of Janet's adaptations, a version of a Swedish novel by Fredrika Bremer, under the title Mother and Son (Booth's Theatre 8 March 1881). Needless to say, it was MOTHER and son. And fitted well in her repertoire alongside Medea, Lady Macbeth, Brunhild e tutti quanti.

In the meanwhile, Janet was preparing another 'heroine' work on her favourite lines. A biography of the lady known as Joan of Arc, the Maid. The work was published by Marcus Ward as number 4 in the 'New Plutarch' series  'one of the very best.. we are glad the work was entrusted to a lady writer, and we fancy few could have been found to do it better than Miss Janet Tuckey has done. She never gushes or rants, but with loving sympathy sets before us the wonderful story ... '
Joan was another success, and the book -- of which the facts (pace George Bernard Shaw) seem to be as admittedly near-enough to what can be known -- is in print in the 21st century.

Janet had had a brief but splendid 'career' as a writer. And it seems clear that she -- unlike too many Victorian lady writers -- really could write.  So why do we not know more about her?  

I see her occasionally contributing to Female publications in the 1890s ...

By the 1900, after the death of father (1895) and stepmother (1899), she was living with weird brother Charles (1925) at 88 Park Street. Did she write no more ...? Why?

She latterly lived at the Firs, Caterham, and died in the seaside town of Ventnor, Isle of Wight, 8 July 1908.

I feel that I want to know more about her. I've looked in my favourite books of Victorian reference. Nothing. I've scanned ancient newspapers. Strange, that in 2022, when everything Female is so very Fashionable in the world of Academia that 23 undergraduates of Castle Adamant haven't published lengthy 'theses' on Miss Tuckey.

Perhaps someone will. I hope so.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Cartesians ... a little more unveiling


Since the publication of my recent book, with the tonnes of research of the folk of Gilbert and Sullivan's players that it involved, I've had a break from the singers of the so-called 'Savoy Operas'. But then these two photographs surfaced, and I can't resist a challenge ..

Victoria Reynolds

Let's start with 'Miss Lindsay'. David Stone's G&S Who's Who tells us

"We don't know the first name of Miss Lindsay as it never appeared in the D'Oyly Carte program. She was in the chorus at the Savoy for the first production of Princess Ida (January-October 1884), and was one of the unnamed bridesmaids in the subsequent revival of Trial by Jury later that year. She was also in the chorus for the first production of The Mikado (March 1885-January 1887), appearing in the small part of Amanda in the curtain raiser The Carp for three days in September 1886. For Ruddigore (January-November 1887), she would finally get a small named part of her own: Ruth. She also shared the part of Amanda with Rose Hervey when The Carp was revived and added to the Ruddigore bill (from February 1887 forward), and filled in as Zorah in Ruddigore on at least two occasions: in March and November 1887. There is no record of her serving with the Company after Ruddigore."

Absolutely correct. Except, as from this week, we DO know the first name of 'Miss Lindsay', because she signed the back of the photo

Clementine! Well, that should be easy ... if it's her real name. Oh dear, maybe it isn't. She doesn't appear in the British birth or marriage records. Ah! There she is, in 1881, an eighteen year-old music student from ... Scotland.

So, she is Miss Clementine Low Lindsay, born Milton, Glasgow, 8 November 1862 daughter of James Lindsay and his wife Mary Murray ... I wonder if this is she as a teenager ... perhaps not .. but family?

Anyway, back to Brompton, where she is boarding with a couple of other young lady music students. Over the next couple of years I spot the odd 'Miss Lindsay' in minor roles, in minor houses in the Midlands: whether they are she, who knows? And then comes the D'Oyly Carte engagement as related above.

'There is no record of her playing with Carte after 1887'. Indeed there isn't. For Clementine moved on to other things. In 1888-9 she went on tour with Yorke Stephens's company in Rutland Barrington's version of Mr Barnes of New York. She had a childish comedy role, as Maud Chartris, in which she scored a personal success.

And she, allegedly, married fellow actor Clarence Blakiston of the Compton Comedy Company and Rutland Barrington's troupe. Anyway, they had a short-lived daughter, named Marie for Blakiston's mother, in mid-1889, and Clementine advertised as Mrs Blakiston henceforth.

The following year she joined the Compton Comedy Company, and spent the next four years plus playing soubrette roles (including Maria in School for Scandal) round the country, as well as in Compton's London seasons. I see her touring with Alma Murray, playing Nellie Jedbury in Jedbury jr on the road ...

She seems to have retired in 1897, which Blakiston soldiered on for more than thirty years longer in theatre, films and radio. Clementine died at their longtime home at 79 St George's Square at the age of 73, on 13 February 1936. Clarence survived her, dying 23 March 1943.

So there we are. One more piece of the puzzle filled in ..

LINDSAY, Miss [LINDSAY, Clementine Low] (b Glasgow 8 November 1862; d 79 St George's Square 13 February 1936)

I didn't do quite as well with Miss Reynolds. And her name, I do know, was legitimately Victoria [Elizabeth] REYNOLDS. 

Victoria was the second child of actress Mrs Elizabeth Reynolds (b England c 1839), and was born, around 1861, somewhere in Canada. Mr Reynolds, whoever he may have been, is alleged to have come from Maine. Victoria's elder brother Peter was also born, some years earlier (December 1856?), in Canada (place unspecified) but told the American authorities that he immigrated in 1863. So I guess the whole family did. Maybe father had died or departed, for in 1870 Elizabeth and the two children are alone in Manhattan. Perhaps he was actor, too. Both the children would become such.

My first sighting of Victoria is aged nine, playing the part of Thisbe in a Cinderella spectacle at the New York Circus. Mamma is the Fairy Godmother.  The following year, ahe is playing a 'plantation sketch' After the War at the Globe before moving on to Tony Pastor's to play is drama (Paul in The Octoroon) and give 'pleasing songs and dances' for some two years straight. At thirteen she stopped being a kiddie act, and moved into the realms of the 'serio-comic', notably in the variety houses of Chicago, and from there in her later teens into the supporting ranks of the Surprise Party of E E Rice, with its repertoire of highly popular American burlesques and extravaganzas and equally popular artists

However, in 1881 she was reported as leaving the company to get married. Well, she didn't. Marry that is. She was soon back playing, first Saphir, then Ella in the James Barton/Marie Jansen/Lithgow James production of Patience.

1882, it was All at Sea with Kate Castleton starred, Olivette and more Patience in New York in the company headed by Dolly Dolaro and then Lillian Russell at the Bijou, before taking part in the premiere of Teddy Solomon's Virginia.  Teddy and his paramour, Lillian, must have liked little Victoria, for when they left New York for London Victoria seems to have gone too. But she was allegedly booked to the Willie Edouin troupe ... all a bit complex!

She played in London with Jimmie Powers in Binks, the downy photographer, at Alexander Handerson's Liverpool's Prince of Wales in pantomime, and then in his production of Nell Gwynne at the Avenue Theatre as no4 lady behind Florence St John, Giulia Warwick and Agnes Stone, but she didn't stay. In 1886 she was back in America, doing the rounds in the farce comedy A Tin Soldier. I see her thereafter touring as the Princess Sabina in Zitka with Gus Levick, as Hester Barton in Drifting Apart ..

Then, in 1888, she announced another marriage and vanished. Could this be it?  Victoria E for Elizabeth ..

Mrs what? Brennir? Brenner? Of Missouri? Surely not Albert Brennir, the comic opera tenor/comedian?

More work to be done on this one. I wish poeple would write LEGIBLY!!!!!

Logfire, whisky and kittens. Enough's enough for today. But we've added something, at least, to the G&S archive.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

May Day: The Debut of little Emily


It is nearly four years since I attended a harness racing meeting. After many years devoted to the sport (they call it an industry nowadays), I gave it away, sickened by the cheating and mismanagement that had invaded the game in the eternal chase, by hook or often by crook, after dollars. 

So I found homes for the horses, and the soft-boiled egg silks, which had, in their time, won races from Domfront (France) to Kaikoura (NZ) were consigned to a drawer. I couldn't throw them away, although there was no likelihood of their ever seeing a racetrack again .. ..

But, yesterday, May Day 2022, they did.

Because, during my years 'away', I did suffer dangerously, at times, from mal de cheval. And, on one of those vulnerable days, a friend called and said 'did I know ...?'.  There was a filly for sale on some website that was a fourth generation baby of the Gerolstein family ... I picked up the phone and called our trainer of forever ... he'd not only noticed her, but he'd put his marker on her ...

And so we became the owners of Emily .. by Imperial Count (who?) out of Duchesse de l'Amour out of La Grande-Duchesse out of Gwen ... all good Gerolstein girls.  We own two legs, and Frank and John, who had been involved with another Gerolstein babe, chipped in on the other two ...

Emily came along nicely, and in her two year-old season she went to the Qualifying Trials, won her heat, but didn't qualify because of a frightened beginning. And went for a rest. Time enough for her to qualify in the spring. Which she duly did. This time it was the others who put in the fancy steps while she did a sage trot along behind and won her ticket ...  Then, another wee rest ... and this time it was the real thing!

Back to the trials at Rangiora. Tootling along nicely, while the leader scoots off lengths ahead. "Can't keep up" declares the commentator. Oh yes, she can. She just doesn't care for that last bend. And here she comes, gobbling up the lengths, to hit the front just before the line ... 3.29 and change. Fair enough.

OK. She's being aimed for a debut at Rangiora on 1 May. So just one more trial hit out before then ... but against opposition which had already won races. No sweat. She's already won trials, don't need to win any more for credentials. So, she just cruised round ("flat" "can't keep up") and finished with the bunch.

And then it was May Day Meeting. Omigod! Twenty-eight nominations for a 15-horse field! And a full fifteen with "form" and "first preference" for places in the field. Well, thanks to that last Trial win and a few defections, we made it.

I was slightly taken aback when I saw the 'tipster's' comment in the programme. Had (s)he actually seen the trials ..?  He was basically saying 'no chance'. 

I was taken even further aback when I saw the tote odds: $50 to win and $8 for a place?  Thirteenth elect out of fifteen?  But there are a few in there she's beaten roundly at the Trials!  I know: trials are different to raceday, but ... why is she so unloved? It's those weird chaps who have been saying "can't keep up". Ah, well. Little Emily doesn't know the 'experts' are being rude about her. And I, well, I don't bet, so I don't care about odds.  But I see Aunty Faye and Frank snuck off to the tote, bless them!

I don't remember the race very clearly. My eyes were scotched to that blob of soft-boiled-egg silk that was Murray's jacket.  

Would she go away cleanly? Amongst 15 scatty maiden trotters? YES!  Three of the others did their chips as the tapes flew, but Murray was carefully steering our lassie through the middle ...  there's the yellow blob, mid-field ... 

And, oh, my goodness how did he (and she) do that? She's ended up in the favoured one out-one back spot! Round her unfavourite turn ... and she's still there as the attacks are launched ... and still there, and still there .. then she did her little Emilything. She stuck out her neck and moved into her little turbodrive. It's not a major turbodrive, but when everybody is flat out, Emily just 'gives' that little extra ..

Past the leaders she plowed ... and hit the front in sight of the line ...

I didn't know. I couldn't see my eggie in the mass of horses ... I just knew she was in there somewhere. And a stentorian bass voice echoed across the track EM-I-LY! The commentator told me later that he heard me. Hehe. What an operatic training does for a bloke ...

The swoopers were coming ...  but so was the post ... she stuck out her neck one last time, as the favourite came flying down the outside, bludgeoning itself clear from an impossible position..

We got nabbed. I remember seeing that Ti Amo Belle (what an odd mixture of languages!) had got up, but where were we?  Well, we were second. And I was thrilled. No, I wasn't disappointed, at all, at not winning. I would have been delighted with third. Or fourth. But the best bit was how she stuck that wee neck out ...

We have a racehorse. We shall have fun over the winter ...

Safely home, with a nice bottle of Teacher's to hand ... time to watch the video a few times. You do see more clearly on the video, but nothing beats the atmosphere at Rangiora racecourse ... I've had some joyous times there, real racing instead of the plastic 21st century Addington variety, and this day was one of the most joyous ...

And loads of old and a few new friends to share it with ...

Monday, April 25, 2022

Sher Campbell: a Barihunk of the 1870s

CAMPBELL, S C [COAN, [Abra(ha)m] Sherwood] (b New Guildford, Conn 15 May 1829; d Chicago 25 November 1874)

One of the most notable American baritone singers of his time, ‘Sher’ Campbell had a career cast in two halves – the first in minstrelsy and the second in opera.

This makes it all the more odd that even some of the better American reference works get his name wrong. His surname was Coan. He was the son of Abr(ah)am Coan and his wife Eunice née Cooke (d New Haven 28 May 1859) of New Guildford, Conn. He was not ‘Sherman Cohen’, or anything Cohen, and he was not born ‘Sherry Campbell’.

The ‘Campbell’ came about when, aged nineteen, he stopped being a coach-trimmer, and became a professional vocalist. Now, tracking down members of early minstrel troupes, in the 1840s, is not easy. The troupes changed members frequently, and often the names of the players aren’t even mentioned. However, several diligent researchers of the past have more or less successfully collated the personnel of the rightly-named ‘only American theatrical genus’, under titles such as Burnt Corks and Tambourines, Monarchs of Minstrelsy et al. And in ‘Sher’s case, he was the subject of a very long and detailed obituary in the Clipper newspaper (reprinted in Britain’s Era) which gives every appearance of exactitude. Though, of course, they don’t quite agree, and they skate over certain parts … Still, the Clipper is, I think, pretty correct in its storyline, even if not in its dates.

So, to summarise: Sher was an amateur teenaged singer. One night, he attended a concert by the group known as George A Kimberly’s Campbell Minstrels and went, with his friends, afterwards to ‘serenade’ the singers. An audition for an audition. He was duly noticed by J A Herman, the tenor of the group, auditioned the next day and offered a job. Which his mother wouldn’t let him take. Why his mother, I don’t know: his father was very much alive in 1848, but an 1847 directory shows that Mrs Coan was running 109 State, their home, as a boarding house and father has no job. An invalid, maybe? He can be seen, again, with wife and four children but still no job, in the 1850 census. When Sher is still listed as a carriage-maker. Well, he was certainly, by this time, only a part-time carriage-maker, at best. Mother, says the Clipper, reversed her decision when a New York season was mooted and, in 1849, Sher joined up.

I don’t know precisely when Mr Kimberly started up his troupe. At one stage he claimed that it was 4 July 1840, and that it was the oldest group of its kind. Well, Campbell’s Minstrels ‘one of the oldest …’, run by Mr A Kemball, was going earlier … but at another stage, in 1854, Kimberly claimed he’d been touring six years. Which is pretty surely right. I spot him in Newark in March 1848. And my friend Betsy has dug up an advertisement in the New London Weekly Chronicle (Conn) for Campbell's Minstrels giving a performance at Washington Hall on June 14 1848. Part of it reads, ‘The Manager respectfully announces that since his last visit to New London, he has made several important changes in the company, and at a great expense, has added Messrs S C Campbell, I Howard, and S A Wells, formerly connected with the [J A] Dumbolton Serenaders, and more recently with the celebrated Christy's Minstrels, making the company complete in every particular...’. 

The New York season, at Barnum's American Museum, 348 Broadway, began 31 July 1848 and they ran at various venues till the end of October … so I guess this is the season the Clipper means, and it seems Sher had been four months a member of the troupe by then, along with Bob White, Luke West, Matt Peel, J A Herman, A H Barry, Lewis Burdett, Jacob Burdett, Charles Abbott and L H V Crosby.

Subsequently, in 1850, West and Peel (‘the nucleus and main attraction of the original Campbell Minstrels’), occasionally with Joe Murphy, put together a new troupe, and S C Campbell went with them. In 1852 Abbott’s song ‘The Colored Orphan Boy’ was published ‘sung by S C Campbell of Campbell’s Minstrels’. But when the team visited Louisville in September 1853, Sher was not with them. Minstrel companies were made of movable parts. I next spot him (October 1854) sailing (from where?) into San Francisco with a group headed by E P Christy, and in February 1855, he was playing in San Francisco with a partly different group, yclept the San Francisco Minstrels, and including Charlie Backus, Jerry Bryant and D F Boley. In August, some of this team headed, under Backus’s management, on the Audubon, via Honolulu, to Australia (23 October) where they played at Sydney's Royal Victoria Theatre ('will introduce his famous Tyrolean Imitations', 'We met by chance', 'Spirit Bride', 'Guinea Maid'), Melbourne (3 December), Tasmania (2 January, 'We're coming, Sister Mary', 'Ellen Bayne', 'She's black but that's no matter') and Geelong's Theatre Royal before returning to Melbourne and Sydney, and heading back to California.

There is a tale told that Catherine Hayes heard Sher, and invited him to sing at one of her concerts. His ‘Dermot Asthore’ encouraged her to urge him to train for the opera. Well, Miss Hayes was playing Melbourne while the Minstrels were at Coppin's Olympic, and it is recorded that she did go to a Backus show, their 'Farewell Concert' at the Royal Victoria Theatre in Hobart, on 28 January 1856. She would have heard Sher give ‘Melinda May’, ‘Down the River’, and his imitations of a cornet. And she did give a concert the next night, performing the entire Lucia di Lammermoor mad scene. And the next night the Minstrels played their last night. Sher sang ‘Ben Bolt’, ‘Poor Old Jeff’, ‘We come from the hills’ (the Tyrolean Echo Song) and a bit of La Sonnambula. Miss Hayes’s concert was reviewed in minute detail: the support vocalists were reported as being John Gregg and Charles Lyall. So … did he or didn’t he?

The next few years were spent in and out of San Francisco, and ‘the favourite ballad singer and musical director’ of the San Francisco Minstrel troupe had the good fortune not to embark with others of the troupe on the Central America for New York in 1856. The ship sank, but Billy Birch and Sam Wells were saved. In 1859, he joined up with George Christy and R M Hooley, and, when those two dissolved partnership, he took over Christy’s share of the management for the nonce. His final engagement in the world of burnt cork was with Dan Bryant.

In 1862-3, he appeared in concert at Lafayette Harrison’s Irving Hall, where he shared a platform with Elena d’Angri, Gustavus Geary and with another transfuge from the minstrel world, best friend William Castle (aka J C Reeves). The two men also sang in Gottschalk’s concerts under Pedro de Abella (Mr d’Angri). Castle was Abella’s pupil. I imagine that Campbell was too.

4 January 1864 marked the beginning of Campbell’s operatic career. Gabriel Harrison of Brooklyn’s Park Theatre (and brother to Lafayette of Irving Hall) who had been giving matinées musicales with some success, mounted The Bohemian Girl at his Brooklyn headquarters. The experienced Marie Comte-Borchardt took the role of Arline, Castle was Thaddeus and Campbell played Arnheim. George Rea and Mary Shaw of the stock company supported. The production transferred to Niblo’s Gardens, as ‘the New York English Opera Company’ and there ‘subsisted for two months on The Bohemian Girl and Maritana … a motley but very pleasant crew’. The Gipsy Queen was now played by ‘Miss [Louisa] Myers, the poetry reader’. And the Devilshoof died.

Lafayette Harrison (‘the Harrison English Opera Troupe’) took the company on the road, with an improved personnel -- Edward Seguin as the new Devilshoof and Jenny Twitchell Kempson sometimes, now, as the Queen – with the two operas, and on 4 May at Philadelphia produced a third: J B Fry’s Notre Dame de Paris. Campbell played Frollo, Seguin was Quasimodo and Mme Borchardt the gipsy. Slowly, the company began to grow. Fra Diavolo was added to the repertoire, and 4 July a new New York season was opened at the Olympic Theatre, where The Rose of Castille was included in the programme for the first time. Campbell played Don Pedro. But the enterprise ended in financial failure.

Our baritone and tenor, however, took up the reins themselves, and soon after the closure, they put out a company of their own with Fannie Stockton, Walter Birch [eig Smith], Georgie Fowler, John Clark (‘Brocolini’ to be), William Skaats and Warren White, and musical director Anton Reiff, playing Faust, Lurline, The Lily of Killarney, The Bohemian Girl, La Sonnambula and The Rose of Castille.

They toured for periods through 1865 and into 1866, with Fannie Liddell and Rosa Cooke succeeding to primadonna-hood, Zelda Harrison joining, as contralto, and finally merged their troupe with that of Caroline Richings, in what would become known as the Richings company and, for some years, the ruling English Opera Company in America. They played a season in New York at the French Theatre (1866), the Olympic Theatre (1867, The Rose of Castille, Martha, Maritana, Don Pasquale, Linda di Chamonix, La Sonnambula, Fra Diavolo, The Enchantress, The Crown Diamonds, The Doctor of Alcantara), Les Huguenots (St Bris) and the Academy of Music (1867-8) where they produced The Lily of Killarney (Danny Mann) and The Desert Flower (Casgan). Czar and Zimmerman, Norma, Crispino e la comare, La Traviata, Masaniello, Il Trovatore and Kreutzer’s A Night in Granada were all played – before the pair left Miss Richings to join up with another English opera troupe, the one which would replace the Richings one as the outstanding company of the time, genre and place: the Parepa Rosa company. It was not a pig in a poke, just a package. The boys had sung Elijah with Euphrosyne and Adelaide Phillips and the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, as far back as New Year's Eve 1865, with Sher as the prophet.

Life was easier with the Rosa company. Madame Rosa brought with her a baritone of her own, the highly capable, English ‘Alberto Laurence’. And ‘Alberto’ would stay in America, to share and, indeed, take the place of Campbell as the English opera’s most skilled baritone, before becoming one of New York’s top singing teachers. They shared the baritone roles in the Rosa repertoire for two seasons, and when Mme Rosa was not there, Caroline Richings came back on the scene to keep things going. Later, Tom Aynsley Cook was part of the company, and even Charles Santley played some performances, so baritone of class were not lacking.

Among the roles which Sher Campbell played with the Rosa company, and its temporary remake as C D Hess’s troupe, were Colonel Wolf in The Puritan’s Daughter (with Laurence as Clifford), Arimanes in Satanella, Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro (Laurence was Almaviva), the title-role in Don Giovanni, Caspar in Der Freischütz, Plunkett in Martha, Arnheim in The Bohemian Girl and Beppo in Fra Diavolo into which he interpolated a solo ‘Let all obey’ manufactured from a piece of Poliuto and usually popped into The Enchantress. Laurence, however, was clearly considered the senior, and Cook and Henri Drayton took their share of the spoils.

Dwight’s Journal of Music summed up in 1870, after praises of Laurence: ‘Campbell, too, has improved, using his beautiful voice with very little of the unpleasant nasal element of which I complained last year, He also shows more ease of action, although I will adhere to my opinion that nature intended him for a Presbyterian preacher…’. Another paper found Laurence ‘too English’ and much preferred Campbell.

When Rosa and his wife returned to Britain, with the project of launching their opera company there, Mr Campbell and Mr Castle went too. They sailed for Europe 9 July 1872, allegedly going to Milan. I don’t know whether they went. At one stage, they were to be seen in Egypt, with Parepa, ‘for their health’. I think the health problems were, probably, both Parepa’s and Campbell’s … they each had little time to live.

Parepa was too unwell to play with the company bearing her name when it opened in Manchester on 2 September 1873, but Campbell was there, along with Aynsley Cook and the young Arthur Stevens (bass). However, Sher was still in his second bass-baritone spot. Rosa had hired a certain Francesco Mottino, a veritable Italian with good English, to replace Alberto Laurence in the main roles. However, the said Signor Mottino was in no way the equal of Alberto Laurence, and soon he was gone, leaving Campbell and Cook to share the bass-baritone roles. Campbell was Figaro, Don Giovanni, Arnheim, Mephistopheles, Rodolfo, Beppo (still with his extra song), Don Pedro … through Bradford, Sheffield, Bristol, Bath, Dublin, Cork, Limerick … the bulk of the initial tour of what would become England’s longest-lived English opera company.

His last performance was as Mephistopheles, on 31 January 1874, after which the company closed down. Madame Rosa had died some weeks before.

On 25 May 1874 the two men arrived back in America, together, on the ship Spain. Sher was engaged for the forthcoming tour of Clara Louise Kellogg’s company. He made it to the rehearsal venue, in Chicago … but he was ‘failing with chronic bronchitis’, caught a cold, and died there of ‘dropsy and a liver complaint’. The press reported 'His voice was fine, and his face expressive, but as for his figure, it was faultless'. A veritable barihunk.

I don't know from when his grave-marker dates, but it got his name back-to-front and his birthdate wrong..

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Caroline Richings and the childhood of American opera

RICHINGS, Caroline [REYNOLDSON, Caroline Mary] (b Beresford Street, London 13 May 1832; d Richmond, Va 14 January 1882)

Caroline Richings is remembered as the first important American prima donna to tour opera in English, and to promote native opera, in her home country.

In fact, Caroline was born in Britain, the daughter of playwright and actor Thomas Herbert Reynoldson (b Boston, Lincs 31 July 1807; d Hackney, July 1883), at that time playing good roles at Covent Garden, and his wife Caroline Louisa née Fairbrother (m Edinburgh 30 May 1831), but she left England, at the age of 8 months, when her parents emigrated to Pennsylvania (13 February 1833).

The Reynoldsons didn’t stay in Philadelphia. At some stage before 1838, they backtracked to London. In that year Mr R was to be seen at the Surrey Theatre. But they came home without their daughter. Caroline had been ‘adopted’ by the local theatre manager and his wife, and she now became Caroline Richings.

Mr ‘Richings’, just to complicate things further, was also English-born, and not as Richings. He was       Peter Puget (b Kensington, x 19 May 1798; d Media, Pa, 18 January 1871), the eldest son of Rear Admiral to-be Peter Puget (d Grosvenor Place, 22 October 1822) of Puget Sound fame, and his wife Hannah née Elrington (d 14 September 1849). He was educated at public school and Pembroke, Oxford (matric: 15 May 1816) and indentured as a law clerk. He clerked in Madras, came home when his father suffered a stroke, and joined the army in the East Indies. That didn’t please, so he came home again, married his Eliza (d Media, Pa 8 March 1880), returned to law, and then – smitten by the theatre world -- quit for good, and while his brothers went on to have honourable careers in the navy, Peter packed up and, 28 August 1821, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America. Less than a month later he made his first appearance at the Park Theatre, playing Henry Bertram in Guy Mannering. He played for over a decade at the Park and, latterly, moved into management at the Holliday Theatre, Baltimore, and, after its destruction by fire, the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia. Which is where he encountered the Reynoldson family and their – soon to be his -- little daughter.

The young girl was put to study music with Philadelphia teacher and composer Joseph Plich, and apparently made her first appearance (possibly as a pianist) alongside a Miss Sanson, Camillo Sivori and Henri Herz at the Philadelphia Philharmonic concert of 20 November 1847.

At 20 years of age (9 February 1852), she made her first appearance in opera, playing with the Seguin company and the tenor Tom Bishop in The Daughter of the Regiment at the Walnut Street. It was a role which she would play hundreds of time over the coming years. Less so, James Gaspard Maeder and Samuel Jones Burr’s Washington Irving musical The Peri, or the Enchanted Fountain, which was taken to the Broadway Theatre (13 December 1852) with Caroline (Fluvia), her father and Mr Bishop in the cast. It played twelve performances.

She remained with the Seguin team for a while longer – singing the leading roles in L’Elisir d’amore, La Sonnambula, Linda di Chamonix and surprisingly Norma, but in October Miss Richings put her name above the title for a season of English opera and comedy, featuring The Postillon de Longjumeau, America’s first Louisa Miller and another native work, Mrs Sheridan Mann’s Florentine, or the Pride of the Canton. The lady’s opera was given twice. Over the next years, she appeared in often adventurous opera, comedy, drama -- Ninka in Auber’s La Bayadère (The Maid of Cashmere), Stella in the play The Prima Donna, endless performances of The Daughter of the Regiment varied by Luisa Miller, or Linda di Chamonix, L’Etoile du nord, a season of Italian opera for Maretzek singing Marie, Amina, Elvira (Masaniello), Adalgisa – and apparently in an emergency Azucena – alongside prima donna Mariette Gazzaniga in Philadelphia. Peter Richings was stage director for the season.

The Enchantress was soon added to the list of favourites, and dates at the Walnut, with church choir and concert engagements round the state, a season under the Boucicaults at Burton’s Athenaeum, dates with Leavitt and Allen at Albany, or with Mrs Bowers at the Academy of Music.

In 1859, the Richings went out as stars, playing The Daughter of the Regiment and The Enchantress round the country. They made a first Boston appearance at the Museum in February 1861, and got involved with a little scandal when someone started the rumour that Miss Richings had sung a secessionist song and trampled on the country’s flag. When enough publicity had been culled, Caroline came out with a song ‘The Union Right or Wrong’ (‘her great song’ 'Our Boast is the Union') and the fuss duly faded.

In 1861 she played Auber’s La Circassienne at the Walnut, and in 1862 she returned to New York and Niblo’s Garden (14 April) with the Richings family version of Balfe’s Enchantress (which allowed Caroline to sing ‘Merce diletti amici’ and a whole lot of bits by the show’s md), Auber’s The Syren and The Daughter of the Regiment, The National Guard (which was Auber’s La Fiancée, but got in ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, ‘La Manola’ and a bit of Betly) and, finally, a drastically slimmed The Night Dancers. When they produced Satanella in Buffalo in October 1862, it, similarly, was judged ‘not exactly as Balfe wrote it, but a very fine operatic spectacular drama’.

In 1863, they hit disaster, when their scenery and props were lost in the destruction of Ford’s Theatre, Washington, but they carried on and delivered their repertoire to Philadelphia and dates beyond. 6 April 1863 they produced another new work, The Rose of Tyrol by local composer Julius Eichberg. It might not have been entirely new, as the libretto featured a heroine named Grittly and a hero named Frantz, which would mean it was a remusicked (partly?) version of Le 66. It was voted ‘sprightly and amusing’ and stayed around for a number of years in Caroline’s repertoire.

After two months of starring tour, they returned to Philadelphia with their shows – to which The Bohemian Girl had now been added, and 17 February 1864, another Balfe work, Diadeste.

In 1864, the Richings visited San Francisco for a season at Maguire’s Opera House. The Enchantress was given first (‘Miss Richings’ vocalization fairly took the audience by surprise … we have seldom listened to equal exquisite strains’), and then La Traviata, followed by Satanella, Il Trovatore, and Ernani. At her Benefit she appeared in an allegorical tableau entitled Washington, in which Peter represented Him, and Caroline ‘the Goddess of Liberty’. The general opinion of the season was that the star was fine, the support (including the Bianchis) poor, and the degree of botching of the operas unacceptable. But she stayed on and played on, moving to the Maguire’s Academy of Music with a strengthened company for Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula, Ernani, The Bohemian Girl, Linda di Chamonix, Norma, Martha, Fra Diavolo, Don Pasquale, another extension with some plays, and then 10 October another opera season, when The Crown Diamonds, Dinorah, Luisa Miller were played, and a new opera by musical director Mr George Evans was announced but, I think, not performed.

The San Francisco episode was apparently a success, and they did not return home until the beginning of the year, for a new season of their repertoire (including The Rose of Castille) at the Arch Street Theatre.

By 1866, Richings had seriously upmarketed his company. He and his star daughter needed better support. William Castle, Sher Campbell. Edward Seguin, Henry Peakes and Zelda Harrison-Seguin provided that support, and the Richings Opera Company could now be dubbed ‘the best organised English Opera troupe we have ever had in this country’, when it returned to Broadway’s Academy of Music 30 December 1867 with The Crown Diamonds, Maritana, Fra Diavolo, Martha, Don Pasquale, The Doctor of Alcantara, Cinderella

Sher Campbell

As ever, ambition was not lacking, as Miss Richings secured the rights to Victorine, Blanche de Nevers, The Desert Flower, The Lily of Killarney … and neither, allegedly, was success: in September it was reported ‘they have cleared over $35,000 in 2 seasons while in England Harrison has failed to make English Opera pay and is reduced to a Benefit’ . 

She was not always so clever when it came to hiring artists. Blanche Ellerman, brought from England, sued her after being dropped for lack of talent. And Miss Laura Waldron did the same. Both won. A little more care was taken thereafter, and the Richings banked on second ladies such as Edith Abell and above all, Rose Hersee. One hiring however had a happier ending. Tenor Pierre BERNARD [BERNHARDT, Peter] (b New York c 1837, d White Sulphur Springs, Va 15 August 1883) and Miss Richings were married in Boston 25 December 1867.

These years were the peak of the Richings company’s achievement, as an all-round fully competent cast introduced Zar und Zimmermann and Crispino e la comare (both adapted by Miss Richings herself), and Das Nachtlager von Granada, but now serious competition emerged in the form of England’s Parepa-Rosa troupe. Miss Parepa was novel and brilliantly talented, Rosa productions were of an excellent standard, and some of Caroline’s key singers deserted to the opposition. Parepa was ‘in’, Miss Richings was old hat, and her operatic rearrangements provincial. She struggled on, until Parepa and Rosa left to return to England, when she recouped her strayed cast, but the motor seemed broken. America had seen Rosa, and no longer rushed to Richings.

For the 1870-1 season, Richings joined forced with the reputable operatic manager Clarence D Hess, and went out with a company of predominantly English principals. They played Les Huguenots, Oberon, The Marriage of Figaro, Bristow’s Rip van Winkle and Lurline alongside their usual repertoire, but on 18 January 1871 Peter Richings died after a carriage accident. The company faded away in the following months, and in May, Bernard and Mrs Bernard were declared bankrupt to the tune of $33,000.

They went to work for other managers. Caroline sang Fidelio with William Castle, Alice in Robert le diable with Karl Formes, then teamed up with James Wallack to play Rosalind in As you like it, Clara in Money, Hortense in The Iron Mask, Diana Vernon in Rob Roy, Henry Dunbar, Daisy Farm, Oliver Twist and Ophelia to Wallack’s Hamlet. She played Rob Roy with Henri Drayton, tried The Enchantress in Boston with a feeble company, tried drama with a stage version of Anna Cora Mowat’s The Mute Singer and, while Bernard went bust a second time, she turned to Old Folks concerts and more weakly-cast essays at her old operas.

In 1875, the couple were hired by Hess, but she was soon back managing herself, and trying to revive The Rose of Tyrol. In 1877 she took a company to California. It was a last hurrah.

Thereafter, the Bernards stayed home, and played largely in Baltimore and in Philadelphia. They performed Les Noces de Jeannette together, Caroline guested for Ford as Little Buttercup in HMS Pinafore and they played in two new little pieces, The Electric Light (25 August 1879) and their own The Duchess (30 July 1880). This latter was played in Richmond, Va, to where the couple had moved to teach music. They appeared at the local Mozart Hall for C L Seigel in some of their lighter repertoire (Les Noces de Jeannette, HMS Pinafore, Billee Taylor, Cox and Box, Doctor of Alcantara, A Night in Rome).

At Christmas 1881, Caroline sang in her local church, but a few days later she was struck down by a virulent strain of small pox, and she died ten days later. Pierre Bernard stayed on in Richmond, but the following year he succumbed to heart disease.

A great deal has been written about Caroline Richings because of her place in the scheme and history of opera in English and the American musical stage. Her life and career were not complex, so it is irritating to find gross errors in published books and, of course, on the web. Especially as the fine historian, Allston Brown, took care to provide a detailed and impeccable obituary of the lady to the Clipper, in 1882, and reprinted it in his own history of the New York stage.

What not a great deal has been written about is her actual performance. Brown tells us she was correct but cool on stage. Which would make her little threat to Parepa. And partially explain her sudden eclipse. The other part seems to me as if it may have something to do with the organising talents of Peter Richings. But I’m guessing. Though Brown makes the same comment. And as far back as 1865, a Californian critic, writing about Adelaide Phillips, had said ‘she excels in that magnetic power wherein Miss Richings so signally failed’.

Caroline and Pierre allegedly had a daughter who became a contralto church singer. I can find no evidence of this child (she is not with her parents in the 1880 census), just a squib in a newspaper announcing Miss Caroline V Bernard singing in a Philadelphia church. So she remains to be proved.