In the forty years or so that I’ve been wandering in the nineteenth-century musical and theatrical world, the name ‘H M Imano’ has popped up intermittently, all over the place. But never very prominently, and so I never took time out to investigate this man who sounded as if he were pretending to be the King of the Japanese. His Majesty the Imano. The Mikado. The Marquis Imari. But he did keep popping up. And, today, he popped one more time … He turned up in a list of folk that my friend and fellow scholar George had sent in response to my call for suggested subjects for investigation and bloggery. So, I thought, your Mikado-ish Majesty, your day has come.
It is, of course, a stage name. And it is not oriental, it is supposed to be Italian. Signor Imano. ‘Signor Imano, the great American basso’. Every word a lie. He wasn’t a Signor, he wasn’t an Imano, he wasn’t American, he was a baritone, and, alas, ‘great’ was a great exaggeration.
‘Henry Morris Imano’ was born 28 March 1853: a Cornish Jew from Spitalfields, the son of John or Jacob Hyman from Falmouth and his wife Frances née Phillips, and his birth name was, after his grandfather, plain Moses Hyman. Looking through the censi, one can see that Jacob was a sort of security man at the London docks (‘dock constable’, ‘dockgate keeper’), and eventually (1881) a synagogue attendant, and that by 1871, Moses was listed as a clerk.
However, in 1872, 19 year-old Moses quit the family home, and took a steerage passage, seemingly alone, on the good ship Egypt to America. He arrived 18 April and settled in Brooklyn, where it rather seems that he worked as a shoemaker. But he also took part in amateur concerts and dramatics. I see him first in December 1874 and April 1875 singing at concerts organised by the Lafayette Council OUAM, then in 1876 acting at Smith’s Lyceum with the amateur Centennial Dramatic Society. In 1877 (12 April) he appeared at New York’s Irving Hall with the, amateur again, Mozart Musical Union. In 1878, I spot him at Summerfield M E Church (‘Mr H M Hyman will sing ‘Nancy Lee’) with a reciter and two sisters duetting – presumably on piano – Beethoven 5.
Around this same time, Mose became a church singer. I see him at Dr Cuyler’s Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church and at Dr Armitage’s Church on 46thStreet and Fifth Avenue, as the bass member of the professional quartets then hired in fashionable places of ‘worship’. I also see him joining a bowling club … so perhaps he is not the Henry Hyman, born England c 1852, shoemaker of Eldridge Street who married Bertha Joel and shows up in the 1880 census. Or is he?
The next three years are, sadly, a bit of a blank. A decade later ‘Henry’ would give an interview to the colonial press in which he related having appeared with John Duff’s companies. The Standard Theatre included. You’ll have to check your Norton for that. Microsoft has zapped all my Broadway files for that era, and Norton, like Odell and the Gänzls are too hefty to take en voyage. You might find, too, when he became ‘Signor Imano’.
I can just supply a little notice in the American trade press saying, in July 1885 that the Signor is leaving the Washington summer season company and going back to Britain. I wonder why, after 13 years. But he went.
He got some engagements. He was hired to sing at the International Inventions Exhibition concert, alongside a bunch of folk of whom I recognise the names only of Eleanor Farnol and Llew (sic) Cadwaladr, then at the so-called Albert Palace in Battersea Park with ‘Benjamin White, the new tenor’ (who?) and a future star in Annie Marriott. He appeared at Northampton’s Monday concerts (‘The Monk’, ‘The Fisherman’) and at Liverpool in one of the many concerts he shared with the pianist J Bond Andrews and the cellist Pozniaski. In March he went to sing with the Dublin Glee Choir … which is where the byline ‘great American basso’ crept in.
In 1886, he was sparsely seen – his own concert was given in a Sassoon home in Belgrave Square, and top-billed Ben Davies and the sad soprano Gertrude Griswold, plus Bond Andrews and Pozniaski – until he was hired for the Empire Theatre. The Empire had flopped under Claude Marius and had been rescued by the venue’s caterer. Somebody decided to relaunch it with a cut-down version of Le Postillon de Longjumeau and H M Imano was cast as Bijou to the Postillon of Henry Walsham. The whole thing was a disaster, and Mose’s London theatre debut didn’t last many nights.
Mose (or shall we call him ‘Henry’) sang at the Crystal Palace and the Covent Garden proms where the other bass-baritones were Frederic King and W H Brereton (‘has an excellent voice undoubtedly but it is in the rough and his style lacks finish’) and shortly after won an engagement with Mr D’Oyly Carte. Over the next year, he played Pooh Bah in The Mikado and the Colonel in Patience in Britain and on the Continent.
|Thank you, Allister Hardiman!|
Back in Britain, his only appearances seem to have been in variety and at clubs and smoking concerts, until in June 1888 he took and engagement with Johnnie Sheridan to go to the Orient. Apparently, the company played four months in Shanghai, with a repertoire of 27 pieces and much success, but alas I have no details. From China, Sheridan continued to Australia (Count Meraggio in Fun on the Bristol&c) where his basso was picked up by the Williamson, Garner and Musgrove management (Sherwood in Dorothy) with which he travelled to New Zealand (Dorothy, Meryll in Yeomen of the Guard, Pippo in La Mascotte, Colonel in Patience, Florian in Princess Ida, concerts ‘Pro Peccatis’, ‘Nazareth’) . He played again in New Zealand with Sheridan, until in July 1891 he set sail for America.
What he did there is part of my Microsoftegg … but one thing he did, 22 January 1892, was get married. (Again?). The lady was Gertrude Noel, and I haven’t investigated her, but she died aged 35 (25 Chepstow Place, Bayswater 13 May 1899) …
|Australian press photograph of the 1890s .. the best I can do!|
Over the next few years I see him playing in New York in a musical Jupiter with Digby Bell, then touring with the once great baritone, W T Carleton, now reduced to no3 dates, and .. what is this? Innes and his New York Band present at Ann Arbour the musical spectacle War and Peacewith artillery ,, and Henry-Mose as bass soloist!
That was 1894. They went back to England shortly thereafter. ‘H M Imano’ appeared in a the Kiralfy spectacular Indiaat Earl’s Court, Cinderellaat Newcastle (1896) .. before taking to booming out baritone ballads in the music hall (‘The Wolf’, ‘The Drum’) all the way to the country’s premier hall, the Oxford. In 1897 he was ‘the evil spirit, Aconite’ in Cinderellaat Liverpool and then went on tour as Albertoni in the hit musical The Circus Girl (ex-Cartesian Kate Talby was Lady Dora). A stint in an Osmond Carr musical, The Celestials, proved fruitless, even more so a Dalston piece, The Lady Philosopher (1898), starring old colleague Aida Jenoure, and it was back to panto at Bradford.
When the Boer war hit, he did the halls with ‘The Absent Minded Beggar’, he gave a matinée ‘under the patronage of the Savage Club’ (June 1900) … and in 1902 he remarried, Miss Miriam Isabel Davis.
He continued to work … halls, panto, the odd musical (My Lady Molly as ‘the Landlord’) … there are probably yonks of credits in my books and notes … but, anyway, there’s the bones of it.
Henry-Mose died 26 March 1907 at 34 Nottingham Place Marylebone Road. His last wife survived him by 20 years …
So, there you are. Just about everything we needed or wanted (or not) to know about ‘H M Imano’. And Mose Hyman. I wonder if he really was the Brooklyn Jewish shoemaker … that would make three wives ..