Saturday, June 30, 2018

Topical trains, or Witches in my Smokestack

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Here's another piece of sheet music which I came upon on ebay. I get bored when ebay vendors describe their stuff as 'rare'. It almost inevitably means that it isn't. The acme of idiocy is when some carte de visite is advertised as 'Woman. Actress? Unidentified. RARE'. Er ....

However, this sheet, which is for sale at just 10 pounds really IS rare. I have certainly never seen it before.


There is no date on it, but I think I can date it precisely. It is from 1844. How do I know that? Because it was based on Gungl's Eisendampff Galop no5, which seems to have been first issued in that year, and I can see it being played by Band of the 6th Dragoons in York in the same year. Yes, and Zenas Trivett Purday was at 45 High Holborn ... but he was there many years.

I don't see any record of the arrangement being played anywhere but York. Maybe that's why it is rare. This sort of dance music was produced by the ream at the time. Something else would have been topical the next month ... and Gung'l, Weippert and Purday would be churning out pieces to fit the fashion...

Really, what grabbed me, was the cover. 1844. The railways were Manna to mankind! But what is this? Witches and devils being spouted from the smokestack? Doesn't really go with 'Hurrah for the Rail'! Anti-pollution propaganda already!

Anyway, a charming and fun image which I record here, before the item (internationally advertised) creeps back into a private collection...

PS I can't find Mr G Barker in East Farley/Farleigh in Kent ... bother! East Farley seems to be mostly inhabited, in 1841, by agricultural labourers to whom a 4-shilling piece of music (and a piano) would have been out of reach ...

Friday, June 29, 2018

The 'Ten Little Injuns' from Philadelphia.

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I've been leafing through hundreds and thousands of old music sheets. Yes, it's e-bay again. I used to have a vast collection myself, but I downsized drastically, and it's now in the capable hands of Ms Andrea Cawelti at Harvard University. I just look at things, these days, that I used to buy.

Its many months since I had an ebay trawl. It's a bit of slog when the C18th and C19th stuff is all bundled in with the modern (ie C20th). But today I did. And I'm glad I did, in spite of all the duplicate postings and post-war stuff, because there were some pretty things to see.


Usually, old music, in shops or on e-bay, is British. But today ... fascinating ... the best bits were all American. It looked as if someone had happened upon two or three bound volumes of c1860s music, down Pennsylvania way, and broken them up to sell (more lucratively) as single songs. I was particularly delighted to see this: an original, Philadelphia copy of Sep Winner's 'Ten little injuns'.


We used to sing this song as children, in New Zealand, and, as one does, imagined it to be 'folk music'. But, of course, it wasn't. Somebody wrote it. By the time I was chanting my childish 'One little, two little, three little ..', those little Injuns had been around for eighty years.

The song was written, based on an older minstrel sketch, by Winner (1827-1902) in 1868, in Philadelphia, and introduced by the top minstrel of the city, Edward Freeman Dixey (1834-1904), of Carncross and Dixey's Star Troupe, resident at the city's 11th Street Opera House.


Winner was a music teacher, music seller, music publisher, songwriter, and also a friend and neighbour of Dixey. I see the 'Injuns' is dedicated to Master Frank Dixey Winner, a son?, so I imagine the friendship was a close one.

Anyway, Dixey, who had been originally the bones with Sanford's 'Opera Troupe', settled in Philadelphia's Spring Street, went into partnership with Carncross, and headed the minstrel activity in the city for some fifteen years, regularly introducing Winner's latest songs -- which included that other classic the yiddish 'O Where, O where, has my little dog gone' (dedicated to Dixey) and the immortal 'Listen to the mockingbird'.


I would think I am -- was -- not the only one to be ignorant of the existence and extent of the influence of Sep Winner. He has an important place in the history of American musical theatre ... I am glad I have now got to know him.

"All those people, all those lives..."

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Some people have funny hobbies. I’ve got a new one.

Well, its winter and I’m not enormously mobile, so, after the morning housework is done, the overnight European tennis and cycling results checked and the blog statistics taken in (hmm the French courtesans aren’t doing so well, but the parrots are liked), I make a cup of camomile and have a wander through e-bay. No, I’m not shopping … although I keep my eye cocked for, in particular, mislabelled items that interest friends. For myself, I just enjoy the C19th cartes de visite – all those photos, all those people, all those lives …

Today there was a Theodore Thomas for Andrea, a Charles Halle, a photo from India of the East India Company postmaster’s unmarried daughter from Paignton


another labelled as an actor, which was actually an 18 year-old law student in fancy dress


and, amongst the New Zealandish ones, particularly nice photo of a young lady from the Wairarapa. 


And not just any young lady, I discovered. Her name was Ann Elizabeth Oates, and she was the second daughter of Samuel Oates of Peach Grove and his wife Jane. Oates came to New Zealand in 1856 and established himself as a farmer in the Wairarapa, to excellent effect. And his daughter, Ann, married Mr Charles Joseph Jury, son of an early settler and a maori lady, and seemingly an even more extensive farmer at Glendower, Carterton. When he died, it took an Act of Parliament to settle his estate.




Ann, alas, was not part of it. She had died in childbirth just two years after her marriage.

The family is well documented especially in the letters of Jane Oates, which are held in the local museum. I have tipped the archive off about the photo of Ann.

Right, 10am. The sun is being a little reticent about bursting through the sea fret, so I’ll make another cuppa and disappear back into C19th France …

Epilogue. I am delighted to say that the Wairarapa Museum bought the photo and it will now be enshrined in its historically proper place. Yayyyyy!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leeds -- city of the month

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This month is clearly Leeds (Yorks) month.

I’ve never had much to do with Leeds. I visited once, in 1970-something, when I was performing at Harrogate (yes, when those infamous photos were taken), and some kind person drove me to some pretty places ... I remember a picturesque ruined Abbey, and a lovely sort-of-piled up town called ... um … was it Knaresborough? ... and we ended up at Leeds. Alas, I recall only one large public building. It might have been a concert hall. But it might have been the railway station.


The nearest I’ve got, since, was watching the City’s Football team playing an execrably boring match of football, about ten years ago, for an 0-0 draw at Leicester. Haven’t been to a football match since. Or England, actually.

However, Leeds – and more particularly its University – has been brought to my attention three times this month. First by Annie Stanyon Ley’s splendid Leeds University thesis, centred on Sir Arthur Sullivan and the Leeds Festival, secondly by the announcement of an approaching symposium at the University under the slightly worrying title ‘Gaiety, Glitz and Glamour, or Dispirited Historical Dregs’. Yes. Very University-ish. Well, I guess it is just as well I’m not going to be there. OK, gentlemen. First define 'Operetta'.



And then, today, a package arrived from Leeds University. Oh, look, I thought, it’s an air ticket! I’m invited to cause havoc after all!
But the package wasn’t from the music department, it was from the English department. Which apparently is right next door! A copy of Volume 16 (2) of their literary STAND magazine. Why? Because goodness, I’m in it! Why?



Well. I have a brother. Just one. Small quantity, huge quality. He is a poet. No, not just any poet. I think it was the great Bill Manhire who called him the ‘most famous New Zealand poet no-one has heard of’. And he’s published end-to-end collections with, mainly, Carcanet, without hoo-ha or skite, for the last twenty years. So where do I come in?


John has published several ‘international’ books. Translations.  The Song Atlas, 52 Euros… great stuff! But when you are being ‘international’, that means you need to be multi-lingual. Enter brother Kurt. So I (only bi-lingual) did the literal translations of all the French items, and roped in some buddies for the other languages. John did all the rest.

The result was so effective, that we decided, afterwards, to continue … the only thing we baulked at was translating the entire poetic works of Genet for somebody. After weeks of labour, I cried enough! What absolute c**p. Even the suicidal nineenth-century Lesbians were not so pretentious! But we continued on to more worthwhile poets and … well, John came up with some splendid end results. His version of Baudelaire’s ‘The Cat’ was even nominated as the Guardian’s poem of the week. With little me in a supporting role.


Well, Leeds University English Department has just published his (or our) versions of Joachim du Bellay in their latest volume of ‘Stand’. No, I don’t know what ‘Stand’ stands for, but I guess you have got to be called something. It’s a nicely printed soft-cover volume, with an, it seems to me, totally incomprehensible cover, into which I shall delve tomorrow. Lord and Lady know what’s in there, but hey! we are …

It’s a far cry from the Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre!


PS: Annie Stanyon Ley tells me that my memories are of Fountains Abbey, Knaresborough and Leeds Town Hall. And she knows, you know!

















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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Angel or Devil. Or just girls having fun?



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In my meanderings through C19th Paris, yesterday, I came up with this photograph.


Two pretty young ladies, in some unnamed Parisian opérette of the early 1870s. Which one? I wondered. A 'girl’ and a ‘boy’, and labelled Scalini and Debreux. The boy is Debreux: she made a speciality of, among other things, sporting travesty. I encountered her in my Emily Soldene book, along with Emily’s tart description of her … not nearly as tart, I realise now, as it could have been! Scalini I didn’t know much about … but I do now.
Debreux has come down from C19th theatrical history with a pretty tarnished personal reputation. She was well-known as a ‘courtesan’, with a particular attraction for the English who are said to have affectioned, especially, her boy-girl look. Haha! The good old ‘vice anglaise’. She played several good roles in good theatres through the 70s and into the eighties, but has – in the end -- been remembered largely for her extra-curricular activities. Devil?
Scalisi’s reputation, on the other hand, has survived impeccably. After a decade of pretty-girl-pretty-voice roles, tending latterly to the stronger, she dropped out of performing and became treasurer to, then long-time principal of, the Paris Actors’ Orphanage. Angel?

I don’t think it is quite as black-and-white as that.

‘Marguerite Debreux’ was born 5 June 1851 in St Josse-ten-Noode, Brussels, as Louise Hortense Françoise Terdie. She apparently was first seen on the Paris stage in 1869 when she appeared in a little part (as Cupid) in the féerie La Poudre de Perlimpinpin



She caught several interested eyes, and both her careers were on their way.

 

By April 1870 she was in London (oh! Those English!) wowing the West End with her Méphisto in Le Petit Faust. Soldene was Marguérite. Mlle Debreux capitalized on her (on- and off-stage) success to go on to play The Idle Prentice at Liverpool, in The Mistletoe Bough at the Adelphi, Fragoletto in Les Brigands et al, before returning to France and the biggest success of her career as the boy, Fichtel, in that most sex-riddled opérette of all, Le Timbale d’argent (9 April 1872) at the Bouffes-Parisiens.


However, Mlle Debreux began living it up a little too obviously and even a little dangerously, and her convoluted (sex) life would all come out in the Parisian courts. She had got ‘involved’ with a high-living gentleman (of sorts) by the name of Jean Marie Camille Gabriel Hugelmann. Mons Hugelmann had a wife and thirteen children, but he also kept two mistresses (one quails to wonder why he needed two at once) and Marguerite was one. She had a house, furniture, jewels, paintings … and, in the best courtesanic fashion, glittered and was gay. 


But how was Mons Hugelmann financing all this? In ‘the Affaire of the rue Suresnes’ it all started to come out. Gabriel was meddling in things he had no right to, and, it was suggested Marguerite was too. But they were a wee bit late: Mlle Debreux had met another man, and Gabriel had been given the heave-ho. So he was a wee bit nasty to and about her in court. The press ungallantly gobbled it all up.


Her new love was stock-jobber [Gabriel] Camille Bloch, well-known in the world of Parisian nightlife, and they would stay together for 25 years, and two (illegitimate) children, until a very public break-up – caused, so the court was told -- by some pornographic letters (by whom? To whom?) -- in 1899.



In the meanwhile, Marguerite continued with her career on the stage, at the Bouffes-Parisiens, the Taitbout, the Palais Royal, the Châtelet, the Athénée (La Cruche Cassée) and at the Nouveautés, where she introduced Sanchette in Le Jour et la nuit … before in the 1880s retiring from the stage. One presumes she had already retired from ‘entertaining English gentlemen’, although I did read one piece somewhere which suggested that Bloch pimped for her.

After her separation from Bloch, she lived on for a while in Asnières, before, in 1906, selling up everything: the proceeds of both careers (the catalogue makes jolly reading) and returning to Belgium. She died there 23 June 1917.


‘Marie Scalini’ was born in Paris 21 October 1852, as Marie-Louise Chack, the daughter, so a fine history of Le Vésinet tells us, of Jules François Chack, a perfumer of the rue Fauboug Poissonière and his wife Françoise Clémentine née Boyer. The early part of her life appears to been the irregular part, for, when she made her stage debut, at the Bouffe-Parisiens in 1873, as Mina de Goor in La Petite reine, paragraphed as being 18 years-old, 22 year-old Marie – stage name in place – said she had been performing in St Petersburgh. Or Brussels. Or both. She had performed to such an extent as to have in tow a little Madeleine Chack (1873-1934).

Apparently the little girl’s father was a member of the Irish Fingall of Killeen family, who are said to have had the regular objections to an actress in the family, so the young man set Marie up in and establishment in Le Vésinet (the Villa Irlandaise, 3 av Kléber) and they went right ahead and had another child. I don’t know what became of Mr Fingall Jones, but Marie lived comfortably and died at 80 in that house. I hope she got more than the 12,000fr a month allowance that Marguerite got from her stockjobber. I mean, if he were related to a peer …


Marie had her trip to the lawcourts, too, in 1881, but hers was professional rather than personal. She got into a contract battle with the Bouffes director, Cantin, who was ‘misreading’ her contract, purposely I am sure, and though she seemed in the right, he – as managers almost inevitably did – won.

But, during the nearly a decade that she featured on the Parisian stage, to general approval (‘la ravissante Mme Scalini, qui chante aussi bien qu'elle est belle, ce qui n'est pas peu dire’) she appeared alongside Judic and Peschard and others such in a row of opérettes at the Bouffes, at the Menus-Plaisirs, the Folies-Dramatiques, at Brussels and even at the Châtelet and the Théatre Lyrique, at one stage, when her voice (pupil of Arnoldi) seemed to be expanding.
When she appeared as Nelly, however, in Planquette’s Rip van Winkle in 1882, it was evident that something had gone awry, and Marie promptly gave up the stage in favour of teaching and, in particular, her work with the orphanage. Latterly, Madeleine seconded her. And the son? [Louis] Paul [André] Chack (1876-1945) is a book in himself. I’m not even going to attempt him. Devil and Angel. A naval hero in the Great War, Légion d’honneur, prize-winning writer, he was judicially murdered by the French, after the second war, for anti-communist ‘treason’. His grand-daughter has told the tale in novel form as La Villa Irlandaise (1985).

Well, I still haven’t decided who was what in all this. I mean, morals schmorals. But …

Neither have I worked out what show it was that had both Marguerite and Marie en travesti in the cast – and I’ve given my Noel and Stoulligs away. Maybe a revival of La Timbale d’argent

But … good girls? Bad girls? Or just plain playing the C19th French game? …

















Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Emily Gresham: from Soprano to Vicar's wife ...



This is a little article which is probably for lovers of the Victorian musical world only. Its subject is not a famous singer. She was just, for a few years, a supporting artist in some good concerts, and more frequently in London suburban ones. But I’m interested in those people, those singers who made up the underside of the bills that the stars topped. So, if you are too, let me introduce ‘Emily Gresham’. Floruit 1858-1861.

I didn’t start out looking for Emily. I was trying to nut out the identity of ‘Madame El(l)wood Andrea’. She appeared quite a lot with Emily, so … connection? I think not. But then I sidewound to Emily, who, finally, rendered up her secrets.

But, first, the little career as a public vocalist.

Apparently Emily (soprano) took lessons from Jules Benedict, and that is probably why I see her first singing in concert with Louisa Pyne at the Surrey Gardens (May 1858), and then at St Martin’s Hall with Louisa’s sister ‘Marian Prescott’. Already aged 28. Why?

She was obviously more than acceptable, for I see her in 1859 ‘of the Sardinian Chapel’ singing ‘Softly Sighs’ at Anna Kull’s concert at the Beethoven Rooms and at the Vocal Association, for Lehmeyer, Mathilde Rudersdorff, the gala of Mr van Praagh, all over the place with tenor George Tedder (‘The Power of Love’, ‘Home, Sweet Home’), and her ‘clear, high tones’ were voted ‘extremely effective’. She appeared in the concerts of the Royal Society of Female Musicians, at the Crystal Palace, with Henry Leslie’s choir …


Emily was a capable, one length short of the top class, vocalist, and as such she gained plenty of engagements in the suburbs, and some at the Hanover Square Rooms and such venues.

But then it stopped. Death or marriage? Well, I knew it wasn’t death, because seven years later she resurfaced, just for one night, to sing at poor Tedder’s Benefit. Marriage, then. But that’s kind of difficult to find when you don’t know ‘Miss Gresham’s’ real name.
But now I do.
Emily was born as Emily Sophia Thomasin Steele and christened 3 September 1830. Her parents were one Robert Eaglesfield Steele, engraver, and his wife, Maria Sidney née Smith of Albion Road, Kennington. Mr Steele didn’t survive long, and, in 1838, Maria married again, this time to a ‘chemist, dentist and agent of the Norwich Fire Union’ by name John Gale. She quickly gave him two daughters, and then they moved to Berkhamstead, where, in 1851, Emily is listed as ‘a governess’. Then Mr Gale died, too. Maria was going through husbands ..

The Gale girls seem to have been farmed out on the aunts and uncles, but Emily went for a singing career. And she found it. As above. Until she, too, found a husband. The Reverend Frederic Schiller May, BA, Caius College, Cambridge, ‘son of Enoch May of Tewkesbury’ (m 21 January 1862), curate of Christ Church, Paddington.

Rev Fred later became Sunday Evening lecturer at St Mary le Bow Cheapside, and enough of a figure to rise from BA to an honorary DD (courtesy of the University of Hartford, Ct), and ended up as a country vicar at High Laver, Ongar, Essex. Where he and Emily lived up to their deaths, she 25 March 1903, he 6 April 1909.


Just to tie thing up, they had three sons: Laurence Sidney, Arthur Sigfrid and Vincent Schiller May. Daddy’s Cambridge education showing? Arthur became a lawyer, Vincent a stockbroker’s clerk before an early death, and Laurence … a dramatic author and comedian! Pardi?

So, there’s the tale of ‘Emily Gresham’, for what it’s worth. But, OK, now at least I know, Time to get back to that wretched ‘Madame Andrea’ …

A Tale of Two Parrots ... or a rainy day in Yamba

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Oh, Fred, I'm soaked to the skin. Look! Soggy feathers .. let's take over this chair till it stops a bit. He won't mind ... He might even feed us ..


Darn it, did you have to squawk 'feed'. Now all the neighbours have heard you.


Oh, she's no problem. I can ... you can scare her off easily enough.


And what about him? I mean it's our balcony, our chair, we got here first .. tell him there's NO VACANCY..


Ooh, Fred. He's getting a bit close, that big Black and White Minstrel ...


There! I knew it! He was after our chair, all the time ...


Well, Fred, don't just sit there. Do something about it ...


Like, how about shift to the next balcony along?

Monday, June 25, 2018

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 'LE PÈRE DE L'OPÉRETTE'


It has been a splendid winter. Three new musical-theatre works – one English, two French – have crossed my desk, and I can scarcely believe it: each one of the three has been a winner. Each one of the three has added to the world’s knowledge (and mine) of an important part of musical and theatrical history. And each one has been a delight to read.

First, came Anne Stanyon Lee’s survey of Arthur Sullivan’s conducting career, exposing the politics of the fashionable British Festival system and giving great insight into the ‘other life’ of the Savoy hero. This was written as a thesis for Dr Stanyon’s (as she now, deservedly, is) degree and is not yet published in the planned ‘unthesified’ version. I got a preview because … well, I’m me!

Then came the outstanding biography of André Messager, concerning which I have already dilated at length, and which led me to inquire ‘what else has this publisher – Palazzetto Bru Zane -- put out’? ‘A book on Hervé’, came the reply. Um. I adore Hervé’s work unconditionally. I’ll even allow him the rather glib title of ‘père de l’opérette’. Or, shall we say ‘opéra-bouffe’? Which is my favourite kind of ‘opérette’ anyhow. But anotherHervé biog? I didn’t buy the last two. Louis Schneider’s old volume is still on my bookshelf. Surely, I know everything I need to about Mons Florimond Ronger. Wanna bet?


It’s always fun to read a work which starts mezzo piano and rises to the heights part way through. Dr Stanyon’s ‘book’ was one of those. Pascal Blanchet’s Hervé par lui-même is another. Mons Blanchet has quite simply let Hervé, as the title says, speak for himself. Who knew that all those letters, all that documentation was out there? We see the inside workings of the Paris musical-theatre world (and, boy, were there ‘workings’) where composers such as Hervé and Offenbach had to go on their knees to theatre-managers to get their works produced, even after their biggest hits. We see it all, first hand, in the very words of the interested parties … and Mons Blanchet deftly joins up the dots. What a splendid idea for a book. Not ‘just another biography’ but a living picture of an era …


The mezzo piano bit is the opening portion, which sets the scene for the main action. An umpteenth summary of the state of musical theatre in France (which, then, meant the world) at the time Florimond and Jacques, Henri and Ludovic, and all their spiritual pals came along to stick a pin in its derrière. We’ve all read that stuff – some of us have written it, several times. When I re-read this delightful work – which I shall – I shall skip that bit and go straight to the meat course. But, naturally, I understand that for someone who doesn’t live in 19th century France, it is probably necessary to a proper comprehension of what is to come.


Anyway, the heart of this book is pure gold, and I can only say thank you Pascal Blanchet and Palazzetto Bru Zane for a thoroughly enjoyable and ‘educational’ read…

What’s coming up next?







Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Pretty Lady in a Pretty Photo ...

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Photographs. Old photographs. Other people's old photographs. Often unlabelled.

As I look through the thousands of 1860s and 1870s photos that used to be found in musty boxes in delicious little 'antique' shops, and which now flood the web via e-bay and other like sites, I have more than once wondered 'who were these people?'. Many will remain mysteries, but some have scribbled names on the back. So, this morning, I decided to take one with a legible inscription and see if I could discover anything about the person.

This was the one that I picked. Taken by Mr W W Winter of Midland Road, Derby 'patronised by the Queen', and labelled 'Jane Cooper, née Bannister'.


Well, with that much information, Jane was easy to find. She was the daughter of Mr James Bannister, jeweller, and she became the wife of another jeweller, John Owen Cooper, 2 August 1869 at Normanton.


Mr Bannister lived in Litchurch, next the grocer's shop in Strutt Street, with his large brood of children -- Ann, Susannah, Mary, Fanny, James, John, Jane, Frederic and Clara -- and, so the 1861 census tells us, employed one man and one boy in his silversmithery. His wife Ann, who is with the family in 1851 (32, Siddal's Lane, Derby) had died in the interim.

The regulation time after their marriage, Jane gave birth to Lillian Jenny Cooper (Lyndhurst Road, Camberwell 20 May 1870) and now my tale turns short. For pretty Jane died in Lower Broughton, Manchester, aged 24, 4 April 1874. John seemingly remarried, but himself died in 1883.

Lillian was luckier. She was brought up by Uncle Arthur and his unmarried sister, Ellen, married another uncle, Gurth Cooper (only a year older then she), a paint and colour merchant at 15 Cheapside, Derby, and they bred and lived happily into my lifetime ... He died 3 October 1948 and she 2 March 1954 ... and they lie together in Mickleover Churchyard.


I suppose it must have been the heirs of their seemingly childless daughter, Norah (Mrs William Alfred Welch, b 8 June 1907; d 1995), who got rid of the family photos. Sad, because the handwriting on the back of the photo is surely more recent than the photo itself, someone must have cared for it not too long ago ...

Ah, well ...

PS The sweetest moment is this search was when I found Mr Gurth Cooper, the artists' supplies merchant, as chief judge of the 'Eggs' section at the local Show. He was an avid fowl fancier, I see.

STOP PRESS: I turn the page and there is Lillian! I was right! Someone IS throwing out the family album!










Friday, June 22, 2018

The famous Ernestine Esclozas: what a secret stunner!

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The trouble with writing big, factual books, and living to tell the tale, is that when the work has been published and is, so to speak, graven in stone, you find something you want to add. Or even, fate worse than bad breath, correct. It is over twenty years now since I put out my Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre. The world has changed and research facilities have changed with it. I could do it a little better now. But only a little. I was pretty fastidious with my checking. However … just today …

If I could choose to see in action, today, one single performer from the world of the C19th French musical theatre, I know exactly whom I would select. It has always been Madame Desclauzas. So you would think that I would have covered her life and career minutely. I find that I didn’t. 



For me, ‘Marie’s’ career pretty much began when she and the equally unknown (to me) Rose Bell headed to America as the stars of an opéra-bouffe troupe, in 1868. Well, I eventually sussed out the truth about ‘Miss Bell’ of the many stage-names, but I just accepted Marie’s story as given. I couldn’t find any evidence …. Until today …

Here’s my Enycylopaedia entry. 

DESCLAUZAS, Marie[ARMAND, Malvina Caroline Ernestine] (b Paris, 13 July 1841; d Nogent-sur-Marne 25 March 1912). 

Buxom and eventually hefty star of the opérette stage who became the most admired musical character comedienne of her era.
 Marie Desclauzas began her stage career as a child, touring and -- in her mid-teens -- appearing in Paris at the Ambigu, the Cirque and the Châtelet under Hostein in dramas and in féeries where her attractively rounded figure earned her a series of leggy travesty rôles. She then turned to the world of opéra-bouffe and there made herself a solid career as leading lady. This seems to have been initiated by a co-starring season (with the young Rose Bell) under the management of Jacob Grau and James Fisk in 1868-9 in America, where she appeared alternatively as Geneviève and Drogan in Geneviève de Brabant, as Boulotte, as Fleur de Noblesse (L'Oeil crevé), Piquillo (La Périchole), Césarine (Fleur de thé), Galswinthe (Chilpéric) and in La Vie parisienne. She followed up with seasons in Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Alexandria before being appointed prima donna of the fine company at the Brussels Théâtre des Fantaisies-Parisiennes. 

When that theatre's director, Eugène Humbert, produced the latest opéra-comique by the young Charles Lecocq, whose Les Cent Vierges had done so well for them earlier in the year, 32-year-old Desclauzas was duly given the leading rôle. She made such a success as Madame Lange, the luscious, plotting merveilleuse of La Fille de Madame Angot that, when the piece was taken to Paris and scheduled to be recast with metropolitan performers, Lecocq himself insisted that the Belgian creatrice of Lange be retained. Humbert released his star to the management of the Folies-Dramatiques and Desclauzas triumphed all over again in the capital. After a long stretch playing Lange, she appeared as Manon in Auguste Coèdes's La Belle Bourbonnaise, as La Belle Cousine in Hervé's Alice de Nevers, and as Heloïse in a revival of Litolff’s Heloïse et Abélard (1874), but her now rather considerable bulk, especially when not hidden under the useful lines of Angot's empire gowns, barred her from most leading rôles and she tactfully changed direction, at 35, to make a speciality of character rôles which required a strong singing voice and a powerful personality rather than a shapely leg.



In the 20 years that followed Desclauzas created rôles of this kind in a whole line of opérettes and plays, many at the Théâtre de la Renaissance and for Lecocq, and many written especially to suit her now thoroughly uncovered comic talents. These included the spectacle La Mère Gigogne at the Château d’Eau (1875 ‘she is given an opportunity for a repetition of nearly every favourite air in her repertoire’), the Parisian production of Le Roi d'Yvetôt (1876) which she had created in Brussels three years earlier, Le Petit Duc (1878, Diane de Lansac, Directrice of the Académie pour Demoiselles Nobles), La Camargo (1878, Donna Juana de Rio-Negra), La Petite Mademoiselle (1879, Madelon), La Jolie Persane (1879, Babouche), Les Voltigeurs de la 32ème (1880, Dorothée), which she played along with Le Petit Duc, La Petite Mariée (Lucrézia) and Giroflé-Girofla (Aurore) in London in 1881, Janot (1881, Alexina), Mademoiselle Moucheron (1881, Mme Boulinard), the disastrous Le Saïs (1881), Madame la Diable (1882, Baronne Paméla), La Bonne Aventure (1882, Beppa), Ninette (1882, Countess Kouci-Kouca), Les Trois Devins (1884, Christine), Les Petits Mousquetaires (1885, Armide de Tréville), Il était une fois (1886, La Reine Virginie), L'Amour mouillé (1887, Catarina), Le Petit Moujik (1896, Mme Picou), Les Fêtard(1896, Madame Maréchale) and La Petite Tache (1898). She also appeared in such repertoire rôles as the Marquise d’Enface of L’Oeil crevé, Aurore (Giroflé-Girofla), Lucrézia (La Petite Mariée), Marcelline (Belle Lurette), Marguerite (Le Canard à trois becs) and Fanfreluche (La Poule aux oeufs d'or), in Bisson’s military Mam’selle Piou-Piou (1889, Madame Papillon) at the Porte Saint-Martin, and took time off to appear, with equal success, in comedy for Koning at the Gymnase (Mme Baudoin in Les Amants légitimes, Deborah in L'Homme à l'oreille cassée, Comtesse Gypsy inAutour du mariage etc), at the Porte St-Martin in the fantastical La Montagne enchantée (1897, Fatima) and elsewhere. She officially retired from the stage in 1910, just two years before her death at the age of 71.



Her most famous creations were the irresistibly comical rôle of the Directrice in Le Petit Duc, a part to which she returned again and again over a period of 20 years, and the vast, blowsy wardrobe mistress of the farcical Les Fêtards, with her memories of her days as a tight-waisted circus rider and her royal romance, but such was the artist's emprise over this kind of rôle in her time that, for decades thereafter, such character parts, in old and new opérettes, were known in France as `les rôles de Desclauzas'.”

From 1868 and America onwards, I wouldn’t change a word. But before that …



It happened thus. While netting the for-sale picture of Mlle Géraldine on French e-bay (see yesterday’s article) I chanced on the photo of a stunning young woman. She caught my eye because I thought she looked amazingly like a taller version of my Austrian grandmother as a teen-aged Mädchen.

Rudolfine Gänzl

Who was she? Mdlle Esclozos. Haha. Come to think of it, she looked like a young, slim version of Marie D, too. Could someone have misspelled her? Seemed not. A second, third and fourth photo surfaced with the same name … But, damme, it WAS her. Illiterate Frenchmen! 


So I began a check. And out it all came. Well, a lot of it. The reason I couldn’t formerly find Marie D before 1868 was that she, too, had played the name changing game. For some eight years she had, previously, been Esclozas, or Esclauzas. So I started again. There she is at the Cirque Impérial from 1860-2, playing Heloise in the 5-act drama Heloïse et Abélard, and playing in the féeries La Poule aux oeufs d’or as the little heroine, Florine (‘Madame Esclozas s’est fait remarquer par une jolie voix’) and Rothomago (Bruyère), alongside Mme Geoffroy and the dwarfish Judith Ferreyra.



The operation moved to the new Châtelet Theatre in 1862, and Ernestine Esclozas ‘maigre comme un clou’ was seen there over the next four years in pieces such as Le Secret de Miss Aurore (Lucy), Don Caesar de Bazan (Maritana), Aladin (Neréa, alongside Lise Tautin), La Prise de Pekin (Yang-Fo), La Jeunesse du roi Henri (Margot, ‘la plus jolie, la plus souriante, la plus coquette Marguerite [de Valois] qu’un puisse rêver’), Les Sept Châteaux du diable with her ‘Couplets de la mouche’, Les Mystères du vieux Paris (Odette Sorel), Bonaparte (Joséphine), La Lanterne magique (Progrès), Le Déluge universal (Eva, ‘La belle Madame Esclauzas joue le role d’Eva, qui lui est extrèmement avantageux sous la rapport du costume’), Cendrillon (Prince Charmant to the Cinders of Irma Marié), Le Diable Boîteux 





I can’t find her at the Ambigu, but that’s back to age nineteen … which must be about when the first of all these lovely photos were taken ... which are the excuse and reason for this ‘improved’ article…