Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ever-lovin' Adelaide: Baltimore's prima donna

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‘The singing of Miss Adelaide Randall is so natural and full of soft melody that, together with her sweet handsome face, and fairylike movements, one could almost imagine that her song was a sweet note from Heaven falling on the mortal ear…’ (Wheeling, Illinois, 1876).

Gosh. Quite a rave. Yes, I have passed by Miss Randall many a time, on the way to other things and folk, but she somehow didn’t inspire me to deviate and dig. Until today.

When I chanced on that marvellous photo of Laura Joyce, on ebay, the vendor had, alongside it (also with the ridiculous postal charge, which stopped me buying either or both), this delightful photo of Miss Randall. It’s still available, if damaged, so go for it … 




And I thought, well, I had better spend 24 hours on this pretty lady … Here’s the result.

Adelaide was never a major star. To start with, she was a light mezzo-to-soprano. But she could play the lighter roles of the operatic soprano repertoire, was a charming, sparkling actress (‘good voice … chic and verve of a popular actress’), and was the picture of a comic opera heroine. So she, wisely attempting nothing more hefty, had a fine career all around America for over two decades.

[Jane] Adelaide Randall was born in Maryland. Probably Baltimore. I can’t prove the exact date, but she’s not yet born in the 1850 census, is 8 years old in the 1860 one, so let’s say 1852. I say ‘probably Baltimore’, because her father, George H Randall, originally from Virginia, was a printer and journalist in that city, before moving to Westminster, Md, to run the Carroll County Democratthere. 

Now, I have uncovered two newspaper ‘biographies’ of Addie: one from the 70s, one from 20 years later. They don’t quite agree in their details, but the earlier one (on searching) proves the more exact, the later more lyrical and mildly indiscreet. George, it appears, was a bit of a wastrel. His wife, Emmeline, apart from supplying him with and bringing up five children and a grandchild, plus a couple of extra Kentuckians by name Mattingley, apparently kept the newspaper afloat too, doing everything from writing to typesetting while George … well, I don’t know what he was doing. But doing it, whatever it was, down by the branch railroad of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, one dark-of-night in February 1862, he ‘fell under a train’. So Emmeline was left to bring up the family. Which she was doubtless doing anyway.

We see them in the 1870 census, in Washington, Emmeline 50, eldest son George M[attingley?] D (d 1892) aged 25, printer, Adelaide aged 19, youngest sister Clara V aged 13, what seems to be eldest sister, Fanny Hagger 30 and her fatherless daughter Emma, 5, and Joseph A Mattingley, carpenter, 32. Three of this bunch would end up on the stage.

By the 1880 census, the family is in New York, and I suspect has been there a while, because Addie is said to have studied with Signori Torriani and Steffenoni, and begun her career. To which we now move.

My first sighting of Addie as a vocalist is 3 June 1874, and she is the alto part of a ‘Schubert Vocal Quartet’ performing at Bridgeport, Ct. But by 20 January 1875, she is making her ‘first appearance this season’ (hmm) at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music singing Siebel to the Marguerite of Annie Tremaine-Beaumont with Clarence Hess’s Kellogg Opera Co. In April, I see her with Maretzek’s Italian Opera as Gina in L’Ombra and by June she in in San Francisco in L’Etoile du nord, again for Hess. In October she supported no less a star than Therese Titiens in concert at New York’s Steinway Hall.

Mr James Redpath of the Lyceum Boston sent out a little ‘opera company’ in 1875-6, playing Marthaand L’Ombra.The cast wasn’t listed, but I suspect Addie was of it, for in 1876 she can be seen in its successor, ‘E S Payson’s English Comic Opera Co’, playing Nancy in Martha, Manuelita in Vertigo (a version of the Offenbach Pépito) and Philip a strange piece called ‘Gounod’s The Love Test’ which appears to have been, apparently built on Longfellow’s A Student’s Tale. Mr Payson apparently toured more successfully than Mr Redpath and the engagement stretched into 1877, when she turns up in California with Hess once more singing the eternal Martha.

She toured in opera with Anna Granger Dow, joined a Mr Ruben for a season at New York’s Grand Opera House (it wasn’t) singing everything from to the Gipsy Queen to Lady Allcash to a light mezzo Azucena, and in 1878 returned to Hess and his latest project: the Emma Abbott English Opera. The repertoire was just Addie’s line – The Bohemian Girl, Faust, Fra Diavolo, MarthaMaritana, Mignon, Les Cloches de Corneville – and I spot her singing the obvious Siebel, Lady Allcash and Lazarillo. When Miss Abbott subsequently put out her own extremely successful troupe, Addie was again hired. She shared the mezzo and contralto roles with the deeper-voiced Zelda Seguin, but she was still cast as Emma’s mother, Mme delaTour, in Massé’s Paul and Virginia.

In 1879, she spent time at Haverley’s Lyceum, and dates beyond, playing Hebe in HMS Pinafore, before a fresh tour with Miss Abbott, and then a venture in a 3-part role with Tracy Titus in an attempt at an American musical, U S Buttons. She also got married. Her husband was Charles T Atwood, at the time business manager for Shook and Collier. The following year, he managed the Berger Family, and I see Addie singing with them in Canada.

In 1881, however, she was back with Hess, starring in his Acme troupe as Bathilde in Olivette and in the title-role of La Mascotte (‘She not only sings it admirably but acts it in a very acceptable way’). The company tried another semi-American musical, The Widow, and showed it briefly at New York’s Standard Theatre, but quickly returned to the safety of their French repertoire. In between, however, Addie took a turn in the most successful native piece to date, when The Doctor of Alcantara was given a showing at the Metropolitan Alcazar. Hess played Fra Diavolo with Addie as Zerlina, MaritanaMartha, Les Cloches de Corneville, La Mascotte, Olivette, The Bohemian Girl … Addie, Rose Leighton, Lizzie St Quinten, Emma Elsner and a lady named Cora R Miller led the female casts.

In December 1882, Addie got to dip again into the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire. Iolanthe was produced at the Lyceum, Philadelphia, and she was cast as … Phyllis! When Broadway’s Phyllis, Sallie Reber, got ill, she was switched to New York, and the press was not shy to say that she was an improvement! But she had been engaged for another new semi-American piece down Philly way, so she had to give up the role and return. The piece in question was Fortunio, a re-setting of Planché’s popular extravaganza by local musician, Francis Thomas Sully Darley. In spite of a good cast, it went the way of all such pieces.

In 1884, she was hired by Kerker and Donnelly as leading lady for a season of comic opera at the Bijou Theatre, playing Les Cloches de Corneville, Fra Diavolo, The Bohemian Girl and Maritana, and went out with a fallible ‘New York Ideals’ company … but in the end she seemingly took matters into her own hands. In 1885 the Bijou Opera Company went on the road. Manager: C T Atwood. Star Mrs C T Atwood. Comprimaria: Miss Clara Randall. For three successful years, Adelaide Randall and her troupe toured America, playing La Mascotte, HMS Pinafore, The Mikado, Les Cloches de Corneville, Billee Taylor, Giroflé-Giroflà, The Doctor of Alcantara, The Bridal Tap (Serment d’amour), Le Princesse de Trébizonde, Madame Boniface, The Bohemian Girl until the enterprise was put to bed in July1888. 

Addie moved on to feature with Gustav Hinrich’s ‘New American Opera Company’, to play Paolawith J C Duff, to visit Milwaukee’s Schultz Park, and in 1890 to even try another American musical, this one with music by Hinrichs. Onti-Ora (28 July 1890) died swiftly.

And then mystery struck. Mr Atwood, who had recently been managing Maggie Mitchell’s troupe, but had undertaken a very unfortunate theatrical tour to Canada, which was rumoured to have caused a breach with his wife (her money?), was found in the streets of Chicago: demented. He was taken to Cook County Hospital where 7 November 1891 he died. Demented? The usual cause of dementia in young men in these times was syphilis …

Addie did bits and pieces for a couple of years. It was as if the oomph had gone out of her. She penned little stories for ladies’ magazines, played summer season, tried a theatre in Denver, but found her best shop playing ‘the Opera Queen’ in John T Kelly’s farce comedy McFee of Dublin. Then Rush City. I see her in 1896 playing Minna in The Black Hussar for
Maurice Grau, in 1898 writing a cooking column …

In the censi of 1905, 1910 and 1920 I see her sharing what seem to be decreasingly-sized homes with sister Clara, but in 1930 – well, I guess Clara must have died – she is alone, in one room …

Addie Randall died in NYC 25 July 1933, aged 81. Maybe hers had not been a glamorous life and career, but as theatrical ones go, I think it can be judged pretty successful.

Clara had a bit of a career, largely as a chorine. However, niece (?) Emma Hagger did rather better. Between 1884 and 1894, she worked as an actress with Janauschek, Gus Williams, Rose Coghlan, Sol Smith Russell, Thomas Q Seabrooke, Milton Nobles, Mrs Bernard Beere et (doubtless) al. ‘A pretty and vivacious little lady’. They seemed to run in the family. ‘A southern girl, of Spanish extraction …’. Er, what? Born Maryland, mother from Kentucky ..  Southern?  Do I have something else to discover about this family? Spanish?  Anyway, I’ve no idea what became of Emma after the age of thirty …


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