Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A cache of Cartesians, or pottering in Penzance

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I'm not sure how I came to pottering around C19th Penzance this week. Doubtless in search of some Victorian vocalist, or other. Odd, though, because I'd had a good go at 1891 Penzance a couple of years ago, rootling out the identities of the principal players of the D'Oyly Carte company which was playing there in census week. With some success:

'One thing leads to another. Always. ‘Geraldine St Maur’ led me to Kate Jancowski-Forster and now she … well, she actually led me to Penzance, where one of the D’Oyly Carte touring companies was performing on census night. So all the cast members were in digs in the town, and were going to fall easily into my net … huh! Kate was sharing digs with Frank [William Line] Tebbutt (25), Frank Lynne (26, born Regents Park), and his wife Mary (23) from Liverpool; James Lawrence Gridley (32) and Henry E Bellamy (28) are rooming together down the road, ‘Louie Lytton’, his wife Henrietta and daughter Ida are there, and Florence J Perry and her sister Beatrice Mary, too … all straightforward?' Well, not quite straightforward, but I'd found what I was after, so I headed back north ...

Of course, a dozen folk do not a Cartesian company make. Somewhere in the streets of Penzance there had to be orchestra, chorus, back-and-front stage staff ... so I had a wee look ..



Ely Hotel. A whole list of guests all 'living on their own means'. Joe and Susan Uren or Wren (the enumerator could barely write, and definitely not spell, so all names approximate) from London, George Brand (Dulwich), William R Greatbach (Ireland), Benjamin B Michell (Wales), Joseph Tailor, John Matthews, Frederick Leon from New York, Harry Barron, Fred J Howard (Ireland) ... I hasten me to the G&S Archive, and yes! There they are! But where are the ladies?

I trudge on, until I come to 30 Tolver Road. Ahha! Thomas Stevenson (Wales) and his wife Caroline (Scotland), Maud Cary (Manchester), Kate McFarren, Emily Lyndsay Gray vocalists, Kezia C Wormald wardrobe mistress, Tom Silver (Sudbury) professor of music, and his wife Agnes Matilda ...

Don't need the archive for some of these. Tom Silver is the company's conductor, and his wife Agnes is principal soprano née Agnes Taylor.

Agnes Taylor
That'll do for now, I thought. I'll see what I can find out about this little lot. Any research on Cartesian minutiae has to begin with the works of Rollins, Witt, Low and Stone. If the job has already been done, no point in doing it again.

The Wrens and the Stevensons are not there. Neither is Fred J Howard. Maybe they were just bona fide travellers, or maybe they had stage names. But the rest are. Give or take orthographical error. So we can safely assume that they were all members of the Carte company playing at Penzance in April 1891. But in some cases, that goes against received 'knowledge'. Puzzling. Anyway, here we go.

George BRAND [RUSTON, George Brand] (b Dulwich 22 April 1848; d Coventry 30 April 1898). followed his father, Thomas Ruston, 'of Mark Lane, London', into business as a corn factor, until he decided to become an ageing chorister. Whenever, between 1881 (when he was censussed as a 32 year-old 'commercial clerk, corn') and 1891, that was.

William R[obert] GREATBACH (GREATBATCH, William) (b Gibraltar 1 September 1853; d London 1896) apparently appeared with the company for over a decade, from 1885. Son of army man Sergeant Thomas Greatbach of Galway and his wife Catherine née Hughes, he worked as a clerk until enrolling as a chorister. He died soon after his appearance in the 1896 Savoy revival of The Mikado.

Benjamin MITCHELL [MICHAEL, Benjamin Bowen] (b Kilgerran, Pembrokeshire 1855; d Cardigan 1895) was the son of carpenter David Michael and his wife Margaretta née Bowen. He spent his early working years as a shopman in Tredegar (1871), then a grocer's assistant (1881), before joining the Carte company. He died aged 39.

Joseph Taylor
Joseph or Greene TAYLOR [TAYLOR, Joseph [Green], later GREENE-TAYLOR, Joseph] (b Birmingham 16 July 1859; d 12/18 September 1907) had a different type of theatrical career to his three companions above. He got out of the chorus, into principal comic roles with touring companies (Petit Pierre in Paul Jones, Guy of Gisborne in Maid Marian, Squire Higgins in Morocco Bound, Mats Munck in His Excellency, Charlie Fenn in Newmarket, Cripps in An Artist's Model, Dan Leno's role in Orlando Dando, Heliodorus in A Greek Slave, dame in pantomimes, The Earl and the Girl, dramas The World's Verdict, The Power and the Glory, A Beautiful Fiend) and as a take-over in London's King Kodak. He also, unlike his companions, married. His wife was soprano Grace [Florence] PYNE (b London 23 September 1871; d Ninfield, Sussex 1 March 1949), with whom he played in the Carte company, and in various of the above cited musicals. Grace appeared (under a variety of names) in a small role in London's Great Caesar, as Antonia in A Greek Slave on the road and in many a thinking part. She also bore a son, Reginald Green Taylor (7 March 1891) and a daughter, Muriel Green Taylor (14 September 1893), divorced Taylor for unspecified adultery and swiftly re-wed ... all of which is another story ..

Miss Pyne
John MATTHEWS (b London c1861) well, apart from the fact that he is married and 30-ish in 1891, and that he spent 2-3 years with the company, and got involved in a disgusting divorce suit (his wife was singer Florence Ellen OLIVER), I know nothing ...




but the next item will make up for the paucity of this one ..

Frederick LEON. Allegedly 23. Allegedly born New York. Such a person may exist. But I beg leave to doubt it. So what am I suggesting? Well, there were two well-known gentlemen in the D'Oyly Carte who sported the surname 'Leon'. One of them was 'Frederick' and 30 years old, the other was 'William' and about twenty-three. And, yes, they were related. Well, they shared an (unmarried, it seems) mother.
Miss Annie Taylor was the daughter of Elizabeth Taylor née Watkinson. Elizabeth was originally an embroideress and dressmaker, but grandmother, Elizabeth Watkinson, was an actress, and still declaring herself as such at an advanced age. Anyway, Annie mixed in theatrical circles -- she was 'actress' in the 1881 census -- and as a result, in 1861, ended up the mother of a son who was christened Alphonse [Frederick] Leon, after his declared actor father. Over the years the Leon gained a acute or a grave accent from time to time, so I imagine the invisible Mr Leon was Spanish or Portguese.
Anyway, little Alphonse, under the name of Frederick A LEON (b Soho 24 November 1861; d. ) duly followed his elders into the theatre, and apparently joined the Carte companies in 1882. Puzzlingly, the whole family is in Glasgow in the 1881 census. The 'whole family', by this stage, includes a little William Henry Taylor, otherwise William Henry LEON, (b St James's 1868; d Savoy Precinct 10 December 1901). The careers of both of the Leon semi-brothers with the Carte orgnisation are well documented, Fred as a stage director, William as a principal player. Less well documented is that of 'Madame Leon', costume maker and wardrobe mistress ... mother, Annie (d Hampstead 1926). I wonder if Annie were also the 'Annie Taylor' who played in Babil and Bijou and, between 1875 and 1879, could be seen in the music-halls 'character vocalist and burlesque actress' with little 'Master Willie Taylor, comedian, vocalist and actor' ... the nine-year-old future W H Leon?.

W H Leon
Fred Leon apparently wed or 'wed' a lady named Lila of who I know nothing. I last see her and him heading back from Capetown in 1906. William married into the Carte 'family'. But also into another famous family. His wedding certificate to Carte mezzo May Georgina Roney (already the mother of his (?) daughter) bears the autograph of Charles Dickens and Georgina Hogarth. Why? Because Georgina's sister was née Miss Helen Hogarth, inveterate London concert-giver, wife of Mr Richard Cusack Roney. Oh, after William's death, May shot off to Jersey and gave birth (1905) to a little Harold Dixon Roney who died. So, not a conventional family.

And which Leon, if either, is the one in Penzance in 1891. I think William. But May is with a different company, and pretty soon they (?) are going to combine on that daughter. Fred, I suspect, is in America with the Gondoliers company ...

Harry BARRON (b London) doesn't seem to have stayed with the company for long. Or any company. He went from being an understudy with Carte to understudying M R Morand in Leonora Braham's tour of The Duke's Diversion, and thereafter made the occasional visible essay including a small part in A French Maid tour.

Maud CAR[E]Y (b Manchester c1865) Whatever her real name was, Maud sang with the Carte companies, more on than off, for more than a decade. Presuming that she wasn't the Maud Carey who sang Mrs Partlett with the amateurs in Guernsey and seems to have fashionably wed down there, she may have been the Maud Carey who sang Tessa with the Derby amateurs in 1894. She made the news when, in 1898, while on tour, her digs mate died of heart failure.

Kate MACFARREN [MACFARLANE, Kathleen née MASON] (b Worcester x 21 August 1859; d Lambeth 1931). One of a healthily sized faily of music-teacher Robert Humphrey Amphlett Mason and his wife Lucy Smedley née Turner, Kate was married, young, to one James Handel Stevenson Macfarlane (Carte chorister name: James H Macfarren 'born Paris') in 1881 and gave birth to four children in record time. She is seen here, still with (or again with) the company in 1891. In 1911 she lists herself as 'actress, musician, 47, married' and under infirmities shes has listed 'alive'. By 1883, her husband was listing his job as 'newspaper critic'. I can't find the newspaper.


Miss L Gray
[Emily] Lindsay GRAY (b Peterhead, Scotland 28 June 1868; d unknown). I am sorry not to have sorted this one completely. But her time with Carte seems to have been brief (see G&SA). However, she went on to a fine career which improved with age and character roles (The Gay Parisienne, Newmarket, Kitty, The Skirt Dancer, The Dear Girls), moving into early moving pictures and stretching as far as the 1920s, when I spot her acting at the Ambassadors Theatre, London (1924).  She married the comic actor (ex-journalist's apprentice!) and vicar's son, John Sebastian Smith (b Southwell 1869; d 14 January 1914), mothered Marjorie Lindsay Smith (31 March 1902) and ... Sebastian Smith's entry in The Green Book 1907 makes no mention of wife or child, but in 1919 when he heads for America his contact address back home in 'Mrs E L Smith, 5 Wallington Mansions, Upper St Martin's Lane'. He was still broadcasting in the 1940s ...

Thomas SILVER (1856-1934) is well enough known ... and his Agnes Taylor (b 29 Barbican London 1861; d Westcliff-on-Sea, 15 June 1944) ...

Well, there we are, a portion of Penzance on a platter ... my little contribution to the massive work of the four gents named at the start of this article ..


Oh! What's this? American Gondoliers company, January 1891 .. F A Leon, Norah Phyllis, Mary Duggan, Richard Clarke, Esther Palliser, Edward [Louis Desire] Bishop, M Abbey, S Letts, Mrs Wilmot, Mr Boole [Pacie Ripple], B[artle] McCarthy, C Rowlands, Mr Warner, L Galliani, B[asil] Wood, Percy Charles, R[obert] L[indsey] Harman, Peter Lawson, Mr [Mark Albert Kavanagh] Cavanagh, Harrie Alexander Lee, F[red] G Edgar, Kate Talby, Cora[h] Tinnie, Fred Billington, P W Halton, Richard Temple, H[elier] Lemaistre and Mrs, John W[illiam] Lince, Otto Heilig, Gus Kremer, O[wen] J[ones] Rowlands, Henry Lytton, Misses [Helen] Sedger, [Amy Rosa] Royston, Carisbalt, Werden, [Annie] Pelham, Sandford, [Bella?] Lytham, Gates, Giles, Sanger, Prince, Hinton, Phyllis, [Alice Margaret] Pennington, Morrison, [Lindsay] Gray, [Jessie Bell] Lupton, [Grace] Pyne, [A] Watts ....   ouf!

Few husbands and wives in there ...
Mr Edgar [EDGAR George Frederick] was married to Miss Royston [PARDY, Amy Rosa] (b Cornhill, 1 March 1866; d Kentish Town 4 March 1936)
Helier Le Maistre was married to mezzo Nellie Wyatt
Robert Lindsay Harman wed Alice Pennington
'Percy Charles' and 'Kate Talby' (see other blog)

And unfamiliar folk like Jessie Bell Lupton (b London City 14 August 1866; d Reading 16 September 1959), who was back home by the 1891 census, along with sister Nellie -- both labelled, for the nonce, 'operatic singer' -- who witnessed the Belfast marriage of Harman and Miss Pennington, along with

[Mark] Albert Kavanagh (b London 1866; d 26 January 1922) was back too. He can be seen rooming with Frederick Heiler and Frank Leicester ... all 'operatic vocalists' ... in Wigan ... he would become a Cartesian stalwart ...




Then ... Annie Pelham (b Coventry 10 January 1866; d Havana 7 December 1917) was the daughter of the entertainer 'Walter Pelham' [William Frederick TAUNTON]...

John William Lince jr (b London 19 February 1862; d Los Angeles 21 June 1937), son of a Bermondsey bookbinder, who took a taste for American life, settled in California, and latterly worked in films.  

John Lince in later days



but enough! Post and be damned!

Let's go out with a picture of American soubrette Miss Cora Tinnie, who was plucked from the ranks of E E Rice's extravaganza companies to play with the Carte, and even exported for a couple of years to England, before apparently ending her underdeveloped career ('her good looks are considered an atonement for her lack of voice') around 1898 in California.



Thursday, October 24, 2019

One of our girls ... and the odd puzzle

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It is such a relief to historico-theatrical me, when people think to label photographs ... even if only 'sort of'. Like this one ...


A pencilled scribble "One of our ...". Bronson Howard's 1885 play One of our girls. Helen Daubray, Enid Leslie, Vincent Sternroyd, E H Sothern, F F Mackay, Ida Vernon, Louis James, William Payson, George F De Vere, J W Piggott ...


Well, here is Miss Daubray.. and here Sothern without his Dundreary whiskers. ..


There's a photo in Daniel Blum's Pictorial History of the American Theatre .. so maybe someone who has that book can tell us who is who, here ...

And what about these? Any ideas, anyone? Anyone know an American play with a British bobby, a French gendarme, and half-a-dozen ill-hidden people in a small room ...



These, alas, are not labelled ... BUT...! The top pair have been identified!  Bravo Allister Hardiman! The play is an American version of Der Raub von Sabinerinnen, produced by Daly, at his theatre, 4 March 1885,  under the title A Night Off, or a Page from Balzac. Cast: Virginia Dreher, Otis Skinner, James Lewis, May Irwin, Charles Leclercq, John Drew, Mrs Gilbert, Ada Rehan ...   that's Leclercq in the Greek tunic, so I imagine this is the celebrated photo of the first act curtain. So we have Mrs Gilbert as the henpecking domina of the affair, May Irwin, of course, is the maid ... the two girls are the Misses Dreher and Rehan, their young gentlemen are Drew and Skinner and I suppose thats the central Mr Babbitt (James Lewis) collapsed in the chair at the unexpected return of his wife.  Which makes the chap in the travelling coat Charles Fisher as the odd Lord Mulberry ...



Well, that's three pictures settled on day one. Now, what about this farcical cop play ... is it 1885 as well?

Got it! My guess, Allister's leg work, and yes it's 1885 again ... New York's production of Pinero's The Magistrate ...




The poster is from the London production, the photograph from Daly's Theatre, New York, and the top illustration is, of course, the clincher. So, here once more we have the comical Lewis, then Skinner and Drew cast not as jeunes premieres but somehwat older gents, and Miss Rehan playing also above her age. That's she, under the table, with Lewis. And Skinner and Miss Dreher behind the couch? So, Drew is either on the couch or in the cupboard ...  Fisher was there, again, too ... but between my eyesight and all that excess facial hair ... Anyway, Augutus Yorke and William Gilbert were the policemen .. I'm not so hot on American juveniles ...  Allister will sort it.

Mission accomplished!





Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A London operatic premiere, 1850 ... or, when will the music arrive?

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Today, this fascinating bit of musical-theatre ephemera appeared on e-bay. A few years back, I would have been unlocking my wallet ... I hope someone who cares about the history of light and comic opera will buy and treasure this!



What is it? It is a letter from Mr John Mitchell, the impresario of a number of English seasons of French plays and opéras-comiques, notably at the St James's Theatre, to the publisher Léon Escudier (if it were not his brother, Marie) asking for him to send to London the music of the previous year's Parisian hit, Ambroise Thomas's Le Caïd, which he was to feature in his coming season.



The music was evidently sent promptly. Mitchell's letter is dated 15th January, the first London performance was played 28th January! The cast, of course, being imported from Paris, clearly had learned their roles there in the twelve-month since the piece's production at the Opéra-Comique ... but all the same! The original cast had starred Delphine Ugalde, Sainte-Foy, Hermann-Léon, Henry, Jean-Jacques Boulo and Mlle Decroix; London's line-up featured Anne [Arsène] Charton (1824-1892), from the Opéra-Comique, already a welcome guest in French companies at Drury Lane and the St James's, where she had, the previous year, scored a triumph in Le Domino noir.

Mdlle Anne Charton
The light tenor Lac, formerly of Bordeaux, Brussels and Ghent, and MM Élie Nathan (1822-1884), bass, from the Opera-Comique, Buguet 'of Brussels', back from the previous year, and Châteaufort supported her. The French company played three nights weekly, and it seems that five performances of Le Caïd were given, in their bulging repertoire of older pieces, before they troupe set off for the provinces.


The following season, Le Caïd was given, in an English version, at the Haymarket Theatre, with the young Louisa Pyne as Virginie.

That's the tale of the event. The tale of the writer of the letter is interesting too. Mitchell (b 21 April 1806; d London 11 December 1874) was a genuine Franco-Englishman, with homes (in pre-EU days) on both sides of the Manche. He was involved in theatre, in both countries, from the mid-1830s, first as a ticket-agent then as a producer, and in 1842 took on the St James's Theatre, London. He ran it for a dozen years. If he is remembered today, however, it is largely on account of his step-daughter. He married the widowed Mme Alcain, whose daughter by her first marriage, Hermine, became Mme Jacques Offenbach (13 August 1844). Thus he is spoken of in books on Offenbach, in Barry Duncan's book on the St James's Theatre, and elsewhere, so I don't need to repeat his tale here.
He seems to have been a thoroughly good egg.

He had nice handwriting, too...




D'Oyly Carte players, or, who were those folk ...?

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I'm back midst the green, green grass of Gerolstein. And it has rained practically the whole week since I arrived.  Never mind, I have a new computer, I-pad and phone to work my way into and around ... so, plenty to do.

Well, 6 days, and I haven't got further than the computer. But I've waded through the thousand irrelevant bells and whistles, and more or less got it running in the way that a normal person would wish it to, and have been testing it on some little exercises. Well, you know, making sure it can do what *I* want it to do ...

So I picked a handful of D'Oyly Carte company artists of the 19th century of whom little appears to be known, and tried to sort them out ...  without more ado, here are my findings ...

VAUDREY, Adeline [née MOULD, Adeline] (b Southampton 1863; d London 1926)
Miss Mould, daughter of butcher Thomas Mould and his wife Emma (née Berry) was born in Hampshire, apparently raised in Jarrow, and married, at the age sixteen, to one John Rorie Friend 'commercial traveller', and put briskly into foal. Ruby era was born in 1880, followed by Pearl Eugenie and Beryl Adeline ..  Only then did Mrs Friend start appearing in public as a vocalist. I spot her, first, in 1888 singing in a ballad concert at the Victoria Hall. 'Madame Adeline Vaudrey'. Vaudrey? Well, it was a known musical name on the south coast, so maybe she was related. Over the next years she can be seen in concert at Walthamstow, Chingford, Hastings ... with a few weeks out play Tessa in The Gondoliers on tour.  But. then, back to babies and the Epping Forest Musical Society, the Hastings Pier Concerts, the Witham Cricket Club, Walton-on-the-Naze, the Dover Catch Club, Mr Broughton Black's Gilbert and Sullivan concerts, and his attempt at an operetta (Constancy 7 June 1892, Sudbury). She sang with the G&S concerts on a wee tour, then with W H Burgon's opera concerts, and took a swift trip to South Africa, where she played the title-role in Marjorie alongside the Alicia of Leonora Braham, and, back home, after many more Pier concerts, took part in Willie Edouin's The Babes at the Strand Theatre.










In 1895 she deputised for Jessie Bond in His Excellency, and subsequently toured in the same role, before joining the Carte organisation. Over the next five years she played the soprano (and later the mezzo) roles in virtually the whole of the Savoy canon. In 1902 she, seemingly, retired.
In the 1911 census I see that husband has become a coal merchant's agent. Ruby is married (Mrs Ernest Budd) and the other two girls are still at home ...
He died in 1924, and she, it seems, in 1926.
Good career. I wonder why it is not anywhere documented. Or is it?




LAMBETH, Florence [Elizabeth] (b Blythswood, Glasgow 11 March 1865; d Pollok, Glasgow 1943)
Scottish mezzo-soprano Florence Lambeth had a good career, but only short one with the Carte companies. Born in Glasgow, the daughter a well-known musician Henry Albert Lambeth and his wife Harriet née Duckworth, Florence made an early start as a singer in concerts in Scotland. In 1885 she joined the Carte companyas a principal, but, before long, was whisked to London's Gaiety Theatre, where she created the part of Phyllis Tuppitt in the original Dorothy.  She subsequently toured in the role of Bianca in La Béarnaise, before joining first the Rousbey Opera tour, and then the similar Turner company (Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Martha in Faust, Gianetta in L'Elisir d'amore, Alice in Robin Hood, Anne Chute in Lily of Killarney, Lisa in La Sonnambula, Countess in La Fille du régiment, Nancy in Martha) with which she would play for a number of years. Latterly, from about 1895, she returned to Scotland (with a brief visit to South Africa, as a ballad singer in variety), where she was to be heard in concert and stage productions (For Bonnie Scotland, The Invasion of Britain, pantomimes) into the earliest years of the 20th century.

ROWLANDS, Owen] J[ones] [aka GWYNNE, Hugh] (b Tal-y-Bont, Conway, Wales c 1853; d Transvaal  1920)
Rowlands was born in Conway, the eldest son of Hugh Jones, 'chemist of High Street, Bridgnorth' and his wife Margaret. He seems to have worked as an inspector for the Parish Council while building himself a fine reputation as a bass singer in concerts in Liverpool and Wales, taking a leading part in the productions of the Liverpool Opera Society and working as a choir soloist at St Xavier's Church, Liverpool. He was engaged by the Carte company to go to America as a replacement in the role of Antonio in The Gondoliers, and his letters home were reported in the Wrexham press. On his return (23 April 1890) he appeared in concert (Toreador's song, 'Fetters of Gold', Mikado's Song, 'Little List','Tit Willow', 'Quite English, You Know') and played a five-weeks season in Dublin (January 1891), deputising for Arthur Rousbey in his touring opera company. He was recalled by Rousbey to sing Don Jose in Maritana the same March-April.
When Dorothy was revived for a fortnight at the Trafalgar Square Theatre, he was in the company, and deputised for Furneaux Cook as Squire Bantam, playing under the name of 'Hugh Gwynne'. He played in Under the Clock at the Court Theatre, toured with Albert Chevalier, sang at St Mary's Church and at venues such as the Ryde Pier Pavilion, before he was hired to sing Wagner in Faust with Fanny Moody and Charles Manners. In 1897, he was engaged for Ernest Searelle's South African musical comedy company (Hercules Hawser in The French Maid, Tuppitt in Dorothy, Sam Snug in Bonnie Boy Blue, Matheo in La Mascotte, Don Jose in Maritana &c) ... and he seems to have not returned to Britain. His death was reported from Transvaal in 1920.
Rowlands was married in 1877 to Jane Jones who seems to have died at the birth of her son, Percival Hugh (1879-1931).

GROSVENOR, Beatrice [GRAVEUR, Beatrice Lucy Maud] (b 7 Duke Street, Aldgate 1859; d 4 Smart's Tce, Camberwell 1935)


The daughter of a certain Joseph Louis Graveur (1827-1895) and his wife Emma née Dunn (d 8 October 1899), Beatrice had a bumpy childhood. At the age of three, she was (briefly) stolen by a gipsy girl, at the age of five father eloped to the other side of the Atlantic. Things didn't, apparently, get much better when she wed a Mr Walter Goodbody, at twenty-one. I have no idea who he was or what he did, but he seems to have vanished pretty smartly and permanently. Beatrice (ka Maud, but the Lady Beatrice Grosvenor was a current social figure) joined the D'Oyly Carte touring troupes soon after her marriage, and over the next five years played supporting roles is several tours. In 1886, she went briefly on the music-halls under the name of 'Maud Graveur', but soon reverted to her nom de théâtre, for what was to be a colourful career of some thirty years, during which she played in comic opera (Doris), musical comedy (Nemesis, The Shop Girl), burlesque (Micaela in Carmen up to Data), pantomime, religious drama (Dame Gossip in The Pilgrim's Progress), melodrama (The Lights of London), in increasingly character roles, ending with similar parts, in later years, in the silent films. She also visited the Continent with the Carmen up to Data company, South America and later India, China and Java in musical comedy, and South Africa with the Wheeler and Lockwood combination (Seraphine Plimmer in Regina BA etc). 




FRYTH, Edwyn [FRITH, William Edwin] (b Kingston, Surrey 14 October 1853; d unknown)
Poor Mr Frith. Poor 'Edwyn Frith Esq RAM'. I've bumped into him frequently over recent decades, struggling manfully, over a dozen years or so, to make himself a worthy place in the music world. He never did. Edwin was the son of a Yorkshireman, Edwin Frith: a grocer and tea-seller, and his wife Jane Batty née Mapplebeck (m Aston 22 April 1848), who eventually made their home in Plympton. 
He may have attended the Royal Academy. Maybe that is where he met contralto Lucy Caroline Weylland, daughter of a director of the Royal Polytechnic, who became 'Madame Edwyn Frith'. But he first appears to my eyes in 1877, singing at a not very grand Scots concert at the Albert Hall and at Emily Mott's concert. And then he was hired to sing Bob Beckett in the touring Pinafore company. Alas, poor Edwyn, he doesn't seem to have been hired again. He/they got the odd concert engagement (where Lucy was generally better like than her baritone husband), so Edwyn set up his own concert party, travelling from Falmouth to Barnstaple to Camelford with a programme including a fair dash of G&S. They stuck at it doggedly, rising to dates such as Scarborough, Brighton, Bath, Margate ... and advertising for pupils, whom they presented in an 1883 concert at 'the new room St James's Hall'.  In 1885 they presented themselves at a private home in Park Lane, advertising the gimmick of the moment, the Ammoniaphone. 
In the same year, Edwyn presented concert by 'The Rising Artists society'. Tickets, gratis, from him at Oxford Mansions but 'only those of good addresses need apply'. They didn't rise, and he re-christened his venture 'The International Artists Society'. The press raised an eyebrow, as they had when he had billed himself 'the 'well-known' baritone'. In 1890, a rather sad advertisement appeared in The Musical Times, seeking engagements, and averring that the couple has sung sixty times that year at St James's Hall. As choristers, I would guess ...
And then .. father died in 1891, the couple's six-year-old daughter in 1893, mother Jane in 1899 ... but Edwyn and Lucy? Jane named Edwyn's sister as her executor ... why not her son? Did they, too, die? I checked Fryth and Frythe ... did they emigrate? I don't know. Poor Mr Frith. And Madame too ... they would sing ... well, maybe they were happy. Let's hope so.



DAGMAR, Carola [EDMAN, Dagmar Charlotta] (b Stockholm 7 July 1865; d New Jersey June 1957)
Miss Dagmar's career with the D'Oyly Carte Opera was brief, and consisted of appearances in the country and London in what must have seemed a suitable role: Julia Jellicoe in The Grand Duke. For Mlle Dagmar was semi-Swedish. Born in that country to a local father, Frans Bernard Edman and an English mother, Sara Susannah Shirley (b England 1 December 1835; d Paris 1901), she was taken to America, aged 16, after her father's death. However she returned to Europe, to Paris, to study singing with Beer, and is said to have made a debut at the Stockholm Opera House. As what and exactly when isn't clear. However, the Stockholm opera didn't keep her and she turns up, some months later, in England (1892) singing in the odd small suburban and provincial concert (Ipswich, Colchester, Leamington Spa). She was then engaged by Augustus Harris for an operatic season at Drury Lane where she sang Micaela to the Carmen of Pauline Joran, and for the company's subsequent tour (Lola in Cavalleria rusticana, Baucis in Philemon and Baucis, and Marguerite in Les Huguenots which was adjudged beyond her capacities). When Harris returned to Drury Lane she was given Siebel in Faust. And there her operatic career, seemingly, ended. But her biggest headline was yet to come. She had been having an affair with the composer of Erminie, Edward Jakobowski, and when he broke it off and married someone else she sued him for Breach of Promise. The case got her more noticed than she had been as a singer. She continued on to the engagement in The Grand Duke, but then left Britain for Paris and Monte Carlo where she was occasionally seen in a concert. She subsequently returned to America, where her remaining family still lived, and died there at the age of 91.



Oh, I have lots more of these ... chorus girl Sophie Farqhuarson who married the odd William Orange Billington, who apparently laid a daughter, Margaret (later a music-hall performer) on her, then vanished ..  the Kleine sisters, [Janette] Antoinette (1859-1931) and Lisi Matilda (Mrs Norris 1861-1941) ...  Irishman Richard Purdon (c 1851-1916) who ended up as an actor in America ...  Ella Maude Haigh from Newlay, Yorks whose divorce and extra-curricular activities filled more newspaper centimetres than her singing ... Robert Collison Whitehouse (b Leamington 13 October 1876; d Carshalton 21 March 1961), who came to the Carte company from amateur concerts in his home town and spent time as an (occasional?) actor in America, and afterwards a 'publisher' in England ... the Werdemann girls, Alice Magdalena Johanna (b Mannheim, Mrs Dr William Boyter Johnson) and Margaretta Olga Isidore (b Prussia, Mrs Daniel Federico Anonio Grimwood) who were front row chorines for several years ... 

But, for now, that suffices. You see, the people behind those names did have faces, and lives ...

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Gaiety Tour 1901: The Messenger Boy

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This kind of thing doesn't turn up very often, so I thought I should preserve it here for posterity.

The Messenger Boy was one of the most successful of the Gaiety Theatre musical comedies, which followed In Town and The Shop Girl on to the West End stage at the end of the nineteenth century. Like its predecessor, A Runaway Girl, it presented a bundle of comical folk rushing around Europe and its scenic effects in pursuit of ... well, this time it was the titular messenger boy, carrying a compromising letter. Thanks to the star name-value of comedian Teddy Payne, this show was the first of its ilk since The Shop Girl to drop the titivatory 'girl' from its title, and replace it with the 'boy', Tommy Bang, played by Payne, but the mixture was, nevertheless, the same as before.


My bathroom wall .. the poster for the tour
When it came to touring time, there was of course, no Teddy Payne, but George Edwardes lined up some experienced provincial casts to take his show round Britain. This little collection of twenty cards shows us the whole principal cast of one of them, which went out in early 1901.



Tommy Bang was played by Tom Fancourt (FANCOURT, Thomas Richard 1864-1940), nephew of the music-hall singer of the same name, and an habitué of the Gaiety tours and Payne's roles. Here he is, dressed as the messenger boy, and also in a couple of the disguises he assumes in his quest to escape those who would stop him in his mission


The lady in the story is Nora Punchestown, here portrayed by Lydia Flopp, who had been touring as the title-heroine in The Runaway Girl. Another Edwardes regular, since the days of the original Lodnon The Geisha, Lydia was one of the sisters of star London soubrette, Letty Lind. Nora, being the principal girl of the affair, also went through her protean display, including a disguise as ... Tommy Bang.


The soubrette of the affair was Nora's maid, Rosa played in town by Katie Seymour and here by her understudy, Florence Lauri, who had toured previously in The Circus Girl and A Runaway Girl ... but who seems to have folded her career after this ...


The jeune premier of the story was played by Kevin Gunn, a scion of the Gunn family of Dublin and a son of Bessie Sudlow (and thus a relation of Edwardes) who went on to play in The Toreador in town and on the road, and his villainous rival by J P Spurling. The two can be seen sharing theatrical digs in Derby, where the company was censussed during the tour.


The funny men, who decorated the slight main-line of the story  were headed by Russell Wallett [WALLETT, Russell Gladstone b Beeston, Notts 1867; d Aysgarth, Yorks 9 March 1912] as the uxorious Hooker Pasha







with plenty of help from Tommy's mum, out to catch her errant husband. The role, created at the Gaiety by Connie Ediss, was here taken by Ada Clare (CULLING, Ada Clare; b London 1863; d Bury 31 December 1903) of Larks and Pat fame, recently on tour with Wallett in the Ediss role of Ada Smith in The Shop Girl for Morell and Mouillot.



The Punchestowns, Lord and Lady, whose private affairs were at the heart of the story




and the small part players got photographed too



Ellis Ogilvie [OVERBURY, Edward Fox] (b Bromley 16 November 1873; d Tempsford 15 October 1944) had been an understudy in London. He later played George Grossmith roles in The Orchid, The Shop Girl &c and ended up running the Anchor Hotel in Tempsford, Biggleswade.

And look what turned up today ... a couple of delightful pictures of the London original cast: