Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Balletic emoluments or, sign for your salary


Recently, I came upon some receipts, signed by members of the London Italian Opera of the 1830s. I thought I might be able to decipher the names on the documents ... then match them up with the salaries ... could be interesting?

Here they are. I'll start with the least impossible one.

Mademoiselle and later Madame (Fanny) Copère was a very, very long-serving member of the King's Theatre/Her Majesty's Theatre companies. She came from France, and the Paris Opéra, in 1818, apparently after having got into some tricky company, returned to London in 1824 as a premier sujet behind the visiting stars, and remained in that function until she became, in the mid-1830s 'Madame Copère', moved into character roles, and ultimately to the ballet and later operatic costumery departments as supervisor of the dressmakers. 

1836. A hiccough.

What became of her? I am entirely sure she was not the Madame Copère (contralto vocalist), with family Joe and Annie who covered the nations music-halls thereafter. Ah! Fanny Copère (spinster), daughter of Peter Copère, born Annuit, naturalised British subject, married the 70 year-old Hon Rev Henry William Stanhope, widower, son of a General ... 12 August 1862 ...  He died 1872. I guess it is she who died 1886 in Chelsea, 'aged 85'. Oh goodness, that is the chap who previously married Grace Aguilar ...  

Number Two. Harder.

Strange signature. Its the ballet again, because this lady has received her monies, on behalf of her son, on date unrecorded, from Mons Deshais or Deshayes, the head of the ballet department. And who is this lady? At first glance, I see Veuve Vatille-Malavergny or Malavergne with the usual theatrical vast squiggle. Well, Deshays was another very long server at the King's and ballet-master 1821-1842, so he isn't much of a clue. Malavergne ... yes. Pierre Frédéric Malavergne (sic, since his mother spells it thus) was the dancer known as 'Mons Frédéric' (1810-1872) who was to become, latterly, extremely famous in Russia. So this receipt is clearly from before 1831, the date of his Russian beginnings. And yes, there is the teenaged Fred dancing at the King's Theatre in 1828 and 1829 ... featured in La Vestale alongside Gosselin and Coulon ... so I guess this is he. And his mum.

The other two have so far defeated me. The first, I thought would be easy. My eye immediately saw 'De Muynck'. Well, Italian opera ... deMuynck = the great Caradori. But 31 March 1836? Caradori was already Mrs Allen. 'Mr Lumley, treasurer of the King's Theatre, Italian opera .. 60 pounds sterling for .. what .. of the two engagements contracted with M Laporte for this season ...  

IS it 1836? Is the D an initial or a particle? The mess at the end is, I fear, another operatic or balletic squiggle. Is this a payment in advance, or for services rendered? 1836 was the year of the Laporte bankruptcy .. could be the former...

And this signature is illegible. I think the pair of buttocks in the middle of it is just a squiggle.  So what does that leave? Lonn? Lion? Léon ...  1830 .... month of June ... forty pounds and 19 shillings? Looks as if four pounds 1s has been deducted ...  Well, it's is French rather than Italian, so I think once again we are in the ballet... good grief, is it St Léon? No, he'd be only 10 years old ...

Seems there are more of these, but I've only happed on these so far.  To be investigated further.

1 comment:

chrisz78 said...

A few suggestions for the third one:
- the date clearly is "31 mars 1836"
- the word missing from your translation would be "complément" (missing the accent on the é), and I gather this to mean that the payment complements another, maybe a sum remaining after an earlier advance payment?
In the signature, the letter with the long lower extension looks like a "p" to me, not a "y" (compare other instances of "p" in contrast with "y" and "g" in the text). With much squinting, the name might end in "-pski" ("ki" overlaid with a squiggly flourish). Does that ring any bell?