Sunday, October 2, 2016

Elizabeth Feron: 19th century Britain's first international coloratura star ...

Years ago, I found an old copy of Emily Soldene's biography, and spent the next 20 years writing a vast work on that fascinating woman. A couple of weeks ago, I happened on the 1811 playbill, pictured below ... and found another fascinating English singer whose exploits and triumphs have been washed away by the buzzword 'names' of early 19th century opera ... so, here I went again ...

FERON, Elizabeth (b London July ?1797; d Pelham Crescent, Brompton 9 May 1853)

Elizabeth Feron was one of the most successful British sopranos to perform in Europe in the early part of the nineteenth century, creating leading roles in new operas from the pens of Rossini, Donizetti, Mercadante, Carafa and other maestri of the period, before ultimately ending her career back in Britain in ‘old woman’ roles.

I cannot, alas, be precise about her family details. Her parents were reported to be French royalist-sympathisers who took refuge in Britain before/during/after the Revolution. Of her mother, I know nothing, but father is much more transparent. His name was Jean (later John) Féron (later Feron). So Elizabeth’s name was not Fearon or Ferron or Ferrone, as various journalists would later write, it was plain Feron.

John (b France; d Hercules Buildings 6 February 1824) was a horse doctor, otherwise a ‘veterinary surgeon’ and, after a variegated early career, he was to become an officer in the military (12th and 13th regiments of light dragoons), employed to take care of the cavalry’s mounts. His early biography is outlined, seemingly accurately, in the preface to an address on Veterinary science, which he gave in Edinburgh in 1796 ( In 1803, he published a book about Farriery and related topics. 

He moved around a bit, and I spot him at various times in London, Edinburgh, London and Coventry. It is said to have been in London (rather than Dublin or Edinburgh) that Elizabeth was born, sometime between 1792 and 1797, and her mother seemingly died soon after, for John remarried, in 1800 (29 May, Coventry), Miss Letitia Hoggins of that place. They were to have three children. Ill-fated, all three.

At some young stage, Elizabeth evinced a talent for singing and was taken on as a juvenile member of the company at Drury Lane. It was, if we believe her ‘accepted’ birthdate of 1797, a very young stage, for I spot her at a Benefit concert at the Haymarket Theatre (21 October 1805) singing the bravura ‘The Soldier Tir’d’ at just eight years (as we suppose) of age. 

Either before this (or, just maybe, after), John Feron put his daughter into the hands and, I suspect, the home, of Charles Cobham and his wife Amelia (née Stedman). Charles Cobham was a violinist, and also a composer. I think at this stage he was attached to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for, in 1804, his ballad ‘The Violet Girl’ was being sung there by Miss Tyrer. He was, anyway, a respected member of the musical fraternity. And he and his wife took over the musical (and, seemingly, the entire) education of little Elizabeth Feron.

Later, some niffy critics would complain that Cobham had taught her to sing like a violin, all execution and nothing else. But he certainly gave her a huge technical basis, and if you didn’t care for the Catalani-style of impeccable vocal gymnastics, chromatic runs, trills and Fs and Gs in alt which were her artillery, and which were in their time ‘le dernier cri’, to many – including the composers who wrote such music -- they were the acme of vocalisation. And nobody did them better than Elizabeth Feron.

My next sighting of the young Elizabeth, under the aegis of Cobham, is at York (15, 23, 25 July 1806). The local papers assured its readers that ‘Miss Feron’s abilities on the piano-forte and as a singer in Mrs Billington’s manner are well-known in the musical world in London and in other parts of the kingdom’, so it seems I’ve missed something somewhere. After the event, the press agreed ‘she gave universal satisfaction in her songs, especially ‘The Thorn’ and in a bravura song. Her style is not inferior to Mrs Billington…’.
Back in London, I see her in 1807 ‘in charming voice’ at Weippert’s concert at the Freemasons’ Hall, as ‘the infant Catalani’ singing and playing at the Earl of Morton’s party, at the Crown Inn, Portsmouth and Newport, Isle of Wight (Braham’s ‘Said a Smile to a Tear’ Handel), in concert with Cobham and at Drury Lane in The Wood Demon (‘A Miss Feron was introduced to sing a song. She surprized us by her execution, but did some violence to our ears’), in 1808 singing C H Florio’s duet ‘Se mi credi amato bene’ (written for Madame Mara) with a Mr Gray at Weippert’s annual, and Catalani’s ‘Frenar vorrei le lagrime’ from Portogallo’s La Morte di Semiramide at the London Tavern, on a programme with none other than Mrs Billington.

At this stage, three years into her professional career, she was engaged for the Vauxhall Gardens. I emphasise the point, because many commentators, perhaps from a misreading of the memoirs of the Vauxhall oboeist and accompanist W T Parke, speak of this as some kind of debut. It was only a ‘debut’ at Vauxhall, and in his songs. I spot her there in July 1808, singing Parke’s ‘The Canary Bird’ and ‘some beautiful airs in a very sweet and finished style’. At the end of the Vauxhall season she went down to Margate, where she delivered her Portogallo bravura and then back to Drury Lane where she was part of the music (with Braham) in a piece called The Siege of Saint Quintin, singing Hook’s ‘Downy cheek so soft, so fair’.

We are told, somewhere that her stage debut (childish appearances not counting) was in Love in a Village at Covent Garden ‘aged 14’. Well, unless the birthdate, which all (notably Oxberry) agree upon, is wrong she didn’t, she didn’t and she wasn’t.  My first sighting of Elizabeth on the stage, in an adult role, in in January 1809 aged, seemingly, eleven. The venues are Deal and Dover, where she starred in some of the usual run of English soprano star-vehicles: Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Margaretta in No Song, No Supper, Adela in The Haunted Tower and, yes, Rosetta in Love in a Village. ‘Astonishing success … In her bravura songs, her compass of voice electrified the audience. She produced greater houses than the Young Roscius..’. The tradition English pieces, of course, allowed for the interpolation of any amount of extra material, so it is no surprise to see Miss Feron, at Lancaster, interpolating her Portogallo, Braham’s ‘Said a smile to a tear’, ‘The Bird in yonder Cage Confined’ (The Cabinet) and Corri’s ‘Deep in my breast’ (The Travellers) into The Haunted Tower and Artaxerxes’ ‘Hope told a Flatt’ring Tale’ into No Song, No Supper.

Back in town, with June, the new Vauxhall season began, and Parke was ready with another ornithological song ‘The Nightingale’. But a few weeks into the season he came up with a hit. ‘The Romp’ was made to measure: a song sung by a schoolgirl who in a shower of Italian, imitates ‘the Great Catalani’. Elizabeth’s cheeky ‘miniature Catalani’ went down a storm and ‘The Romp’ was called for when she went to the country. Her old favourites still formed the basis of her repertoire, with the frilly Mozart arrangement ‘O dolce concento’ (on Monastatos’s air from Die Zauberflöte) and Meyer’s ‘Quanta l’anima’ – both Catalani regulars – joining them, along with John Davy and Monk Lewis’s ‘Crazy Jane’, popularised by Mrs Mountain, Hodson’s ‘Sing on, thou Warbling Bird’, ‘Nanny will ye gang wi’ me’, as she travelled from Manchester to York to Leeds and back to Manchester to play The Cabinet, The Foundling of the Forest, Rosina, The Prize et al, around her vocalising.

In the first half of 1810, she was down in Canterbury, Salisbury, Plymouth and Northampton guesting in Love in a Village, The Mountaineers, The Haunted Tower, Rosina, The Young Hussar, The Prize et al. ‘She has not yet reached her 17th year’ gasped the local press. If ‘the’ birthdate is right, she had not yet reached her 14th. It does make you wonder. At some stage she visited Leeds ‘a young lady of risising musical celebrity’.

Back at Vauxhall for a third season, she got a new Parke ‘cantata’ ‘The triple courtship’ and another Parke piece ‘The Little Muleteer’ including a fandango and castanets, ‘Cupid’s Row-de-dow’, ‘Hilly Ho!’, and then made her first appearance on the stage of the King’s Theatre, London’s Italian opera. The occasions were a couple of Benefits in which Cobham and Parke were involved and Elizabeth gave her Mozart and Paer’s ‘Su Griselda corragio’ (Griselda).

After the season, she ventured again to the country with the usual repertoire of country musicals (The English Fleet, The Prize, Love in a Village, The Cabinet, The Haunted Tower, No Song, No Supper), ‘warbled delightfully’ for a few nights at Manchester’s Theatre Royal, sang at the Bath concerts, and joined the company at the Surrey Theatre, her first regular London theatre engagement. She appeared as Miss Rumpley in a made-to-measure piece called The Mad Cap in which she introduced a good handful of her ‘pops’, as Little Pickle in a 1799 sequel to the famous The Spoil’d Child, entitled Tag in Tribulation, as Ellen in a Lady of the Lake, Emily in Industry and Idleness, Polly in The Beggar’s Opera, et al and in a version of Artaxerxes which seems to have been ‘based on’ rather than the whole thing, but which allowed her to sing both ‘In infancy’ and ‘The soldier tir’d’. On September 30 she opened a round of her regulars at the Bristol Theatre Royal, and a few days after closing she arrived at Covent Garden.

Her Covent Garden ‘debut’ was made on 24 October 1812, and it was not in Love in a Village, but in The Cabinet, alongside Sinclair and Fawcett. It provoked a mixed reaction. One paper found her short in stature, loud in voice, and over-confident in manner. Another saw the same as ‘petite, pretty and unembarrassed’. But she was ‘rapturously applauded’, as she went on to appear in The English Fleet with Sinclair, Emery and Miss Bolton, as Eliza in the 3 performances of the comic opera Up to Town, the inevitable Love in a Village, as Alice in The Knight of Snowdon, Amazili in The Virgin of the Sun (‘Maid of the Mountain’), Zobeide in Fawcett and Dibdin’s spectacle, The Secret Mine, Sophia in the 3-performance musical (music: Tom Cooke) farce Frost and Thaw, Norah in The Poor Soldier et al during the season.

The season over, she again took to the country but more importantly, she got married (13 October 1812). Her husband was Joseph Glossop ‘sometime manager of the Coburg Theatre and the son of Mr [Francis] Glossop [of 51 Old Compton Street] wh, previous to the introduction of gas, was wax chandler to the Theatres and the Opera House’. Joseph had apparently succeeded the previous year to his father’s business. Anyhow, Mr Joseph Glossop is another, long story, which I shall not go into at any length except insofar as he impinges on his wife’s career. He impinged, notably, in 1813 (9 September) and in 1815 (29 April) when his daughters, Frances Ann and Mary Ann[e] were born at Old Compton Street. Frances does not seem to have lasted.

For something over three years, Elizabeth seems to have remained absent from the stage, but she returned 11 September 1816, at Drury Lane, cast as Clara in The Duenna. ‘… her voice is very powerful and her execution scientific: her reception was the most flattering’, reported the press. But she did not follow up: instead she gave birth to a third daughter, Louisa (27 May 1813) who died aged 6 months.

And then somebody took a decisive step, which took young Mrs Glossop out of rut of endless performances of Love in a Village and The Duenna, which were the lot of an English prima donna. I’m not quite sure who was the actual moving spirit in her departure from England, but there were two people (apart from the financially shaky Mr Glossop) who seem to have been involved. One was Madame Angelica Catalani, ‘the great Catalani’ whom the childish Elizabeth had been the baby image of. The other was a musician and composer by the name of Vincenzo Pucitta who, the seven-year association with the good Cobhams finished, seems to have taken on, at some stage, the role of her teacher.

Quite when Pucitta first came to England, I am not sure, but he and his wife were at the King’s Theatre in 1809, where his (fifteenth or so) opera I Villegiatore Bizzarri was produced 31 January, and his La Caccia di Enrico IV on 14 March, Le Quattro Nazione and Pirro in June. He also became purveyor of showy scenas to Madame Catalani, who created the title role in his La Vestale and Les Trois Sultanes the following year, and Ginevra di Scozia in 1812.

In 1816, Catalani took on the management of the Paris Italian opera, and Pucitta went too (‘Madame Catalani, as usual, prefers the music of Pucitta to that of Mozart’). Amongst the singers whom Catalani hired was the English Mrs Dickons (formerly Miss Poole), and then at the dawn of 1818, ‘Madame Feron’.

An aside here. The press, on both sides of the Manche, took the most peculiar umbrage at Elizabeth’s decision to continue to use her maiden name for her professional career. Given the number of singers working under noms de théâtre, I cannot understand why ‘Mistress Glossop’ should have been expected to call herself thuswise. And this raised its head for years, even when the Glossops had split. Very odd. Anyway, she took no notice, and her only concession to the scribblers was to become ‘Madame’ instead of ‘Miss’ Feron.

There was a certain amount of gossip in Parisian circles about the new singer ‘engaged as prima donna for opéra comique’ (‘an Englishwoman married to a Frenchman’, ‘une jeune cantatrice anglaise, élève de M Pucitta’), but I can’t find much in the way of  reports of her ‘debut’. Just that it was in the role of Marietta in Pucitta’s La Caccia d’Enrico Quarto on 20 January (while Catalani was off concertising at Lyon) with a second performance on 12 February. But, anyhow, she didn’t let her reputation down. A French review said ‘[elle] a obtenu beaucoup de succès. Il y a du bien at du mal a en dire. C’est une assez jeune femme, beaucoup trop petite pour la scène’ going on to say that she pronouced Italian as it it were German but ‘on ne peut que donner des eloges a son talent comme cantatrice et même comme actrice. Sa voix monte très haut et conserve beaucoup de doucerut et de la pureté gans les cordes les plaus élevées, sa méthode est bonne, elle chante juste …’  (Journal de Paris).

The German press reported ‘eine kleine, allerliebste Engländerin mit einer wahren Nachtigallenstimme, als Schauspielerin ‘unschuldig and nichts weiter’, aber als Sängerin zon ziemlicher Ausbildung besitzt dabey eine Höhe der Stimme die mit ihren kleinen Gestalt in umgekehrten Verhältnisse steht … Die liebe Weibchen singt g gerade mit eben so viel Leichtigkeit als sie braucht um sich das Schürzchen von die Augen zu halten, wenn sie verschämt aussehen will, ein Gestus, der ihr unter allem geläustigen ist …’
‘Mad Feron fährt fort, das Publicum dieses Theaters durch ihre Quinkeliermethode in Entzücken zu versetzen. Diese Methode hat noch das Eigene, dass es dabey recht; hoch in die höhe und dann wieder recht tief in die Tiefe geht. Je weiter aus einander, desto besser! Daher mag es auch wol kommen, das dieser Frau diejeniger Singfigur, deren Natur in fortwährender Beruhung zweyer neben einander…’

At Barilli’s Benefit, and several other performances, she appeared as Faustina in Cimarosa’s I nemici generosi, at the Concerts Spirituels she and Catalani sang a Pucitta duet.

But in spite of her G in alt, in spite of the appreciation of the German press, and apparently the French, as well, the public stayed away on Feron nights: instead of the 4000 francs per evening box office for Catalani’s performances, in Pucitta’s latest, La Principessa in Campagna (into which she interpolated a Pucitta version of her famous Rode’s air and variations), Elizabeth drew only 400. But it wasn’t for long. The eccentric and ego-centric management of Catalani, who had surrounded herself as usual with mostly second rate performers, was plunging to its end and come the end of April 1818 the theatre closed its doors.

Elizabeth headed for the French provinces – Marseilles, Lyon, Bordeaux. I imagine Pucitta went too, but again the French press is uninformative. But in 1819 she crossed the border and, immediately, becomes more visible to me, a couple of centuries down the line. 7 April she (and he) was at Strasbourg, 14 April at Frankfurt, later at the Hôtel de Pologne, Dresden, 3 May at the Leipzig Gewandhaus where the advertisements read ‘Alle Gesangstücke sind von der Composition des Herrn Pucitta, und werden von Mad Feron vorgetragen’. The programme confirmed: Cavatine aus der Oper Enrico IV; Arie aus der Oper La principessa in campagna; Scene und Arie aus der Oper La Vestale; Arie mit Variationen. Cavatina ‘Deh calma l’affano’ aus der Oper I1 medico per forza; Arie ‘Come quest anima’; Variationen über das Thema ‘Nel cor piu non mi sento’; Grosse Scene und Arie aus der Oper La principessa in campagna; La Tyrolienne mit Variationen. A whole evening –two actually -- of Pucitta!

On 28 May she appeared at the Berlin Saal des Hofjägers where she added some non-Pucitta pieces to her programmes – Portogallo’s ‘Frenar vorrei le lagrime’ (La morte di Semiramide), Mozart’s ‘Dolce concento’ – through a series of performances, and in September she spent the whole month in Vienna in concerts at the Redoutensaal and the Theater an der Wien.

And then she crossed another border. This time into Italy. As prima donna for the season at the Scala of Milan. The season began with La Principessa in Campagna (3 April), with Elizabeth in the Catalani role of the said Princess alongside Gaetano Crivelli and Nicola de Grecis. The Italians marvelled at her facility of execution – notably in the chromatic scales into the alt register, in which they declared she outshone Mrs Billington and Catalani herself. Not everyone, however, was so impressed. The lofty Henri Beyle (ka Stendahl) sniffed: ‘Madame Féron réussit ici auprès de la canaille de la musique par des gammes ascendantes et descendantes et chromatiques’. He was sufficiently ‘canaille’ to sniff just as loudly at Rossini and La gazza ladra.

Elizabeth followed up in the selfsame Gazza Ladra (22 April), and then created her first Italian opera, singing the role of Inès in Carafa’s I due Figaro (6 June 1820). She also appeared in Generali’s 1-act farsa Adelina (17 June).

From Milan, Elizabeth moved on for the Fiera season to Brescia, again with Crivelli and a rising bass by the name of Giovanni de Begnis (not the famed Giuseppe). The three appeared in Pucitta’s Aristodemo, and in Orlandi’s Rodrigo di Valenza into which a new showpiece cavatina (probably by Pucitta) was introduced for her benefit. The press announced that she had signed with Pucitta for four years, but the truth was that her Pucitta era was coming to an end.

For Carnevale 1820-1, she was engaged as prima donna at the Fenice, Venice, again with Crivelli and with a certain G Pasta as second prima donna. They opened with Giuseppe Nicolini’s La Conquista di Granada in which Elizabeth played Zulema opposite Pasta in pants, and equipped with ‘schlüssvariationen by Pucitta’. The piece was not successful, but Madame Feron was and, when they switched to Stefano Pavesi’s Arminio, things picked up.
During 1821, she played at Bologna in Mercadante’s Maria Stuarda (29 May), a revised Arminio and a Ginevra di Scozia which seems to have owed its score to Mayr rather than Pucitta, and at Trieste’s Teatro Nuovo in another Nicolini piece Annibale in Bitinia with Crivelli and Benedetta Rosmunda Pisaroni. At Carnevale 1821-2, I pick her up at Turin’s Teatro Regio in a tacked-together piece called Eduardo e Cristina in which she sang an aria by Carafa, a Venetian cavatina, a duet from Mayr’s Zoraide with tenor Nicola Tacchinardi, another with Pasta and to top it all a bravura by Pucitta with variations by Mercadante. She and Pasta followed up it with an I Riti d’Efeso credited to Farinelli.

The next stop was the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Elizabeth shared the post of prima donna with the important but struggling Joséphine Fodor, alongside Andrea Nozzari, Giovanni David, G-B Rubini and Luigi Lablache. She seems to have appeared in Mercadante’s Scicipione in Carthagine and yet another rewrite of Arminio (16 February 1823), and featured opposite Nozzari in three new operas – as Obeide in Mercadante’s Gli Sciti (18 March), Amalie in Donizetti’s Alfredo il grande (2 July) and Cimene in Sapienza’s Rodrigo – and several old ones – Julia in Spontini’s La Vestale, Medea in Mayr’s Medea. She sang the title-role in the premiere of Donizetti’s cantata Aristea, and when the pasticcio 1-acter La Fondazione di Partenope was produced (12 January 1824) with Lablache and Fodor in the lead roles, Elizabeth sang the supporting role of Igea.

It was reported that she was to go, with Fodor, to Vienna, for impresario Barbaja, but I spot her next again in Naples, singing at the Teatro Fondo, before, at the end of the year, returning to Milan and to La Scala where Mr Glossop had taken over the franchise. I see her in La Vestale, as Donna Aristea in the ‘farsa giocosa’ Il Trionfo della Musica (6 January 1825), in the newly celebrated Semiramide, seemingly in Generali’s I Bacchanali di Roma and Rossini’s Moïse, as well as taking the role of Zerlina in some performances of Don Giovanni alongside a bass named Guglielmo Guglielmi, otherwise William Williams of England.

And. In Naples, 12 June 1825, she gave birth to a son, Augustus Glossop.

Later in 1825, she joined the company at the Teatro Carolino, Palermo, under the direction of Donizetti. Apparently, expressly to create his new opera, Alahor in Granata. She played in Aureliano in Palmira, L’Inganno felice, Il Trionfo della musica before the production of Donizetti’s work on 7 January 1826, with Berardo Winter and Antonio and Marietta Tamburini. But soon after Elizabeth found that the Sicilian climate ‘did not agree with her’ and departed for the mainland.

During 1826, I see her playing Palmide in Il Crociato in Egitto at Reggio Emilia (also I Convenienze Teatrali), at Lugo, Sinagaglia and at Modena (‘cantante di grande bravura fornita di voce sonora ed estesa ottenne un successo d' entusiasmo’) where she also took part, during the autumn, in the premiere of Antonio Gandini’s Il Disertore.

Her marriage, in the meanwhile, had come unstuck. Dudley Cheke, in his excellent book on the Deméric family (Joséphine and Emilie), suggests that Augustus may not have been Glossop’s child and that the erring may have been on Elizabeth’s side, but the more likely answer is that Glossop just walked out and ‘wed’ (the probably pregnant) Joséphine Deméric, amid a festival of lies, without bothering to divorce Elizabeth. She would remain Mrs Glossop to the end of her life. Anyway, exit Mr Glossop from this story into that, equally musical, of the Deméric family.

In 1827, Elizabeth returned to La Scala where she played L’inganno felice, Il Trionfo della Musica, and created the role of Elisa in an unfortunate Felice Frasi piece La Selva di Hermanstadt (2 June), then to Verona where she played in Otello with Gentili and Ferdinando Lauretti, and to the Teatro della Concordia in Cremona for Mose in Egitto. She was signed to return to Venice for more Il Crociato, but she did not go. She quit Europe, and returned to Britain, where, in December, she reappeared at Drury Lane – at the enormous fee of 40 pounds a night -- in the role of Florimanti in Isidore de Merida, a semi-pasticcio rehash of Storace’s old The Pirates, with Braham as her leading man.

Some gave her a wary welcome: ‘Madame Feron, appeared again on the English stage, after an absence in Italy of some years, in this opera. She possesses a voice of much strength and extensive compass, the quality of which, though not good, is not disagreeable, and her intonation—the first of all vocal virtues—is irreproachable’.  Others rejoiced: ‘she has more than realised any expectation that could have been formed of her ability and is at once placed far above all other singers on the English stage for power and brilliancy. Her voice is not of fine quality, but art has so completely effected all that nature had denied, that Madame Feron by study, science and fine taste, accomplishes more than many singers of much higher natural powers…’

She scored a decided hit with her old Neapolitan air with variations, and she and Braham triumphed in a duet ‘Hunter, let thy bugle blow’, penned by the tenor, and the musical mish-mash turned out far more successfully than it might have. Through the season, she appeared as Floretta in The Cabinet (‘fully sustained her high reputation’ ‘her abilities as an actress are quite unrivalled amongst the singers of the present day’) and Florella in The Turkish Lovers, visited Brighton (‘impossible to imagine anything more enchanting’), sang in Bishop’s Concerts of Ancient Music, in the Oratorios (‘Sull aria’ with Pasta, ‘Porgi la destra amata’, ‘Blest Hope’, ‘Hunter let thy bugle blow’, ‘Confusa e l’alma mia’ (Alahor), etc) and at the Guildhall in Moses.

John Feron had died in 1824, leaving as widow his second wife, Letitia, plus a son and two daughters, at least two of whom took to the theatre. It seems that three Ferons were engaged at the brand new Brunswick Theatre, in Goodman’s Fields, John as leader of the orchestra, his wife in the company, and 15 year-old Mary Anne Catherine in the ballet. All were performing The Mermaiden's Well, on 28 February 1828, when the theatre’s roof caved in. Mary Anne was among the dead.

Elizabeth returned to the stage for more Drury Lane concerts (‘O ciel quai fieri palpiti’ by Pacini, duo ‘Se tu m’ami’ Rossini with Pasta, variations on Mercadante’s ‘Sento brillarmi in seno’ ‘Should he Upbraid’, ‘Sweet bird’, ‘Ah qual colpo’, ‘Sing ye to the Lord’) and for a production of Artaxerxes in which she played Mandane alongside Braham. She appeared at Bath, for the New Musical Fund (‘bravura is her forte’) the Melodists, in concert for Mr Nicholson and for Bochsa, in a brace of Benefits …

She moved to the English Opera House for the off-season, and there a section of the press decided to have a go at her, railing at her trademark variations and semi-tone runs as ‘detestable barbarisms’ and bringing out the old sneers at her name. When she took the part of Despina in the English Cosi fan tutte (Tit for Tat) with Abby Betts, Harriet Cawse, Joseph Wood, Thorne and Henry Phillips, the same critic loaded all his remarks about the singers, and having admitted ‘Madame Feron gave some respectability to the Soubrette’, went on to pick: ‘But we wish she would have mercy on our ears in a small house, and not strain her voice, naturally of a very piercing quality, till it becomes thoroughly unmusical. Her shakes, too, may be economised with a great saving of labour to herself…’

The next production, The Pirate of Genoa, was a failure, and her final contribution was a piece called The Quartette or Interrupted Harmony, in which she played with Tom Wrench and Miss Goward and sang ‘Sento brillarmi’ for good measure.

Then tragedy struck again. Letitia Feron was travelling on the outside of a coach with her 19 year-old married daughter, Letitia Connolly. When she turned to speak to the young woman, she was gone. She was lying dead on the road.

It was time to move on again. This time, it was to be America. Stepmother, Elizabeth and baby Augustus sailed for New York, and, there, Elizabeth made her debut at the Park Theatre, on 27 November, as Floretta in The Cabinet. She remained in America until April 1833, playing largely the old English repertoire – Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Mrs Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mandane in Artaxerxes, Elvira in Masaniello, Cinderella, Jean de Paris, Amenaide in Tancredi, Der Freischütz – around the country: a far cry from the creative years she had spent in Italy. But she was liked: 'As a singer, Madame Feron is unrivalled in this country. She possesses a soprano voice of great compass and extraordinary brilliancy ... pure Italian school ...  she executes the most difficult passages with a rapidity and precision to which we have not heard any other vocalist attain .. the perfection of the art' (The North American Magazine). 

She had been singing for some thirty years, in theatres including those of the main operatic centres, and including the most famous opera houses of the world. In 1834, she added one more operatic notch to her belt. London’s Italian Opera at the King’s Theatre. Returned to England, she appeared in concert and at the Oratorios (Jephtha’s Vow) before Laporte opened the Opera (1 March) with a production of La Gazza Ladra. Castelli, Curioni, Giubilei and Josephine Anderson were cast in this ‘before the stars arrive’ production, with Elizabeth in the role of Ninetta ‘especially written for her by Rossini’ as the Morning Chronicle quoth mendaciously. It wasn’t a total success for her. Although her range and agility were intact, the odd critic demurred, she was unable to sustain the notes of her middle register. So, with suitable acknowledgements to her abilities and achievements, they concurred that she was (now) not quite up to it in such a vast auditorium. The Times disagreed and found her 'in excellent voice'.
She continued to Manchester for a scheduled season and sang in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Semiramide, but the season was disrupted by the ‘fans’ of a certain Madame Galvani (‘a thin and feeble mezzo-soprano’) and Elizabeth returned to London, where I see her last at Curioni’s concert on 7 July.

In 1835, she returned to Italy where she sang at Schio in the role of Norma alongside Genero and Carolina Vittadini, at Piacenza for Carnevale (Beatrice di Tenda, Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Rode’s variations), but the Italian critics more or less agreed with London. When she gave her Norma at Milan’s Teatro Re (24 August 1837), their reviews were a bit hesitant: ‘La Feron, conosciuta nell’arte, ha degli acuti robustissimi, canta con espressione, ma la sua voce …’.

It seemed that the end was nigh. In a way, it was. But Elizabeth Feron had more than another decade to strut the stage. She was back home by April 1841, for we can pick her up in the 1841 census at number 12 Price’s Terrace, Southwark, with Augustus ‘aged 15’, her stepmother, and the family of a cabinet-maker, seemingly called Isaac Violon. And then, in 1842, she is back on the stage.

No longer a prima donna, but in the little role of the motherly Teresa to the La Sonnambula of Eugénie Garcia (26 December 1842), as Claudine in La Gazza Ladra behind Emma Albertazzi, as Martha Clayton in a Little Red Riding Hood, composed by her daughter, Mary Ann[e] a’Beckett and Madame Dorval in the vaudeville The Flower of Lucerne at the Princess’s Theatre. The Princess’s Theatre was under the management of Thomas Maddox, who had accompanied Elizabeth on her American tour, so the young Augustus was also engaged. The following season she was Henrietta in I Puritani and ‘from her musician-like style of performance gave considerable importance to a trifling part’ and Mathéa, behind Dolores Nau, in The Syren. And she played umpteen more performances as Teresa, a role she would still be playing at the Princess’s in 1849, alongside Louisa Pyne. In between, she appeared as the Abbess in Le Duc d’Olonne, the Marchioness de Birkenfeld to Anna Thillon’s La Vivandière, Dame Kishler in The Blind Sister et al.

In the 1851 census, Elizabeth can be seen living at 9 Waterloo Road, in the company of a woman called Charlotte Jagger. Augustus, who had gone bankrupt in July 1848, is no longer there. Letitia is living down the road at no 21, with the widow of her son John, who had died at the age of 39 (b London c1801; d Waterloo Rd November 1840).

‘Mysterious death in the Waterloo Road’ headlined the press in November 1852. ‘Eccentric’ Charlotte Jagger had been found dead in her rooms, opposite the Royal Oak Hotel. The coroner decreed that she had voluntarily starved herself to death.

A few months later, Elizabeth, too, passed on. ‘Widow of the late Joseph Glossop’ said the notices. I wonder how the Deméric family felt about that. They didn’t give the cause of her death. The British papers really took only a little notice. After all, Madame Feron’s best years on the stage had been spent abroad. She got more notice, in after years, through the exploits of son Augustus, who became a celebrated man of the theatre, and his son [Sir] Augustus. They took the name of Harris, but the press didn’t kick up the sort of fuss they had over Elizabeth’s avoidance of the name ‘Glossop’. The two Augusti are two books in themselves.

Daughter Mary Anne (b London 29 April 1815; d Kishnaghur, Bengal 11 December 1863) also lived a life around music and the theatre, and composed an amount of ballads and not very distinguished theatre music, often in collaboration with her husband, the well-known writer Gilbert Abbott a’Beckett. Agnes Sorel produced at the St James’s Theatre 14 December 1835 and Little Red Riding Hood played at the Surrey (1842) and at the Princess’s were her two principal works. She also supplied three songs for Priscilla Horton and James Hudson in Mark Lemon’s play The Young Pretender (28 November 1846). The press opined you could scarcely tell one from another. Miss Horton also sang her music in a shortlived piece called Mabel’s Curse (27 March 1837) written by another lady, Anna Maria Fielding Hall, at the St James’s.
After a’Beckett’s death she married George Jones Esq of the Middle Temple, but died the following year, aged 48.

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