Friday, May 25, 2018

Mr Temple of the Savoy ... and lots of other places, too

TEMPLE, Richard [COBB, Richard Barker]  (b London 2 March 1846; d Charing Cross Hospital, London 19 October 1912)

Richard Temple is a well-known name in the history of the musical theatre, thanks to his long service in the companies of Richard D’Oyly Carte. But his career did exist for nearly a decade before the coming of Messrs Sullivan and Gilbert, and last for another, after the end of his famous career at the Savoy Theatre.

Richard was born in London, the first son of stockbroker Richard Cobb, from Yorkshire, and his wife Eliza Barker (m 20 March 1845) and began his life as a clerk and cashier in a bank. He partook of amateur dramatics, and I spot him in 1868 (9 April) taking part as an actor (‘remarkably animated and voluble’) in a performance ofThe Foster Sister staged at the Haymarket Theatre by Thomas Coe, the city’s foremost acting teacher. One imagines that young Richard (‘Temple’ already) was a pupil.

Even before that, however, I have spotted him singing at the St Patrick’s Benevolent Fund’s beanfeast of 1867 along with the decidedly professional concourse of Rose Hersee, Ellen Lyon, Chaplin Henry and Montem Smith.

He made his professional stage debut in 1869 (31 May) in George Perren’s English opera season at the Crystal Palace, playing Rodolpho in La Sonnambula alongside Perren and Blanche Cole (‘he is evidently a beginner as far as acting is concerned’, ‘a good voice’, ‘Mr Temple’s time to make a strong impression is yet to come’) and went on to sing in Lucia di Lammermoor, as Pablo in The Rose of Castille and the King in Maritana between June and November.
After a few suburban concerts, he joined up with Stanley Betjemann’s little touring opera, playing the popular repertoire on the minor circuits with Fanny Heywood, Bessie Emmett, Bessie Palmer and Furneaux Cook. In February, Betjemann ventured his troupe to London’s St George’s Hall to play Faust and Maritana. Temple was Mephistopheles and the King, and had now joined the management.

When the Crystal Palace operas recommenced in April, he returned to play Rodolpho, the King, Father Tom in The Lily of Killarney, and the Sheriff in Martha, dashing off to Croydon or Portsea between times to sing Luna or Arnheim for Betjemann.

In 1871, he sang a Messiah at the cheap St George’s Hall concerts at which he shared the music with Bessie Emmett, Reed Larwill and a Miss Kennett, but most particularly with ‘electric light’. In March of the year, he trekked to Nottingham where Perren was trying out local composer T Luard Selby’s opera Adela with a view to its production at the Crystal Palace. It didn’t come.

Temple had a full book in 1871: he appeared in concert and in opera (The Night Dancers, The Bohemian Girl etc) at the Crystal Palace, he made further appearance at St George’s Hall, usually with Bessie and illustrating with oratorio excerpts some learned lecture, he appeared at the Alfred Theatre in operetta (Lost and Found) and then the couple – for they were evidently now a couple -- joined up with a little company put together by Fred Sullivan to play Levey’s Punchinello (Marquis), Cox and Box (Bouncer), Breaking the Spell (Old Matthew) et al at Manchester and Liverpool. The musical director for the opening night of the tiny troupe was Arthur Sullivan.

Back to London for The Night Dancers and Il Trovatore with Florence Lancia at Crystal Palace, then on to the St James’s Theatre where Rose Hersee was launching her Royal National Opera. He played Don Pedro and Devilshoof in the unfortunate season, before Miss Hersee took to the road and headed for a season in Dublin. Temple was cast as Mephistopheles, Figaro, Devilshoof et al.

1872 started less busily: the St George’s Hall People’s Concerts and lectures, Rivière’s proms at Cremorne Gardens, until in May he apparently returned to Liverpool, where a rip-off Henry Hersee version of the hit opéra-bouffe Geneviève de Brabant was being put on. But he left quickly as the botched show crumbled. But opéra-bouffe was the rage, and Mr Temple seemed to suit its combination of fine vocalising and robust burlesque acting: he moved instead to the Alhambra to succeed to the role of Pippertrunk in the spectacular Le Roi Carotte, and then to the Opera Comique to play the comic gendarme, Gérome, in L’Oeil crevé.

In the new year, he switched briefly back to opera to sing a season with Blanche Cole in Dublin, before (‘late of the English opera company’) joining Julia Mathews in the same city to play opéra-bouffe in the provinces (General Boum, the wizard in Letty the Basketmaker, The Bohemian Girl, The Beggar’s Opera)   until she chucked her whole repertoire to play the gimmick show of the hour, Kissi Kissi.
Mr Temple went back to London, between times, and turned up in April at the Gaiety, playing his habitual role of the King in Maritana alongside Perren and Mme Lancia.

The new hit musical in town was La Fille de Madame Angot, and Mr Temple was not tardy in getting himself and his wife (for he had wed Miss Emmett in Liverpool in 1872) into roles in that show. He played the comic Larivaudière with Emily Soldene at the Gaiety, and then moved to the original production at the Philharmonic to succeed Johnnie Rouse in the same role and then back to Soldene again when she moved the production to the Opera Comique. He caused a splash in the press, when – on the illness of Dick Beverley, who was playing the high-baritone hero, Ange Pitou – he stepped in and made a fine fist of the role.

He was still singing cantatas and oratorio from Brixton to Bow, and in August 1874 he took another turn with Hersee/Perren opera group, but he turned inexorably back to the lighter genre with his Crystal Palace Operetta Company (Once too Often, The Sleeping Queen) and later in the year he took the role of Pluto –alongside Fred Sullivan as Mercury – in the burlesque Ixion Re-wheeled at the Opera Comique as well as appearing in the 1-acters Breaking the Spell and The Love Birds at the Alexandra Palace.

Dublin saw him once more in opera in mid-1875, but then he took over the Philharmonic Theatre – once the glorious home of Soldene and Geneviève de Brabant– to try to repeat the coup with an adaptation of Offenbach’s Les Géorgiennes. He himself took the role of Rhododendron Pasha and directed both that piece and The Zoo as an afterpiece. The show had a mediocre career, adding to a sad year for Temple. His young wife had died 9 May in childbirth.

In 1876, he turned up as Robin in The Waterman, as Bouncer – repeatedly – in Cox and Box, played opera in Dublin once more (Figaro, Devilshoof, Mephistopheles, Don Florio etc) and in Leicester (Caspar in Der Freischützwith Elliot Galer), and comic opera in Manchester when he created the role of Buckingham in Alfred Cellier’s Nell Gwynne and Liverpool, where he played the title-role in the same composer’s The Sultan of Mocha. He also played at the Globe Theatre in Solomon’s little A Will With Vengeance (Carlo Maloni).

Dublin persisted in casting him in opera, and he visited for a short season in March 1877 with Annie Tonnellier, but then it was back to the lighter stage, and – in spite of still being in debt to the Philharmonic – to a dabble with Cellier in production: Temple’s own version of Geneviève de Brabant with Connie Loseby and Emily Cross, and sister ‘Maria Temple’ (who had been in the chorus of Gilbert and Clay’s Princess Toto) among the cast.

The venture did not last long, and Temple returned to the safety of Blanche Cole, George Perren and Rose Hersee, with their mostly unmoving repertoire of English opera performances at the Crystal Palace, the Alexandra Palace and other venues. 

But Temple’s moment was coming. He was cast in the role of Sir Marmaduke in The Sorcerer, and his relationship with D’Oyly Carte, like that with Sullivan and Cellier, already years old, was cemented. Teamed with the star of the show, Mrs Howard Paul, he scored a success within the success of the show, and sealed his position as part of what would eventually become ‘the Savoy team’. Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore, The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, Colonel Calverley in Patience, Strephon in Iolanthe. Arac in Princess Ida, the title-role in The Mikado, Sir Roderic in Ruddigore, Sergeant Meryll in The Yeomen of the Guard, plus a number of forepieces, gave him nearly a decade of career…
After refusing the limp role of Luiz in The Gondoliers,he left the Savoy company, but returned from time to time, in London, New York or on the road, to play mostly his original roles.

However, during his time at the Savoy he took plenty of time out for other ventures. He produced an opera season in Dublin in 1879, gave ‘Richard Temple’s Dramatic Recital’ at Peckham in 1881, and the following month took the part of King Portico in a revival of Princess Toto. He played operetta at the Opera Comique (Lovers’ Knots, Quid pro quo) and visited Manchester to create the role of King James in The Lancashire Witches, as well as playing the part of Abdallah in the tryout of Solomon’s Lord Bateman. In September 1882, he returned briefly to the opera, and in 1883 he floated the opera season at the Crystal Palace, seemingly to allow himself to play the role of Rigoletto. 19 May 1886, he remounted that piece at the Gaiety Theatre.

Trial by Jury and, endlessly, Cox and Box at matinees, directing amateurs in Ireland and Gretna Green at the Comedy, giving ‘Ship on Fire’ at the Aquarium and making a music-hall debut at The Trocadero with ‘The Footman’s Lament’ by Fred Bowyer and Georg Jacobi ‘character songs illustrating various phases of a flunkey’s life’, a tour with The Nautch Girl (Pyjama), New York for The Gondoliers (as Giuseppe) and another attempt at being an impresario with a version of Gounod’s Le Medecin malgré lui. A curious choice, commented the press, but clearly made to allow Temple to play Sgnarelle, alongside Susetta Fenn and Effie Chapuy. It was tried at Islington (24 November 1892), then the Globe, sent on the road and later given a performance at the Crystal Palace. He also tried a version of Mozart’s Schauspielendirekor as L’Impresario (Crystal Palace 18 October 1892).

In 1892 he was appointed to the Royal College of Music, where he produced a number of operas with the students (Orphée, his own adaptation of Le Roi l’a dit, Falstaff),and later fulfilled a similar function at the London College of Music (Il Matrimonio segreto, Die beiden Schützen)

But he still continued to perform on the musical stage (Lord Silvertop in The Golden Web, George in Miami, replacing Colin Coop as Sid Fakah in the musical comedy Morocco Bound, taking over as the Baron in Mirette, The Chieftain at the Savoy) as well as producing, directing and starring in a new piece entitled Wapping Old Stairs (Dick Fid, 17 February 1894) which lived a brief life at the Vaudeville Theatre.

He fulfilled a certain amount of work as a director (The Red Spider, Shamus O’Brien) and also set himself up as a reciter. I spot him doing a not very convincing Athaliewith the Queen’s Hall Choir, but his own ‘musical and dramatic recitals’ seemed to go down quite well.

In the 1900s, he appeared in a flop musical The Gay Pretenders, and a Christmas piece, Little Hans Andersen (1903, King of the Copper Castle) which William Greet staged with members of the Savoy Company, and as late as 1906 as Mr Burchell in the comic opera version of The Vicar of Wakefield. In between time, and up till 1909, he still played intermittently at the Savoy.

It had been a busy career, but when Temple fell ill, and became an invalid, the cupboard was bare. Several theatricals subscribed to a fund for him, but when he died at Charing Cross Hospital in 1912 it was, reportedly, ‘in dire poverty’.

His first wife Bessie EMMETT [EMMETT, Elizabeth Ellen] (b 43 Store Street, London 3 August 1846, d 96 Lyndhurst Rd., Peckham 9 May 1875), the daughter of an East End cabinet maker, studied music with J T Calkin and made her debut at the Boosey Ballad Concerts, 4 March 1868, singing her master’s ‘You are Going Willie’ and ‘My mother bids me bind my hair’. She made her first stage appearance with Betjemann under the name of ‘Amy Leigh’ but soon reverted to her real name. She sang second soprano to Fanny Heywood (Siebel, Lisa etc) and was Siebel in the St George’s Hall performance of Faust. She soon took over as prima donna.
From here on, her career was largely in tandem with Temple’s. She played with the Sullivan company, and with Rose Hersee (Leonora, Rosina, Agathe, Lisa, Lazarillo, Gipsy Queen, Nancy). With the Julia Mathews company, she played the Gipsy Queen and Wanda in La Grande-Duchesse.
In 1873 she took over the part of Eurydice in Orphée aux enfers at the National Theatre for John Hollingshead, and then succeeded to the role of Clairette, and subsequently to that of Lange, in the original La Fille de Madame Angot at the Philharmonic Theatre. She repeated the role of Clairette opposite Emily Soldene.
She returned to opera when the couple joined Hersee and Perren (Leonora, Eily), took part in the Crystal Palace Operetta Company performances, played Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera opposite Sims Reeves, and went to Manchester to create the role of Dolly in The Sultan of Mocha.
There is no doubting that the attractive young woman with the uncomplicated, sweet soprano and acting style was ripe for a big career as a light opera leading lady.
She died in childbirth ‘of peritonitis’ at 28 years of age.

The couple’s first son, Richard [William Emmett] TEMPLE jr [COBB] (b 96 Lyndhurst Rd, Camberwell 25 October 1872; d NYC 14 October 1954) made a fine career as a leading man in musical comedy in Britain and latterly in America, playing latterly roles in revivals of the Savoy repertoire. He was the husband of musical theatre star Evie Greene.

PS Richard did not remain a widower. We see him in the 1881 census living with a 'wife' Maria, aged 29 born Kensington, as well as mother and singing sister, Maria. Then, in 1891, he re-entered the ranks of the officially married when he wed Annie Marie Davis, who is clearly the same lady who was 'Maria' in 1881. In 1901 and 1911, she is 'Marie'.

No comments: