Saturday, January 26, 2019


The earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas-bouffes underwent some strange (re-)casting during their original runs. Some of it worked magnificently, some is an enduring puzzlement.

Liverpudlian-Australian ‘Alice May’, entirely efficient, created the part of Aline (The Sorcerer) at least partly because she and her paramour, conductor ‘Grievous Bodily’ Allen, were investors in the production. So far, so good. Alice was replaced by her understudy, London-Jewish ‘Giulia Warwick’ (Julia Ehrenberg), again perfectly competent. The management followed up the Australian piste, so fruitfully mined by John Russell at Covent Garden, by casting Tasmanian Emma Howson as Josephine (HMS Pinafore), and following her contract’s end, gave a turn to very pretty little Alice Burville, a sometime burlesque actress, to touring prime donne Eleanor Loveday and to ‘Duglas Gordon’ (Ellen Louise Thomas) both proven on the circuits, Fanny Holland, star of the German Reed establishment, and, in a first, but far from the last, dip into the American scene, the pretty and pretty disastrous Blanche Roosevelt. Jewish opera singer Helene Crosmond (Hannah Levy) was to have created Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, but in the end it was Jewish music-hall soprano ‘Marion Hood’ (Sarah Isaacs) who made a grand success in the role, depped for by student Ellen Shirley, and by another very capable lady, ‘Emilie Petrelli’ (Emily Mary Jane Peters).

When Miss Petrelli turned down the ‘soubrette’ role of Patience, stability finally hit the prima donna spot at the Savoy with the arrival of yet another Jewish soprano, ‘Leonora Braham’ (Leonora Abraham). Miss Braham would become the copybook Savoy leading lady.

But all good things must come to an end, and during the run of Ruddigore, Miss Braham put an end to her long stint at the Savoy. She was replaced by … an American. Geraldine Ulmar was, however, a totally different bouquet of bluebells to Ms Roosevelt.

She had been well and truly tried in the Savoy roles in America, and she was thoroughly capable. Miss Ulmar played Elsie in The Yeomen of the Guard through its run, and introduced the role of Gianetta in The Gondoliers. When she was not, or no longer there, the chaos began. Fourteen other sopranos would follow her, for shorter, very shorter and slightly longer periods as lead soprano of the show. Why? I have no idea. Four were Americans, one was Australian; thirteen were heard of (a little or, in some cases, a great deal), thereafter, and fourteen I have been able to discover at least a little about. Of one (or maybe two) I know nothing. So, how about a little list.

1) Carrie Donald [DONALD, Caroline Kerracher Rodger] (b Edinburgh 9 February 1870; d North Berwick April 1930) A choir singer at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, she had played Gianetta on tour and was more than capable. She went on to play for Carte in Ivanhoe, La Basoche and The Vicar of Bray, before retiring to marriage as Mrs Thomas Lamb.

2) Alice Baldwin. Miss Baldwin, if that were her name, played the role just a handful of times then disappeared. Chorister? Understudy? Friend of the management? Amateur paying her way? I have no idea.

3) Mina Cleary [CLEARY, Wilhelmina] (b Allumette Island, Quebec 17 August 1862; d Brookline, Mass 27 June 1929). Miss Cleary was an established performer. Daughter of an Irish hotelkeeper, Martin C Cleary, and his wife Maria Coghlan, she had played supporting roles with the Boston Ideal Opera Company between 1885-8. Her sister married the company’s bass, Eugene Cowles. She subsequently went to Paris to study and, ‘on the way home’, played some performances at the Savoy. The experience was not continued with, and Miss Cleary returned to America and the Bostonians before marrying physician John Masury and retiring.

4) Nita Carritte [CARRITTE, Lillian Henriette Temple] (b New Brunswick c1864; d New York 1 August 1929). Daughter of a doctor, Dr Thomas W Carritte of Amherst NB, and his Swiss wife Susanna Louisa Givaudin, Nita was brought up in St Paul and studied, after her father's death, with Anna La Grange in Paris. From there she (‘Nita Carita’) was hired for Augustus Harris’s 1890 Covent Garden season. Maybethology says she played Micaela. However, although that underliked role went through several tenants during the season – Minnie Evans, Margaret McIntyre, Mdlle Colombati, Regina Pinkert --, Nita did not go on. Mind you, neither did Harris’s other new hiring, Mdlle Tetrazzini. However, Nita did get to play Micaela, to friendly notices, when it was produced by the Carl Rosa in October 1890. Her publicity also says she played Faust and Mignon, but the notices credit, first, Georgina Burns and then Amy Sherwin. 5 January 1891 she succeeded to the Savoy, and played Gianetta till 21 March, when the show was advertising ‘last weeks’. Four years later, she revisited to the Rosa for some performances as Carmen, but, on her return to America, appeared only in the flop musical 1999, and in repertoire at Castle Square, before marrying musician, Frederick Emil Gramm (28 December 1899) and retiring.

5) Maud Holland [HOLLAND, Alice Maud] (b Girlington, Bradford 24 February 1867). Did she or didn’t she? During August 1890, while Carrie Donald was in possession of the role of Gianetta, Maud Holland, daughter of a couple of elementary schooteachers from Bath and Wales, and an established West End soprano, was billed for a few nights in the part. A pupil of the Royal Academy of Music, Maud had made her debut as a teenager, as cover to another ex-student, Miss Etherington (‘Marie Tempest’) in The Red Hussar, and went on to play lead roles in The Rose and the Ring, in Maid Marian (Robin Hood), in an English version of François les bas-bleus, on tour as Charlotte in La Cigale and Teresa in The Mountebanks, before creating the principal girl’s role in Little Christopher Columbus. She later succeeded May Yohe in the star part, and appeared as Alésia in La Poupée, before fleeing across the Atlantic, following her divorce from the actor known as ‘Lytton Grey’ (Charles Ford Morgan). Mr Morgan’s lightning remarriage makes it look as if there were a little collaboration between the ex-spouses. Maud did not make a notable career in America (I see her, only, advertising cough lollies). Her second daughter, as Alice Maude Morgan Grey, married into the aristocracy as Lady Alvingham.

6) Nellie Lawrence [LAWRENCE, Nellie Louise] (b Brighton 1868; d Sussex 4 November 1912) seems to have been another ephemeral Gianetta. She is a little bit tricky to follow, as there were two other contemporary ladies of the same name in action, one playing dramatic leads in the provinces with Andrew Melville and another dancing in the chorus of musical comedies such as The Silver Slipper. Our Nellie was born in Brighton 1868 where she was brought up, with her sister, by their widowed mother. Her venture into the musical theatre was brief, but she seems to have been a useful Cartesian, stepping in for those in larger parts than hers in The Pirates of Penzance, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers (Fiammetta) and The Nautch Girl (Cheetah), before once again going back to ‘living on her own means’.

7) Esther Palliser [WALTERS, Emma F] (b Germantown, Penn 28 July 1868) was easily the most talented of D’Oyly Carte’s American prime donne. The fact was not slow to be recognised, and, apart from her engagements with him, she did not appear in the musical theatre again, restricting her operations to opera, oratorio and concerts, largely in England, before her return to America, and her retirement, as a singing teacher in California.
Miss Palliser, daughter of music teacher B Frank Walters (1840-1918) and his wife Kate Fronfield, first appeared on stage in America, as Gianetta in The Gondoliers which role she repeated as her debut in England 9 December 1890. She appeared for Carte in Ivanhoe and in La Basoche in 1891, before moving on to Covent Garden and Drury Lane to sing Carmen, Faust, Cavalleria Rusticana, Lohengrin et al. In 1893 she sang Brangaene at Covent Garden, and created C V Stanford’s Mass in G with the Bach Choir.
Miss Palliser moved to California in the mid-1910s, and taught music for a while, before vanishing from public view. Last sighting 1923. However, her birthdate is not quite so well hidden as that of her death. She was not born in 1872 as always claimed, for she can be seen in the 1870 census of Philadelphia, aged 2 or 3, living with her parents, aunt, and maternal grandparents.

(8) Louise Pemberton [PEMBERTON, Louisa] (b Chelsea 1868) Miss Pemberton played four performances at the Savoy in September 1890. Was it an ‘audition’, a ‘tryout’? Who was she? She appears to have been a greengrocer’s daughter from Chelsea who taught piano. Unless she changed her name thereafter, it seems to have been her only venture on the stage.

(9) Norah Phyllis apparently did change her name [aka MA[C]GUIRE, Norah]. Only I’m not quite sure from what. She was ‘Norah Phyllis’ when she came on the scene in 1887-8 at All Saints’ Rooms Kensington (‘Poor Wand’ring One’) and St Colomb’s Church Notting Hill, under the aegis of teacher George Ernest Lake, and 20 March 1889 she made a ‘debut’ in concert at the Crystal Palace. In 1889 she joined the Carte company on tour, playing Elsie Maynard, and 16 December she was hurried on at the Savoy to dep for Geraldine Ulmar as Gianetta. Mr & Mrs Carte took her to America some weeks later to bolster their Gondoliers company (‘she is capable of playing any role’) and she ended up playing Casilda to the Gianetta of Miss Palliser. When the ‘American company’ returned to England, she again played Casilda to the Gianetta of America’s Lenore Snyder, before taking over as Gianetta at the Savoy. In December 1890 she sang at St George’s Chapel, in 1 July 1891 with Richard Temple’s Crystal Palace company in The Mock Doctor, and at the German Reed Entertainment in The Old Bureau, after which she apparently got married. Her husband was a doctor, stationed in Bombay, and thence she travelled. However, in 1899 she returned to England, the stage, and Carte and appeared, under the name of Norah MacGuire (or Maguire), as Lazuli in The Lucky Star et al in the country. She followed up as Nadine in the unfortunate The Prince of Borneo, as Lauretta in L’Amour mouillé for Tom Davis, sang Blush-of-the-Morning in The Rose of Persia on the road and as a replacement for Agnes Fraser at the Savoy, and my final sighting of her is as prima donna of several Carte repertoire companies, ending in 1905. In 1909, she can be seen playing Josephine with the Lichfield amateurs ...

(10) Emily Squire [SQUIRE, Emily Jane] (b Ross on Wye 2 May 1867; d 3 Bourne Court, Bournemouth 1 September 1948). I was most surprised to find the name of Emily Squire listed as having played Gianetta for a couple of weeks in June 1890. Miss Squire (or Mrs Edward William Jennings, as she became about that time) had a long and fine career, but certainly not as a musical theatre player: oratorio, concerts and the great provincial music festivals would be her natural habitat for some two decades. Emily was the eldest daughter of the musical family of Cornish bank clerk (later manager) John Squire and his wife Emma née Fisher. She studied at the RCM, and later at the RAM (Parepa Rosa Scholarship, Sainton Dolby Prize, Llewellyn Thomas Gold Medal), appeared in concert in Cardiff, Bath, Exeter, and in London at the Crystal Palace Saturday Concerts and the Handel Festival, supporting Nordica in Israel in Egypt. In 1889 she sang the quartets in Elijah behind Nordica and behind Albani, performed The May Queen and The Woman of Samaria in a Devonshire Festival, The Prodigal Son and The Last Judgment at Hadleigh, Parry’s Judith at Exeter, where the programme included her brother, Willie, the cellist and songwriter W H Squire. She made a first professional acting appearance at Ascot as a hurried replacement in the operetta Tobacco Jars.
In 1890, I spot her in concert in Swansea, Glasgow, Leicester, Hereford, and as Ursula in The Golden Legend at Newport, and then came the news: Miss Squire had been offered the role of Gianetta. But she was turning it down. A fortnight later she appeared at the Savoy. She played a dozen or so performances, then zipped back to Swansea to get married (18 September 1890). After which she returned to the concert platform – Grieg’s Olav Trygvason, The Fall of Babylon, another Prodigal Son, four engagements at the Three Choirs Festival – where she led a fine career over the next twenty years.

11) Cissie Saumarez [BARTRAM or BARTRUM, Mary Jane] (b 9 Barton Street, Bath 1870; d London 23 July 1930) was born in Bath, the second daughter of cabinet-maker Edwin Bartrum and his wife Mary Jane née Summers. She studied in London with an unknown Signor, and went on the stage in 1890, covering and taking over the role of the little bride in Dorothy. She moved to the Savoy, where she appears to have been a general swing, playing, at some time, every one of the principal contadine. She played Suttee in The Nautch Girl, but by March 1892 she was on the road featuring in the title-role of one of the interminable Dorothy tours. A selection of mostly unimpressive touring musicals (Wapping Old Stairs, Sport, The American Belle, The Transit of Venus) and pantomime princesses was relieved by a stint as Mrs Ralli Carr in Gentleman Joe, and a Diana Vernon in a Durward Lely Rob Roy, before she found a niche as singing lady (and sometimes man) in Shakespearian productions and became a longtime adjunct of F R Benson’s troupe. She later played in comedy under her married name, her husband, Mr Arthur [Herbert] Whitby (1869-1922), being an acting member of the Shakespeare company.

(12) Amy Sherwin [SHERWIN, Frances Amy Lillias] (b Judbury, Tasmania 23 March 1855; d Bromley 20 September 1935). Quite why Amy Sherwin played a week as Gianetta, I cannot imagine. She was at least a decade older than the other Gianettae and thoroughly established as a concert and operatic singer in places from her native Australia – she sang in Namaan in Tasmania, in the shadow of her elder sister, in 1872, and May 1878 made her operatic debut as Norina with a visiting opera troupe -- to America (La Traviata with Strakosh, H M S Pinafore, Damrosch’s Oratorio Society of New York, Brooklyn Philharmonic Society, Damnation of Faust, Cincinnati Festival), to Italy, to – in 1883 – Britain. She was engaged by Carl Rosa, for whom she first appeared as Maritana (7 May). In the seven years that followed she led a highly successful career in Europe and the colonies … only to come to rest at the Savoy, aged 34, for this incomprehensible week of Gianetta. Amy continued to work as a vocalist into her fifties, before retiring to teaching. She had married the agent Hugo [Heinrich Ludwig] Görlitz (1854-1935), in New Zealand in 1878, and had by him a son, journalist [Hugo] Louis (1881-1978), and a daughter, Jeannette (Mrs Jolley, 1884-1936).

(13) Annie Schuberth [SCHUBERTH, Annie Elizabeth Sophia] (b Pimlico 1869), daughter of a Russian-born accountant, was not a novice when she played her little turn in The Gondoliers in July 1890. And she wasn’t Miss Schuberth, either. She had made her first stage appearance in a musical comedy The Beautiful Duchess at Templar Saxe’s concert in 1887, and in 1889 (19 June) she married the said gentleman, and bore him a son (I’m not sure in which order). After some concert experience, she then went on tour in the title-roles of the French musicals Pepita and Falka, and then joined Saxe (who was understudy to the leading lady) in the London cast of the Carl Rosa company’s Paul Jones, taking over the role created by Kate Cutler. And then she made her short stop-over at the Savoy. 
She went on to play Charlotte in La Cigale alongside Geraldine Ulmar, in Miss Decima, toured some more in the star roles of Pepita, Falka and La Cigale, played Marion in Poor Jonathan, Lolika in The Magic Opal … and got herself divorced by Saxe (Templer Edward Edeveian) for persistent adultery. They both remarried: Saxe whisked off to America where he became a cinema actor, while Annie wed (3 December 1895) an ageing Bradford lawyer and, after playing a while in Willie Edouin’s Qwong Hi, let her theatre career fizzle out while she had two more sons. However she re-emerged, in 1906, to play in the Manchester panto, and in 1910 and 1912, giving ‘I Dreamt I dwelt in Marble halls’ in the northern music halls. Husband Charles Law Atkinson died in 1916, and Annie, apparently, changed her name, not to Atkinson, but to 'Annie Hubert'…

(14) Lenore Snyder [SNYDER, Leonore] (b ?Indianapolis c1868; d Camden, London July 1911). Miss Snyder was raised, and doubtless born, in Indiana, the daughter of Frederick W Snyder (machinist) and his wife, Virginia née Ballenger (m 27 March 1867). The three can be seen in 1880 living at Brightwood, Indiana. She apparently sang, first, in the local Presbyterian church, and I see her performing with the Indianapolis Lyra Society in 1887. As an amateur, she took part in a local ‘opera’ called Maganon, and appeared as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, which led to a first professional engagement in 1889. She appeared for the Duff company in the title-role of Paola (played in Britain by Leonora Braham) and in the Chicago musical King Cole II, before being hired to deputise for Esther Palliser as Gianetta in New York’s Gondoliers. She subsequently sang the role on tour in Britain and, briefly, at the Savoy. In August 1890, she returned to America where she played in The Pirates of Penzance, The Red Hussar, Carmen, Dorothy, Iolanthe et al, before being recalled to Britain in place of Australia's Nellie Stewart, to create the lead role in The Nautch Girl and the revised Vicar of Bray. Back in America, she joined Harry Dixey for an attempt to float Mr Dobbs of New York, and there was more Patience, Iolanthe, The Sorcerer, The Mikado … The press judged her ‘irreproachably correct … and tame’. It was advertised that she was to go to Paris to study, it was reported that she had married American basso, William H MacLaughlin, and that she had returned to the stage in Dorothy Morton’s role in The Wizard of the Nile. But that seems to have been it. A professional career of impeccable credits, but seemingly less éclat. But there was a reason for its ending. Lenore retreated to Paris, and, in 1897, was reported to be seriously ill. Mrs Lenore [W] MacLaughlin died of tuberculosis and was interred at Camden cemetery 15 July 1911.

Well, that is the who. As to the why? We will never know. The Savoy would flounder its way through the unimpressive likes of Ellen Beach Yaw and Nancy McIntosh, and the novelty casting of Hungarian star Ilka Pálmay and noted opera singer Pauline Joran, to the stabler days of a Ruth Vincent, but never again would it devour fifteen prime donne – genuine and wannabe – in one leading role. Why did it happen? And who the hell was Alice Baldwin?

Thanks to David Stone and the g&s archive for most of the photos herein. Anybody got a Maud Holland?

PS Yes! George Low came up with a Maud photo, and also a replacement slip announcing Agnes Wyatt as Gianetta. He has also seen a programme with Decima Moore listed as Gianetta. Typo or fact? And who, then, played Casilda. Which would make 17 Gianettae. Except that he is dubious about Nellie Lawrence ...

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