Thursday, June 10, 2021

Little Finches, a great Rutland family


When I go for a quick dip into ebay, I end up so often with hours of subsequent nosing into history. Today could have been even longer, had not the photo I chose been of a fourteen year-old lassie who turned out to belong to a decidedly ancient, wealthy, historical family. Which means, of course, that its been documented in those gazettes devoted to royalty, the peerage, aristocrats and whomsoever they breathed upon.

This is the photo. Taken in Brighton in 1876.

The lass is Miss Magdalen Louisa Finch (b St George's, London 17 December 1861; d Oakham Hospital 19  November 1935).

Well, she had nothing to do with Brighton, I soon discovered. 1871 census, there she is with father, George Henry, his mother Lady Louisa Finch (oyoy!), father's siblings Louisa, Charlotte and Henry, and his other children, Alan George and Gwendoline Harriet. But no mother. Father is an MP and they have ... what? Fifteen servants, plus gardeners ... 'Burley House' must have been some establishment!

Of course, as I was quickly to find out, it indeed was.

But first, a little stroll through herbiefatcat's other stock. And yes, there are Sybil aged 3 and Pearl aged 2!

Edith Sybil Mary Finch (b Westminster, London 1872; d Littlehampton 14 December 1938)

Margaret Georgiana (ka Pearl) Finch (b St George's, London 20 September 1873; d 16 Hartfield Square 20 June 1940)

I am not going to eternise on the Finches of Burley-on-the-Hill and Burley House of Hall or, as was dubbed, Palace. It has been done umpteen times. Not least by Pearl Finch.

 Suffice it that the huge complex (four wings, four stories: 'the place is so immense that a small army of soldiers could be billeted within its walls and a whole squadron of cavalry accommodates in the stables') had been (re)built by ancestor Finch in the seveneenth century and handed down through his descendants -- Earl of Nottingham, Earl of Winchilsea -- to George Henry

George Henry, of course, married another member of the landowning classes, Miss Emily Eglantine Balfour, daughter of Mr John and Lady Balfour of Balbirnie (6 February 1861), and they had two daughters and a son, before her death at the age of 24. Magdalena was the first, then Alan George, then Gwendoline Harriet.

In 1867, George went into parliament as  the Member for Rutland. Thirty-five years later, still sitting, he was named a Privy Councillor, and soon after became the longest serving minister, the 'Father of the Commons'.

In 1871 he remarried: Miss Edith Montgomery, daughter of Mr Alfred Montgomey, Commissioner of Inland Revenue. Seven more children were born, and the first of these were Sybil and Pearl.  The next were Essex (female) and Somerset Alfred George, followed by two more daughters, Jasmine Cecilia and Verona Cecil.

But back to our photographs. There is a fourth one taken on that Brighton excursion. It's not labelled but I think it is repeat Sybil. That fringe?

Magdalena did not marry. Alan voyaged to Africa and stayed single also, shooting things and occasionally people. Gwendoline did marry ... and the two babes above ...?  Pearl, too, remained single, but Sybil did not ..

Her bridegroom was Laurence Currie, a very wealthy banker of the firm Glyn Mills, nephew to Sir Phillip Currie, director of the Great Western Railways &c &c. They had three children, the eldest of whom, Edith Catherine, married (and soon divorced) the son of Lord Rollo of Keltie Castle, who had been best man at her parents wedding ...

Oh, at George's death Burley passed to the absent Alan. Alan suffered from ill health (which didn't stop him shooting things) and when he died, it passed to younger half-brother Wilfred Henry Montgomery Finch, civil engineer and Sherrif of Nottinghamshire/Rutland. And unmarried. Wilfred died in December 1939. He named as executor of his tidy estate his nephews, the sons of Sybil and of Verona. Unfortunately, the laws of succession don't leave room for intelligent preference: Burley went to the son of Gwendoline, who promptly sold it ... the era of the Finches at Burley (1690-1939) was over.

And there I am going to leave the little girls and go make some lunch ... the sun is on my terrace, and looks inviting ...

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Another little bit of New Zealand History: Mr Colin Campbell

Surprisingly chilly at dawn this morn. The Aussies are wearing their woolly hats and padded jackets. Even the dogs have their coats on. And the internet had decided to have one of its not infrequent sulks. So I decided to the a major load or five of washing .. hear it? 10am and it is still churning (load 4) ...

Anyway, it was not the time to start an on-line Project. So in the bits of time than I, rather than the washing, was on-line I just fooled about on ebay. No nice theatrical goodies, ebay mindlessly promotes the same old unsold (usually common, ill-labelled or  overpriced) items the the top of its 'newly listed's and when I see a familiar picture, I just switch to a different search. There's always something to be found somewhere.

I lit on this photo. Partly because the folk looked nice and rural, and partly because they had been carefully labelled. Well after the event, but labelled. Colin Nicol Campbell? Isabella née McEachern? There's no photographer's imprint, but Scottish ....? Well, yes, originally, but Mr Campbell lies in Patea Cemetery, Taranaki, New Zealand ... so I put him aside until the www was wwworking once more. And, now, here we go.

First clue: married in Tasmania 21 November 1842. Goodness, what was he doing there? A convict? In those trousers?

Second clue, and a date of birth ...

But no place of birth. But I discover it was indeed Scotland. Kilmoronaig, Muckairn, Argyll says on source, Skye says another. I discover all that on a family tree posted by Mr/Ms W Stableford, which will save me a lot of searching. But first, the story of our couple. And I really can't do better and print the obituary that appeared in Patea and in Tasmania at his death 13 November 1876.

A grocer, eh. In Tasmania. I wonder why. And when. I see he is at Brisbane Street by 1845. But I see him in 1840 exporting 5 bags of flour, 5 bags of salt, 2 bags of sugar, 1/2 chest of tea, a box of ironmongery...


In 1846 he is importing 20 kegs of butter from Mauritius? 1848 'narrowly escaped destruction by fire' .. five kegs of tobacco .. 

lots of jury duty ... clearly a respected man ... assignee for various bankrupts .. 1856 'his interest in the firm of Du Croe Ltd is ended'. And .. oyoy .. what's this ...

What's up with the wife's family? This must be Archibald McEachern .. oh, I see, 'when Mr Colin Nicol Campbell retired from the long-established business of wine and spirit merchant and wholesale and family grocer, McEachern brothers, cousins of Mr R W McEachern, suceeded'. 'Mr R W McEachern was a son of Captain R McEachern who in 1854 was in command of the Roman Emperor trading between London, Madras and Demarara..'

In fact, family matters of another kind had been having a rough time. In the fourteen years since their marriage, Isabella had borne eight children. Three had died as babies, two more would be lost in 1858, before their teens .. but by then the family had quit Tasmania and were at Geelong on the mainland.

By the time they quit Australia, to try their luck in Invercargill, two more children had been added, of which one survived. Colin and Isabella and the four children left to them departed Melbourne in 1861. From Invercargill, they progressed to the North Island -- Bulls, Rangitikei, Patea (where Isabella died in 1873), and Carlyle -- where Colin ended his days. Groceries were a thing of the past, he was, at his death, the Town Clerk.

The descendants of the family must still be around in New Zealand and Australia. Three of the children married

Isabella (d 1928) married George Ferris Marshall (d 1916) a Gainsborough-born Wanganui chemist, and had a number of children -- Archibald McEachern Marshall, Ida Isabella Marshall, Nora Ruth Marshall, Bessie NcNeil Marshall. They returned latterly to Australia.

Madeline Elizabeth Lindsay married John Augustus Hutton, postmaster, and had issue William Augustus Hutton

and Malcolm James married Mary Douglas, and had two daughters and two sons. He is buried in Hawera, with his wife, unmarried sister Jamesina, and mother's sister Elizabeth McNeil McEachern.

PS I now find Isabella's McEachern tree ... goodness, fourteen siblings! ... and, yes, Archibald who went to Australia ... but that's a whole other story! And it has a photo of sister Elizabeth .. emigrated 1846 ... so, after Isabella ..

and these pictures of Colin and Isabella ...

Washing's finished, internet going ...time for my afternoon nap!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

COPSEY-CURVY ... or whatever became of Emilie?

This photo is of Miss Emily Mary Copsey. Known for her brief teenaged time on the stage as Emilie Copsey.


Yes, I fished it from e-bay, because I (and I may be the only one in the world!) actually recognised the name. 

Miss Copsey described herself in the 1881 census as an 'actress'. Hmm. That might be pushing it a bit. On the other hand, she wasn't wholly a chorus girl. Or a show girl. Her name appeared on the advertisements. Usually in last position behind the other girls who had a little more to do than stand around looking sexy in 'thinking parts'.

Emilie joined the company at the Royalty Theatre -- once the home of the Misses Pelham and Ixion -- at the age of sixteen, in 1879, and she appeared in the Teddy Solomon burlesques Venus (Psyche) and Balloonacy, in  the girly Cupid (Chloe), and in an attempt to revive Ixion during the next two and a bit years. She was apparently a sparky wee thing, and got the occasional press mention, as notably as Cupid in Ixion. At Christmas, she appeared in the Covent Garden pantomime Little Bo-Peep. Which was seemingly the last time she appeared on the stage. Did she have .. um .. other sources of income? Did she get married?  Well, the answers are 'yes' and 'yes' ... but let's start at the beginning of the tale.

The Copsey name flourished around Essex, and it was there that Emily's father was born. He was the third son of William Copsey, carpenter, and his wife Elizabeth Collier, and he was christened Joseph Stephen Copsey. He later popped his mother's maiden name in after the 'Stephen'. While elder brothers George Collier (1833-1899) and William Frank (1835-1905) made a living as furniture-makers and upholsterers in Romford, wed, bred, bankrupted periodically, and arrived at three score years and more in their home town, Joseph (b Chelmsford 4 February 1840) clearly wasn't into skills. At the age of 21, he is in London's Devonshire Place, footman to a merchant. Two years later (10 June 1863), he is married to a French girl from Creil, Oise, who signed the register as Emilie Marie Give. Father unknown. Condition: undeniably pregnant. And later in the year was born our Emily Mary COPSEY

Joseph was evidently a bit of a hopeless chap. By the time we catch up with him in the census of 1871 he is a fishmonger in Hammersmith. And two sons, Joseph and Eugene George, have been added to the family. But censi can't summarise a decade in a line. We would later be told that in the 1870s he had operated as a false-teeth-maker, a jewellery salesman, a tobacconist, an omnibus conductor and a fried-fish merchant at Notting Hill (he mongered the fish, his wife fried!) ...

And daughter Emilie, by the ending of the decade, was bringing in a wee wage from the Royalty Theatre.

Now, it seems Joseph was at least trying to keep bodies and souls together. I'm afraid I didn't give him the benefit of the doubt, and when I saw Joseph Copsey of Romford/Chelmsford up for all sorts off petty crimes from false pretences to thieving wool, a sewing machine and 57lbs of lead (how?), I feared it was he. But apparently it wasn't. It was a homonym. But Joseph (and Mrs Joseph) finally wandered from the fishfrying pan into the fire. As Joseph prepared a bankruptcy, they (clearly with the brainpower coming from elsewhere) mijoted a fraud ...

Emilie sr went to Whiteley's, splashed a bit of cash, and ordered a considerable amount of goods (622L 9s 8d) to be delivered. They duly were. But not paid for. In the meanwhile, Joseph was declared bankrupt, so when Mr Whiteley tried to reclaim his furniture ...  So he sued. Fraud, false pretences, conspiracy. And some soiled linen about the Copsey family was displayed. Not least about our teenage 'actress' who declined to answer a key question. Joseph was convicted, but somone behind the bench recognised that he was merely a puppet, and the 12-months prison sentence was held back while he was examined as to the identities of his masters. I suppose he complied, because in the end, after time in Pentonville and Newgate, he was released. 'Tobacconist's assistant'. Mrs C was the tobacconist.

And then, they all disappear. But not entirely.

22 May 1884, Mrs Copsey died, at 114 Millbourne Grove. Her will valued her estate at 46L. The executor named was our Emilie 'the only next of kin'.  Really? I don't think so. There are a husband and sons around. For ...

On 19 February 1885, our Emilie was wed at St Luke's, Chelsea. And the witnesses to the ceremony were John Stephen Copsey sr ('jeweller') and John Stephen Copsey jr. Her husband was one Louis Charles Florentin Masse, aged 34, seemingly from Strasbourg, but 'administrator of native affairs in Cochinchina' living in Paris, 62 rue de l'Arcade. 

And silly Joseph got into more trouble with the law ... 'obtaining credit by fraud' .. another 12 months in the clink from 23 May 1885 ..  after that ... I see him no more 

Eugene George seems to have gone off to America ... Joseph junior  ... no clue .. is he the one who died in Chelmsford in 1946?

But what a surprise! I thought Emilie had gone terminally to Cochinchina with her husband. Maybe she did for a while. But she came back. In 1898, the veuve Masse, née Copsey wed one Ernst Friedrich Meyer  ... wonder what that certificate says ... and where they ended up ...

And who, on earth, paid out a shilling for 16 year-old Emily's photo in 1879 ...

Sunday, June 6, 2021

LA FILLE DE MADAME ANGOT: they don't write 'em like that anymore

The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the waves are tinkling on the shore a hundred metres from me ...
and I'm indoors, with the windows and doors firmly closed, having a simply wonderful time.

What am I doing? Why, listening to a fascinating CD compilation from my very favourite opérette/opéra-comique of all time. La Fille de Madame Angot.

Paola Marié (Clairette) and company

The discs arrived from Truesound Transfers, in Berlin, forty-eight hours ago, and I've put off playing them until now, because -- well, quite honestly, there were so many painfully probable reasons for my not enjoying this particular recorded version, and I admire this show so very much, I can't bear to hear it done any way but with a perfection that probably only exists inside my head. But after a litre of milk (truly!), I pulled my glasses on and started on the first section of the recording ...

 My reasons for potentially not enjoying it were (1) it is in English. And, seemingly, a new and unfamilar translation. I have only known it in French (2) There are sixteen tracks. What have they cut? (3) It was recorded so the sleeve says in 1919. I am not fond of 'archival sound'. If not scratchy, it is inclined to be flat, and the top notes blurt. (4) It is under the label of the 'Beecham Light Opera Co'. Operatic companies' casting can be so wrong in a piece like this of which the essence is its lightness.

So? Was I right to be afraid of those four things. Yes, but nowhere near as right as I thought I was going to be. There is something imperfect in each department, but the best items and performances, and the total effect, are fine.

(1) The English words try hard to be colloquial and to fit the music, but don't quite pull it off. Mostly, but not quite. I miss my well-known French words, but if you want it in translation, it's a good shot.

(2) Oh dear. The English were originally pretty unkind to this show. Because they played it as a star vehicle. But it isn't. It has two leading female roles, and the battle between the two ladies is the heart of the show. So, they need to be equal. The great Emily Soldene, in the 1870s, reasonably tactfully bolstered the role of Lange, Dolly Dolaro practically cut Lange's role, for she played Clairette. This recording is a Clairette one. Great chunks of Lange are omitted. (ah! I see they are coming, in French, in part two, and with an explanation for the why and how of the Brits lost them). And the great hit of the show? The Conspirators' Chorus? Not there. (Oh! it is coming too, in French). And why is the character of fishwife Amaranthe sung by an unpleasantly forced baritone?

Gladys Ancrum

(3) Folks on the internet don't seem to agree on the date of these tracks. Which are amazingly clear and unblurty for their age. I agree with the sleeve notes, on a date of circa August 1919 ... because

(4) On 2 July 1919, Beecham's Company opened at Drury Lane with almost the same company. 26 year-old Desirée Ellinger, the troupe's Mimi, Butterfly, Nedda, Marguerite, Blondchen et al was Clairette, and as one can hear on this disc she was perfect casting. If we are to have an English Clairette, I can't imagine one better. She is as clear as a musical glass, and she isn't afraid to can her soprano tones and become the raucous fishwife's daughter in the Chanson Politique, or in the wonderful Quarreling duet -- the best such number since The Beggar's Opera cat-fight -- that brings the last act to its climax and denouement (even if its tag is sliced off here). Miss Ellinger would succed to the role of Rose-Marie in New York and play Julie in Paris's Show Boat

Her theoretical opposite number was played by a mezzo, Gladys Ancrum. It should be a lush soprano! This part was written for Marie Desclauzas. Soprano sex bomb. But some mezzos carry it off (especially mezzos who go on to sing Brünnhilde), and Miss Ancrum is one of them. We need her 'Les hommes d'Augereau' back desperately!

This isn't a plot, it's a party!

This piece has always really been the women's show. The role of the handsome revolutionary poet over whom they quarrel has some fine music, in the high baritone-low tenor register. I prefer a baritone. Beecham goes for a tenor. But instead of bringing in his original Webster Miller from Drury Lane he has an unfamiliar gent. I know very little about the Roumanian tenor Constantin Stroesco. Apparently he took over the role in August 1919. Anyway, he is a pretty fair tenor, nice and bright and edgy with only the odd accident which may have been the machinery's fault rather than his. He made a career in music-hall and movies in France ('of the Opéra-comique') and is remembered today for his role in the film Le Million.

So, our trio de tête is pretty solid. There, I'm afraid, performance-wise it stops. The light-tenor rôle of Pomponnet is taken by a lumpen baritone by name Herbert Langley. Apparently he was good-looking but we can't see that on record. We just hear his strained tones. Surely there was a chorus girl who could have sung 'Marchande de marée' better. Or, as Soldene did, one could add it to the role of Lange. I see Mr Langley went into playing operatic silent films. Good idea.

Marie Desclauzas, the original Lange

Larivaudière and Louchard are the play's stuffed-shirt funny men so one doesn't expect lovely vocalising from them ... nor from Trénitz (left), who don't get a look in here.

So, what we have here is actually a Drury Lane cast recording, well, a selection, with Goossens at the baton ... and it's not a badly cast one at all. Except for Pomponnet. 

A shame about the missing hits.

Pauline Luigini, the original Clairette, as le petit duc

Right. On to the bonus tracks. And the fun begins!

First we have Paris o/c takeover, Juliette Simon-Girard, as Clairette, giving the Chanson Politique, and recorded in 1903. Age: 44. And she sounds like a teenager. Crisp, clear, characterful and I'll bet that was the original tempo. Gold star!

Juliette Simon-Girard as Serpolette

Next a 1906 Lange (Ida Vaudère) with the 'missing' entrance song. Hmm. Not for me. Hesitant and soubretty. Lange is a wily, plotting vamp not a milkmaid.

Number Three. 1908. Well, if you are going to have a baritonish Pomponnet, have one like Alexis Boyer (1876-1954). Everything his English counterpart did wrong, he does beautifully right. Why do the French turn out the BEST baritenors .. from Lefort to Souzay ... Gold star!

Boyer in Le Barbier de Séville

Next up, the two schoolgirls duet. 1914. Marthe Chenal. Of the Paris Opéra. Jeanne Tiphaine I don't know. But, hey! two soprani! Yes! THAT's what it should sound like! Like les p'tites Michu. They're bosom buddies at this stage of the proceedings! This girlish duet is a parallel to the later Quarreling Duet, when they have become slanging rivals!

Jeanne Tiphaine

The big Lange-Pitou duet from 1910. Yay! Baritone-soprano! Rosalia Lambrecht I know, and she is well suited here, Ernest Clergue I don't know, but listen ... another French baritenor. They ar'n't as well served by the recording as some of the others, but I'd hire them anytime.

THE HIT! The Conspirators! (1909). Hmm, I've heard it done better. More characterfully. They're conspiring rather lustily. Pirates of Penzance style. OK, but no star.

Hm. A 1908 Clairette ... labelled 'mezzo-soprano'. Wot! Some bits are all right, but it misses the light and grace of a Simon-Girard. Ooh. That top note! Hojotoho!

Ah Mr Langley with another take of the Duo des Deux Forts. We'll skip that one.

And, goodness, wherever did they find two tracks of an Italian Pomponnet from 1912? With piano. Hmm. The Italians haven't heard of tenorino. This guy would be a youtube-ist in the 21st century.

Oh my goodness! And now a Pitou who sounds like a Pomponnet. Cruel voice production! Black star ... and a Pathé recording, too.

Aw! No more?

Well, what a voyage. What a treat! What a simply brilliant exercise ... anything about which I've muttered in passing (why is poor Pomponnet so often the problem?) is not the fault of Truesound ... they've presented us with just about every 1900s-1910s variation of casting known to woman: sop and mezzo Clairettes and Langes, baritone and tenor Ange Pitous and Pomponnets, a clapped out male as Amaranthe ... some good alternatives and some not good at all, but all interesting.

But I stick to the schema I came in with: the ladies sopranos both. One crisper than the other. A French baritenor for Pitou, a tenorino di grazia for Pomponnet, and a rough'n'tough dame, such as Georgette Spanellys on the 1963 recording, for Amaranthe. Just for the record, that set has a fine mezzo Lange and none other than Gabriel Bacquier as Pitou!

I assume that Truesound, true to their name, has cleaned up these old discs. The result is that even I can not complain about 'archival sound'. Magic.

And they brought us back Juliette Simon-Girard, the very original Serpolette of Les Cloches de Corneville singing as if she were born in the 21st century instead of in 1859...

I feel quite emotional. Oh! Why don't theatres bring back this marvellous piece ... but then I suppose it would have to be sung in English, or Italian, or American ... and that isn't quite the same, even with Miss Ellinger from Manchester, Miss Ancrum from Norbiton, and Sig Stroesco from Bucharest. Or, I imagine, even with the young Frances Saville ...









Saturday, June 5, 2021

Adelaide Phillipps: Brummy child to prima donna contralto

This is a story of success. No bumps, no scandals, no husbands, just pure music, from Pennsylvania to Paris, from Bristol to Boston ... 

PHILLIPPS, Adelaide [Maria Marianne] (b Bristol, 26 October 1832; d Karlsbad 3 October 1882).

One of America’s most admired contraltos of the Victorian era.

I set out, originally, to avoid writing articles on folk who had previously had a complete biography published about their life and their career. But, I was well on my way when I discovered that Adelaide had been already ‘done’. And rather beautifully done. Mrs R C Waterston’s little book (Adelaide Phillipps: a record) is not so much a biography as a loving memorial to a friend, occasionally a little heartfelt and gushing but rarely in error on the bits of the singer’s life on which she had material or experienced in person. Since these bits include chunks from Adelaide’s youthful letters home, from Europe, the early part of the tale is fascinating. The later part is selective and includes many reviews and testimonials. The best ones. So I would say to anyone interested in this vocalist, read the first half and the end of Mrs Waterston and fill in what gaps there are from here.

Adelaide Phillipps – that’s double 'p’ not single – was actually British, born in St Paul's, Bristol (some, curiously, say Stratford-on-Avon) in a year which is, everywhere, given as 1833. As her birthday was given as October 26, and as she was christened in April 1833, it appears 1832 might be nearer the mark. Anyway, somewhere between Alfred (b Trinity St, x 31 January 1830) and Frederick Henry Richard (b Redcliffe St. x 29 June 1835). 

Her father was Alfred Phillipps, a chemist and druggist, of 105 Redcliff Street (‘cheap cigars…’), her mother, née Mary Rees, in partnership with her sister, Ann Rees, a dancing and calisthenics teacher (‘Mrs Alfred Phillipps begs to make known to the Gentry of Bristol, Clifton and their vicinities that her annual ball will take place on Wednesday Jan 8 1834 at the Royal Gloucester Hotel Clifton ..’ 25 Portland Square…).

We are told that Adelaide came to Canada, and then America, with her family aged, variously, 6 or 7. Well,  it certainly wasn't 6. The Phillip[p]ses are still in Bristol in the (April) 1841 census, and on 7 August, Mrs P is announcing her Academy’s new term, to start in September 1841 … so … again, perhaps a year or so out? And, unless it was sister Ann advertising in August, it seems as if it may have been a reasonably sudden decision.

What even Mrs W doesn’t tell us, is that, before that date, Adelaide had already gone on the stage. Mother's teachings saw her up on the boards aged six: performing a highland fling at 'in character' at Coleman Pope's Benefit (22 April 1839), at another Benefit (15 June 1840) she danced 'two of her most celebrated pas'. At the same Theatre Royal, Bristol, 6 May 1841, she appeared in Henry Cooper’s Benefit ‘the celebrated Miss Adelaide Phillips (sic) who has been received with so much enthusiasm and who is not yet eight years of age’ played the title-role in Bombastes Furioso. A few days later, at Mrs McCready's Benefit, she danced the Cachuca 'à la Duvernay' and 'the precocious and elegant danseuse was honoured with an enthusiastic encore'. On 24 May, she came out in the drama Matteo Falconi with Charles Perkins, stage director of the Bristol Theatre Royal, at his Benefit, and 7 June 1841, a Benefit for her was held. She played the four different roles in the farce Old and Young, repeated Matteo Falconi with Mr Perkins and ‘danced several of her most favourite and celebrated dances’, while the same H C Cooper ‘leader of the band’ (and, soon, much more) played the violin. She won ‘reiterated plaudits’ for what was rumoured to be her last performance in the city.

So, all in all, it looks as if the Phillippses left for Canada in the later months of 1841, for in January 1842 the 9 year-old girl appeared at Boston’s Tremont Theatre, giving, again, her protean farce (with song and dance).

She made a New York debut on 1 May 1843, billed as ‘the best danseuse in America’, on a programme at the American Museum alongside a protean actor, a ballad singer, a Model of Paris, the Sea Dog of Newfoundland and a 20 foot serpent, and remained on the bill for over a month, during which time Tom Thumb also made an appearance.

On 25 September 1843 she appeared at the Boston Museum playing the famous kiddie part of Little Pickle in the musical comedy The Spoiled Child, and thereafter she worked as an actress and dancer in Boston, through till 1851 (Benefit 21 June, 4 July Rose in Love in all Corners). By this stage, her singing voice had been developed, by local teacher Sophie Arnoult, to a point where it was thought advisable for her to go and study in Europe, and the local wealthies got together to raise the money necessary, which was topped up by a donation of $1,000 from none other than Jenny Lind. It was said to be at the prima donna’s behest that she headed for London to study with Garcia, who already had quite a few Bostonians of varying degrees of talent in his stable (Elise Hensler, Harrison Millard, ‘Edoardo’ Sumner et al). Garcia was quoted as saying that Alboni and d’Angri were the only contraltos in the world and that ‘therefore he wishes his new pupil, Adelaide Phillipps, whose voice he finds to be a first class contralto to enter this interesting field’. So Adelaide ceased to be a soprano and became a contralto. 

After some two years in London, in the autumn of 1853, she headed for Italy and succeeded in winning an engagement – without, she wrote home, having to pay for it as most aspiring vocalists did – at the Teatro Grande, Brescia in Semiramide (5 November)

Mrs Waterston gives the details of the occasion and the fine reviews: ‘La Signorina Fi[l]lippi (Arsace) por giovane e bella, ricca di forte e ad un tempo dolcissima voce, intuonata, flessibile, estesa, di vero contralto, educata al bel canto dal sommo institutore Emanuele Garcia desto un tempo piacene e marviglia. Lodossi pure il suo distinto ed elegante modo di porgene e 1'anima di cui si mostra dotata e divenne in breve la delizà del publico, che le fece le piu clamoroso applausi.’ (La Fama). Porgene?

Her struggle through the complexities of the Italian operatic establishment to win more engagements is vividly related by Mrs W. She appeared at Crema over Carnevale, at Milan in concert (‘Ah quel giorno’) and at the Teatro Carcano singing her Semiramide, ‘Non più mesta’ and the last part of Vaccai’s Romeo e Giulietta. On 4 May she gave a performance at Rovereto. But that was it. She quit Italy and returned to America to be greeted with news of her mother’s death.

She appeared in Boston in concert during October and November of 1855 ('Una voce', Marguerite d'Anjou, Paër barcarolle, 'Che faro'), sang her first Messiah with the Mendelssohn Choral Society at the Tremont Temple (9 December, 'she is one of the few Americans that have really profited from a residence in Europe'), another with the Handel and Haydn Society (23 December) and, in the new year, joined the operatic company headed by Anna Lagrange, replacing no less a vocalist than Constance Nantier-Didiée. She appeared, in March, for the first time on the American operatic stage, at Philadelphia, as the Marchioness in Linda di Chamonix and Arsace in Semiramide and, six days later, at New York’s Academy of Music as Azucena in Il Trovatore alongside Lagrange, Brignoli and Amodio. After concerts in New England, she joined with the same troupe for more performances (Azucena, Maffeo Orsini in Lucrezia Borgia etc) and, in 1857, with another Maretzek troupe headed now by Marietta Gazzaniga. with whom she again played Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (‘good-looking, voluptuous… a fine voice and an excellent musician’) with the interpolation of ‘Non più mesta’, Maffeo Orsini, Federica in Luisa Miller, Pierrotto and Azucena (Niblo’s Gardens, 14 April 1857). In between the operatic seasons, she returned to the concert platform.

In 1857-8, Maretzek took his troupe to Havana, after which Adelaide joined with Anna Lagrange and then Pepita Gassier in further opera troupes, repeating endlessly her Rosina, her Orsini, her Azucena, her Pierrotto. When Mme Gassier sang Gilda, Adelaide was a notable Maddalena leading a critic to comment, after Rigoletto: ‘We doubt if there is another artiste on the stage who has improved so rapidly as Miss Phillips. Her voice is now so ably trained, and of such delicious quality, that we very much doubt if there is another contralto who can greatly surpass her’.

1859 was spent partly touring under Ullman (Martha in Nancy et al) and she played the title-role in Dr Thomas Ward’s opera Flora, or the Gipsy’s Frolic (2 June) which included in its cast Lucy Escott and Catherine Lucette, and which played for but two performances. In 1860, however, she suffered several bouts of illness, said to be due to her time in South America. Nevertheless, she had time for some operatic work – playing Nancy to the Martha of ‘Miss Patti’, for Ullman, and with Adelaide Cortesi’s troupe, where her Azucena was loudly praised: ‘Immense effect - more brilliant than we ever heard her before’. The Bristol papers, which had loyally charted their contralto's progress from afar, gotin a wee bit of a muddle this time, a telegraphists finger led them identify 'Miss Adelina Path' with Adelaide.

At the end of 1860 she was out on the road in yet another opera troupe with Pauline Colson as prima donna, Brignoli and Isabella Hinckley, with which she got to play, beyond her regular roles, Bianca in Il Guiramento, and Sinaide in Mose in Egitto. In 1861 it was Maretzek again (Ulrica in Un Ballo in maschera) until she left America, to return to Europe. This time, she was away for nearly two years, and once again she suffered somewhat from the frasques and intrigues of opera managers.

She was hired for two years by Merelli for the Paris Théâtre des Italiens where, once more as Signorina Fil[l]ippi, she gave her Azucena to the Manrico of Mario, the Leonora of Rosina Penco and the Luna of delle Sedie (19 October), then her Ulrica alongside delle Sedie and her Arsace to the Semiramide of Penco. When she sang the page, Smeaton, in Anna Bolena with Alboni, Le Menéstral nodded 'Seule Mlle Filippi a secondé les magnifique élans de Mme Alboni'. From there she went, with Merelli, and Anna Lagrange once again, to Madrid and Barcelona. But, while Merelli was away, the Parisian directors managed to get him sacked and, with Merelli gone, so too was Adelaide’s two-year contract. She toured with the irrepressible impresario through Belgium, France, Holland and apparently as far afield as Poland. I see them in Lille performing Il Barbiere di Siviglia: 'Rosine était représentée avec une gracieuse espièglerie par Mlle Adélaïde Filippi dont la voix de mezzo-soprano est pleine de charme et d'habilité'. She sang 'Non più mesta' and 'Il bacio' in the lesson scene. I later spot her is Prague (September 1862) and in Pesth where she sang Zerlina in Don Giovanni. She finished her European visit with six weeks at Lille, and then headed back across the Atlantic.

She returned home to more of the same activity: another operatic visit to Havana, a Strakosh tour with more Brignoli, more Barbiere and now playing Norina in Don Pasquale, more concerts (‘Una voce’, ‘Che faro’ ‘the finest contralto now on the lyric stage’) and oratorios and, in 1865, a trip to the west coast.

 In 1866 she partook of another tour with Maretzek with Carlotta Carozzi Zucchi and Clara Louise Kellogg as prime donne, and a season at the Academy of Music where she sang, amongst her usual roles, Nidia in Petrella’s Ione alongside Enrichetta Bosisio. The following year she teamed once more with Anna Lagrange and Brignoli for a repeat Strakosch round, during which she sang the Leonora of La Favorita

As ever, the operatic seasons, longer or shorter, were interleaved with concert engagements, of which the Boston Music Festival of 5 May 1868 was the most sizeable. But, shortly after that, she said ‘farewell’ again (‘Lascia ch’io pianga’, ‘Son leggero’, Saffo duet with Gazzaniga) and headed back for another of her periodic visits to Europe. But bad luck seemed to dog her times citra-Atlantic. Signed for another two-year contract in Paris, she was obliged to give it up when her father became ill. He was to die on 16 October of the following year.

She sang with Parepa in the Boston Peace Jubilee (‘Non più di fiori’), and 1870 gave her another round of opera, and a substantial tour with her own concert party, supported by the celebrated cornettist Levy and (mostly) Jules D Hasler (baritone), which lasted into 1871. That year was a year spent concertising in America and Canada at the head of variously compiled groups including violinist Sarasate, tenor Charles Lefranc, basso Johann-Friedrich Rudolphsen and ‘her protégée Cornelia Stetson’, but by Easter 1872 she was back on stage, appearing with Parepa, Wachtel and Jenny van Zandt and the Rosa-Neuendorff company as Azucena, Maddelena et al.

The Adelaide Phillipps Concert Company, featuring violinist Camilla Urso, toured in early 1873, before Miss Phillipps left for Europe ‘to go climbing in the Pyrenées’, and to see sister Matilda, whom she had placed with Garcia in London to be similarly transformed into a successful contralto vocalist.

On her return she appeared in concerts (‘Absence’, ‘Ah, mon fils’, ‘Pardon me, my God’, ‘Soave sei amato bene’) and then, in 1874, she launched the Adelaide Phillipps Opera Company, a company which had the surely unique particularity of carrying no lead soprano. Tom Karl, Orlandini, Bacelli and Locatelli were the other featured artists. They played Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Pasquale, and Adelaide took the roles of both Rosina and Norina.

In early 1875 it was announced that she was quitting the stage, and great festivities were planned to mark the occasion. However, the announcement was rather premature and the company continued on its rounds, ending up, for a week, in a rather more sizeable shape, at New York’s Academy of Music (14 February 1876) where she played Rosina, Azucena, La Favorita and Tisbe in La Cenerentola. She was Tisbe, because the role of Cinderella was reserved for sister Matilda – now become ‘Mathilde’ – making her first appearance on the American stage. The company played further dates with the English soprano, Maria Palmieri, and her tenor husband, Tito, adjoined, to allow them to play Semiramide and, announcedly, Le Comte Ory, before it shuttered and Adelaide and Matilda returned to the concert platform.

In 1877 she went out with J C Fryer’s Charles Adams-Eugenie Pappenheim company, but problems surfaced in New Orleans when the soprano was said to have taken umbrage at the popularity of the contralto and gone ‘sick’. Truth or journalism, Adelaide stayed with the troupe to New York, but seemingly with a reduced workload. She would also premiere the Verdi Requiem in Boston with Pappenheim and Adams in 1878, so any breach cannot have been too dramatic. In the new year, she took another trip to Europe and south-west France and, when she returned, she picked up her own company, headed by Tom Karl, for further dates, before, in 1879, she finally put the company to rest.

In 1879 Effie Ober, agent, of Boston put together a very classy troupe to play a truthful version of the latest megahit, HMS Pinafore, currently being purveyed round the country by all sorts of approximate rag-tag-n-bobtail groups. Local vocal comic Henry C Barnabee, the area’s outstanding bass Myron V Whitney, Tom Karl and the rather strange soprano Dora Wiley were to head the production, and Adelaide Phillips was cast as Little Buttercup. In the event Miss Wiley announced a double booking and the young Mary Beebe took over as prima donna and, come opening night, there was no Miss Phillipps either. One of her periodic illnesses had struck her and Isabella McCullough (sometime Mrs Brignoli) stepped in. However, Adelaide soon returned to ‘her’ role. The Bostonians showed that the only way to play Gilbert and Sullivan was accurately and at a high standard: their production was a huge success, netted $42,000 in six weeks, and the to-be-famous Boston Ideal company was on its way to a position as America’s top light operatic company.

The tale of the Ideals has been succinctly told by Barnabee – the base member, and eventual co-owner of the troupe -- in his autobiography, My Wanderings. Suffice it to say that Adelaide – with her acting and singing skills – was an immense success as an ‘Ideal’, as she went on to play Fatinitza, Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, Germaine in Les Cloches de Corneville, the Queen in The Bohemian Girl, Lady Sangazure in The Sorcerer, and the title-role in Boccaccio. At the end of the 1881-2 season, she took another trip to Europe, for her health. She was at Karlsbad, for the waters, when she died in October of the year. Her body was brought home on the steamship Werra, on its maiden voyage, to be buried at the old Winslow Burying Ground at Marshfield alongside her brother, Frederick, an army surgeon who had died of a tropical disease, 21 November 1879. The other members of her large family, whom she is said to have largely supported by her operatic earnings, would follow: Alfred (8 October 1901), George (23 July 1906), Adrian Wooles (30 January 1907), Edwin (26 December 1919), and Matilda (d Marshfield 10 March 1915) as well as foster-sister, Arvilla Corbet (d Massachusetts Hospital 27 October 1906), who had married Adrian and who had been Adelaide’s companion on her early European trip.

‘Mathilde’ made a good career as a vocalist in the shadow of her sister. In 1880 she was on the road with the Tagliapietra Opera Company (‘her contralto voice all aglow ... floated out over the audience like a silver trumpet’ La Favorita) for the brief time of its existence, and in 1882 she took up Adelaide’s place as contralto with the Ideals (Pedro in Giroflé-Giroflà, Lady Jane in Patience, Gypsy Queen, Nancy in Martha etc). She appeared with the so-called American Opera Company, and then joined Strakosch to tour with Annis Montague and Charles Turner in 1886. In 1887 she appeared with the American National Company at the Metropolitan Opera House and in San Francisco (Martha in Faust). She also performed in oratorio and concert, notably in the 4th Boston Festival in 1877 (‘a strikingly favourable impresssion’).

Arvilla, Adrian and Frederick also partook of the stage in their young days, appearing in a dance act at the Boston Museum.