Wednesday, March 9, 2022

'Miss Violet Granville' ... a Dutch operetta mystery


I've known about 'Miss Granville' for a long long time. Not because she was particularly prominent in the Victorian musical theatre, but because she worked for Charles Morton and Emily Soldene in their heyday. I investigated her a little while back when, in the 1980s, I was writing my mega-biog of Soldene, but she didn't remain a Soldene singer, or indeed a performer, for more than a decade, so  ..

A short while ago, I came upon a photo of her ..

Then, today, another

A bit bijou, yes? But, of course, she was Jewish and, at this stage, theatrical ...

So, who was she? Well, that's no problem. The one document I have concerning her is her marriage certificate. I actually bought it, in days before the Internet. Judita Drucquer, daughter of John, interpreter aged 33. That's what it says. I say: oh yeah?

John, from Amsterdam? No. Joachim Jonas Drukker, son of Jonas Hijam Iom-Tov Chaim Drukker and his wife Judic Zise Kok, married Alida van Leeuwen in Amsterdam in 1828 (13 August). They had five sons, and two or three daughters, before they emigrated to England where their last daughter, Judith/Judita, seemingly, was born in 1842. Yes 1842. So at her marriage she was not 33 but 40. You can forgive her for lying. Her husband was some twenty years younger.

Father may have interpreted, but basically he was a tobacconist 'opposite Somerset House, in the Strand'. And a tobacconist and cigar-vendor/manufacturer he remained, through solvency and bankruptcy (allied with De Meza Brothers) until his death, 16 May 1883, at Forest Hill. Alida died the following year (1 July 1884) and is buried in the West Ham Jewish Cemetery.

But it isn't quite straightforward. In the 1851 census the family can be seen at 286 The Strand. Papa 'interpreter', mama 'milliner' (so they're not doing that well!), Jonas, George, Michael, Henry 'cigar makers', Julia, Elizabeth, Sophia 10. But no Judith. Is she Sophia? But she's 'Judith' in the birth records. Isn't she? The 1841 census has the Drukkers with four sons plus Julia, no Elizabeth, and an unnamed baby. Sophia? Hang on. One family historian equates Sophia with Julia, and it is odd that 'Violet' appears on the stage only after Sophia's divorce (for adultery) from one David de Heer. You get a bit muddled with these double Jewish names ...  I see eldest brother Jonas named his 1879 daughter 'Sophia Violet' ... 

Whatever, I spot a 'Miss Granville' at the Lyceum Theatre, in the chorus of Chilpéric. The pseudo-aristocratic pseudonym was not hers alone -- I remember Clara Granville with the Pelham girls at the Royalty half a dozen years earlier, and there was a 'Miss Granville' singing on the halls in the late 'sixties -- but I have a feeling that this may be 'Violet' using her good soprano voice and her noticeable figure for the first time in opéra-bouffe.

By 1873, she had got on well and truly to the Charles Morton-Emily Soldene train, and she took part in their season at the Opera Comique, playing in a little Lecocq pasticcio called My New Maid with Claliah Albertazzi. The season featured La Fille de Madame Angot, and I'd be pretty certain those two ladies were the understudies to the two leading ladies. And yes, I would guess Violet covered (as I suspect she did on other occasions) Soldene. Although if Soldene was off (as she rarely ever was) the show would probably have been cancelled. When Geneviève de Brabant was staged, Violet was a 'striking' Charles Martel.

At Christmas, she took time out to visit the Manchester Theatre Royal, where she played principal girl (Lady Melusine) to the Bluff King Hal of Scots musical-comedian Tom Maclagan. Maclagan had been Soldene's leading man in Le Petit Faust, which had followed Chilpéric at the Lyceum. So I dragged out my Lyceum playbill and yes! There is 'Miss Granville' as 'Rosa' as one of nine slightly featured girls in the cast ... so, we can confirm that she was on the Lyceum stage by 1870.

I pick her up over the 1874-5 in only a few concerts -- 7 February at the Princess's Theatre in a Benefit for the Cospatrick Fund. She sang Offenbach's 'Wind that Blows Across the Sea' (Whittington) Odoardo Barri's 'Why?' and took the mezzo part in the Rigoletto quartet. The soprano was Blanche Cole.  At Hastings, she joined Arthur Matthison and Barri in dance-music composer C H R Marriott's concert on the Pier Pavilion where her contributions were Pinsuti's 'The Maiden's Flower Song' and Sullivan's 'Little Maid of Arcadee'. She was praised for her 'splendid soprano'. On 21st February, with The Schubert Society (a haven for barely professionals) she sang 'Addio' and another Barri piece.

By mid-1875, she was back on the stage, this time at the Alexandra Theatre, cast in a spectacle coupé as the Queen in Balfe's The Sleeping Queen ('a bright and pleasing voice') and in The Gallant Waiter. When Charles Morton followed up with some performances of La Fille de Madame Angot, Charlotte Russell dropped out, and it was Violet who played the Soldene role of Lange.

Violet was evidently a useful lady, capable of taking a principal role, and willing to understudy.  Morton next deployed her to the Royalty Theatre, where Selina Dolaro was starring in La Périchole. Trial by Jury was the afterpiece (and the main attraction), but the forepiece was, as ever, movable and, when My Wife's Out was replaced by The Dumb Belle, Violet was brought in to play opposite Charlotte Russell. I would suspect, also, to cover Dolly.

Violet continued onwards and gently upwards. Morton produced Madame l'Archiduc in London, with Soldene in the title-role and no less a star than Kate Santley as the toyboy Fortunato.  There was really only one other at all substantial female role in the piece: that of the Countess. It was taken by Violet Granville. Who, again, doubtless, covered the star(s).

After some time 'available' (agent: R D'Oyly Carte), I see her next at the Folly Theatre, featured in a triple bill of Hervé and Offenbach operettas. She took the female role in Hervé's little Up the River, while Nellie Bromley, Kate Munroe and Violet Cameron played in the other, more substantial, pieces. Understudy again? 

Kate Munroe

Next, she was summoned to the St James's Theatre, to take up the famous role of the Directrice, in the effort to salvage the flop Philharmonic production of Le Petit Duc. The Directrice was a voluptuously comic Desclauzas character role. It seems Violet was going that way. But the piece sank, and Miss Granville headed back to the bosom of Morton and Soldene. Emily had just returned from ther famous 'tour of the world' and she brought a number of her faithful servants with her. She also brought her 4-act version of La Périchole and staged it, under Morton's management, at the Alhambra. This time, Violet got to play one of the three cousins (Guadalena) alongside Emily's sister Clara Vesey and Etty Bertie. Then, when Morton followed up with La Poule aux oeufs d'or the same three ladies were cast as the plotworthy sprites ...

Violet seemed to have found herself a comfy berth in the Mortonian hierarchy. But when the Christmas show ended, she disappears from my view ...

In 1881 'after some time absent' she resurfaced at the Strand Theatre, playing in the afterpiece, Paradise Villa, to Alexander Henderson's production of Olivette. Was she covering Florence St John in the star role? If she were, she didn't get the takeover. That went to Mlle Sylvia. The production ended 3 February 1882. 18 November, Violet married (as 'Judita') a young 'silk merchant' by name George Walter Roberts, and disappeared from out my ken ...

So what became of her?  Why can I not find her in one single census, as Judith Drukker/Drucquer, as Judita Roberts or as Violet?  She may have hooned off to Holland or Belgium sometimes, but in both 1871 and 1881 she was working in the London theatre. 

Papa, Mama and the siblings seem to have stayed in England. Hijman/Henry ran the hotel in Battle for twenty years. They all married. Jonas Joachim junior had ten children ... there must be someone out there who knows what happened to Auntie Judith-Violet. Did she and her boy go off to where the silkworms grow? Did the marriage last? I just don't know.

So, a frustrating tale. Susceptible (maybe) of improvement. Any help, much appreciated.

ASK AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN.  Bryan Kesselmann sends me, just hours later:

"Judita Sophie Violet Roberts of Lord Street, Southport, Lancashire, died 13 May 1909 and is buried in Duke Street Cemetery, Southport, Sefton, Merseyside. She left £2442 5s. 7d. to be administered by her husband George Walter Roberts, who was clerk to the vestry clerk".

So Judita WAS Sophie, she DID marry Mr de Heer and adulterise with Mr Nunes in Brussels ... got divorced by him, and then married a silk merchant who went into the church ...

and Anne Stanyon messages me that 'she was one of the girlies who threw themselves at the lovely Mr [Arthur] Sullivan' !!!!

OK, so where are they in the censi...? And why does the stone say 'aged 69'? Was she born in the Strand or in Amsterdam?  Is she not the Judith born 1842? The mysteries hav'n't all finished yet.  

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