Monday, June 20, 2022

Paris Conservatoire of the 1860s


In 2019, Offenbach year, I penned a little piece about the original (and mostly forgotten) girls of his Bouffes-Parisiens company ..

Yes, 1855-1860. 

On another occasion, attracted by a photo of a later member of the famous theatre's troupe, I took another couple of swings at the 'who was' of the girls (the men being, often, famous and well 'done') ..

This week, by a roundabout process, I came upon a photo of another Bouffes lassie ... 1864-5 ... and realised that there was a culpable gap of some years between my article (a) and my article (b). So I decided to 'do' Mademoiselle Lovato. And, of course, I got led astray into the endlessly fascinating 1860s.

But let's start with

Marie [Adèle] LOVATO (b Paris 30 June 1844; d Paris October 1915), daughter of Jean-Baptiste (or Giovanni Battista) Lovato and his wife Geneviève Joséphine de la Torre (m 9 September 1841). 
Marie entered the Paris Conservatoire in her teens, studied under Mlle Hersant, Morin, Mocker et al, but only squeaked into the prizes with a 3ème and 2ème accessit in opéra-comique ...

The judges must have been feeling grouchy that year. Marie Roze and Eugénie Mauduit were not judged worth a first (They got it next time!). And the men's opera class weren't awarded a first or a second.
Eugénie Mauduit

Marie didn't have to worry. She had already been honing her art, singing in the chorus at the Opéra, and at her graduation she was snapped up by the Bouffes.

She made her first appearance there 29 September 1864  in La Maison de Larenadière ('voix sympathétique') alongside Irma Marié and Clarisse Miroy, and I see her thereafter as Lise in L'Homme entre deux ages with Heuzey and Geraldine, as Zoe in Grisar's Les Douze Innocents, in C'est pour ce soir, Bonsoir M Pantalon, Caspers's Le Cousin Babylas, Roland à Ronge-Veau, Le Mariage aux lanternes and with the company in their season at Ems (Le Lion de St Marc, Le Maître de Chapelle, the original Delfina in Coscoletto). 


However, she did not remain the Bouffes. She took an engagement for South America, supporting Marie Aimée, and did not reurn to Paris until mid-1867, when she was engaged for the new Théâtre de l'Athénée. She played in Malbrouk s'en-va t'en guerre (Bobinette), L'Amour et son carquois (Thisbé to the Amour of Irma Marié), Césarine in Fleur de Thé, Aventurine in Le Petit Poucet, Rosette in Les Jumeaux de Bergame, Wilhelmine in Les Horreurs de la Guerre, and was loaned out to the Palais-Royal to deputise Céline Montaland as the Baronne de Gondremarck.
From the Athénée she moved to the Folies-Dramatiques where she created the role of Marguerite in Jonas's Le Canard à trois becs ('un excellente chanteuse') and seemingly took turns in Le Petit Faust and Les Turcs, in 1869 she returned to the spa circuit, and then was engaged -- along with Lise Tautin -- for the French opéra-bouffe at St Petersburg. And there, her 'international' travels came to an end. Yes, it was a man.
Marie was reported to have eloped. But I see her still there in 1872 (Gabrielle in Les Cent Vierges). Anyway, she married 'Signor Campo-Casso' or 'Campocasso', former manager of the theatres at Lille Algiers, Angers and Toulouse 26 June 1873, and became Madame Marie Deloche. Campo's real name was Auguste Deloche. Campo was on a rising arc, and the couple removed to Brussels where Madame made her debut as Madeleine in Le Postillon de Lonjumeau.
Thereafter they followed Auguste's appointments to Marseille, Paris, Rouen, Lyon ... with Marie appearing less frequently ...
Campo died in 1908. Marie 7 October 1915.

That was to be it, but another name in that depressing prize-list caught my eye. Mademoiselle Seveste.

Jacqueline Angélique Julie Laure SEVESTE (b Montmartre 7 August 1844; d Nantes 13 December 1927) has made her way into several reference works (including Larousse!) but not strictly for her vocal triumphs.
She was from a family which had had a presence in the Paris theatre -- manageent at the Comédie Français and the Théâtre Lyrique, and her brother, Didier, was a prized juvenile at the Français. She stayed on at the Conservatoire after Marie had left for the Bouffes, and eventually (1866) her 'suave voix' and 'naturel' gained her a premier prix for opéra-comique. She made her first appearance at the Opéra-Comique in 1866 in L'Epreuve villageoise ('très avenante .. quelquechose à apprendre comme chanteuse ... charmante artiste') and played there in such little pieces as Les Sabots de la Marquise, Mademoiselle Sylvie, in Betly, as Jasmin in Les Rendezvous bourgeois, Le Chien du Jardinier, with Couderc in Maître Pathelin before disappearing from the books.

She seems to have retreated into the world of the private-house and concert operetta, but she was propelled to the fore when 25 year-old brother, Didier, was killed in the Siege of Paris. His death was made into a rather James-Deanish affair, and Marie sustained his memory vigorously.
She also returned to the stage, cast as the ingenue Rosée du soir in the spectacular Le Roi Carotte. She fulfilled the 'pretty girl, sweet voice' requirements of the part efficiently, but then returned to concerts and the salons.
I don't see her back on the stage until 1875 ('une chanteuse légère dans le vrai sens du mot') singing at Montpellier in mostly the opéra-comique repertoire (La Fille du régiment, Le Barbier de Séville, Les Dragons de Villars, Les Mousquetaires de la Reine, La Dame Blanche, Les Noces de Jeannette ... and La Traviata!) and then, after appearance at Nantes, Dijon, the Contrexéville Casino et al, until in 1879 she returned to Paris as prima donna of the Opéra Populaire at the Château d'Eau. Now she sang Martha, Si j'étais roi, Le Barbier de Séville (with good old Rode's Variations), Fanchonette and ... Lucia di Lammermoor. If her voice had, apparently, taken on a wee bit of volume, so had her body. 'Stout'.
I see her, over the next decade, giving La Perle du Brésil at Reims, Hamlet in Amsterdam, L'Etoile du Nord and Mignon at Angers, Le Diamants de la Couronne at Mont Doré, Galathée and Faust at Rouen, Don Pasquale at Geneva, and in 1884 Il Trovatore, Traviata, Roméo et Juliette, Le Desert and Clairette in La Fille de Madame Angot plus repeats of her favourites Barbier, Noces de Jeannette ...
Now she was not only stout, but her voice was showing the strains of age and Verdi. But I see her battling on, as late as 1891, in her adopted home of Nantes. 
In the 1880s (?), she married the Mayor of Nantes, Edouard Normand (1818-1896), and was left a very wealthy widow at his death. She devoted herself to good works, holding a daily crêche in the grounds of their estate, (she gave part of the land to the city), and also working, ever, in favour of the memory of her brother. The government gave her a cross and a ribbon for Didier, and later the Légion d'honneur for herself. Someone claimed they had found his sword, and it was apparently enshrined in the foyer of the theatre ... true?
She had been a capable, light-soprano, provincial prima donna. The awards were for her achievements as a woman.

Here's another 3ème accessit. From 1867, this one. A certain Zélie Anna de Rasse from Belgium was judged to merit a premier prix, and duly headed for the Opéra-Comique. But, it was announced, so did the 3ème accessit.
Anna Marie LABRUNIE (b Paris 2 September 1849; d Bayonne March 1927) was the apparently fatherless daughter of Anna Albertine Marie Labrunie. She studied with Couderc at the Conservatoire, and probably owed to him her place at the Opéra-Comique. The only thing is, I can't actually see her playing in anything there, yet this photo is supposed the be her in the role of Cupid in Orphée aux enfers. Which quite simply don't fit.

Maybe there was a later Mlle Labrunie? Anyway, our one married (17 December 1871, with Couderc as witness) a young baritone from the Opéra-Comique (briefly), Jean-Ernest Masson, and as far as I know, wasn't seen on the Paris stage again, appearing only in concert, often with her husband, over the years that followed. He, too, left the stage and became adjoint prof to his teacher, Fauré, at the Conservatoire, where he established himself as a well-known and successful teacher.

Marie also taught, and produced four sons, of whom the best-known was Louis Marie Jean Masson, Masson, who would later become supremo at the Trianon-Lyrique and the Opéra-Comique. Georges (who lost a leg in the war) made a career as an artist, Adrien Henri Louis  (an international fencer) at the head of the Savonnerie de la Côte d'Argent at Bayonne, and Octave Lucien Pierre Jacques, an antique dealer.  

Saturday, June 18, 2022



I came upon this grand 1892 poster yesterday ....

I didn't know anything about the show ... my experience of the Porte Saint-Martin comes several decades earlier. So I had a wee peek ..

Ah 1892. French campaigns in Africa. So, topical. Patriotic. Spectacular. 

The theatre critic François Oswald was the manufacturer of the piece. He took an older piece, La Légion étrangère, a simple and conventional tale, with conventional characters, and re-placed it in the topical setting of the day. Foreign legion hero with military father and nasty rival for the hand of the ingénue ... certain elements of The Desert Song! and, of course, lots of topless Amazon ladies,Taillade in blackface as the African king Béhazin, and a broad comic element provided by Dailly as the little feller of the piece.

Au Dahomey opened 10 December 1892 in Paris, and was a 'grand succès'. 'Patriotism makes money' quoth one newspaper.  Another wondered why the 'Dahomian' hordes were sort-of brown instead of black, and tongue-in-cheek questioned the producers' lack of 'ethnographie'. 

For those who wish to know more, the making of Au Dahomey is related by 'Willy' in his Soirées perdues ... but I have a feeling its poster might have been the best thing about it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A trove of Taunton folk .. find the link!

A cople of weeks ago, I re-constructed a nineenth-century photo album and identified a goodly number of the Devonshire folk therein. It was great fun, rather like doing a 10,000 piece jigsaw with no edges.

So today, while the frost lay crunchily on the lawns, and Wendy stoked up the logfire ... I thought I would try the same thing again. Same ebay dealer. In France. But wholly English content .. and also from Devon. Could the two albums be related? How did they find their way to France? So many mysteries.

This one isn't from Exeter, however, and it's not full of church dignitaries. It seems to be related to the town of Taunton, where most of the photos were taken at the studios of Mr Webber. And instead of vicars and bishops we have socialites, Esquires and (groan) a dollop of Indian army.

We have Badcock, Chapman, Malet, Dawson, Surtees, Coleman ... which is the key that binds them together? Well, it's cocktail time, so I'm going to put down what I've found and we'll go from there. Oh, one warning. These photos are inscribed (all in the same hand) from the time of their taking. But somebody, considerably later, has written names (rather more clearly) on the back in pencil. Is this someone with personal knowledge, or did the pages of the album have information on them which has been transferred? I wonder. So here goes.

BADCOCK. Three photos. 
(1) Caroline (b Wilton 1841; d Dormy Cottage, Winchester 30 September 1913) 
(Mrs John Hepburne Merriott). The pencil tells us that the photo is from 1862, so she is still a maiden. Daughter of Robert Gibson Badcock, banker. Husband a vicar and a schoolmaster. 

(2) Henry Jeffries (b 1838; d 13 April 1927). Her cousin. Son of another banker and magistrate, who became another banker and magistrate ...  look at the photo, you can see it coming!

(3) unnamed Badcock ladies. Though the pencil says 'Mrs' Badcock. Which Mrs Badcock? Robert G's wife died in 1950 and he remarried ... maybe ..?  But who is the other?

Is that an 'H'?  Maybe Caroline's sister, Henrietta?

Anyway, I don't think the Badcocks are the plaque tournant of this collection. So lets move on to what looks like M A E Chapman:

Yes. It is. Mary Ann Elizabeth CHAPMAN (b Madras 1800; d Taunton 17 February 1869). Wife (7 July 1840) of Richard Chapman (d 3 January 1861) of the Ordnance Department, youngest son of General Chapman of the Royal Artillery at Tainfield House and brother to the Governor of Bermuda. 

Here's another Chapman. Caroline CHAPMAN (née Pyke). Mother of the Richard above.

And here's her second husband (following the demise of the General), Mr William Edward Surtees (d 18 February 1889) barrister of Seatonburn, Northumberland ...

No connection that I can see ...

MALET. Oyyyyyyy. Lots of these around ... often with the same prenoms. This time I have four photos, and by dint of archeology I have found out which Malets they are. The first is the widow of the baronet (see below), Susanna ...

Yes, I'm afraid, Indian army again. But what to do with all these youngest sons of youngest sons?

Well, this is is son, Alfred Augustus MALET, Captain in the 8th Foot. He voyaged a bit and married Eleanor Anne PASSOW (b Jamaica) in Nova Scotia in 1840. 

They had a son, Charles Frederick (b 11 May 1843; d Pachmarthi, India 22 November 1877). Also a Captain in the 8th Foot. For him, the Indian thing was fatal.

Well, no family connections yet. Or have I missed something? 

Last try. Dawson. Three .. and two duplicates ..

Yes, the same lady. Unnerving. She looks like a more prepossessing version of New Zealand's for-the-meanwhile Prime Minister.

Martha DAWSON was the wife of Thomas Dawson (magistrate and barrister), who I suppose is this fellow

and among her offspring were Martha Beatrice DAWSON

and sister Sophia

Well, I have one or two left over, but time's run out ...


William Coleman?

And a lady of 108 years old ...  who don't seem to appear in the censi or death records ..

Well, I've devoted a good few hours to these folk. Someone else, carry on from here.  I'm back to my Victorian Vocalists for a bit!

Sunday, June 12, 2022

FLY ME TO THE MOON the new intégrale of Le Voyage dans la lune

The Operetta Research Centre sent me a new 2CD set to review ..

A new recording from Bru Zane? After the tremendous job they did with La Fille de Madame Angot, I am all agog. What is it to be? They are deliciously inclined to be adventurous ...

Well, they have been adventurous. A full-scale recording of an Offenbach score which, until recently, I didn't know had been recorded - even in part -- at all. The 1875 Gaîté spectacular féerie Le Voyage dans la lune which, in its time, went around the world.

Ill-fated American 'Kate Munroe' was London's Fantasia

When, in 1990, I put out my Musical Theatre on Record, covering (as I thought) every recorded musical and operetta of the vinyl era, I was unaware that there existed a 1961 disc of a French radio broadcast of a large selection from Le Voyage dans la lune. Well, maybe in those days there wasn't, but there is now (on Malibran), and I've listened to it with pleasure. All the main vocal pieces of the show are there, performed by two really great performers of the French 1960s -- Claudine Collart, whose Eurydice remains one of the most outstanding on vinyl or any other medium, and the ravishing tenor, Michel Hamel. But. The music was written for two sopranos. So, while Hamel is as brilliantly French-tenorious as ever, and it is a total joy to listen to him and Collart singing the merry music of the score to Le Voyage dans la lune, we are not strictly hearing Offenbach's music  'as she was writ'. 

I see, as I prepare to listen to the new recording, that Bru Zane have remedied that, and that the music written for Zulma Bouffar as the hero of the piece is sung by a (mezzo) soprano.

The little swallows in the Snow Ballet

The score of Le Voyage dans la lune is (like that of Le Roi Carotte) of a different kind to those of the well-known opéras-bouffes of the Offenbach canon. Because this is not an opéra-bouffe. It is a féerie, in the well-established genre of Rothomago, La Biche au bois, La Poule aux oeufs d'or and so many other long-enduring Paris hits. No burlesque here, everything about the production is subservient to the physical staging, the ballets and the special effects. And, boy, did the Parisians of that time know, well and truly, how to do 'spectacular'. So, we have a Rocket to the Moon, an exploding volcano, the glass palace, the mother-of-pearl galleries and, most successful of all, a snow scene with a ballet of swallows ... all that and some typically tuneful Offenbach music ... promising? But it's tough, for on disc we have the music without the visuals ...

Well, having prepared myself by a quick re-listen to the 1961 recording here I go on the 2022 full-scale one!


Right. Three hours later. Congratulations Bru Zane and all those concerned with this very valuable and enjoyable double-disc. We now have a complete (apart from the various Popotte-Thérésa interpolations, which arrived later) Le Voyage dans la lune to range on our shelves among the growing ranks of 'intégrales'.

The problem with intégrales, in general, for simple, pleasant listening as opposed to reference, is that you get all the bits of scene music and chorus exits and entrances in between the Bits That Matter. And in a féerie, there are lots of incidentals. Decorative bits which Don't Really Matter when you can't see the spectacles which they accompany. I know the ballet music is pretty, but it is there merely to accompany the nearly-naked legs-display of a hundred little girls, and it seems rather insignificant without them. Etcetera.

The other problem is the age old one of actors who can't sing, and singers who can't act. Bru Zane's casting department (as in Angot) has avoided the traps of this one splendidly, but ... in one case we have an important artist who acts deliciously, sings splendidly ... but in two different voices. It means that you are listening, in a way, to two different performances. Almost as in the days when record companies used actors for the spoken bits and singers for the music, without even pretending they were the same character.

Well, those are my only grumblettes. And they are, in general, not really about this recording, but about intégrales as a concept. And of course, they are most particularly relevant in a record of a show in which the number one attraction is the visual rather than the musical (or textual) side. A dimension is lacking.

Bien. On to the overwhelming positives. The orchestra under Pierre Dumoussaud is splendidly and intelligently supportive of the singers and gets its go in the rather dreary overture (not helped, to English ears, by its resemblance to 'Away in a Manger') and the ballets. The chorus is, as French choruses invariably are, there when they are needed. Here, they get a lot of the incidental bits, and perform them bravely.

The dialogue which is included is excellently done, and actually makes me cease to regret its presence. The diction throughout is clear, unaccented ... perfectly directed. And King V'lan (Mathieu Lécroart, the Larivaudière of Angot) is just (again) superb.

'V'lan, je suis V'lan'

So, we come to the singers and the songs. The songs include some gems. The big hit first time round was the Ronde des Charlatans, led by Mlle Bouffar (Caprice) to first-night hurrahs. The jewel, for me, is her/his first-act 'Papa, je veux la lune'. There is a bit of padding in Act 3, and somehow extra songs were later stuffed into the score for the saucy diva of the halls, Thérésa ... a star doing a stand-up act amongst the scenery ... but, over all, the solos for Caprice and Fantasia are the key features of the score, in the good old fashion of the féerie. Now we sing, now we dance, now we look at the scenic effects. Mostly, in turn. A bit of everything for everyone. Even if mostly the ooooh-aaaaah patrons.

Céline de la Pommeraye of the Paris Opéra. London's Caprice.

The ladies cast on this recording do a fine job. Singly and together. My favourite track here was the Duo des Pommes, where, evenly matched, the two singing stars caracoled along wonderfully in partnership.

Le Prince Caprice

Caprice (Violette Polchi) caused me a little problem initially. He/she squealed 'Papa' in such spunky, characterful tones, and then came his/her show-topping song ('Papa, je veux la lune') and ... out came this rather covered mezzo voice. I'd re-record this track. She subsequently loosens up, lightens up, the waltz is delightful, and when she gets into the quick music and the famous Charlatans number with its big bass drum he/she is full-stop fun with the palate floating free and the melodies zinging out wonderfully.

Noémie Marcus, the original Fantasia

I was nervous as to what I would think of Fantasia as her entrance drew nigh. I mean, after the quasi-perfect Claudine Collart... But lo! Sheva Tehoval made a simply delightful job of, in particular, 'Je suis nerveuse' and scored a real winner with Ms Polchi in the duet. Just shows you, we have singers in the 21st century just as grand as we had in the last two! But you'ld have to bash me over the head to make me renounce les Liliane Berton, Lina Dachary, Raymond Amade, Claude Devos and Claudine Collart of the Golden Age of Pathé ...! 

La Princesse Fantasia

Well, I guess it comes down to this: If I want a fix of Lune music, for a half-hour's incidental enjoyment, I'll press Claudine and Michel's button. If I'm being 'serious' and want an accurate night in the 1875 theatre, this recording will do me very finely indeed. Thank you.

Keep going, Bru Zane ...! More, more, more of these ... would you dare a Cent Vierges or .... well, we really need a modern-day Geneviève de Brabant (with a modern-day Mme Martens!) ... and much as I love Henri Legay as Barbe-bleue ...

Friday, June 10, 2022

Shakesperian actors? Don't you believe it!


As is evident, I love to wander through ebay and pluck therefrom little treasures, especially of the theatrical kind ...

Of course, the 19th century theatre has been my (long) life's work, so I can pick up on photos and identifications that someone who is not steeped in the era can hardly be expected to recognise. And, witness yesterday's discovery, tell an amateur from a profession, or a mauser rifle from a javelin. Today was an example.

Visiting the eshop of 'Lauramii', I came upon a lot labelled 'Shakesperian actors', and dated Stratford (on Avon) 29 April 1864. Three people already bidding on it ... do they know?  The pair pictured here never trod a stage in their lives.

1864 was the occasion of the Shakespeare 'tercentenary' and all sorts of social festivities were held at Stratford to mark the anniversary.

Of course, there were performances of the plays

But columns and columns in the press were devoted to the local gentry's social events which were attached to the occasion

If one trudges through the guest list for the fancy dress... there is Mr Unett  as Prince Hal ...

George Gwinnett UNETT Esq of Castell Froma, Lillington (b Handsworth 9 December 1844; d Lillington 4 April 1912) son of a landed gentleman. George never married. The lady is not his wife, but his mother, Elizabeth Frances Letitia Unett née Unett (1826-1910). 

So, no, not an actor.