Wednesday, August 17, 2022

J T Dalton: the Soldene baritone to whom Fate was unkind.


Ethan Crenson's folder of photos gave forth another treasure, to set alongside Ada Moxon. Another sometime member of the Soldene troupe whom the archives and libraries of the world had failed to render up to me ..

This is James Totty Dalton. Born 18 January 1846 at the schoolhouse, Penn School, Lower Penn, Wombourne, Staffs. He was born at the schoolhouse because his father, James Totty Dalton sr (1812-1874), was the resident teacher. His mother was Mary Ann née Woolley.

Tracing his early career is a little difficult, as there were a number of 'Mr Dalton's circulating in the mid-1860s. There was one at the Philharmonic Music Hall sing tenor in operatic selections with such well-known folk as Charlotte Grosvenor, Grace Armytage and Orlando Christian and a certain Mr McDavitt, whose beauteous daughter would travel across the world with Emily Soldene.  Then there's one acting at the Surrey soon after, but I think he is a Henry Dalton, one at Lyceum with Fechter and Vestvali, one with Ryder at the Haymarket ... is he any of these? My guess is, 'no'. For when he provenly comes into play, he is very much a chorus and tiny bit player. Perhaps the James Dalton of the Kensington Park Amateur Dramatic?

When John Hollingshead opened the Gaiety Theatre at Christmas 1868, he engaged a small group of utility players to carry spears, sing choruses, speak the occasional line, understudy etc. Mr Hollingshead knew his oats: among the original groupe were Irishman William Ledwidge (later to find fame as Wm Ludwig, operatic bass) and the fine acting tenor William Terrott. Was J T Dalton an original? I don't see him on a programme until February 1870 when he appeared in The Waterman at a semi-pro matinee. Thereafter, he appears on the programmes in small parts in Aladdin the Second, The Quaker (Farmer Easy), Barbe-Bleue (secretary), Cinderella the Younger (first porter). And he married. 'Maggie Harrison' (recte: Margaret James from Glamorgan) was a dancer in the Gaiety company and but 19 years old.

When the company visited the Crystal Palace with a repertoire of operettas and a pantomime at Christmas 1871, JT was Orchobrand in Ali Baba. During 1872 he fulfilled his functions at the Gaiety in everything from Arrah na Pogue to The Critic, and got his chance in the occasional matinee (The Wager).

In February 1873 Hollinshead sent out a seven-month Gaiety tour, headed by Annie Tremaine and Dick Beverley, and JT (as he was now billed to avoid an homonymity with the character in The Ticket of Leave Man) rose up the cast lists in Barbe-Bleue, La Grande-Duchesse (Puck), Les Brigands (Barbavano) et al. He returned to the Gaiety (Snae Fell) but was soon out on the road again, and remained at the Gaiety until the end of 1873.

Apprenticeship done, he joined Mrs Liston's La Fille de Madame Angot playing Larivaudière, and Jonathan Plupersson in Les Cent Vierges, toured with Joseph Eldred's company and Alfred Young's company as Larivaudière and as Grabuge in Geneviève de Brabant, which roles he repeated the following year the something called the 'Premiere Company' before being summmoned to the Phil for another round of Larivaudière. In 1876, he appeared in the comic opera Pom at the Royalty, before his favourite role hoisted him to the classiest Angot of them all: star Emily Soldene.

He would pretty surely have become a regular Soldene player. He completed her 1876 tour and in November travelled to America with her. Maggie's final illness led him to withdraw mid-tour. She died 9 August 1877 in Cleveland, Ohio.

JT joined a Strakosh Company touring in Canada. and 27 August 1877 joined fellow Englishmen 'Ellis Ryse' and Brookhouse Bowler to make up the Holman Family Troupe, performing opéra-bouffe and comic opera. The Holman productions were decidedly tailored to suit the company, and when he appeared as Corcoran in HMS Pinafore, alongside Sallie Holman, the dramatis personae included someone named Auntie Petite. And 2 July 1879 he married the company's star, Miss S Holman (b 23 June 1849; d 8 June 1888). The following year she, too, fell prey to consumption, and had to leave the stage for much of the next five years.

JT played with the Grayson Opera Compant (Pinafore 'on real water', Pippo in La Mascotte), and with a Haverley troupe (Colonel in Patience ) before in 1883 the Holman's 'reorganised' and produced a musical comedy named Bubbles and a musical version of Uncle Tom's Cabin in which he played St Claire. Then in 1886 at Le Roy, NY he fell down some stairs 'in the dark' and broke his collarbone. The company disbanded. And then Sallie died.

Over the next few years, he took the odd jobs in summer season, and around London, Ontario, where what was left of the Holman family resided, but turned to teaching music up till his death in 1901.

It had been a personal life with many a trial, and a professional life which had effectively fizzled out, largely for family reasons. Who knows what might have been the lot of James Totty Dalton had he been able to continue on to Australia and back to England with the Soldene company. Alas, poor Totty.

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