Wednesday, September 21, 2022

JOAN OF ARC with a reverse sex cast. In 1869.

This delightful photograph of three small part girls from the 1869 Strand Theatre production of the burlesque of Joan of Arc surfaced the other day. Just my period!  And I have a playbill, too ...

Here we have Isabella Goodall (b Liverpool 10 August 1847) daughter of John and Elizabeth Goodall and a member of a decidely musical, theatrical and ill-fated family. She married in 1871 one Edward Rowland Fryer, wine merchant, whom she left in 1876 and divorced in 1880 for serial adultery notably with actress Nellie Vane ka La Feuillade. Musician father, John,  vocalist-actress Annie, and brother Tom all died before their time, but Bella made it to her forties and died 3 February 1884. Her theatrical career began at the Theatre Royal in her native Liverpool before, in 1865 she joined the Bancrofts at the Prince of Wales, played principal girl in panto at the Surrey, in Black-Eyed Susan et al at the Royalty whence she moved to the Strand, where we (and Mr Fryer) find her. She guested at several provincial houses (Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds &c), appeared in Amy Sheridan's 'unclothed' Ixion (1874) and remained on the stage until her mother's last illness (1883). She died a few months after her parent.

I don't know much about Louise Claire. I doubt it were her real name, which makes things tough. I spot her first at Margate (1863). then at Doncaster with Nye Chart, Birmingham, Leicester (Maria in School for Scandal) before 27 September 1868 she joins the Strand company. 16 April 1870 she moved to the Vaudeville, but she soon returned to the Strand .. after 1871 I spy her no more.

Amelia ('Milly') Newton (x July 1859; d 18 April 1884) was born Amelia Smith, the daughter of Richard Smith, joiner and scenemaker, and his wife Alice Robinson. She played small parts at the Strand and the Vaudeville and married star comedian and manager Thomas Thorne. They had a daughter, Milly Hammond Thorne (19 October 1872, Mrs Strangways), and separated.


 Versions of the historical tragedy of Jeanne d'Arc have been the subject of a number of serious stage pieces, including Schiller's 1801 play (Die Jungfrau von Orleans), the operas of Hovens and Volkert which were based on it, a Drury Lane opera of 1837 (30 November) with a score by Balfe, and more recently Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and Honegger's well-known Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (1938/1950). G B Shaw's Saint Joan drew some humour from the tale, but even the play of this most promising of musical comedy librettists has never seemed likely source material for the musical theatre. Nevertheless, Joan has served as the subject of a handful of musical shows, of which the first, and the nearest to successful, were burlesques: an early Olympic Theatre piece Joan of Arc, or the Maid of all Hell'uns by Thomas Mildenhall (5 April 1847), a William Brough Joan of Arc staged at the Strand Theatre (29 March 1869) in which Thomas Thorne starred as Joan at the head of an Amazon ballet of soldiers.

Bella Goodall (Dunois), Louise Claire (La Hire), Amelia Newton (Duchâtel)

Another Joan of Arc was produced by George Edwardes at the Opera Comique (17 January 1891).

Authored by the new-found writing team of Adrian Ross and composer F Osmond Carr in collaboration with the comedian John L Shine, this last piece had a Joan (Emma Chambers) from the village of Do-ré-mi pursued by the King (Shine) to use her talent for visions to find a winning system for him to use at the Monte Carlo roulette tables. Joan and her boyfriend de Richemont (Arthur Roberts) go off to war equipped with the great sword of Charlemagne, but Joan is captured and condemned to the stake only to be saved when the British troops succumb to their national malady and go on strike. The coster number `Round the Town' performed by Roberts and Charles Danby as Joan's father, and Roberts's burlesque of a solar-topeed Stanley, describing how `I Went to Find Emin', were high spots of the evening. Neither of them, of course, had anything more to do with Joan of Arc than did an episode in which the whole French court crept up on the English, disguised in blackface, to sing a coon chorus `De Mountains ob de Moon', but all three songs became hits. The show enjoyed some scandalous moments, firstly when the `strike' part of the plot ‘offended’ some loud (and allegedly planted) members of the first-night audience, and then through the fact that shapely Alma Stanley wore no trunks over her tights. Politics proved more powerful than propriety. The tights stayed, the strikes were cut, and the show became a jolly, anodine and successful entertainment until the `new edition' alterations went in. This time it was Roberts's new hit song `Randy, Pandy O' which was seen as being offensive -- to Randolph Churchill (which it was undoubtedly intended to be). The words were changed to `Jack the Dandy, O' and no one was fooled. The show had a fine run at the Opera Comique (181 performances) and subsequently moved to the Gaiety Theatre for another 101 nights, prior to a strong career in the provinces and in the colonies.

 After this rather undignified treatment, Joan was left alone by the musical theatre for a good, long time, but she surfaced on Broadway in 1975 as the heroine of what seemed to be a new burlesque, Goodtime Charley (Palace Theater 3 March), in which Joan was portrayed by the leggy, glamorous dancer Ann Reinking and the Dauphin by Joel Grey, and then again, in the era of `serious' musical plays, in both Ireland and in England. Graínne Renihan was Ireland's Joan to `the witness' of Colm Wilkinson in the musical Visions (T C Doherty, Olympia Theatre, Dublin 24 May 1984), whilst first Siobhan McCarthy and then Rebecca Storm went to the stake along with England's unfortunate Jeanne (Shirlie Roden, Birmingham Repertory Theatre 16 September 1985, Sadler's Wells Theatre, 22 February 1986). And if France left its serious heroine seriously alone, French-speaking Canada did not. A Jeanne la Pucelle (Peter Sipos/Vincent de Tourdonnet) was mounted at Montreal’s Place des Arts in 1997 (7 February). Denmark followed suit in 1998 with what assuredly and sadly will not be the last attempt to foist a singing Maid of Orléans on to musical-theatregoers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Beauty Spot: remade and remade again


Second and third remakes of unsuccessful shows rarely win out. However, this one squeezed out a quasi-success in its third version ...

THE BEAUTY SPOT Musical comedy in 3 acts by Joseph W Herbert. Music by Reginald De Koven. Herald Square Theater, New York, 10 April 1909.

 Joseph Herbert's libretto to The Beauty Spot had already done duty as a play in South Africa and again, with music by Edward Jones attached, as a flop musical as produced in London by South Africa's Frank Wheeler (also director, choreographer, comic lead) and theatre-owner George H Broadhurst (also additional numbers) under the title The Prince of Borneo (Strand Theatre 5 October 1899, 31 performances), before it was wedded in its third, American life to a standard Reginald De Koven score.

 Popular comedian Jefferson de Angelis starred in the now leading rôle of General Samovar, with Viola Gillette as his ex-actress wife, a lady who once modelled, rather unclad, for the painting entitled `The Beauty Spot' which she is now anxious to disown. The spot in question is, however, damning evidence. Alongside this saucy tale, the General's daughter, Nadine (Marguerite Clark), made her way to marrying the painting’s artist Jacques (George MacFarlane), rather than the cousin (Alfred de Ball) to whom she has been engaged since birth and who has, in any case, wed a Bornean lady (Isabel de Armond) in the meanwhile. The show ended with the offending painting being propped on an easel before the audience whilst the artist solved all problems by deftly covering the lady’s nakedness with some lightning draperies, and turning the identifying mole into a little mouse.

 New York did not object to the indelicacies of the birthmark plot as London had done with its standard sanctimonious vigour and, although De Koven's score (which retained a song called ‘The Prince of Borneo’) was no more notable than Jones's had been, the show did very much better in its Broadway incarnation and totted up a fine 137 summer season performances before moving on to a cheerful and extended life on the road.

The same title was later used for a musical play in two acts by Arthur Anderson, adapted from the French of P-L Flers, with lyrics by Anderson, Clifford Harris and `Valentine' and music by James W Tate, which was produced at London's Gaiety Theatre, 22 December 1917. This `beauty spot' was not a birthmark, but a landmark, and the plot of the show dealt with how naughty Napoléon Bramble (Arthur Whitby) enriched himself on the publication of a book of traveller's tales really written by a dead friend. The show was, however, orientated by Parisian revueist P-L Flers much more towards the picturesque than the coherent, and the production was largely sculpted to feature the talents of the ill-fated French danseuse Régine Flory and her Polish dancing partner Jan Oyra. Their principal set piece `Kadouja and the Spirit of Haschisch' depicted Flory as a victim of the drug as portrayed by her partner. (The idea was modish rather than innovative, 50 years earlier the German Reeds had played a whole ‘hasheesh’ operetta at their Gallery of Illustration). Some light pieces by the show's nominal songwriters were supplemented by a couple of established American song hits, `Poor Butterfly' taken from the previous year's New York Hippodrome Big Show and Harry Tierney's spelling song M.I.S.S.I.S.S.I.P.P.I'. 

 Producer Alfred Butt tried, with The Beauty Spot, to establish himself in power at the Gaiety Theatre, from where he had ousted the successful Grossmith and Laurillard management, but the public preferred to follow the old team to the Prince of Wales Theatre and Butt's attempt to make himself the new George Edwardes got off to a poor start when the show lasted only an unprofitable 152 performances. Mlle Flory salvaged the haschisch routine and took it back to Paris where she introduced it into the Casino de Paris reuve Pa-ri-ki-ri (1918).

Monday, September 19, 2022

What's in a famous name? Publicity if not a career ...


BALFE, Victoire  [BALFE, Victoria] (b Paris 1 September ?1837; d Madrid 22 January 1871)


Miss Balfe had a very small career. And a very small voice. She was also apparently somewhat neurotic as a person and a performer, but, on the other hand, she was exceptionally good-looking and, when she felt like it, easy on the stage.  Sometimes. She also had – like poor Miss Delcy – a stage father. But whereas poor Miss Delcy scurried through something of a career for her well-known father, before waning away into anonymity; Miss Balfe got out of the music business quite quickly and into marriage and all sorts of reference works, including the Dictionary of National Biography. For having sung four operas in three years? Yes. But she really made those august pages because (a) her father was the great Irish opera composer M William Balfe ‘who wanted to make of her another Malibran’ (b) because she was publicised and paragraphed outrageously from her mid-teens as another Piccolomini and (c) she married into both the English and Spanish aristocracy, accompanied by no little fuss. The Dictionary of National Biography, having chosen to include her, then gives her an atypically clear-eyed entry, which makes her inclusion all the more mysterious.


As early as 1853, having allegedly trained at the Paris Conservatoire, with Manuel Garcia and in Italy, she was said to be about to make her appearance on the lyric stage. But she didn’t. It wasn’t until four years later (‘only eighteen years old’ – she was twenty or maybe more) – that Gye, playing his season at the Lyceum, gave her her debut. As Amina in La Sonnambula. Gardoni and Ronconi supported the young woman, the event was largely puffed, and society responded. ‘Since the debut of Mlle Piccolomini in La Traviata we have not witnessed such enthusiastic demonstrations of delight’, one paper reported, but remarked that her voice was ‘wanting in strength and volume’. ‘A high soprano, veiled but very agreeable in quality, flexible and under perfect control,’ reported another, but not all agreed. One of Europe’s great music writers, Francesco Regli, would write ‘La Balfe non poteva piacere né all'estero, né in Italia, d'incerta intonazione qual era e d'un metodo scorretto’. 


On 21 July, Gye put forward his new soprano as Lucia di Lammermoor, supported by Neri-Baraldi and Graziani, and then sent her on tour. She was not the prima donna of the company: Angiolina Bosio took virtually all the main roles. Misses Balfe (Sonnambula, Lucia) and Parepa (L’Elisir d’amore) gave her a few nights off. She gave her two roles in Dublin, Belfast, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, after which the company gave concerts. She gave ‘Come per me sereno’ ‘Son geloso’ with Gardoni, and the Rigolettoquartet, but her notices were mixed. Her voice, the provinces decided was ’wanting in power and quality’. But the puffing went on. We are told by a memoirist, quoted in the DNB that, after her somewhat exaggerated reception at her debut, she was ‘too well received … it turned her head, and made her … vain and presuming’. Maybe. Certainly, her career did not take off in a manner commensurate with her press coverage.


She spent winter in Paris and sang at some aristocratic salons which were reported in the English press, and in April continued to Dublin where she sang at the Philharmonic Concerts and the Anacreontic Concerts.  The Dublin press liked her ‘Convent Bell’, but was indifferent to her ‘Come per me sereno’ and stated bluntly ‘The young lady should not sing ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ in Ireland if she do not improve on last night; for she was cold unimpressive and painfully formal in every way’. In May, she appeared alongside the senior members of the opera world in a State Concert, and her name appeared on the prospectus for the Covent Garden Opera. But she didn’t appear. An apologist ran a long piece in the press depicting the poor little girl awaiting her turn which never came. I have a feeling it mightn’t have been quite like that.


Her principal engagement for the season came down to the Birmingham Festival. But there again, she took no part in the oratorios, where Novello, Castellan and Viardot Garcia reigned supreme, merely gave her operatic pieces in the concerts: ’Di piacer’, ‘Il soave bel contento’, ‘Ti prego’ with Dolby and Montem Smith, I Martiri duet with Tamberlik, Rigoletto quartet, Cosi fan tutte quintet with ‘considerable executive power and a tendency to sing sharp’.


It was next bruited that she had been hired as prima donna for the San Carlo, Naples, but that too didn’t happen, and it was not till 19 February 1859 that she reappeared on the stage. At Turin’s Teatro Regio, where father had got her a job for a few weeks. She was going to play Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Etoile du nord. She opened in La Sonnambula again and was reported again to have made a big hit. She may have performed the scheduled operas, but I can only find her, on 16 March, coming out as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Anyway, thus ended Miss Balfe’s Italian career, and in April she was back in London, contracted to appear with the E T Smith opera at Drury Lane. She opened as La Sonnambula alongside Mongini and Badiali, and followed up as Lucia di Lammermoor before Don Giovanni was staged, with Victoire as Zerlina to the Anna of Titiens and the Elvira of Vaneri. She apparently played and sang ‘with infinite ease and irreproachable taste although occasionally a little more force was desirable’. ‘This was scarcely as advance on former occasions. Whilst Miss Balfe sings with great care – with charming ease of vocalisation; whilst it is perfect when heard, it is constantly unheard …’.

Eugene Charles Badiali


On 11 July the Italian version of Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl (La Zingara) was revived at Drury Lane, with Miss Balfe as Arline. She did well enough, but was wiped out by the Gipsy Queen of the magnificent Carolina Guarducci. It was to be the last time the British public would see her.

She was announced for some concerts (‘her first appearance in the London concert room’) but I can’t find her actually taking part in one. In 1860 she was engaged, with her father, to lead out a Willert Beale concert party on a large tour. But that didn’t happen either. Mr and Miss Balfe went off, in the Autumn to St Petersburg where, according to the press, she made a huge hit in concert. And when it came time to return to fulfil the Beale contract, they simply refused to come. Mr Beale replaced Victoire with Amalia Corbari (and doubtless won in the exchange artistically, if not publicitywise), the Balfes stayed in Russia. And Victoire married (31 March 1860). And retired.


The gentleman she married was Britain’s Ambassador to the Russian Court, and formerly to Washington, Sir John Fiennes Twistleton Crampton, thirty years her elder and apparently as eccentric as she. It didn’t succeed, and when Lady Crampton met the Duke de Frias, she sued for annulment of her marriage on the grounds of non-consummation. Her husband, she told the world, was impotent. He refused a medical examination from the Queen’s physician, and she was granted her annulment (20 November 1863). And, in October 1864, at the chapel of the Spanish Embassy, London she was wed to Jose Maria Bernardino Fernandez de Velasco y Jaspe, the Duke de Frias (1836-1888). This marriage lasted a bit longer, and produced three children, before Victoire died at the age of 33. 

Much ink was spilled on the ‘scandal’ of Lady Crampton. 30 years after her death, the subject was still worthy of lengthy paragraphs in the world’s press, with Crampton usually coming out as the virtuous and chivalrous party, and the claims of impotency noted as risible, his refusal of an examination which would have revealed the truth as evidence. Queen Victoria was scandalised by the affair, Queen Isabella no less, de Frias resigned his court appointments and left Spain for France. And his Duchess … made her way into the reference books of the world.







Friday, September 16, 2022

Amateur Aristocratic Dramatics. Algeria 1865.


A while back I came upon a bundle of photos, from Montevideo, on e-bay. The vendor had labelled them as actresses ... they weren't ... they were society folk all dressed up  ...

So, today, when I came upon a set from Algeria, I was wary. But they were certainly 'theatrical' photos. Oh ho!  I've been here many times before. This is high society play-acting ... a favourite pastime of the bored colonial sub-aristocracy. And the photos are precisely (and proudly) labelled.

A performance of the one-act vaudeville Janot chez les Sauvages at the home of the governess-general of Algeria, Madame la Maréchale McMahon, Duchesse de Magenta on the 27 March 1865. MacMahon would go on to become President of France. His wife, who hosted this soirée was Élisabeth Charlotte Sophie de La Croix de Castries (1834-1900) 

Madame la Maréchale

Madame did not perform in the entertainment, which in the tradition of 'garrison theatricals' was largely performed by men. The piece chosen for the occasion was a favourite one, a comic vehicle (folie de carnévale) written by Théodore Cogniard and Paul Bocage (Théâtre de Variétés, 31 January 1856) to feature the actor Lassagne

Lassagne played the servant, Janot, who is shipwrecked on a tropical island peopled by cannibals. Mistaken by the King for a famous general whom he has called upon to help him in his hereditary war against the King of the neighbouring island, he comically conquers all and gets the hand of the relevant Princess as well.  

For this occasion, the part of Janot was taken by Pierre Olivier Charlier, Comte de Gerson (b 10 May 1839; d 13 December 1893). Gerson was the bearer of a family name celebrated for centuries, but the 
 line had somewhat withered in recent generations, and he was a colonial civil servant who fulfilled the post of deputy mayor of the Mustapha section of Algiers.

The Princess Rococotte (the only lady in the cast) was played by his wife, Marie Caroline Amélie née Caron

The Gersons seem to have been the moving force behind the whole affair, and I have found a second photo of the Countess in her not-very-tropical get up ...

Now, what is that signature? 

Sadly, photos of the rival Kings Vasistas and Boulevari don't seem to have survived, but there is one of the character of Missouloch which was played by a Monsieur G ?Gasson

Over a century and a half ago. And photos of that Algerian one-night-run survive to this day. Let's hope the Cannibal Kings surface one day ...


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

RICCARDI or, Gilbert & Sullivan's operas come to New Zealand

I put together this hitherto-not-compiled little bit of Australasian theatre history earlier this year for the Sullivan Society magazine. Since not everybody is a subscriber to that splendid wee publication, I am reprinting my article here ... 

"Exhuming factual history, untainted by bias of every kind, is not an easy job. I quote, for the umpteenth time, the contemporary reports of the battle of Marathon. Each side published its version of what happened at the famous fight, and each side -- Greeks and Persians -- reckoned they'd won.

Even more difficult is exhuming show business history, littered as it is with lies, self-serving publicity, pseudonyms, niche interests, and other things that are seldom what they seem.

But that is the field into which I've chosen to submerge myself for the last forty years, and especially, in my elderly and physically inactive invalidism, over the last decade.

Well, I've won some and I've lost some, but I keep on trying.

Anyone who has dabbled in New Zealand musical-theatre history, and early productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas down under knows the name of 'Signor Riccardi'. He was responsible for the stagings of the country's first pro-but-mostly-am productions of The Sorcerer and HMS Pinafore. But does anyone know anything about him? About the life and career of the man dubbed 'the great Riccardi' by the Australian press in 1891.

Well, I've delved, and I've won some and I've lost some. At his death, it was said, here and there, that his name was really Tom Richards, which seems likely enough, but, elsewhere, it was claimed as Richard Green. I think that the latter journalist might have got muddled with another Italianised baritone, Signor Verdi. All I know is that he was married and died as 'Riccardi'. Maybe the official Australian records would reveal the truth.

There is little difficulty in overlooking his life and work once he arrived in Australasia. It-- what there was of it -- is clearly recorded. But he was about 28 years of age at his arrival ('of Milan'). What had he been doing there? Allegedly singing. OK. Where?

The Sydney Morning Herald published an obituary which claimed for him 'a stage career both in Italy and England', 'concert room work in London and the English provinces', 'an important tour with Sims Reeves starred and Mme Enriquez and Jos[i]e Sherrington'. Another paper mentioned Rigoletto at Covent Garden ... Of none of these putative stage appearances or 'events' can I find any trace at all. I have an 18-page list of Lizzie Enriquez's engagements, including 3 pages covering the years 1875-8 when Tom allegedly was in England. Nothing. As for concerts ....

I have found two. And one was evidently his first. It was the Second Subscription Concert of 1875 (12 March) given by the respected Henry Leslie Choir and Tom was the basso soloist alongside the very modest light soprano, Eva Leslie (Henry's niece), RAM medallist contralto Elizabeth Bolingbroke and, rather surprisingly, top tenor Edward Lloyd. He or Leslie got his 'debut' into a few national papers

and his performance of 'Honour and Arms' and Giovanni Clari's antique 'O quam tristis et afflicta' was reviewed or reported widely as well. Some papers merely echoed the press handout '[he] has studied in Italy and made a favourable impression on the Italian stage' 'appearances in Milan, Bergamo and Brescia' ... but the notices from those who had actually attended the concert ranged from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News's 'a voice of good compass and power and singularly sympathetic in quality and he met with great applause and a recall ..' or the Daily Telegraph's 'As a vocalist this gentleman may still learn a great deal but his natural gifts are great ... a baritone-bass of rare quality ...' and the Illustrated London News's 'he possesses a voice which is capable of being turned to very good account and he will no doubt improve on the favourable impression already made'. The Graphic was more straightforward: 'A Mr Riccardi in airs by Clari and Handel displayed a fine voice (baritone-bass) with which culture may do much, but without culture must remain vox et praterea nihil'. In other words a big, unwieldy bass-baritone voice (apparently with a bit of a wobble) and a lot to learn. Italy? Really? But clearly not ready to sing alongside Edward Lloyd and Miss Bolingbroke. I wonder how, why and with the help of whom Tom had got this engagement. The next test was to be whether the same helper/teacher, or his performance, would get him any more. Well, I have found just the one: 26 June at the Beethoven Rooms in Harley Street, the music teacher Miss Edwards 'of Ebury Street' gave her reasonably low-key annual Benefit. The bill included the Vlach tenor Urio, Gounod ex-protégé Georg Werrenrath and mezzo-soprano Alice Fairman and a few folk I do not recognise.

And then I could nothing find until Signor Tom sailed into Auckland in April of 1878? I looked everywhere. Even Milan. Nothing. But at last there surfaced a tardy 'corroboration'! A journalist writes in 1905 '[I] knew him 35 years ago when he was studying singing under Professor Sangiovanni in Milan and was present when he made a highly sucessful debut as Don Basilio in the Barbiere di Siviglia. An engagement with Tamberlik at the Tacon Theatre, Havana followed ...'.  Now how do I track those dates down? Yes! Found him 1872. Havana ...  

Marietta Bulli-Paoli, Giorgio Ronconi, the young Giovanni Tagliapetra ...  So if Havana is true, the rest very well may be. Fair enough. But ... well, we all know 'credits' ... I suspect these were not enduring engagements.

Auckland in 1878 owned few, if any, full-time professional vocalists. The odd demi-pro. The odd music teacher who received occasional remuneration for a performance. So modest, indeed, were the amateurs of the Auckland Choral Society (founded 1855) that when they gave their first Messiah the press dutifully declined to mention the names of the amateur lady soloists. Those singers were, of course, unremunerated. This point, I make, to show that Tom was not coming south to make a professional performing career. That idea had seemingly been abandoned when he boarded ship. But the fates would have their word to say.

He advertised as a teacher of Italian, too. So, maybe he had been to Milan! 

Later the ad changes to 'teacher of English and Italian singing'. And he is going to form a choral class. How many teaching pupils or striving choristers the novice instructor got is not known (the advertisements stopped pretty quickly), but he did get the odd engagement as a vocalist. At the Auckland Choral Society's 4th concert in August he took the bass part in Gounod's Mass with Miss Marian Edger, RAM, sometime music teacher at the Ladies' Collegiate School, and a Mr Harker. He also sang 'I never can forget' and the Invocation from Robert le diable. He 'made his first appearance on this occasion before an Auckland audience .. no doubt that he will be a great acquisition to the musical talent of Auckland'. 

It was announced that Tom would run a school at the piano warehouse of Mr and Mrs Hoffmann (who seem to have been his sponsors from the start). Whether it happened or not, I know not, but in September he was back on the platform, with Eva Davenport and Charles Harding, supporting Amy Sherwin in one of her 'farewell concerts' (6 November). He sang 'O tu, Palermo' and 'a new musical composition by Professor [Martin] Swallow' to Shelley's 'Time' of which the feature was 'a tremendous trill of 5 1/2 bars on the upper E flat'. At Christmas he took the bass solos in The Messiah, in January he sang at another local 'Farewell' concert ('In questa tomba', 'Hybrias the Cretan') before Miss Sherwin said Farewell once more (Gordiginani's 'La Benedizione', 'Yeomen's Wedding'). And then ...

'A musical experiment is about to be tried ... it is nothing less than a season of opéra-bouffe by Auckland ladies and gentlemen who have usually been regarded as amateurs ... the leading performers will be Signor Riccardi, Mrs Reed née Leaf, Miss Teague .. Miss Isabel Hunter of the Thames and Mr Crain ... The works to be presented are novel in themselves - having never been produced in Auckland. The first on the list is Sir Arthur Sullivan's Sorcerer, to be followed by HMS Pinafore.

And it happened. R Julius De Lias, the Alsatian-born proprietor of the Theatre Royal, took the company in (whether he was the actual producer, I not not sure) and .. well, the stories differ, depending on whose tale the teller is telling. I like the one that goes 'Mr Chaplin came over from America with the first scores of Pinafore and with Mr deLias engaged a company ...'. Mr George D Chaplin was an American actor whom de Lias had hired the previous August to top-bill at his theatre in everything from Hamlet and Othello to Money. After a very successful tour, Chaplin had returned to America but in June 1879 he visited De Lias and Auckland again ... But ... it doesn't quite fit. The music of The Sorcerer had been available in New Zealand for a year already ... and the production had happened in May ... 

Henry ('Harry') Hodson [HODGSON, Henry Watts] (b London x 15 June 1852; d Sydney 6 October 1932) 'baritone brilliante from Australia' directed the stage. Young Mr Hodson was London-born, to a  Bermondsey hatter, and raised in Castlemaine. He was an actor and baritone who had played (King in Maritana, Don Florio in Rose of Castille, Frank in Fledermaus &c) with the Simonsen company, with Lydia Howarde, visited New Zealand as a supporting local-pickup with the Soldene troupe and, most recently, with another troupe run by Giovanni Pompei, on a 4-month contract to de Lias. That troupe imploded and he had found himself stranded in Auckland. He not only directed but played John Wellington Wells.
Hodson would go on to spend more than forty years as an actor, playing good musical parts with Nellie Stewart and Clara Merivale as well as in farce comedy, then directing, playing character and comedy roles of all kinds, as well as taking a few unfortunate turns at management ('no more capable all-round actor is to be found on the Australian stage'), right into the 1920s. He married in 1884 singer 'Annie Nicholson' [Annie Louisa Hiscocks] daughter of the proprietor of Hiscocks Federal Minstrels (divorced 1901) by whom he had four children. He also had two daughters by a second marriage.

A pretty fair cast was put together, given the time and place. By Riccardi? Possibly. But I think rather by de Lias and possibly the conductor Joseph Brown (d Symonds Street, 14 November 1883), the originator of the Choral Society and organist at St Matthew's Church. But who knows?

Anne Eliza Leaf (b Beverley 7 September 1854; d Durban, South Africa 14 July 1935); who was only briefly Mrs Reed, turned out to be much more than an amateur. She went on from this production to leading roles in comic opera on four continents

Charles Thomas Harding (b Deptford 26 February 1846; d Great Warley, Essex 1 July 1895) was another immigrant, who was running a coal and firewood business in Auckland's Mechanics' Bay when he began, seemingly around 1876, appearing in amateur concerts ('My Star of Heaven', 'I Never Can Forget', 'The Moon Has Raised Her Lamp Above'). The singing proved more successful than the firewood: Harding's business was bankrupted roundly in October 1877. By 1879, he was agreed to be 'one of our leading local singers'. And so it proved. He moved on to Australia, America and beyond in a tidy career as a tenor. He was, at one stage said in the press to be Mr Annie Leaf (she was between husbands), but as he had a wife and a bundle of children back home this was evidently nowt but scuttlebut.

John Anderson Crain (b Glasgow 13 August 1846; d Sydney 5 August 1908) a tailor's son from Glasgow, a civil engineer by profession, vice-president of the Association of Engineers (Glasgow), and 'a tenor robusto of an old and conscientious school of singers' was said to have been a fellow student of Riccardi in Milan. He soon mutated into a baritone and, by the 1890s, his voice gone, a stage director and manager, a journalist ... He was billed as being 'of the principle (sic) theatres of Germany and Italy', which seem even less likely than Tom's Brescia and Bergamo (where there was, in fact, a Teatro Riccardi!), and The Sorcerer was 'his first appearance in Australasia'.

The other principal ladies did not attempt an extended professional career. Isabel Hunter [or RADCLIFF] (b Clay Cross, Derbyshire 1855; d Auckland 30 August 1908) played with the company until the end of its existence, by which time she had married Edwin Troupe Brassey (1 July 1880) and returned to singing with the Thames and Auckland amateurs. Brassey died at age 31 and the antics of his family are another story. Bella had one daughter.

The young contralto Catherine ('Tottie') Teague (b Auckland 10 September 1857; d Sydney1932) lingered longer in the theatre, but in 1880 she too married. However, she doesn't then disappear from view, for she married Tom Riccardi. Thereafter she only occasionally trod the boards. The Riccardis had two children: Reginald Henry Percy (b Auckland 1 April 1881; d Sydney 27 March 1905) and Ruby Gladys (b Sydney 14 February 1886; d Balmain 1970).

Kate Heath (b Torquay,1856; d Vancouver 13 January 1928) (Mrs Frederick Theodore Klingenf[i]eld, contralto) was another leftover from the Pompei company. She would go on to play Hebe, Aurora in Giroflé-Girofla and other character roles, and later appeared in small roles with the Simonsen company and the Montague-Turner company (Buda, Molly Pitt in Martha, Amélie in La Grande-Duchesse, Duchess in The Rose of Castille) and after settling in Dunedin, with Carmini Morley, in comedy and all types of concert.  She, husband and daughter later moved to America, then back to England anf finally to Canada.   

Comedian and comic-songster Robert ('Bob') Love (b Adelaide 12 January 1849; d December 1927) became a well-known character in Australiasian and Asian showbusiness. He mutated into a circus manager (he married the owner) and I spy him last having a leg amputated in Yokohama in 1910. 

So, back to 1879.

If Tom were not the original producer and instigator of the season, he nevertheless got featured billing, became the front man for the show ('Mr Riccardi's Comic Opera Company') and at some stage he 'had an interest' in the company. 

After the extremely successful production, and two-weeks' performances of The Sorcerer, with Annie Leaf and Harding latterly adding The Rose of the Auvergne to the entertainment, the company duly announced HMS Pinafore. Hodson played Deadeye and Riccardi and his big voice were ... Sir Joseph Porter!

Bob Beckett seems to have fallen overboard.

Where success shines, the twinkle of lucre soon appears. And noise came from the Kelly and Leon Minstrel troupe in Australia claiming that they had the copyright on both operas for New Zealand. They didn't, of course. Pinafore was played ten times before ... The Sorcerer was brought back. 'The music of The Sorcerer is of a higher class, and many consider the opera greatly superior to Pinafore' quoth the New Zealand Herald. Giroflé-Girofla and Maritana helped fill the final nights. The six weeks of Auckland performances came to an end and the company headed off to Thames, Grahamstown et al with the two G&S operas and Giroflé-Girofla in their baggage ... and the first demands for non-payment of bills hit the courts.

But the company 'of 25' boarded the Ladybird to sail south to the Princess's Theatre, Dunedin ... Misses Leaf, Hunter, Heath, Sandford, Duke (2), Lincoln and Phillips; Messrs Riccardi, Crain, Harding, Hodson, 'Bob' Love, Riley, Bell, Scott, Bachelder and F T Klingenfield. Um. That's 18. Where is Miss Teague? She was there.

I don't suppose that, from the start, the operas were played to the Gilbertian letter perfect. They weren't in Dunedin. 'Mr Ricciardi will introduce his great nautical ballad..' which appears to have been 'Tom Bowling'. 'Mr Riccardi's great song '[Engaged to] So-and-So' with a grotesque piccolo obbligato played by himself, as Dr Daly' ... and, yes, the five bar trill.

On to Timaru, Oamaru, the Oddfellow's Hall at Christchurch, the Academy of Music in Wellington, Nelson, Wanganui ... and there, it came to an abrupt halt. Hodson related, years later, that it had been a 'champagne and oysters' tour: the amateurs all having a great time for a few months until whoever's money it was ran out. It is not surprising that when, shortly afterwards, when a rather ritzy Lyster production, headed by the ex-prima donna of the Carl Rosa Opera, was mounted in Australia, a journalist sighed 'for real fun and jollity I preferred the performances of Riccardi's amateur company in Wellington'.

And, guess what? When the lawsuits began in earnest, who were the defendants? Crain and Harding. What about Riccardi? demanded the press. But Tom had got out in time.

Well, the party was over, but the Auckland amateurs had made their mark. They had effectively launched the G&S operas in New Zealand, and they had launched at least five of their number on to solid professional careers.

Tom and Tottie went on to Hawera for a couple of nights with Bella Hunter and a concert/operetta programme. But Mr Riccardi wasn't finished yet. Within months he was up and having another go, with Annie, Bella, Tottie, Crain, and Harding delivering Trial by Jury (first played in New Zealand by Lydia Howarde 31 August 1876), A Puff of Smoke, Pinafore et al to Taranaki and there were rumours, not for the first time, of Melbourne. But in December he was back in Auckland, doing another Messiah.

But the Melbourne rumours had foundation. The company was 'reorganised' with George Leopold replacing Hodson, and they reopened at the Auckland Theatre Royal with Leopold's 'new version' of Giroflé-Girofla. Somehow, J C Williamson had now firmly established their rights in the operas for New Zealand, and 'the Riccardi Company' had seemingly  -- goodness knows how! -- either to pay up or close down. But Pinafore and The Sorcerer were given in any case. Then theatre and 'star' had money arguments, the season closed ... and 4 February 1880 Riccardi, Harding and Miss Leaf sailed for Melbourne and, on the tail of their New Zealand efforts, the effective beginning of their professional careers.

Which is where I, for the meanwhile, shall stop.

Charles and Annie, and their careers, are each worth an article on their own. And, indeed, probably have had one. Tom didn't do as well as they. He would repeat his Sir Joseph Porter for Lyster ('Riccardi looks wearied out by the long continued repetition of the part of Sir Joseph') and later share it with the non-singing J C Williamson, until Williamson wisely opted out. He spent considerable periods with the shoestring Simonsen family troupe touring an improbable number of approximate operas (Ferrando in Il Trovatore, Oroveso in Norma, Caspar in Freischütz, Bidethebent in Lucia di Lammermoor, Rodolfo in La Sonnambula, Samuel in Un Ballo in maschera, Doctor in La Traviata, Stabat Mater, Arnheim, Don Jose, Alfonso in Lucrezia Borgia, Plunkett in Martha, Arimanes in Satanella and, of course, Sir Joseph Porter), he appeared as General Boum in La Grande-Duchesse, sang Ambrokind in Kowalski's Vercingetorix with Leandro Coy and Gabrielle Boema (24 September 1881), and played with a Williamson touring opera troupe which toured back to New Zealand ... He played the Colonel in Patience and the Sergeant in Pirates of Penzance ..

He also went bankrupt again, suffered a nasty dose of scarlet fever in New Zealand which meant he had to be left behind till cured, and ultimately defected from the Simonsen troupe which promptly crashed. And then he fell seriously ill with rheumatics and dropsy ... It was only three years since he had made his entry on to the professional stage, but this was the veritable end of his career. He tried to make a comeback but, in the end, he ended up back where he had started: teaching and doing the odd concert ..

It was an odd and rather sad career. Nothing ever really equalled those first fine months of carefree amateur performances. But those performances have gone down in musical-theatre history.

Tom died at Roslyn Gardens, Darlinghurst 6 April 1913, allegedly aged 62. He is buried in Gore Hill Cemetery ... Bless his 'genial, old' bones. Whoever he was .... "

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Myron Whitney, a Massachusetts bass

WHITNEY, Myron William (b Ashby, Mass 5 September 1835; d Sandwich, Mass 17 September 1910)


American bass who found considerable success as, in particular, a sacred singer, on both sides of the Atlantic.


The fine career of Mr Whitney, and the details of his life, have both been much written about, with only the occasional much-copied misstatement, but I shall nevertheless repeat them here. Myron Whitney was born in the small town of Ashby, Massachusetts, where his father, William Whitney, was a farmer. His mother was Fannie née Lincoln. We are told that sang as a boy in church, and by his twenties had moved to Boston, to study with E H Frost, and to work (although the 1855 census describes him as a mason) as a bass chorister in the choir of Boston’s Tremont Temple. There he met and married the young singer Eleanor (‘Nelly’) Breasha (b Chelsea, Vermont  4 November 1841, d Sandwich, Mass 20 December 1910) (m 4 May 1859).


It is said that he made his first significant appearance as a soloist singing the bass music of The Messiah at the Temple in 1858, and with the local Handel and Haydn Society in the same work in 1861. I can’t find a contemporary record of these occasions, for the soloists aren’t always billed, but I do spot him in 1858, assisting Frost in a ‘Musical Convention’ at the Temple, and in 1859-1860 featured with Father Kemp’s Celebrated Old Folks Concert Company, singing hymns and ballads with Emma Nichols. 

I daresay the Massachusetts papers of yore hold some record of the engagements he fulfilled over the next half-dozen years –I pick him up only in Hartford, Conn in The Messiah and performing a Festival Ode by local John G Barnett in June 1862. The press assured that ‘his voice and singing was very much admired’.


The name of Whitney was thoroughly current in the Boston area around this time – tenor James Whitney was a well-known local vocalist (until he eloped with someone’s wife), Mr H L Whitney also sang tenor, and Albert H Whitney was on the singing scene as well – so our basso Whitney soon became designated as Mr M W Whitney.


Between 1867 and 1869 I see Mr M W Whitney singing in a variety of oratorios, including on the occasion of the 1868 Boston Musical Festival, where he sang Samson and The Messiah alongside Parepa. Then, at over 30 years of age, having established a largely local reputation, Whitney decided to travel to Europe, for several months, to study. We are told that he went first to Florence, to take lessons from Luigi Vannuccini, a teacher who had attracted a useful American clientele, and thence to London, where he put himself under Alberto Randegger.  The Randegger connection won him his first British appearance (as it would win him many others) singing the bass parts in the quartets to Carl Stepan’s Elijah at St James’s Hall for Joseph Barnby.


Returning to Boston in March 1869, he staged a concert (21 April) of his own, which drew much praise: ‘the bass singer well known in our Oratorios, who returned a few weeks since from Europe, has certainly made the most of his short period of study in Milan and London. In the Complimentary Concert given to him in the Music Hall on Wednesday evening, April 21, a large audience listened with rare satisfaction to his greatly improved voice, as well as large and even delivery. His tones, always grand and manly, have grown more round and musical throughout their compass, especially in the upper range, and he does all with more artistic certainty and ease … a spirited song by the London Randegger, served well to show his vocal qualities and execution. The common trick of basses, of making a point of a very low bass note, because exceptional, may be pardoned on the occasion’.

Now established as the premier basso of the county, his performances were received with accolades, although the Boston press did not hesitate to find fault where it lurked, as on the occasion of the 1870 festive Messiah: ‘The grand Bass solos were entrusted on both nights, of course, to Mr. Whitney: for who else could do them better or so well? By his grand voice, and dignified, grand rendering, he bore among the chief honors. He seems in a great degree to have got the better of a certain heaviness and stiffness of delivery, as well as a certain hollowness in some of his large tones, so that he sings now with an unction and a sympathetic fervor, which, added to his other qualities, make him a very noble Oratorio singer’.

Indeed, if there were a fault to find with Mr Whitney as a performer, it was apparently a stuffiness, a pomposity of demeanour and tone, which was noted in America and Britain for much of his career. He sang for the first half of 1871 in America, featuring in the Boston Musical Festival alongside Mme Rudersdorff, at the National Music Conference, and delivering his Elijah, his Messiah, his ‘Qui sdegno’, his ‘Per questo bello mano’ or his ‘Die beiden Grenadiere’ in concerts in the Eastern states, before heading back to Britain.


There, doubtless through Randegger, he had been engaged (along with the composer’s inseparable Madame Rudersdorff) for Rivière’s Covent Garden Proms. His ‘Beiden Grenadiere’ proved too ‘gloomy’ for the proms audience (‘A bass from Boston of whose powers it would be scarcely fair to speak before hearing him in something more effective that Schumann’s ‘Two Grenadiers’), but Randegger’s ‘There’s nothing like a freshening breeze’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘The Hunter’ soon set things to right. Over the season, he gave Rocco’s Gold aria (Fidelio), Guglielmo’s ‘A sailor’s life for me’, Cotter Nixon’s ‘Tubal Cain’, ‘The Wanderer’ ‘I am a Roamer’ and ‘O beauteous daughter of the starry race’, but scored by far his greatest success in the various oratorios staged for Madame Rudersdorff (Stabat Mater, Messiah, Mozart Mass in GElijah). ‘He is more at home in sacred than secular music’ nodded the press.

The Proms contract over, he continued on with the Randegger-Rudersdorff combination, and went out in a concert party with them and the couple’s other pupils Arthur Byron and Anna Drasdil. They gave Die erste Walpurgisnacht at Crystal Palace, Elijah at Birmingham and Glasgow, as well as concerts (‘How willing my paternal love’, ‘It is enough’ ‘Star of Hope, ‘Non piu andrai’, ‘Over a Green Hill’) before Whitney was forced out of the party by an attack of typhoid, which forced him, amongst other things, to forfeit his first appearance with the Sacred Harmonic Society.


A small parenthesis to correct a persistent bit of misinformation here. A squadron of web bioglets insist on the fact the M W Whitney sang Elijah at a Birmingham Festival. He didn’t. The organisers would have been slaughtered had they hired anyone but the irreplaceable Charles Santley for the Festivals of 1873 and 1876. There wasn’t even a Birmingham Triennial Festival in 1871 or 1872. Whitney sang Elijah with the Birmingham Festival Choral Society in October 1871, which is not the same thing at all. At all.

Myron Whitney

Whitney was back on the scene by February 1872, singing St Paul at the Crystal Palace (‘a marked success … His enunciation is stately and impressive, he has an admirable voice and sings like an educated musician’), Jephtha with Sherrington, Patey and Sims Reeves at Manchester, The Last Judgment and Lauda Sion, Haydn’s Third Mass, and The Messiah with the Sacred Harmonic Society, Israel in EgyptElijah, St Paul at the Oratorio Concerts, The Last Judgment, Mass in C and Messiah at Birmingham, the Dettingen Te Deum at Leeds, at the Crystal Palace Good Friday sacred performance (with Rudersdorff, Peschke Leutner, Patey, Lemmens-Sherrington, Reeves) … In May, he sang at the concerts of Elizabeth Philp and Mme Lemmens-Sherrington, in June he took part in the Oxford Commemoration, singing ‘Qui sdegno’ and Acis and Galatea with Edith Wynne and Edward Lloyd.  The biogs say that he sang Polyphemus in the ‘original low’ version. Perhaps so, but no-one seems to have commented on the fact at the time. Which knowing the ‘knowledgeable’ British music press of the time, would have been odd.


In July, he arrived home and began the round of concert and oratorio dates with which he was familiar. 7 November 1872 he made what was billed as ‘his first appearance in NYC in concert’ at the Academy of Music. When he took part in the Cincinnati Festival in May 1873, the press dubbed him ‘the best and truest oratorio singer in the States’: and they may have very well been right. Give or take the odd visiting English singer. The Boston Festival, with Edith Wynne as star guest, followed, then a tour with Theodore Thomas, but in 1874 he turned towards Britain again. He had been engaged by Joseph Barnby for six months at the Albert Hall. And that is more or (a bit) less what he did. Starting with a Messiah with Sinico, Anna Williams, Sterling and Rigby on 12 November, he appeared several nights a week in oratorio (Elijah, Stabat MaterSt Matthew Passion), popular concerts, ballad concerts, national concerts and even the occasional operatic selection.

He was loaned out from time to time to the Crystal Palace (L’Allegro, the initial performance of Holmes’s The Death of Jeanne d’Arc) or a provincial engagement: a concert at Liverpool (‘his method is good and his intonation true but there is a ponderosity in his style…’), a Creation in Glasgow, but the bulk of his appearances were at the Albert Hall. The final ones, however, at the end of March, were at the Crystal Palace (‘My spirit was in Heaviness’), before Whitney turned back to America, and the year’s Cincinnati May Festival.

The Festival season over, however, he returned once more to Britain, where he gave more Elijahs and Messiahs (now become his specialties), rumbled out his ‘Qui sdegno’ at the Aquarium and took a tour with Jose Sherrington and Nelson Varley, until it was time for the annual engagement at Cincinnati. This time, however, he did not return to England when it was over. He did the rounds with, in particular, his Elijah, appeared at Festivals, toured his own concert party, and then took an unexpected turning.

HMS Pinafore was the musical-theatre rage of the country, and Boston’s Miss Ober was setting up a company to give a thoroughly sung version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera. She cast her show advisedly, and for the role of Captain Corcoran, she hired Myron Whitney. For the next five years, between oratorio, festival and concert (The Damnation of Faust, Rubinstein’s Tower of Babel) engagements, Whitney played the leading baritone roles – Corcoran, Kantuschoff, the Pirate King, Gaspard, Arnheim, Beppo, Mourzouk -- for the Boston Ideal Company in Boston, New York and on the road.

In 1884, he announced that he would not play in comic opera any more, and the following couple of years were spent on a reduced schedule, which nevertheless included a visit to England to sing Liszt’s St Elizabeth with Albani and Santley at the Crystal Palace (17 April 1886).

However, the stage was to regain him. The following year, the ambitious National Opera Company hired Whitney (alongside William Ludwig!) as a principal bass, and with them he made operatic appearances as Marcel (Les Huguenots), King Henry (Lohengrin), Daland to Ludwig’s Flying Dutchman, Sarastro in The Magic Flute, Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Babillius in Rubinstein’s Nero, before the enterprise crumbled.


In the later 1880s, Whitney continued on a reduced schedule with his concert, oratorio and festival activity, and although the biogs tell us he ‘retired in 1890’, I spot him doing Messiahs in Boston and Philadelphia, and singing in concert in Baltimore and Philadelphia with pianist Adele aus der Ohe and ‘cellist Victor Herbert thereafter. Eventually, he retired to Massachusetts where he carried on his life in music as a teacher.


Whitney was the father of one daughter, ‘Lizzie’ Gertrude, and of two sons, both of whom made a mark in vocal music: ‘Willie’ Lincoln Whitney and Myron William Whitney jr .


Willie (b Boston 11 June 1861; d Massachusetts, 27 December 1949) made a career as a voice teacher with some notable pupils (Louise Homer, Eleanor Steber), while Myron (b Boston 15 January 1873; d Washington 3 June 1954) followed his father as a bass singer—making an appearance in comic opera with Fritzi Scheff (The Two Roses) – before, like his brother, becoming a singing teacher.







Monday, September 12, 2022

"Molly married the Marquis" ... Jennie wed the phony.


This is the latest e-bay photo to set me off on voyage of discovery into little-known (to me) places. And what a fun voyage! 

I've not investigated the so-called 'Gaiety Girls' of the 1890s and 1900s. They're just on the cusp of my period of 'interest and expertise'. In the past, however, John Culme and others have investigated some of the more newsworthy damsels, so I have never been inspired to look into many of those shapely ladies who were more Victorian than Vocalists. But, today ...

All I really knew about Miss M' Nulty was that she was (Irish-)American by birth, came to Britain with Henry Dixey's Adonis company in 1886, and thereafter had a twenty-year career as first as a beauty, then as a supporting players, culminating as a useful character actress. Simple? No.

Miss M' Nulty is said to have been born in Boston. She filled in her marriage certificate as Mary McNulty. I suspect the M' Nulty is correct. That is, if it is real. I can find no record of her birth, parentage or early years.  

She surfaces before my eyes for the first time in 1884, when she succeeded to a role in E E Rice's production of Orpheus and Eurydice

She was noticed newsworthily when she successfully vamped the son of President Arthur and had to turn him off. She subsequently joined Rice's Adonis troupe, decorating the stage as one of four showgirls who were christened Lady Mattie, Lady Pattie etc.

12 May 1886 the Adonis troupe headed for London, and Jennie went with it. In spite of its record-breaking success in America, England found the piece old-fashioned and lowbrow, and it closed after a disappointingly short run, leaving the company to trudge home. Except for Jennie who was said to have been so greatly admired that 'she had drawn more money to the show during its last month than Dixey himself'. Adonis had been a fill-in at the popular Gaiety Theatre, and Mr George Edwardes, head of the enterprise, persuaded (without much difficulty, I suspect) the bright Bostonian beauty to join his company.

It was clear what her main value was but she was capable of taking minor parts in Monte Cristo jr (Albert), Dorothy (Lady Betty), Miss Esmeralda (t/o Ernest), Frankenstein (Risotto), and forepieces, then larger ones -- Siebel in Faust-up-to-date, Winifred Wood in Little Jack Sheppard in the Gaiety tour -- as she was noticed driving up front in a carriage with the Duke of Portland ... but Portland married someone else ..

She appeared in the 1889 pantomime Babes in the Wood at Manchester alongside Phoebe Carlo, and scored a success as the rumbustious Polly in Nat Goodwin's production The Bookmaker. 'Nothing could be better in its way than the Polly of Miss Jennie McNulty. The preliminary suavity, and subsequent fierce outburst of brazen impudence when, having unexpectedly visited Harborough Castle, she finds herself coldly received, was a triumph of acting'. She followed up as 'Mrs Huntley, a grass widow', in Sweet Nancy, as Talbot in Joan of Arc for Edwardes at the Opera Comique, appeared as Corisandre in the English adaptation of Ma Mie Rosette, and -- now 'a little stouter than in Gaiety days' -- created the role of the Irish Comtesse de la Blague with her walloping drinking song in the hit musical Morococo Bound. When the provincial The Lady Slavey was brought to the Avenue Theatre, Jenny was cast in the plum role of the brash music-hall singer, Flo Honeydew.

All seemed to be going exceptionally well in Jennie's development from sexy stage sylph to buxom beauty. But then came a hiccough. He called himself 'William Victor Paulet' and he was a 45 year-old widowed habitué of London's nightlife 'living on his own means'. Those means were to be exposed as non-existent. And any connection with the Marquis of Winchester (family name: Paulet) totally ficticious. Jennie didn't do her homework before she married him ...

Mr 'Paulet' (b Hornsey 1849) was born William Hippolyte Hieronyme Pasierbski the son of a Polish immigrant, Platon Hippolyte Pasierbski and his wife (6 September 1836) Anna Maria née Bird. The family's tale was a strange one. Platon and Anna had a swathe of children alomost all of whom died as infants. Then Platon went off to Poland to fight in the war against Russia. He was reported as a prisoner of war, executed, dead. So Anna Maria remarried (4 February 1851) a dissenting minister named Ebenezer Cornwall, apparently of Ryton in Durham. And then, one day, Platon turned up on the doorstep, very much alive .... I can't find the family in 1851 but I see that Anna Maria died in 1866.  I suspect Willliam may have been the William Henry Paulet, clerk, sentenced to nine months, for larceny and receiving, in 1869. And the William V Paulet 'annuitant' living in London's Howland St in 1871. He was certainly the William Paulet who ('clerk') joined the Freemasons in Aberdare in 1873 where he was calling himself Count Wilhelm Heromem Hippolyte Vernon Victor Platon Paulet Pasierbski of Cracow , and married Ada Louise Smith of Fairfield, Connecticut  22 September 1875 in Manhattan. They had issue before Ada died in 1887. Allegedly in Salzburg. What? 

Thus, in 1891, Mr Paulet can be seen living in an hotel in Jermyn Street 'on his own means', a widower .. . and somewhen in his nightlifing he encountered Miss M'Nulty and for some reason she married him. It would later be said that they hardly saw each other after their wedding, except when Jennie, coming down for breakfast, encountered Billy coming up the stairs after a night on the town. Needless to say, she soon realised that she had misjudged her husband's financial worth, and the moneylenders soon entered the picture.

In 1897, Jennie crossed to America to be at the bedside, so it was said, of her dying father. When she returned, she found the moneylenders had helped themselves to the contents of her home, to cover her husband's debts. She called her lawyer. 

The resultant lawsuit made the press world wide. And Jennie came out, if slightly soiled. triumphant. The moneylenders were condemned to pay her a thousand pounds. The furniture was deemed to belong entirely to Jennie. The following year, the affairs of Mr Pasierbski-Paulet 'of the Orleans Club, King's Street' were wound up, and he vanishes from our tale.

Jennie carried on her career as a character actress, playing pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, playing the comedy maid alongside Weedon Grossmith in My 'Soldier Boy' at the Criterion, on tour with Mrs Langtry as Mrs Bennett-Boldero in The Degenerates and, as late as 1905 and 1906 as Countess Anstruther in The Orchid and in The Spring Chicken.

She did not remarry and died at her home 91 Winchester Street 18 March 1927, allegedly aged 65.

I wonder who she really was. Perhaps truthfully Mary M'Nulty from Boston. Can someone find me some documentation?