Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Kurt of Gerolstein and Little Emily


Yesterday, Gerolstein got a new inhabitant.

He's one year old, and he's a little horse.

Since I took him over from my friend, Steve Allen, he's been down at Motukarara with the Edmonds family and Michael 'Howie' Howard, getting broken in, gelded and all the other things we and Wendy used to do here in younger and less body-battered days.  And yesterday he came home.

Wendy put him into a nice, green paddock with plenty of goodies (he's not quite sure about the hard feed yet!), and with 23 year-old Boofie (Kotare Atom) as a neighbour. They seem to have mated up nicely ... so far so good! Boofie can tell Kurty all about his six wins and his 100-1 victory at Motukarara (was it really 16 years ago?)

So while big cousin Emily, after her beastly treatment by HRNZ, and a fine third at Addington on Sunday, goes out for a nice restful spell at Bank's Peninsula, little Kurty starts his career ... with his first visitors!

PS Anyone who missed the tale of Emily's gross mistreatment by the authorities ... read here:

"As you all know, we have a little filly named EMILY. She has raced 12 times, for 1 win, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, much interference and one ghastly whoopsie when she had to change trainers because of our beloved Murray's death. It was Murray's dream and ours that she would qualify to run in the Group 1 NZ Oaks ... and she did! Except someone at Harness Racing New Zealand decided that qualifying ratings should be altered to suit -- well, who knows who -- and EMILY was evicted from the field in favour of an erratic horse (failed to finish 3 times in its last 5) and another, which last time we raced it, also finished last. Our last start we ran a fine 2nd. 7 lengths back to 4th. Oh, easy race, sniff the pundits. Really? Will they say that when Master Class (who beat us a neck) runs in the Derby?
Either HRNZ needs to be purged of its old lags (with old connections), or the rules need to be made unbreakably firm. If you are going to have a rating system, stick by it. Don't ignore it to give a friend a start (there's a $1750 start premium, by the way).
SASSY STAR R40 (the serial galloper) and MISS YO R42 are both rated below us. So who's cherrying up (or down, depending on one's preferences) to the field-making department?"
I have written to the responsible person at HRNZ. He has not deigned to reply.
So. They've trodden on the last dreams of Murray, and a few of those of Wendy, myself and our partners Frank and John, trainer Howie ...
Harness racing in NZ has always been crooked (read Trevor Payne's self-published tell-all book ..), but mainly as concerns the trainer and drivers ... when we find our theoretical governing body doing jiggery-pokery ...

Who is the Minister for Racing (yes, can you believe NZ HAS one!) ... I'm not going to let this one go. Nor its story."

(Addendum: SASSY STAR galloped late in the piece, finding the pace too hot. 11th. MISS YO overraced, was responsible for knocking out the second favourite, fought to stay with them and ended up 9th)

Watch this space for the latest ... things are moving ...

Well, the first thing I did (on advice) was to write to The Metropolitan Trotting Club/Addingtom Raceway. There, surely, I would get, if not satisfaction, at least a reply. Wanna bet? Alas, they work on the same policy as our government. 'Just ignore him, he'll go away'. Well, I can't do anything can I, except go to law, which, given legal costs, would be biting off my nose to spite my upper lip.

So, after ten days of waiting for a polite explanation or even an acknowledgement, I here append the letter they have chosen to ignore:



Well, one of you is an old friend

The other one, according to my friend, E**** is ‘a good bloke’.  (They’re hard to find these days)


So which one of you is ready for a social media lambasting, and probably will have the need for a lawyer. Playing with people’s lives can be hazardous.


Doubtless you have seen my communications with Andrew Morris (waste of time), HRNZ (only old friend Maria Harris acknowledged) and Mr McAnulty MP. And the subsequent facebook hoohaa which occurred when a private post of mine was shared widely by four other friends and has travelled to the other side of the world.


If you hav’n’t, let me (or half the harness racing world) know …


In 20 years of owning horses, I have never had any personal problems with the Met. Although I must admit to disliking your elitist policies. Well, and a few other things …


Well, now I have. You have made a culpable error, depriving the EMILY family (minus Murray) of sporting joy, not to mention financial loss … and no one has answered my cries and complaints. So, as I said I would, I am going public and if necessary to law to have this damage minimised.


As a high-up in the trotting world says: ‘If only someone could give you an explanation!! Or even admit they stuffed up…'

Anyway, by the time you get this the race will have been run. I hope for Gay Luke’s sake that Sassy (a relative of my dear old Davey Crockett) doesn’t gallop, but be prepared for a crucifixion if she or Miss Yo finishes down the track.

Oh, by the way, I think you owe us a starter’s stake, yes? Should I or my lawyer send you an invoice?

Have a nice night.

We won’t.


Follow up:

EMILY was given a start at the Met's 'leftovers' meeting 48 hours later. She drew one from the outside, over a mobile sprint distance (not ideal) and the weather had had the delightful idea of opening its sluice tanks since Oaks night, so the track was officially 'slushy'. Well, it turned out to be more of a 'race' than some of the posh ones!  Thanks to the brave LI'L MISS MUSCLES (who would also have had the right to a place in the Oaks) who set a stinging pace, before the favourites got into the act, and the All Stars' WY FI scooted right away. By the time they got half way down the straight, everyone was going backwards, excepting the winner. WY FY. And EMILY. She ran past the favourite, past MISS MUSCLES and into third place. Ahead of the other three fillies in the race ... and in a mile rate of 2.01.9!!! Way faster than any trotter I have owned has done in New Zealand. Imagine, if they had had the track conditions of the Friday!


Well, she's leaving them to it and going for a nice rest chez Edmonds. So, we'll say cheerio to the glum precincts of Addington for a while. And I know you will all understand me if I say,  'Bye Bye and A Spit in your Eye'. Roll on, Rangiora ...

Meanwhile, little SHOOOSH (I own one hoof) had her first run down south for a close 5th (less than 2 lengths from the winner!) ... I am sponsoring the trot at the Rangiora meeting ... I'm not going to let the Lordly Boys spoil my horsey times for me ...

Umpteenth post scriptum (well, I said watch this space!). The TAB (ie government-approved gambling) which is at the source of much of NZ's harness-racing stake money has announced (well, we have huge inflation, you know) cuts in the available funds for the coming year.  Well, Addington!  That's the end of your obscene million-dollars race days. And perhaps the end of such anomalies as maiden races with a stake of $10k (to keep horses in New Zealand, you know) on programmes with intermediate class races at $9K and less ...   And maybe you could slim your excessive staff ranks ('They are a bunch of mediocre numpies' quoth one of the many harnessworld reactors to my original post) ....

Ah! That feels GOOD.  Cocktail time. And watch the fiasco called the NZ Trotters (Gallopers?) Derby once more. 

Follow up December 29: WY FY ran 5th in the Derby. L'IL MISS MUSCLES has had three starts for two seconds and, today, a fine win ... SASSY STAR has had another last :-(. MISS YO, like EMILY, has not been sighted ...

SHOOSH had a fine 3rd, and then two horrendous displays of non-trotting. It's there, but she seems to be Miss Airhead ...

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Mesdemoiselles Bengraff


When I see a French carte de visite labelled 'Opéra', and I have no idea who the person is ... well, I feel I ought to find out ..

Today I came across this one. Mlle Bengraff. 1862.

Not a dancer. Not in that frock. So ...

Well, actually I have discovered that their were two Mlles Bengraff. And they were actually born Bengraf. The daughters of Georges Joseph Bengraf of Wissemberg and his wife Anne Marguerite Apolline Eck. 

Both worked at the Opéra for a good number of years, in the capacity of (very) small part players ('second role et coryphée de chant'). By 1862, both were married ladies but the younger continued to work as Mlle Bengraff, so I guess this is she.

BENGRAF, Marie Louise Angélique (b Maçon, 1 January 1833; d  Paris 6 January 1867).

BENGRAF, Anne Marguerite Josephine (b Orléans 1825; d 19 rue Durantin, Paris 25 January 1879)

I don't know when the girls began at Opéra, but I see them in the chorus of a piece titled L'Apparition in 1848. Bengraff 1 and Bengraff 2. One of them is Alice in Le Comte Ory in the same year (presumably Josephine as Marie was not yet 16). Anyway, in 1851, now Madame Jules Joseph Tarby, Josephine had a shot at being a provincial leading lady, at Bordeaux. She was hissed by a box of toffs, returned to the Opéra in her modest employment, and remained there till 1871 when the newest management sacked her. She sued, lost on a technicality, but won her pension ..

Marie married the theatre's chef du chant, Eugène François Vauthrot (11 March 1862), and gave birth to two daughters. She continued playing 'a woman', 'a waiting woman' and so forth (Jeannette in Le Philtre, Inès in La Favorita, Azéma in Semiramide with the Marchisios &c) until she, too, left the stage. She died at the age of 34, followed four years later by her husband (5 September 1871).

Sunday, November 20, 2022

OFFENBACH, EUROPEAN MUSICIAN or, put away the sellotape

This week, I was sent a review copy of a collection of essays, or 'papers' as they are called by the learned, which have more (or occasionally less) to do with the works of the composer, Jacques Offenbach ...

I spent most of a largely enjoyable and informative day reading its some 500 pages, and here are my thoughts..

OFFENBACH, EUROPEAN MUSICIAN or, put away the sellotape


"It’s the two-hundredth birthday of composer Jacques Offenbach this week, and, all round the globe, lovers of his wonderfully sparkling music have been marking the occasion with productions of his stage works, large and small. The event has also provided those whose world is the written page, rather than the performing stage, with the opportunity to wade into print with lucubrations, equally large and small. I’ve seen only a few of these, and I think that the stage productions (which, alas, have not reached New Zealand) have probably got it all over them. Well, they ought to have. You can listen to Ba-ta-clan or Orphée aux enfers or their confrères a hundred times, and never tire of them. But after the first really well-researched and knowledgeable books and articles on the musician and his works had been published, well, what more was there to say and write? As a result, the same material has, largely, been repeated or copied, over and over again. Errors sometimes included! Of course, this is the twenty-first century, where footnotes are considered more important that facts; the heyday of ‘theorising’ rather than fact-finding … but I’m ‘of an earlier age’, I like my first-hand facts, so, when the theses are flying, I keep my head down. And, thus, I haven’t clambered on to the Offenbach bandwagon of 2019. What could I say, that Jean-Claude Yon, for example, couldn’t say better?" (Gänzl 2019).


Well, a bundle of other folk didn't share my reticence, and the result is a 400-page book of articles -- some wonderfully and fascinatingly fact-finding, others the usual university seminar waffling -- put out by the splendid Palazzetto Bru Zane, the 21st century's French musical Maecenas, under the direction of precisely the self-same M Yon and two German colleagues, MM Jacobshagen and Schwarz.


Like any anthology, this collection has parts that are going to appeal to a particular reader, of whatever tastes, and parts that ar'n't. All I can say is that there are more than enough Really Grand Bits for Me, herein, for this book to go on to my 'keep within reach' shelf, after I've sellotaped the meaningless pages together. Yes. Sellotape. Like cuts in an orchestral score. It's a super system with curate's-eggy anthologies.


So, which bits am I keeping sellotape free? Mostly, the ones that deal with the music rather than the libretti and librettists. The ones that tell me something I didn't know. The ones that have actual information, or reference value, rather than just  common-room chatter ...


Footnotes, by the way, have me reaching for the sticky paper ...

In I dove. Page one. Matthias Brzoska's piece on the early La Duchesse d'Albe was the first delightful discovery, Mark Everist's history of the little Offenbach pieces at the Salle Herz, a positive treasure, and essays such as Roxane Martin's on Offenbach at the Comédie Française, Richard Sherr's on Pépito, and Emanuelle Delattre-Destemberg's on Le Papillon ('Mlle Stoikoff' was named Augustine) got the collection off to a brilliant start. If, for me, it got a little too theoretical and universitorial thereafter, the gems still surfaced regularly through the remaining pages -- the piece on the use of Offenbach's music in the scores at the Châtelet (shame that Britain is not regarded as Europe, this article would have doubled in size), the contemporary reactions to Offenbach's death compiled by Arnold Jacobshagen ...

Emma Livry in Le Papillon

There was one article I skipped. It began 'En 2019 l'année du bicentenaire de la naissance d'Offenbach, les études et recherches à son sujet se concentrent encore trop sur les aspects biographiques ou sur l'analyse historique ...'. Trop? Trop?? There follows 'un examen analytique de la musique offenbachienne'. Pulling the wings off a papillon? It must be a thesis.


Back on form with Stephanie Schroedter's (over-footnoted) piece on dance, and after skipping a piece which mentions Freud in line 2 ... ah ha! here comes the light relief! Kevin Clarke with his porno history of opérette. Kevin (who is the only contributor to this volume whom I know personally) is always good value, and goodness I even get mentioned in his essay. Wouldn't you know?: the one chapter in which I make an appearance (four times!), is the one on pornography!


There are really splendid (if, again, over-footnoted) pieces on Offenbach productions in Portugal (Mário Vieira de Carvalho) and Spain (Serge Salun), -- alas poor Hungary! -- and, on pages 316 -334 my favourite piece of all: Laure Schnapper's truly important article on the dance arrangements of the composer's work. 


So you see, I didn't need my sellotape too much at all. I just skipped the bits with too many buzzwords, with too much evidence of second-hand use or the university essay, with too many footnotes (which I didn't look at, anyway) and I had an absolutely rippingly good time wallowing in the items I've named above ...


So, in summary, OFFENBACH, MUSICIEN EUROPÉEN is a decidedly valuable anthology for its predominant Brilliant Bits, and it just remains for me to say "bravo Bru Zane ... once again" ... what's next?  



PS When I decided, in 2019, not to tread on the sacred lawns of Offenbachian 'scholarship', I turned instead to the performers of little Jacques's early works.  You can read (and, please, add to or correct) the result here  https://kurtofgerolstein.blogspot.com/2019/06/ladies-of-bouffes-parisiens-1855-1860.html

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Fanny Wyndham

This photo came up on my screen today when I was busy reviewing a new book on Offenbach.  The back of the picture says just "Wyndham", but the vendor avers that it is the singer Fanny Wyndham. It looks like her ... 1860s? She'd have been fortyish ...

Fanny Wyndham

Then I remembered that years ago I had written a piece on Fanny for my Victorian Vocalists, and not used it ... so here it is ..

WYNDHAM, Fanny (Madame Frédéric LABLACHE) [WILTON, Mary Anne Frances Charlotte] (b Edinburgh, ?c1821 ?1816?; d Paris, 23 September 1877)


Miss Fanny Wyndham promised great things. There were some who claimed her – in her time, and even after – as one of the greatest British contraltos of the 1830s, some who spoke of her in the same breath as Mrs Alfred Shaw or Charlotte Dolby. But marriage, children, intermittent ill-health and, perhaps, a lack of ambition combined to make what might have been a magnificent career into a more comfortably modest one.


Fanny Wyndham and her elder sister, Mary Ann, known simply as Miss Wyndham, were the daughters of Mr William Nicholls Wilton (b Westminster 6 October 1777), wine merchant, and, following the fashion of the time, when they took to the stage, they adopted an aristocratic nom de théâtre. Since the sisters were born in Edinburgh, their birth-dates and circumstances remain a mystery to me ('sources' claim 1821), and the first time ‘Miss Wyndham’ appears to my gaze is in 1832, when the Morning Chronicle reports ‘a young lady named Wyndham has been playing Helen in The Hunchback at Cheltenham with great success’. In October that same year, the Misses Wyndham can be seen in the company at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh (‘The Misses Wyndham are prepossessing ladies – commanding in figure and pleasing, perhaps pretty, in countenance ...’) and what looks like Miss E Wyndham is playing Rosara in the musical melodrama The Broken Sword. The following 1 March 1833, I see them taking a Benefit at the Theatre Royal, Aberdeen in which Mary Ann played The Belle’s Stratagem and Fanny Perfection: ‘we were highly gratified with Miss Fanny Wyndham’s ‘Kate O’Brien’ for she performed the part with infinite archness and grace. Her singing, too, was admirable. The sweetness and feeling with which she sang ‘Bonny Mary Hay’ we have seldom heard equalled’. Could she really have been twelve years old? I think not. I think Fanny may have chopped 5 years off her age .. when she married, she said she was of full age

Later that year, the sisters went their separate ways, Mary Ann to Hull where she played Lady Teazle one minute and Meg Merrilees the next, and replaced Mary Cawse in a singing role with considerable success.  Of Fanny, the press reported ‘she is we hear a vocalist of considerable talent and acquirements, a pupil of the celebrated Barnet (sic), and some months back made a great impression at York where she sang at the Theatre Royal several nights’.

Miss Wyndham seems to have played several seasons at Hull, and on the occasion of her Benefit 3 March 1835, she introduced her sister ‘Miss Fanny Wyndham, her first and only appearance here’. Fanny played Perfection and Caroline Grantley in Vestris’s vehicle Beulah Spa, sang ‘Why did I love?’ and ‘Pretty star of the night’ and joined Mary Ann Atkinson in duet: ‘She is possessed of a voice of peculiar sweetness and sings with great taste and judgement. Besides several ballads introduced incidentally Miss F Wyndham took part in Rossini’s splendid duet ‘Giorno d’orrore’ with Miss Atkinson and acquitted herself in such a manner as to give a most favourable impression of her capabilities in the higher order of vocal composition. In the very laughable farce of Beulah Spa Miss F W personated three characters and proved that her talents are not confined to music alone… she is hired for the last three nights of the season’.

During those extra nights she repeated her playlets and appeared in The Loan of a Lover and Black-Eyed Susan.

Fanny (‘from the King’s Concerts’) returned to York (Beulah Spa, Married Life, Past Ten o’clock, Paul Pry, Clari, Turn Out) and later in 1835, the sisters played at the Theatre Royal, Bristol, where ‘Miss F Wyndham from the Theatre Royal York’ made her first appearance as Ophelia to the Hamlet of Charles Kemble, and went on to play Dolly Mayflower in Black-Eyed Susan, Betty Higgins in The Rake’s Progress, Polly Briggs in The Rent Day etc, whilst her sister favoured the more dramatic roles behind leading lady Mrs D Lee. It was also reported that ‘she has sung at the Cambridge Philharmonic Concerts.’


1836 was a turning point for the Wyndham sisters. Mary Ann was engaged for leading roles at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. She debuted as Nina in Born to Good Luck (‘A Miss Wyndham from Edinburgh looked, played and danced Nina with beauty and spirit and is in our opinion a very acceptable addition to the company here’) and she would go on there to a satisfying career until, in 1838 (1 May), she became the wife of one Mr Florent Henry, teacher, and left the stage.

Fanny went back to school. To the Royal Academy of Music. She did not, however, give up performing, but her engagements were initially more vocal than theatrical. In April she ‘made a debut’ at the Academy concerts (‘pupil of Signor Crivelli’), alongside the British premiere of the Choral Symphony, and was lauded for ‘a remarkably fine voice of great compass, fullness and sweetness; and there is a refinement and delicacy in her execution which prove that she is a singer of impulse and not a mere automaton’. She gave the Semiramide duet with a Mrs Smith: ’These two ladies are a valuable acquisition to the list of English singers’. Amongst the supporting soloists was the 14 year-old ‘Miss Dolby’.

In July, I spot her singing under Rudersdorff at the Yorkshire Amateur Concerts (Horn’s ‘Through the wood’, ‘Se m’abbandoni’, ‘Auld Robin Gray’), and in December at Mr Harper’s concerts in London and at Doncaster.


In December 1836, Signor Puzzi and Mr Mitchell mounted a company to play Italian Opera Buffa at the Lyceum Theatre. The artists engaged were almost all Italians, but two young Englishwomen, Miss Glossop and Miss Fanny Wyndham, were cast in Un Avventura di Scaramuccia (29 December 1836). The result was striking: ‘Miss F Wyndham made her first appearance on any stage’, reported The Times, ‘she sings with exquisite taste; her voice is a fine contralto, and we have no doubt that she will prove a great acquisition to the theatre.’

Fanny – while still a student -- went on to sing Princess Euphemia in Chiara di Rosembergh (24 January 1837), Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro and Giannetto in Benedict’s Un anno e un giorno (‘loudly encored’) with Mme E Giannoni and Sebastiano Ronconi. But there was more to come. When the opera buffa season ended in mid-February, Miss Fanny Wyndham moved across directly to the King’s Theatre, London’s Italian opera house.

She made here first appearance there on 4 March 1837, in the role of Malcolm in La Donna del lago and – in a production elsewhere seriously undercast -- The Times was delighted with her, ‘we never heard her, whatever the cause, produce so much effect or sing so well. The music suited her and she was at home in it’. The same he could, and did, not say for the new soprano de Angioli nor the tenor Deval.

22 April La gazza ladra was produced, and Fanny was cast for Pippo, which in the theatre’s previous performances had been sung by … a bass. Her lively acting irritated the Examiner’s lofty critic ‘a young lady we believe from Lord Burghersh’s collection at the Royal Academy. Miss Wyndham has a tolerable contralto voice which is generally in tune but over which she has very little command ... Without one spark of naievete this young lady ambled and wheeled and turned about and jumped Jim Crow throughout the opera in so provoking a manner that we wished her not at Hanover but safe back in Hanover Square...’ He also criticised Grisi’s Ninetta and thoroughly rubbished Ivanhoff and Albertazzi.

Later in the season, she played Agnese in Malek Adel.

Her operatic engagements did not get in the way of Fanny’s concert singing, and she was seen liberally through 1837 both in the concerts of the RAM, and in London and the provinces. She went to Bath for Loder, visited the Yorkshire meeting again ‘Miss Fanny Wyndham of the Italian opera’ (alongside ‘Mlle Rudersdorff of the Paris Conservatoire’), and also made an appearance in Manchester (‘a rich contralto voice of good quality and compass her execution is very respectable’) before, come December, she returned briefly to the opera buffa company to repeat her Scaramuccia, The prima donna contralto of the company, however, was Mme Eckerlin who sang Rosina when Il Barbiere di Siviglia came round. And Fanny, it appears, was not quite comfortable on stage. ‘She more than once on this occasion reminded us of Albertazzi; but can an English singer never move about the stage as if actuated by some impulse connected with the same? It would seem not’, wrote one paper after a performance at the Opera Buffa.

Her 1838 concert season was her fullest yet. She began the year at Signor Puzzi’s Classical concerts, in Bath and London, in which many of the artists of the opera buffa company appeared. Fanny sang Mozart’s ‘L’Addio’, by far her most frequent choice as a concert item at this time, and duetted ‘Crudel perche’ with Frédéric Lablache. They would still be singing it together, as a long married couple, twenty years down the track.

She sang at Drury Lane on King Charles the Martyr night (‘Miss Fanny Wyndham’s songs were the best performances of the evening...’), at Mori and Lindley’s concerts, at the Society of British Musicians, at more Puzzi concerts (‘Miss Wyndham has considerable talent natural and acquired and continues to rise in public estimation’), at the Olympic Theatre in The Creation, at the Societa Armonica, duetting Tancredi with Persiani and ‘Mira la bianca luna’ with Ivanhoff, at Moscheles’ concerts, the Ancient Concert (‘Che faro’), for Mme Dulcken, Agosto Sagarini, Miss Pritchard of Bath and others, but in early May she headed north to Edinburgh, where Mr Mitchell had taken his opera buffa company, to play Scaramuccia opposite the young Lablache. ‘Her success was as complete as that of the other performers who preceded her on Tuesday…she has a voice of the contralto species not very powerful but of liquid sweetness and uncommon flexibility... she sings with great delicacy of expression and executes her florid passages with great neatness and facility..’, ‘quiet dignity’. This time, when they did Il Barbiere, it was Fanny who sang Rosina, and when the company moved on to Manchester she sang Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro.

In July, she took part with other Royal Academy pupils in a performance of Lord Burghersh’s Il Torneo at the St James’s Theatre, and in November and December sang the principal contralto music in Samson and The Messiah with the Sacred Harmonic Society.

Miss Wyndham was at the peak of her powers, and when she visited the Liverpool Amphitheatre the local critic raved ‘There is not another living songster that we have heard who possesses a more beautiful and more perfect range of voice than Miss Fanny Wyndham. From the highest to the lowest every note is mellifluous. There is only one thing wanted to make her the finest living singer but we fear that Miss Wyndham cannot accomplish it. She always sings in medium and piano tones, but does not put forth her forte ... ‘. She gave, as ever, ‘L’Addio’ and ‘John Anderson, my jo’ an example of the Scottish songs which would become her trademark in later years.

In the first part of 1839, Miss Fanny Wyndham was heard everywhere. At Exeter Hall with the Sacred Harmonic Society (Israel in Egypt, Joshua, The Messiah ‘it is impossible to bestow higher praise’, Dettingen Te Deum), at the Hanover Square Rooms in from Blagrove, for Mrs Dulcken, for G A Kollmann, at the concert room of Her Majesty’s Theatre, with the Societa Armonica (‘Io l’odio’, Himmel’s Battle Hymn, Or la sull’onda (Il Giuramento), Kalliwoda’s ‘The Grave Digger’), for the harpist Labarre, for Julius Benedict (22 May) and for the concert of Signor F Lablache (24 May), and on the theatre’s stage at the concerts of Mori, at the Haymarket Theatre for William Kenneth’s Benefit, at Willis’s Rooms for the Northern Dispensary, Madame Sala, Mlle Sedlatzek and Signor Brizzi, at Store Street for Miss Steele, at the Foundling Hospital Chapel, the concerts of Ancient Music, the Royal Society of Musicians annual Messiahsharing the contralto music with Maria Hawes and Mrs Toulmin, at the Hanover Square Rooms for Chatterton and Card (21 June), for Thalberg (24 June) and for Mons Hauman (1 July), at the English Opera House in Stretton and Giubilei’s Benefit (28 June).

And then it stopped. For in July 1839 Miss Fanny Wyndham became Madame Frédéric Lablache. But, in spite of the say-so of the Dictionary of National Biography and all other sources from which it has copied, or which have copied from it, she certainly did not retire from performing.

Fanny Lablache returned to the concert platform in February 1840 – she had, it was said, been ill -- and during the month was heard at the Quartet Concerts, at Thalberg and Benedict’s concert, at Mr Ransford’s, at Allcroft’s at the Haymarket Theatre, at Mr Marshall’s at Oxford, and in a private soirée for the Queen Dowager. Most often, the two Lablaches appeared together, inevitably with a duet (‘Senza tanti complimenti’ (Il Burgomestro), ‘Les muletiers’) sometimes with an aria apiece, and Fanny – who usually took a smaller part in the proceedings – with a Scottish song.

However, she had barely begun again when – in a manner which would characterise her later career – she stopped again. This time, it was a child, Therese Francesca Lablache born in Westminster 13 May 1840. It is December 1840 before I spot her back at Exeter Hall, singing with the Sacred Harmonic Society, and in the new year she once again picked up the concert trail, for the season. A concert for the Hull Choral Society typified a Lablache bill, Fanny’s contribution was one aria -- -- ‘Or la sull’ onda’ again, one ballad, Parry’s ‘The days of yore’, ‘Logie of Buchan’ and ‘Dunque io son’ with her husband. On 16 June 1841, her husband gave his concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre and – alongside Grisi, Mario, Viardot Garcia, Dorus Gras and the other stars of the place -- Fanny gave her faithful ‘L’Addio’.

The Lablaches spent the latter part of 1841 and into 1842 in Paris, where Frédéric made his début at the Théâtre des Italiens as Figaro (‘un gros et grand garcon de bonne mine .. un baryton d’un assez beau timbre et volume suffisant .. comme acteur convenable..’), and in Paris Fanny gave birth to her second daughter, Fanny Rose.

The couple returned regularly to London, but in 1842 and 1843 she was rarely seen on the concert platform. It was not until 1844 that the couple set out on a tour of northern England, in conjunction with Henry Russell, The Musical Review reported: ‘Everybody who has ever once had the pleasure to hear this charming vocalist, will be gratified to learn that she has now quite recovered her voice and strength, and will shortly prove that she still possesses the full power and compass of that exquisite organ, which required only to be heard to be acknowledged the finest contralto in existence; her purity of style, beauty of elocution, and correct intonation, have won for her the distinguished position which she has now for some time held in the musical world.’

However, it did not last. Soon it was Signor Lablache alone who was seen out in public. Fanny’s public appearances came thereafter in spurts, and most often in tandem with her husband, in the duet-ballad-Scotch song format which had become their norm. When Fanny appeared – four months after the birth of Luigi Frederick, her third and last child (27 January 1850) -- at Miss Birch’s concert (15 May 1850) at the Hanover Square Rooms the press appreciated her ‘beautiful contralto voice’ in ‘Notte tremenda’ and commented ‘She is too seldom heard’.

In 1853, Fanny fulfilled the fullest season on the concert platform since her marriage, whilst the couple concurrently ran their ‘second series of concerted vocal classes for ladies’ at their home at 149 Albany Street. When she sang the Fioravanti ‘Singing Lesson’ with her husband at Mrs Alexander Newton’s at home (28 June 1853) the press assured that ‘we never heard her to greater perfection’, but it was nevertheless to be a final flash. Thereafter, Fanny’s appearances were rare and well-spaced.

In her retirement, Fanny continued to teach singing. The couple ultimately settled in Paris, and it was there that ‘Fanny Wyndham’ died, after a bathing accident at Boulogne, in September 1877. Maybe or maybe not at 56 years of age.

The children of the Lablaches all had artistic careers, but not in the same world as their parents. Therese married the great German basso Johann (sic) Rokitansky (b Vienna 8 March 1835; d Schloss Laubegg 2 November 1909) (French Chapel Marylebone 8 November 1865), Fanny (d 5 April 1885) made herself a considerable name as an authoress of children’s books, and Luigi (d 51 Albany Street 18 December 1914) and his wife ‘Miss Emerson’ [BREADON, Jane Clementina, d Bournemouth 4 July 1938] had a sufficient career on the non-musical stage. A grandson of Luigi, James Lablache Stewart (1913-1993) continued the family’s show business history as a well-known actor under the name Stewart Granger.

Frédéric Lablache (b 29 August 1815) survived his wife by a decade and died at his home at 51 Albany Street, in London 30 January 1887.



Friday, November 18, 2022

A C19th musical and theatrical picture gallery


Clearing the desktop before closing down the office for re-carpeting ....  some pictures ...

WILLIAMS, Marie [WILLIAMS, Maria] (b Prince's Street, Strand, x 27 September 1853; d 30 Bloomsbury Street, London 15 August 1891)

'Marie' was the second daughter of a Clerkenwell bootmaker, James Williams, and his wife Elizabeth. Elder sister, Margaret, became assistant to a perfumer, Marie became a chorus dancer. She is listed as such in the 1871 census, at York Buildings, Charing Cross. Quite where she danced as a teenager I'm not wholly sure. 'Miss Williams' is hardly an unusual name. But there is one such in the Gaiety chorus, and in small parts in the Gaiety tour in 1872, and another in Emily Soldene's company in the early 'seventies. I would think both were possibles. Esecially the latter, for Marie travelled to America with Soldene in 1874, and by 1875 she was supporting the star as La Julienne in La Jolie parfumeuse and in the role of Brigitte in Geneviève de Brabant.

Next, she joined the fine company at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester where she was seen in supporting roles in two Alfred Cellier musicals, The Tower of London (Ursula) and The Sultan of Mocha (Isidora). in the pantomime Aladdin (Krakalotta) alongside Mrs John Wood, J H Ryley and Gaiety soprano Connie Loseby, as Horace to the Tottles of Toole, before joining D'Oyly Carte's pre-G&S company. She appeared as Valentine (ie Fichtel) in his production of the desexed The Duke's Daughter, star, Selina Dolaro, then moved on to Giroflé-Girofla star, Catherine Lewis, and back to Soldene to play the leggy part of Alfred in Chilpéric ('a rapidly improving young actress of burlesque and light comedy parts').
 Again at the Prince's she played Audrey to the Touchstone of J G Taylor, more Tottles, Marjorie in a third Cellier piece, Nell Gwynne, François in Richelieu and Anne Bullen with Phelps, and Hafiz in the pantomime, Sindbad. When the American star 'Fanchita' (and, she's ANOTHER story!) fell ill, Marie took over the title-role.

Marie Williams

Miss Williams was clearly on an upward trajectory. And she continued that way. 31 March 1877 she opened at the Folly Theatre as a featured member of the famed Lydia Thompson troupe (Oxygen, The Conjugal Lesson, Gig in Robinson Crusoe). But the troupe didn't stay at the Folly. Lydia's company made its healthiest money in dollars, and 12 September 1877 Marie made her return to New York in Robinson Crusoe. Circumstances (see my biog of Lydia) led to the star going home. Manager Colville set up a replacement company starring 'Eme Roseau' otherwise Emeline Rosenquest (and the future Mrs Colville). Marie went along .. much appreciated, as she reported back to Blighty.

She was twenty-six years old, and verging on stardom. 'The men go crazy...'

But she went home. And stardom didn't happen. Why? I have an idea.

In London, she joined the company at the Royalty Theatre. She supported Nellie Bromley in Venus, played Carabino in Balloonacy, Mrs Vavasour in Themis, Mercury in Cupid ... and took time out to replace Fannie Leslie as principal boy in the Covent Garden panto of Sindbad. She made something of a personal hit in Forbidden Fruit at the Adelphi. And then ... she went off across the Atlantic again! The venture was not successful. She got into bad company and didn't, for some reason, get out as quckly as she should have. In 1881 the press reported 'Marie Williams commanded $150 a week last season. Now Daly gives her $40 ...  why? 
In 1882 she toured with the Willie Edouin troupe (Aladdin, Babes in the Wood &c) and, after a bit of to and fro-ing across the ocean, ended up at the suburban Standard Theatre as Miss Muffit in Little Red Riding Hood. Between 1882 and 1887 she stayed in Britain. She took supporting roles at Her Majesty's (Queen Popotte in Voyage to the Moon), the Alhambra (Wangenheim in The Beggar Student), with the Vokes Family (original cast of In Camp) and was very visible in pantomime -- Liverpool Alexandra, Islington Grand, principal boy at Drury Lane 1886 and 1887) -- but ....

She elected to go back to America. A better management this time. She was to be leading lady to Henry (Adonis) Dixey in the extravaganza The Seven Ages of Man. So, all was all right?  No. It wasn't. And how long it had not been 'all right' we can't know. Marie was epileptic. She was also -- probably since those champagne days -- an alcohlic. It seems she ended up, after court appearance for drunkeness,  in the Martha Washington home in Chicago. But she made it home 23 May 1891. Three months later she was dead.

What a waste.

Italo Campanini

Who needs no biog. See Kutsch and Riemann and everywhere. I just liked the photo.

Clarice Sinico

One of those grand singers who were always in the shadow of the big name stars.  Full-blooded biography of Clarice to be found in my Victorian Vocalists. She wasn't very good at picking her men ...


The flautist 'Dorus' brother to the famous soprano, Julie Dorus Gras

Edie Tedder was a bit difficult to sort out. Firstly, she wasn't 'Miss' Tedder, she was 'Mrs'. And, secondly, her husband's real name wasn't 'Aynscomb Tedder' anyhow. Apparently he was named Herbert and came from Bexley Heath. So I guess that makes him the Herbert Aynscomb Harris, who married Edith Lilian Caulfield Hazelton (sometimes Edith Mary), daughter of Manchester merchant Wood Caulfield Hazelton, in Barnsley 9 November 1885.  She was 19, and they'd been playing together in the pantomime Aladdin and the comedy Flint and Steel under young Mr Tedder's management. Edie still billed herself as 'Edie Hazelton' until 1891, half a dozen years of touring (Cards, Current Cash, Right's Right, The Noble Vagabond) and pantomime, and the birth of a son, Frank Aynscomb Harris (19 December 1889), later, she switched to being Edie Tedder. 

The couple toured in Muldoon's Picnic, Edie became soubrette with the team of Spry and Monti (A Secret Crime, A Man's Ambition), played touring pantomime with James Kiddie and song-and-dance roles with Harry Bruce's company and Miss Emma Rainbow ... and then Herbert -- not yet 40 -- died 'of consumption'  (26 November 1897). And Edith left the stage ... and my ken ...

Marion Elmore

One of two Australian Jewish sisters who made a name for themselves on the extravaganza stage, 'Marion Elmore' was born Mary Ann Nathan in Sandhurst where her father, for a time, tried his hand at theatre management. Her grave gives her birthdate as 22 April 1860, and her sister Selina, known as Lena Merville as 27 June 1861. You would expect the family to know, but the Sandhurst registers have Mary Ann Nathan born 1858. And Lina born 'at sea'. Which sea?

Lina Merville

Mr Barnett Moses Nathan who seems to have been a fruit and veg man in Covent Garden married Miss Julia Solomons in 1851, in time for the birth of their first daughter, Julia (28 October). A son, Edward Nathaniel was born 7 November 1852, and another, Louis, c 1855, before the family set sail south. I catch up with them in Adelaide, in 1856, where father is in some kind of business and the law courts. By the end of the year, they have removed to Sandhurst. Nathan seems to have got involved with the Amdrams and, in 1862, I see he has become the manager of the local Theatre Royal. Within the year he was bankrupt. 

Now he put the children on the stage. Edward was first, introduced as a juvenile cornet player at his father's Benefit (7 January 1863), but the others would quickly follow.

The bankrupt decamped to Hobart then Adelaide .. and in May 1864 Miss Julia (Irish lilt), Miss Selina (highland fling) and Miss Marion (nautical hornpipe, 'aged 3 years') appeared on the Victoria Theatre's stage. Edward and Louis were heard in duets for two cornets ... and soon 'The Nathan Family' was a featured and well-known kiddie act. How kiddie? Well, in 1867 they advertised as Julia 12, Edward 11, Louis 10, Selina 8, 'la petite Marian' 5. In 1868 it was Edward 12 Louis 10 Julia 10 Cecilia 9 Marion 7. And it would change further. But I'm pretty sure the grave markers in Hastings on Hudson are wrong. La petite Marion was surely the youngest. ('The youngest and smallest of the family') Even if not quite as young as daddy said.

The family act did duty for more than five years, until the kiddies were no longer kiddies and the novelty had gone off the act. So, in later 1870, they packed up and headed for America. Which turned out to be a very good idea. Although it didn't seem so at first. Nathan wrote back to Melbourne (Herald 13 March 1872) describing the horrors of touring the back country in deep snow ..

The Nathan family, Selina Nathan and la petite Marion would soon be gone. And in their place emerged Miss Lina Merville and Miss Marion Elmore. The rest of the family decided to become 'Elmore' as well. Julia jr continued as an actress, Lina and Marion, after splendid careers in some of the very best extravaganza companies on both sides of the Atlantic (notably with fellow 'Australians', Willie Gill and Willie Edouin) worked on into the 20th century, even appearing together in vaudeville. Edward (d 20 January 1928) went on to be a florist and antiques dealer in New York.

Lina had an apparently shortlived marriage to Mr Albert L Levi of Boston 'theatrical manager' (1893), Marion wed stage partner Frank Losee in what would be a long partnership. Lina died in 1920 (4 January) and Marion in 1950 (30 September) 'aged 90'. Sigh. 

There are still queries around the facts of this family for me to elucidate. When mother Julia died, in 1908, obituaries related a career of which I know nothing. Actress, singer, songwriter, married Mr Elmore in Sierra Leone (what about the Strand? and Mr Nathan? There WAS no Mr Elmore!). Aunt of Edward Solomon the composer .. but hang on, she was SOLOMONS ... no?  No! Goodness, she was the sister of Charley Solomon! Father: Samuel Solomon. Covent Garden, fruit and veg .... well, how about that for a turn up!

When you first start to dig and delve .. but .. Sierra Leone?

Heinrich Wilhem Ernst

A nice photo of the celebrated Jewish violinist Ernst (b Brno 8 June 1812; d Nice 8 October 1865)

Robert Soutar, Nellie Farren and ?

This is a wee puzzle. I worked out who two of the folk are by shopping the scribble on the verso

SUTER and FARREN.  Tut tut. Everyone know that Nellie Farren was married to Robert SOUTAR. And that's Nellie, all right. But as or in what? I'm sure this photo must exist somewhere correctly labelled. But I've not seen it before. It must be from before 1867, when photographer Walker died.
This rather Bacchic picture from the NPG is from the same studio ... maybe from the burlesque Cupid and Psyche (1864) in which she appeared as Bacchus? 1864-8 she was engaged at the Olympic and I suspect that it is from that period that our photo comes.

Here is a charming portrait of the top-rank British soprano, Helen Lemmens whose very long career is enshrined in a very long article in my Victorian Vocalists

Helen Lemmens-Sherrington

And here one of most attractive dancers to come out of the London 1880s. Alice [Matilda] LETHBRIDGE (b Islington 29 January 1866; d Eastbourne 4 February 1948). She seems to have begun at Xmas 1884, dancing and singing as Pritti-Peri in the Glasgow pantomime of Aladdin. However, she was soon on the London stage, dancing solo in Cherry and Fairstar at the Islington Grand, and on tour doing a solo hornpipe in The Commodore. She featured in the London production of
Mynheer Jan (1887) with a Spanish dance, with Kate Santley in Indiana, in Blanchard's Carina (1888 'delights everyone with her graceful and elegant dancing'), and she got married (1889). Her husband was the  comic actor H[enry] J[ameson] Turner, with whom she appeared in the1888 Bristol panto, and she would bear him three daughters before their estrangement and his death in 1898.

Alice Lethbridge
She toured with Arthur Roberts in Lancelot the Lovely, danced in Tito Maattei's The Prima Donna, Princess Balroubadour in the Liverpool Aladdin, with Belle Bilton in Augustus Harris's production of the burlesque of Venus ('as dainty a dancer as has ever been seen behind the footlights') before pantomime time came around and she featured as Maid Marian at Birmingham (1890). In 1891, she joined the George Edwardes roster to play Catherine in Joan of Arc and Fettalana in Cinderellen up-too-late before 'by doctor's orders' leaving the Gaiety and heading for Australia to play more of the same. On her return, over a year later, she joined the cast of Little Christopher Columbus (our photo) and, after a long run, tried her hand as a sketch artist on the halls. Her return to the theatre in the burlesque All My Eye-van-hoe lasted but 9 performances, and she sidewound to a revival of Little Christopher, and then to the Alhambra, giving her Marionette's Courtship dance duo with E J Lonnen. She waltzed with Lonnen in the unlucky Baron Golosh (1895) for Frank Wyatt, and the pair then headed for top-billed dates in the halls playing a sketch A Strange Rehearsal with Alice billed as 'the premier skirt dancer of the day'. Which she probably was. Their last tour date of the season was Johannesburg, where they got caught up in the Jameson Raid, but they got home only for Alice to find that her husband had been screwing around. When she said so, the doxy (who, I seem to remember had been a doxy before) sued for libel.
Ted Lonnen mounted a rather inept musical, starring himself and Alice, as Man About Town, at the Avenue in January 1897. It ended before the month did. So it was back to pantomime, touring with Ted (Robbing a Rajah, A Strange Rehearsal) ... and in September  the wayward husband died.
At Christmas 1898 she played in the Manchester panto. 'She dances with all the gracefulness and poetry of old' sighed the press. She was but 33.
She toured in A Greek Slave and San Toy ('dances a pas seul as only she can'), went back to Birmingham for another panto, and got mixed up in a virtual vanity production, Hidenseek which managed a forced 50 London performances during which important cast members abandoned ship. Then more panto, where Alice was even more than before just a solo dance 'act' interpolated into the sort-of-action. Back in the Gaiety team (but the touring now, not the London) she swapped San Toy for The Toreador and then got again involved with a not very successful version of an imported (and important) musical The Sweet Girl (1906). But then she got her best engagement.
She remarried. She married a young civil servant who was rising in the ranks ... balletomane and writer Sir Thomas Reginald Saint Johnson (1881-1950) was to become KCMG and Governor of the Leeward Islands. They lived in their retirement at Ocklynge Manor House in Mill Rd, Eastbourne where, in the 1939 census the fifteen years older Alice blithely chopped a decade and more off her age, and where she died in 1948. 

Lillian Grubb

A short life, but a busy one.  Lillian GRUBB (b Baltimore 11 September 1866; d Baltimore September 1890) was the daughter of George W Grubb and his wife Annie. She went on the stage as a young teenager, and can be seen as early as 1881 playing the role of Saphir in a St Louis production of Patience. She joined the chorus of Ford's Olivette, Billee Taylor, La Mascotte  troupe, and followed up in the Rice companies (Jeannette in Pop). She also got carelessly married to a two-faced bigamist dude whom she promptly divorced.
It was Rice who gave her the part of a lifetime when she was cast as Talamea, the sculptress, in the hit of the era, Adonis ('Golden Chains', 'The Wall Street Broker') and after long service therein she went on to play with Nat Goodwin's troupe, and at the Casino Theatre teamed with Bertha Ricci and Isabelle Urquhart as the three heroines of The Marquis (Jeanne, Jeannette et Jeanneton) and in the title-role of Madelon (La Petite Mademoiselle).
She remarried (Mrs David Hayman), but her career was dogged by illness, and I see her only, latterly, singing Gianetta in Stetson's Gondoliers company in 1890. She quit that company, insisted she was in perfect health ... and a few months later she was dead. Aged 25. Allegedly of 'malnutrition'.