Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Come to my garden ... Gerolstein at the dawn of 2024


The weather down Canterbury way has been at best erratic this December. Blazing heat (into which I can't go out, faute de excessive rhume de foins) and all sorts of showers. Just when we'd mowed and baled our biggest ever crop of hay.  A farmer's life is not a peaceful one.

Anyway, today has turned out 'improving', as the camp little man on NZTV news says, and this afternoon, at 4pm I dared venture out with an empty wheelbarrow and the trusty Canon.  I emptied the wheelbarrow, half filled it again -- whoever said 'big weeds are as easy to pull as little ones' has never been here! --- and then turned to the Canon.

I seem to take the same pictures every year, but no.  Facebook showed me my house 15, 10, 2 years ago .. trees are gone ... and then there's Wendy's veggie garden. A source of infinite joy (to me) and delicious Real Homegrown Produce. 

Well, I'd taken Canon out, really, to photograph a minor miracle. Some years ago, someone (hands up, please!) gave us a couple of walnut tree sproutlets. I planted them, without much hope, and one promptly died. But the other bullied its way on and up. He is now ?15 feet tall and finally, this week, he has proved that he is a nutter!

I've got nuts!  A little effortfully small, but nuts! I don't imagine we'll be gorging ourselves on home-grown walnuts just yet a while but ... hey, NUTS!  (Ps the next tree is a chestnut which annually fruits and seeds, but what does one do with a chestnut?)

Walking back from the 'orchard' to the house, I thought -- it's taken 20 plus years, but I have at last got the little dells and glades I always dreamed of. 

Round to the back of the house ... we had the most fantastic potatoes from the garden for Christmas dinner ...

Taste? I'd forgotten that REAL spuds tasted like that. (Credit: Scotty's Seedlings, Ohoka). I'm a spudophile so this is a wheeee! for me.

There are still two garden-boxes of them left so wheee! all over again!

I'm not a gardenwise chappie, so I don't know what's supposed to bloom/fruit when; but I took Canon round the garden and found .. oh yay! beautiful broad beans

I didn't dare touch the incipient cucumbers, but .. courgettes!

The breeder told me I'd have to wait till mid-January for tomatoes but .. they're starting! Baby beef toms!

There's celery and spinach and umpteen herbs ... and the most precocious crop of all --- the vigorous strawberry.  Once again, 100% more taste than the supermarket offerings ...

Ah well, I leave my garden, and can never resist taking photos from the exterior ..

I do love my garden ...

PS Oh! There's a cucumber. A bit more than incipient ....

And that's beetroot under the netting ..

And that's the green bay tree flourishing in the background ...

A few days later ...

The Basil seeds have germinated!

This morning's harvest

First fruit from the courgette plant

This courgette had ambitions to be a courge!

The bluberry bush hasn't bushed much, but the berries are there!

Musical theatre memorables: the Gaillards


As you know, I enjoy scouting in e-bay land. It replaces my old hobby of scouring the old book shops, ephemera fairs and such like of England, France (especially Nice), Vienna and Australia. Alas, nowadays 'vintage' means 1960s, 'antique' book fairs are full of Barbara Taylor Bradford paperbacks ... and my vast collection of musical-theatre ephemera was long ago consigned to Harvard University and other American institutions. So I soulage myself on e-bay, where hopefully I help, regularly, some of the classier vendors by identifying their old photos and other items.

Spending, thus, plenty of hours a week on the site, I have noticed some curious things. The most curious is the perpetual reappearance of certain items, over and over and over ... for years and years ... doesn't e-bay charge? Obviously not. This one is my pet horror ...

Yes, its a perfectly nice (and very common) sketched card of Peter Paul Rubens. And it is labelled 'theatre, actor'. It is priced at $50 (plus $50 postage!). Is somebody crazy!  

Other photos, less persistent, turn up sporadically over a period of time. Occasionally I see a photo of someone whom I have featured on one of my blog posts years back make a reappearance. OK, dealer recycling unsold stock. Fair enough. Its mostly stuff of little interest. But who buys 'unidentified very famous actress ..'?

What prompted me to this little animadversion is the reappearance, after several years, of a pair of excellent portraits, correctly labelled, of a theatre couple of very definite interest and very rarely seen. Why have they lingered so long even at the price of even more than $50? 

Here they are. Husband and wife. 

Guess what! I can not only date these pictures pretty precisely. I can also tell all about the folk pictured. Because in my archive, I have a bundle of 20 year-old notes that I made when I was researching the life and times of Emily Soldene ...

Francis [Sylvestre] GAILLARD (b Savoie c1859; d Hackensack NJ 1939) was a Frenchman, the son of one Pierre Gaillard and he had at least one sister ... and that is all I know about the first twenty years of his life. Which is why I haven't published his life story before this time.
He left France for London around 1881. Whether he had worked on the stage before that is hard to tell as there were a number of Mons Gaillards about, as well as Mons Pierre [Samson] Gailhard (1848-1918) of the Opéra ... I spot one at the Théâtre de Verviers (1878) .. and one, in 1879 at the El Dorado playing Brisemiche in Chassaigne's La Demoiselle de Compagnie ... who knows?
The first time I spot him for sure, he is already in England. 19 March 1881 he appears in an end-of-season hotch-potch of entertainments labelled 'a Grand Combination of Talent, the Comic Art of All Nations' at Her Majesty's Theatre. Amongst the list of mostly unfamilar participants were the French duettists Bruet et Riviere, Alfred Vance, Ferdy Jonghmanns, Herbert Campbell and the exotic Algerian lady who called herself Kadoujda...  Francis was billed as 'from La Scala, Milan'. Oyyyyy ....

'chanteuse africaine'

'Signor' Gaillard was quickly on his way. On 16 May, he opened at the Oxford Music Hall, as 'Francisco Gaillard' topping the bill with Nelly Power, Fred Albert, J H Rowley, G H Chirgwin and a lady dubbed 'Fraulein Harriett' 'the beautiful Jewess who has fascinated St Petersburg, Leipzig and Hamburg' who sang German and Hebrew Chansonettes. He was acclaimed 'a great attraction ...this gentleman has a good presence, a good style and a splendid voice. In a very short time he has mastered the difficulties of the English language and it was with something like a thrill of delight the audience listened to his fine declamatory rendering of 'The Noble Six Hundred' ... also gave our old acquaintance 'Non e ver' in English ...'

Now, shortly before 'Francisco' started at the Oxford, census day came round. And at & Great Portland Street were to be found Francis (22), Jeanne? Gaillard (36 b Switzerland) and Alice Williams (22, b Bristol). A porky or two there. Francis, I am sure, is veracious. Jeanne is nebulous (mother? sister?). Alice chops a couple of years off her age, but also denies her birth name.  Oh, that name was going to be Gaillard a few weeks later, but for the moment it was Alice Mary JONES (b Bristol 20 February 1857; d Ridgefield, NJ 29 March 1946), daughter of Edward Jones, miller. Alice was vowing also to be an 'artist' and she may have been the 'Alice Williams' I spot singing operatic selections in Brighton in 1875, but she is not immediately obvious for the moment.

Gaillard 'the great French baritone' soon stopped pretending to be anything but what he was, Alice for a little while tried for a little while to be 'Alice Guglielmi' and follow an Italian operatic career, but the two soon found their niche. The baritone, understandably, before the contralto.

Francis went straight from the Oxford to his first appearance on the English stage, and got the role of his career. He was perfectly cast as Pippo, the peasant lover of La Mascotte (Violet Cameron), and since La Mascotte was to turn out to be one of the biggest hits of the era ...

The piece, and Gaillard's perormance in it, won top notch reviews, caught the public favour, and when the end of the hire of the Comedy Theatre came to an end, 15 April 1882, the production was transferred to the Strand Theatre for another three and a half months. 

Thereafter Francis was to be heard in the comncerts of the season (Faure's 'Charité', 'Non e ver') occasionally alongside Alice, who was now 'Mme Gaillard', or briefly 'Mlle Guglielmi', and it is from now I think that her photo dates. But what's with the tambourine?

The Strand's next production (after a pause for redecoration) was one of H B Farnie's pasticcio musical comedies from the French or Frenchish, an adaptation of the well-known Charlot aka The Follies of a Night set with music and songs from the French repertoire under the title of Frolique. Gaillard sang a Planquette song for the few months the piece held up, after which it was succeeded by seven weeks of a comic opera named Cymbia.

In 1883 (12 June) they appeared in a French concert at St George's Hall. Francis gave his 'Charité', 'Les deux amis' with Desmonts and acted in the little Le Diner de Madelon, Alice chose 'Nobil signor' and joined a Miss Carreras in the Semiramide  duet. At Christmas time she pulled her ambitions down a notch and went to play Fairy Queen in panto at Newcastle behind Hetty Chapman and W H Denny,

Hetty Chapman

In the meantime, Francis was at the London Alhambra playing Prince Florian of Floridea in the spectacular The Golden Ring. Three months did not an Alhambra success make.

He gave Offenbachian bits at the Alhambra and the Avenue, took part in a revival of La Mascotte with Florence St John ('as usual was picturesque in his appearance and gave much spirit and vivacity to the character .. in excellent voice') and it was announced that he had signed for three years at the Paris Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens. Allegedly to begin in Planquette's Nell Gwynne.

It didn't happen. Oh, the Gaillards left England: but they went the other way. America. Francis was hired for Grau's French opera company, star Louise Théo ...


Grau's companies were repertoire companies, and the Théo repertoire was large. From 8 September 1884, Gaillard played Annibale to her Madame Boniface, Pippo to her La Mascotte, François to her Fantine in Françcois les bas bleus, The Count in Madame L'Archiduc, Tromboli in Boccaccio, the Marquis in Les Cloches de Corneville, Robert in La Fille du tambour-major, Morzouk in Giroflé-Girofla, the Podesta in La Petite Mariée et al.

Alice, meanwhile, got a job with the W A Thompson Company playing Palmatica alongside A W McCollin in The Beggar Student, in replacement of Augusta Roche. When they were at the Blake Opera House in Racine their lodgings burned down (28 December 1884). Several company members died ... Alice was reported as 'demented' as a result.

In 1885, Judic visited America and Francis gave his Pippo to her Bettina, while Alice went for the summer at Schlitz Park, Milwaukee (Manette etc) ... and the decision was made and announced. The Gaillards were staying in America. And so they did.

The engagements proliferated. They played in Duff's Mikado Company (Pish Tush), 

Francis appeared as the Count in The Bridal Trap at the Bijo Theater and afters, Alice (Edwige) and then Francis (Boleslas) joined the McCaull Black Hussar/Falka troupe ... both of them were eminently employable. And versatile. Their Mc Caull summer engagement includes performances of Ruddigore, The Mikado, Der Feldpregier, Apajune der Wassermann, Don Caesar, The Crowing Hen, The Royal Middy, Lorraine, Der Bettelstudent, Das Spitzentuch der Königin ...

The list of their credits is immense. Alice played Peronellas and Palmaticas and even took over from Emily Soldene as Oudarde in Lorraine. They toured with McCaull, with Jennie Winston (Peronella in Boccaccio, Giroflé-Girofla, La Périchole, Fra Diavolo), with McCollin (François les bas-bleus, Beggar Student, The Merry War), with Duff  and Francis played Theotychides in the mildly successful The Lady and the Tiger at Wallack's Theatre, and they both featured in the San Francisco musical Said Pasha -- he in the title-role, she as Baiah Sojah ('encored three times') when it was played at New York's Star Theatre and sent on the road.

In 1890 they joined the company at the grand Tivoli Opera House in San Francisco. Soldene was chief lady, so when they did La Fille du tambour-major, Emily was the Duchess and Alice played the boy-part of Griolet. Francis, of course, played Robert. The house, of course, put on La Mascotte, Orphée aux enfers, Said Pasha, Indigo, Surcouf, Dorothy, Bettelstudent, Patience and I see Alice singing La Favorita! She also sang Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance, he sang Eriminio in Gasparone, Henri in Cloches de Corneville, she was Juana in Cocquelicot ... 

After their long stint at the Tivoli, they rejoined the Grau (Moritz) ranks -- The Gondoliers, The Black Hussar, Fra Diavolo, Fatinitza, Martha, Boccaccio, Giroflé-Girofla and more Said Pasha ..

''an artist of unusual ability both as actor and singer. His voice is rich and sweet and he manages it delightfully.  Alice Gaillard adds to a very attractive form a pure contralto voice of great power and sweetness ...'

It goes on and on. The Baker Opera Company, the Hagan Opera Company in St Louis (Spinola and Artemisia in The Merry War etc), more Tivoli (Alice as Katisha, Lalla Rookh), the Pyke Opera Company (The Beggar Student, Amorita, Caramello in A Night in Venice), the Boston Wolff Company at Castle Square (Alice in Fra Diavolo, Bettelstudent, Boccaccio, Dorothy, Black Hussar, Aurore and Pedro in Giroflé-Girofla, Petronella and Don Cristobal in Clover, Arnheim and Gipsy Queen in The Bohemian Girl, Falsacappa and Princess in Les Brigands, Francis as Henri in Cloches de Corneville). I see Francis playing Zou-Zou in Trilby and Alice replacing Rose Leighton as Mary Doodle in the Camille D'Arville Madeleine, both of them playing in Sydney Rosenfeld's The Bridal Trap (The Count, The Marquise), and at the Park Casino, Wheeling, the Oriental, St Louis .... before they tumbled into the company run by Emma R Steiner 'America's greatest woman director and composer'. They played Bombardo and Perpetua in Amorita, he was Corcoran and she Buttercup in HMS Pinafore, and they played in Ms Steiner's The Little Hussar.

In 1897 they went out with Fannie Rice in a version of Drei Paare Schühe (At the French Ball...

And so it continued. I see Alice got to play Azucena in Cincinnati in 1899 and the widow Frimousse in Wang. They also did Erminie, so I imagine that Alice also got to play the hilarious role of the Princesse Gramponneur.

But our couple weren't about to fade away. Highlights only (space required) of the next years ... 

1906 (7 September) Reading, Pa. A new musical Those Primrose Girls (Herman Perlet)
1907-8 Brewster's Millions as Mons Bargie and stage director.
1909 (25 January) Pontbichet in Kitty Grey at the New Amsterdam Theater
1909 Mons Louis Pinac in The Music Master with David Warfield
1910 Chicago: Duffault in musical The Sweetest Girl in Paris
1911 The Girl in the Taxi
1912 It Happened in Potsdam
1912 Generalissimo Bombastino in The Girl of my Dreams
1915 Comedy Theatre: Guiseppe Campolo in the Shuberts' Just One of the Boys

1908 Montpe Park, Alabama
1911 Donna Paprika in Mutt and Jeff
1913-4 Mrs Oglesby van Dare in Firefly tour
1915-6 Princess Tralala
1917 Miss Springtime
Madame Cécile in Mlle Modiste

I'm going to stop there.  One day, I'll go back and fill out these old notes.

Oh, personal life. Yes, the Gaillards had two sons. Mario Ernest, born in London 12 August 1884 and apparently falsely declared to have died of scarlet fever as a child. He became a cigar clerk in a restaurant, married twice, and died 6 September 1936. Before his parents. A second son, Oscar, born at their home in Little Ferry, NJ 4 May 1894 died in the Somme in the great war. Alice visited his grave in 1929.

Now I can finally file this grand couple under 'done' after a quarter of a century!

And Mr 'You-can-trust-Alf' ... now you know who these folk are, maybe they'll fly out the window.

NB an 'Alice Williams' was credited with the lyrics to a song 'Reine de l'amour', music by Willie Fullerton, at the time Alice was sporting that pseudonym. Was it she?

Monday, December 25, 2023

PTO: the back of an old photo can be more interesting than the front


This was the case for me today. But fortunately the accumulated knowledge of half a century came to my aid ...

The photo, which has found it's way on to a swatch of other sites -- well, I suppose photos of Victorian clarinettists are a bit of a novelty! -- is a nice one, and I'm very glad to have a pictorial record of John Henry MAYCOCK (b Ealing 1 May 1817; d Selhurst, Surrey 8 March 1907), who was for much of the C19th one of the top half-dozen solo and orchestral clarinet players of the British concert halls.

And that is largely what there is to say about his professional life. It was consistently at the top level -- Drury Lane, the St James's Hall Wednesdays, the Italian Opera inter alia.  My first sightings of him as a soloist are in 1841. In 1843 when Clara Novello made her debut at Drury Lane in Sappho he played the clarinet obbligato to her aria. When Mrs Alexander Newton premiered a new scena with obbligato (very popular, obbligati, at that period, but more often flute) he was the obbligato. 

I made a list of his engagements in the 1840s, but then I stopped. They were mostly chamber music, concert solos, or when orchestral, often secong clarinet to Lazarus or Sonnenberg.

Personal details. Son of musician John Mayock and his wife Sarah. Married (1) Ann Meaton in 1843 and then (2) Hannah Selina Miriam Pittock in 1865. Children by both. Lots. I have Annie, John, Maria, Sidney, Lilian Florence, Ada Sarah, Arthur Ernest, Herbert Clarence, Edith Maud, Kathleen Beatrice (Mrs Archer), Ethel Baird (Mrs Sumpter) and Christine Miriam. They spent most of their lives in Tachbrook Street, where I once -- decades later -- worked for a couple of days in a wine shop. Latterly they moved to the Croydon area -- in 1901 JH is retired and living with Maria, Ethel and Christine. And there he died at the ripening age of 89.

End of story. As the musical says 'ah! but underneath'. Oh, the musical was Eingefeldet by Paul Graham Brown.

Underneath, here, means 'on the verso'

The 'old friend' (and they were .. I see them playing together as far back as1853 in Paisley) was a much more evident musician and personality than tootling John. Now Henry Charles COOPER was a veritable child prodigy violinist. Drury Lane oratorios at 11 (they said he was 8) leading to a solid solo career on both sides of the Atlantic, latterly mainly in support of his very considerable singing 'wife' ...  Well, she was an outstanding Victorian Vocalist and thus has a full biography (by me) in the book Victorian Vocalists (by me), in which I also wander into the realms of Mr Cooper.  Herewith ...

TONNELLIER, Annie [MILNER, Ann] (b Scholes, Cleckheaton, Yorkshire 3 April 1835; d 13 Queen's Square, Leeds 3 March 1901)


One of the finest English sopranos of her generation, Annie Milner chose, for personal reasons, to spend almost the whole of her career performing in touring opera companies and in provincial oratorios and music-halls.


Born in the village of Scholes, Cleckheaton, Yorkshire, Annie was the first child of John Milner, a card-maker in the cotton industry (in the 1851 census, he is the employer of five people) and his apparently just-in-time wife Nancy (d Wharf’s View Terrace, Ilkley 21 March 1881) née Swires (m Birstall 1 March 1835). The family moved, soon after Ann’s birth, to Leeds and there she became, in her teens, first a pupil of local organist and violinist, John Bowling (d Leeds 1882), leader of the Mechanics’ Institute orchestra and organist of the East Parade Chapel, and, later, of the area’s most fashionable singing teacher, Mrs Mary Ann Wood, the former Miss Paton of operatic fame. 


She began appearing in concerts in Leeds at the age of fifteen – the first occasions that I have noticed are under Bowling’s tutelage, at the Mechanics Institute, at the concerts of the Leeds Philharmonic Society in June 1850, and at Heckmondwike for the local Freemasons, on a bill with Mrs Sunderland, Eliza Birch, former publican George Hemingway (soon to be ‘of Durham Cathedral’) and Miss Atkinson.

She appeared regularly in concerts in Leeds -- I spot her, for example, at Barnsley’s Franklin Club, the Calverley Mechanics Institute illustrating one of Martin Cawood’s English Vocal Music lectures (‘Let your faithful Ariel fly’), and later Sir Henry Bishop’s lecture on his own music at the Leeds Institute, where she was often on display. She sang there in The Creation with Mrs Sunderland and joined Mrs Gill in the ‘Merry Gipsies’, and she voyaged to York to sing with the local Choral Society, to the Kirkstall Abbey Festival and to other such venues. 

On 3 May 1852 she staged a concert of her own at the Leeds Music Hall, billed as a pupil of both Mr Bowling and Mrs Wood. Mrs Wood played the piano, and Mr Bowling led the orchestra, Wood pupil Miss Sykes sang, as did Ernest Perring and a Mr Hepworth ‘of Dewsbury’, and of course Annie (‘Softly sighs’, Norma duet, ‘Banks of Allan Water’).


At Christmas of 1852 she made her first appearance in Manchester, singing the soprano music of The Messiah alongside Martha Williams, Perring, Delevanti and Weiss, before an audience of over 4000. ‘A most successful debut’, reported the Musical World critic, ‘her voice is clear and resonant and of good quality and her delivery animated and expressive ... she has evidently the ring of the right metal ... [and] may rise to a high rank among provincial sopranos ..’. The following Monday Miss Milner followed up with a ‘secular debut’ in concert, in the same hall, singing the scena from Der Freischütz. ‘She succeeded triumphantly’ the same journal reported, ‘we could not have supposed a singer so young (she is just seventeen) could have imparted the intense and varied emotion that is required to give due effect to Weber’s song’. ‘She showed equal tact and confidence in singing in concert with others, acquitting herself well in the duet from Balfe’s Bohemian Girl, ‘This wound upon thy arm’, with Mr Perring. In ‘The Magic wove scarf’ with Messrs Perring and Delevanti and in the sestet from Lucia her voice exhibited a nice blending quality and, when required, its fine ringing tones were heard soaring above sestet and chorus. Miss Milner will do, there is no mistake about that!’  She returned to Manchester for D W Banks’s Benefit (31 January 1853) and for the five-day Festival to mark the last performances in the Free Trade Hall, which top-lined Sims Reeves, Mrs Alexander Newton and Louisa Vinning.


Back in Leeds she sang at the Leeds Peoples Concert series, with the Leeds Madrigal and Motet Society, with Fanny Kemble’s reading of Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Cawood’s latest lecture (The Music of Shakespeare’s Comedies), the Leeds Philharmonic Society and put in appearances at Bradford, Halifax, Boston Spa, and in The Messiah at Shaw with Mrs Winterbottom and Messrs Newsome and Mellor. On 14 April 1854 she again sang the soprano music ‘in a very pleasing and artistic manner’ in The Messiah at Bradford alongside Miss Freeman, George Inkersall and Mr Jackman.


It was around this same time that the young Annie Milner came first into contact with the man with whom her professional and personal lives would henceforth be entirely linked. Henry C[harles] Cooper (b St Giles, Cripplegate, London 1 April 1819; d Hope Street, Glasgow, 26 January 1881) was, first and foremost, a violinist, and an extremely successful one. A pupil of Morris, and then, from the age of nine, of Spagnoletti, he had made his first appearances as a soloist before his tenth birthday and, in 1830, debuted at Covent Garden playing Mayerseder’s Concerto in A minor. In the 1840s he became leader and conductor of the orchestra at the Bath and Bristol Theatres Royal. When Julius Benedict visited Bristol, with Jenny Lind, Balfe and the Lablaches for a concert in 1847, the young man caught Benedict’s eye and, before long, he was out of Bristol and up to London, where he became quickly established as a top-flight orchestral player and also one of the rare British solo players of class, in an area dominated by Europeans. In 1850, when he appeared at the Beethoven Quartet Society as second violin to Ernst, alongside H Hill, Scipion Rousselot and Stephen Heller, the press reported ‘Mr Cooper is so good as first violin that it was not at all surprising he should be pretty near faultless as a second’.

Mr Cooper was, however, in 1854, also a heavily married man, with a large brood of children.


Quite when Henry Cooper and Annie Milner first came together, I cannot precisely tell, but they were certainly together, never more to part, by the autumn of 1854 when they both took part in a concert party, along with Elizabeth Poole and two instrumentalists, which travelled widely through England and Scotland in the second half of the year. Annie’s repertoire for the occasion included ‘Softly sighs’, ‘Robert, toi que j’aime’, ‘Should he upbraid’, ‘Non mi dir’, ‘Lo, here the gentle lark’, ‘Why do I weep’, ‘The sea has its pearls’ and other such standards, and her ‘clear and powerful soprano’ got its widest exposure to date.


In May 1855, Cooper and Annie Milner ventured into London, and Cooper mounted a series of evening concerts at 27 Queen Anne Street, with the two singers from the concert party featured. Annie was billed as making ‘her first appearance in London’. The Musical World approved the new singer, but thought that she was much more effective singing in English than in Italian. The Morning Post quoth: ‘She possesses an excellent soprano voice and a rare amount of ability’. Annie sang at several other London concerts (Emma Busby, George Benson &c), as well as appearing in the provinces in concert and oratorio, and in the later part of the year the pair went on the road again, touring with Charles Salaman and his Entertainment. The newspapers published the rumour that they had got married, but Cooper went into print to say this was not so. Miss Milner was his pupil, articled to him for two years. It would, in fact, be half a dozen years more of working and travelling together before the couple ‘officially tied the knot’. Well, given the continued existence of Mrs Elizabeth Cooper, not so ‘officially’: but they were known to be ‘man and wife’.


During 1856, Cooper and Annie were increasingly in evidence. I spot them in Nottingham, where she sang The Messiah, at Bath in concert with harpist Ellis Roberts, and in London performing at Exeter Hall in George Case’s monster concert (‘She sang an air of Pacini’s with most brilliant and difficult variations, displaying a voice of the finest quality, immense execution, and a pure and finished Italian style’), at the Beaumont Institute with Clara Novello, Sims Reeves and Lewis Thomas, at Frank Force’s concert, and Annie shared the soprano duties with Georgina Weiss in the premiere of Greathead’s oratorio Enoch’s Prophecy at St Martin’s Hall and took the soprano solos with the London Sacred Harmonic Society in The Seasons et al. In August, they took part in the Bradford Festival where Annie, vice Mrs Sunderland —‘who already prepares to succeed the Northern Queen of Song' -- joined Reeves, Weiss and Winn in the inaugural performance of Hatton’s cantata Robin Hood (Maid Marian)She caused a ‘patriotic’ sensation. ‘The honour of Yorkshire was upheld and two or three excited individuals shouted lustily ‘Yorkshire for ever’. Miss Milner has gained imperishable laurels…’. The following month they took part in the York Festival, before finishing up the year with another wide-ranging concert tour, which continued into 1857.


When the London season opened, the pair were back in town. Annie sang again with the London Sacred Harmonic Society in June, and on 7 July they gave a concert at the Beethoven Rooms, at which it was announced that they were leaving shortly for the United States.


On 17 August, they duly made their first New York appearance at the Academy of Music in Dion Boucicault’s and Mr Stewart’s promenade concerts. ‘A voice of rare beauty without a ragged, jagged note ... her flexible soprano told well in the singing in which she took part...’, ‘Miss Milner possesses a light soprano voice of very delightful quality and sings with the simple grace of a well-bred lady and the skill of a thorough artiste. Her voice has been exquisitely trained ... with more power Miss Milner would undoubtedly be a great singer, as it is she is one of the best we have heard in the concert room’, and, as they headed off to Washington with Parodi and Vieuxtemps (4 December 1857), and on to Philadelphia, the couple seemed set for a prosperous time. But Cooper took fright at ‘the financial climate’ of the moment, and the two performers retreated, back to England. Having made the return voyage, however, they suffered a change of heart, and two days after Christmas they once more set to sea, destination America.


This time, after a reprise in concerts, which led to the New York Times proclaiming Miss Milner ‘the best English artist who has visited America in many years’, Cooper set up an opera company. Annie was the prima donna, he the conductor, and he hired the expatriate John Frazer (tenor), Charles Guilmette (baritone), plus George and Harriet Holman and local bass J F Rudolphson to support her. Both the company and Annie were successful (‘Miss Milner was doubly effective and the sweet tones of her voice electrified all who were so lucky to hear her as Amina…’), and various other established artists, from both sides of the pond, joined them for longer or shorter periods as the company travelled on around the country – Aynsley Cook (bass), and his wife Harriet Payne (contralto), David Miranda, Brookhouse Bowler, Annie Kemp, Frank Brinsmead Boudinot and his wife, Seguin et al – with visits to Wallack’s Theatre for a hugely successful season, and to Canada (The Bohemian Girl, Lucia di Lammermoor, Il Trovatore, La Sonnambula, Norma, The Elixir of Love, Lucrezia Borgia, Cinderella, The Daughter of the Regiment, Der Freischütz).

Annie’s performances were impressive enough that some years later a memoirist would come up with such quote as: ‘[Miss Milner] had a fine soprano voice, clear and melodious, her musical execution was excellent, reminding us more of Louisa Pyne than any other English singer. Her organ was flexible and her notes pure and sympathetic but as an actress she was cold, her dramatic experience having been limited.’ A member of the company, however, remembered Annie’s dramatic talents more favourably: ‘a splendid artiste, both as a singer and an actress, and a very fair-looking and handsome lady’.


The ‘Milner and Cooper Opera Troupe’ toured annually and successfully until the civil war broke out. Then, the company was disbanded in Charleston and, in 1861, Cooper and Annie returned to Britain. Back home, they set about putting together a similar company, to tour Britain and on the 14 October 1861 the new ‘Milner and Cooper Opera Troupe, formed for the rendition of the best opera in the English language’. Aynsley Cook and his wife (2nd soprano), also back from America, were again part of the company, Elliot Galer was principal tenor and his wife Fanny Reeves the contralto, Henry Wharton was the baritone, Oliver Summers the buffo and the minor artists included John Manley and his wife ‘Miss Bronti’, Henry Weston and a Mr Raimond. The company’s repertoire included Maritana, La Sonnambula, Norma, Robin Hood, Martha, Don Giovanni, Il Trovatore and La Fille du régiment, and Annie Milner sang prima donna in each and every one of them, to rapturous reviews (‘a masterpiece of singing throughout, the clearness of her upper notes and brilliancy of execution having a wonderful effect’, ‘A vocalist of the highest order’, ‘a remarkably rich voice of unusual compass’).


And now, finally, Henry Cooper and Annie Milner decided to be ‘married’. The veritable Mrs Cooper, Elizabeth Cumming (née Benson), abandoned with her plethora of children (Jane Benson, Florence Katherine, Bridges Lovell, Mary Howard, Clara Stevenson, Alice Walker and Henry Goldie, born as late as 1855), can hereafter be seen living in Margate and later in northern London, until the day when she was able to list herself as ‘widow’. She died in Hampstead in 1891.


The ‘new’ Mrs Cooper was briefly billed as ‘Mrs H C Cooper’, but she quickly decided – for a reason perhaps comprehensible – that a French ring was preferable and, after an essay as ‘Madame de Tonnellier’ (Old Ship, Brighton May 1862), she simply translated her partner’s surname and became, for the rest of her career, ‘Madame Tonnellier’.

On 3 July 1862, when Cooper mounted an otherwise instrumental concert (‘a brief and admirable entertainment’) at Collard’s Rooms he was, so the Musical World reported, ‘assisted by Mad Tonnellier, a lady with a charming soprano voice – of whose antecedents we should not have been left in ignorance till now – Mad Tonnellier sang ‘Qui la voce’ for Puritani with great fluency and no small expression, and joined Mr Cooper in an introduction, air and variations for voice and violin in which she seemed to vie with the instrument in facility and quality of tone…’ The critic had evidently not made (or was not admitting he had) the connection between Cooper and Tonnellier.

On 9 November 1862 Madame Tonnellier ‘the new prima donna’ made her first London appearance ‘for six nights’ in opera. The venue was Sadler’s Wells and the vehicle Il Trovatore with Henry Haigh, Edmund Rosenthal and Oliver Summers as her colleagues. Maritana was also played during the week.


At Christmas, Annie was prima donna for the opera season at Cork, appearing in Lucia di Lammermoor, Norma, The Love Spell and other operas, as well as the Rossini Stabat Mater alongside Joseph Swift, and Emma Heywood, prior to heading on for Limerick. And at Easter, she was back in London, as prima donna of another company, apparently under the management of J H Tully, playing at the East End Standard Theatre. La Sonnambula, The Bohemian Girl, Martha, The Rose of Castille, Lucia di Lammermoor, Satanella, The Quaker and The Waterman were amongst the operas given, and once again Annie sang every night in a company including Lucy Leffler, William Parkinson, Rosenthal and Borrani. With Tully acting as conductor, Henry Cooper played first violin.

In the autumn of 1863, the couple went on the road with Rosenthal’s company, playing largely the same repertoire, until Christmas hove to and ‘Madame Tonnellier’s company’ returned to Cork. Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ernani, Cinderella, The Mountain Sylph, Der Freischütz, Guy Mannering, The Crown Diamonds and Fra Diavolo were all given, along with most of Rosenthal/Tully repertoire, by a company including Brookhouse Bowler, Annie Kemp, Durand, Annie Leng and Summers, and Annie’s notices were again splendid. ‘To our mind she is one of the most perfect actresses and singers the Italian or English stage ever produced .. She began by interesting her audience and ended by enchanting them...’, ‘as usual won all hearts by the magnificence of her vocalisation and her admirable acting’. When the time came to leave Ireland, Annie was presented by the locals with a testimonial and a laurel wreath.


‘The British Operatic Association’, as the Cooper company was now known, now set out on the road – pausing in London for a fortnight at Sadler’s Wells and another at the Standard Theatre – and gathering fresh laurels all the way. ‘No lady has ever made a greater or more lasting impression here’ sighed the critic at Leicester.

The company toured through 1864, with Lurline, Poliuto and The Enchantress also on the bills, and Parkinson and Durand featured, returned for a third Christmas to Cork, and ran on into May 1865 before taking a pause. But a certain Mr H Melville, a small-time tenor with ambitions had set up an opera company for touring, and in September Annie Tonnellier joined Parkinson and Durand for a further couple of months of operatic performances with him. Soon after, she was able to advertise ‘Madame Tonnellier has played the prima donna parts in 32 operas…’

Annie Milner dite Tonnellier

But now, after some seven years of almost continuous operatic touring, the Coopers took a hitch in their strenuous schedule, and after taking in a few oratorio performances in Scotland, they came to a halt in Birmingham, for an engagement as the nearly new Crystal Palace Music Hall. Annie topped the vocal bill, performing operatic selections with the long-serving Daniel and Eliza Saunders and Joseph Busfield (tenor, of Calverley Bridge), whilst Cooper conducted the orchestra and gave virtuoso violin solos. The couple became immensely popular (‘her flexible voice and brilliant execution are unsurpassed’, ‘finished style of singing the simple but melodious songs she so excels in’) and, in the end, their Birmingham engagement stretched to a full year before they moved on to more of the same at the Liverpool Star Music Hall. Liverpool took them through to Easter 1868, prior to a return to Birmingham. The couple were obviously doing well, for during 1868, Cooper paid out no less than 350 pounds for a Guarnerius violin.


At Christmas 1868, the Coopers returned to the operatic world, joining up with Edmund Rosenthal for another long series of dates, and when Rosenthal folded his tents one more time, Cooper again picked up the reins, and the British Operatic Association, prima donna Mme Tonnellier, tenor Francis Gaynar, contralto Helen Clayton and basses Lewens and Ledril Ryse, set off on the road one more time. The repertoire the Association played, on this occasion, underwent a very particular change. Since Cooper’s last tour, La Grande-Duchesse and the craze for opéra-bouffe had hit Great Britain. Cooper decided to produce an example of the new genre, and the result was the best English version yet made of Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers in which Annie played Eurydice to the Orpheus of Gaynar, the Jupiter of Lewens and, improbably, the Pluto of Ryse. The new piece proved a great success, and Cooper added to his offering, first, La Grande-Duchesse and then the first ever English-language production of La Périchole. Annie, of course, took the title-role in each, as she also did in the latest operas on the company’s schedule: I Martiri and La Part du diable. The Association kept on the road another full year before Cooper closed down, and he and Annie returned to the less exhausting world of the Music Halls of Birmingham and Liverpool. At Christmas 1872, however, Madame Tonnellier took time out to appear as principal boy in Cinderella at the Standard Theatre.


In 1874, Annie went once more on the operatic road, firstly with Charles Durand’s company, in which she shared the prima donna duties with Sophia Mariani, and then with George Perren’s company, alongside Rose Hersee.  At Easter 1875 she returned to Durand, to sing Amina, Satanella and Maritana whilst leaving the Leonoras, the Marguerite and the Lurlines to Mlle Mariani. Cooper, of course, conducted.  She sang with Durand again in 1877, and took over from Gertrude Cave-Ashton with William Parkinson’s company, in Ireland, in 1878, whilst keeping up a regular stream of concert and Music Hall engagements. Cooper, in the meantime, was enjoying some classy engagements at the provincial music festivals (Birmingham, Hereford &c), where he was now regarded as a virtuoso veteran.

In 1879 she appeared again in the London theatre, in a season of light opera at the Connaught Theatre, and she returned there, and to the Standard Theatre, in 1881 playing the role of the comical Duchesse in La Fille du Tambour-Major with Charles Bernard’s touring company. She also played for Bernard in La Petite Mademoiselle in 1880 alongside Celli and Gertrude Cave-Ashton.


It would be her last engagement. For in 1881 life went very wrong for Annie Cooper. Firstly, Henry Cooper died, at the age of 61, followed by her 64 year-old mother and her son by Henry. And it didn’t get better. The Coopers’ daughter, Hilda Mabel (b Brighton 1862), an invalid with a heart condition, married in 1884 and died five years later, at the age of 27. And Annie? ‘Madame Tonnellier’ went back to her roots. In 1891 and 1892, I find her engaged as the vocal instructress at the Leeds Conservatoire of Music, and in the 1891 census ‘Ann Cooper’ (sic) aged 56, widow, professor of singing, born Scholes, Cleckheaton, can be found in a lodging house in West View, Ilkley.


In spite of her nearly thirty years as a musician, consistently before the public and always as a star, she was so quickly forgotten that I could, for many years, find no mention of her later days in the musical press of Britain. But finally I unearthed, in the Manchester Courier, underneath a piece about the demise of a West Riding coroner, a little obituary. It spelled her name wrongly, upped father to ‘a Leeds manufacturer’, had her singing with Sims Reeves at Manchester aged fourteen, called her ‘Miss’ Cooper … but it did what I needed it to, and confirmed that Annie died in her rooms, at Leeds’ Queen Square, in March 1901, aged 65.




Yes, the article is of course Annie-orientated. Henry's personal details? He kept them tucked under his chin. In 1841 (19 August), he married a lady named Elizabeth Cumming Benson. Her father was Matthias Benson (1787-1872) who kept a cigar shop in St Augustine's Parade, Bristol. He, like Maycock was an uxorious husband and his wife supplied him with (I think) seven children in the 1840s. Before he abandoned her for 'his pupil' Annie Milner. Annie's first child that I know of was born in 1862, by which time Elizabeth was down in Margate, a virtual widow.

Did I say that as far as I can decipher Henry Charles Cooper was born 1 April 1819 of a father 'pianoforte maker' and a mother Maria ...

'The British Paganini'.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

In search of C19th ancestors. Mine.


You start off the day by colliding with one piece of family ephemera and that leads to another possibility and another ..

I began here.

The publishing house of the Brüder Rosenbaum was the firm of my great-grandmother's family of which I've told the tale elsewhere. The folio contains a collection of prints of Viennese views ... quite an expensive thing, and I would imagine only for the Hotel's premier guests.

So, you are amongst the postcards and you spot this ..

Singapore!? Siegmund? Well, the Rosenbaum family was widely scattered by the Hitlerian war ... and Siegmund was one of them.  But, oh! The stamp is valued in Heller. And the postmark ... 1905? Shame. 'From Fritz and Bella'. Not our Siegmund. He's another one .. but wot! Geni (which is not what it used to be) says 'you are connected to Siegmund'. 

Lot of removeds in there! And an 'ex-husband'. Hmmmm. Well, if it is correct its a very slim connection with a different garden of Rosenbaums.

Then there is this. By Fritz (see website below)

Who is this in Romania? Writing to America ...

And look! Here's a Gansl ...

A mattress/featherbed manufacturer? Since 1840? Is it for real? I mean, its like having a Mr Gosling selling goosefeather duvets. 1840 is a bit early for my lot. They hadn't arrived yet from Hungary.

Maybe this one .. a postcard to Ispahan (12 Heller), no less!

Leopold? Have we a Leopold? Oh, I see, this one is in Stockerau, a bit outside Vienna.  Got him!  Oh, got several of them ..  there's one in Kunowitz, one in Mayendorf, one in Nyiregihaza, one in Duna-Szerdahely, one with a business in the Taborstraße, a kosher butcher and chickenseller ...  and one in, yes, Stockerau! Caffeesiedler. 1875 his 18 year-old daughter has an accident ...

18 year-old daughter. Hmmmm. So he's not the Leopold of Stockerau b 4 November 1853, d Stockerau 19 July 1922?  Rather his father, also Leopold? Born 1822, d 23 February 1885? So how is he writing postcards to Persia in 1909? Are we dealing with father and son here? Mother is Pauline ?Wiedermann. Well, I think the Café is the proof. We're in the right family. Perhaps Leopold II took over the Kaffee?

Anyway, Leopold II married at 52 (25 August 1905) Maria Angela Albertine Baudin (b 30 Oktober 1871) had and lost a daughter a month later, and a second Romaine Anna Maria who married a man named ?Maksymovicz ....

And I leave them there. 

But who is Otto Gnehm, and what was he up to in Ispahan ...   so many questions on one little postcard!