Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Selling up and buggering off ...


That's the name of the Sheffield-based e-bay store amongst whose grand stock I've been revelling with my dawntime cuppa today ...

There are photos from the Corri Opera Company, but also a fine collection of music-hall folk, not always identified ...

Here we have the splendid comic singer, Arthur Lloyd, early in his career. 

In those early days he toured a troupe including his brother, Robert, and his sister, Minnie. Hadn't seen a photo of her before.

There is also a very nice portrait of 'The Great' Vance ...

And, from the world of the 'Entertainment' the inimitable Mrs Howard Paul and her less than inimitable husband ..

And Charles [Henry] DUVAL (b Rusholme 27 October 1846; d at sea 23 February 1889) monologuist, who purveyed a programme entitled Odds and Ends ('proprietor of an itinerant theatre' in 1869) through the 1870s before going off to be a mounted volunteer in the Transvaal. He authored a book With a Show through South Africa on his return, when he picked up where he had left off with fine success. He also penned a column, All the World Round, with pen and pencil ... alas, on his final trip to the East, he didn't get back. His mind left him, and he disappeared overboard from the ship bringing him and his wife Mary [Dorcas] née Burke, back home 23 February 1889. Verdict: suicide.

There are a number of portriats of local ladies, some pretty ordinary and familiar photos of theatre celebrities, from Buckstone to Trebelli and Lucca, but the other prize item for me, with my esoteric era and area of interest, was a pair of photos of 'Mr Bond'. Twenty years ago I paid way over the odds for an ebay photo of Herbert Bond, tenor. I just knew I'd never find another. And I was furious that the underbidder didn't even know who he was! I attached it gleefully to the article (unpublished) I had written and felt very complacent. Well, here he is again.

In costume, even, as Masaniello in La Muette de Portici. Corri Opera Company in Newcastle ...

And here is his sad story ...

BOND, [George] Herbert (b Brighton c 1839; x Chapel Royal, Brighton 30 December 1840; d Bull Hotel, Wakefield 2 November 1869)


The tenor Herbert Bond was born into a musical family. His father, Charles John Bond (b London 15 December 1805; d 47 Montpelier Rd, Brighton 25 March 1878), was a well-known Brighton professor of music, singing teacher (star pupil: ‘Alberto Laurence’), pianist and concert giver, ‘celebrated for forty years’, and thirty-six years organist of Trinity Church in the town that he made his home. His mother, Isabella Maria née Leathem (1809-1892), of Anglo-Indian stock, was a very capable soprano singer. The couple caused something of a sensation in Brighton when, in 1843, they erected a room in the garden of their house in Montpelier Road and, therein, installed a full-sized organ (‘from CCC to F in altissimo, the solo stops are beautifully voiced and the pedal organ is full and effective’). With a choir of twenty, and themselves as soloists, they there presented concerts, featuring large selections from the favourite oratorios (‘under the immediate patronage of the Right Hon the Earl and Countess of Chichester’) which ensured their notoriety. The Bonds’ concerts intermittently featured professional vocalists, but when the season was not flowing, the family still were, and the concert room was used, instead, as the venue for performances by the amateurs whom the diligent couple trained. Their concert of 15 April 1852 was one such. Mr Bond thundered out his organ accompaniments (sometimes, it appears, a little too thunderously), Mrs Bond and Mr J Marshall (‘pupil of Mr Bond’ and the future ‘Alberto’) sang singly and together, and Kent’s anthem ‘My song shall be of mercy’ was performed with Master [Herbert] George Bond and another unnamed treble taking the solo lines.


The young Herbert made his first public appearance as a tenor singer at Brighton Town Hall, at one of the still regular concerts sponsored – in more professional surroundings -- by his parents, on 21 October 1861. Mrs Bond was still top of the bill, then came Lucy Leffler, a young contralto vocalist with a fine career ahead of her, and the long-serving Mr Henry Whitehouse of the Chapel Royal, Windsor, billed here as ‘from Exeter Hall’, plus Mr Bond on the piano and G Herbert Bond, tenor, ‘his first appearance in Brighton’. And, as far as I am aware, anywhere else.

However, it didn’t take the striving singer long to get into gear. The next season he was up in London making what seem to be his first metropolitan concert appearances. The earliest I have spotted is at Miss Fanny Partridge’s soirée musicale (12 May 1862) at 2 York Place, Portman Square, alongside Eleonora Wilkinson, a lady named ‘Louise Helen’, baritone Ciabatta and, of course, Miss Partridge herself, and on 10 June he was one of the vocalists, with Sophia Messent and Leonard Walker, at one of Mr Aptommas’s series of harp recitals, delivering ‘M’appari’ and ‘Eily Mavourneen’. The Era noticed that he had ‘a tenor voice of very pleasing quality and sings with taste and feeling’. He was clearly wholly unknown, for the Times listed him as two people – Mr Herbert and Mr Bond – and The Era reviewed him as Mr Hubert Bond. ‘Mr Bond is a tenor’ commented the Musical World ‘and sang with laudable endeavour, if with no very great effect, the air ‘M’appari tutt’ amor’ from Martha and the ballad ‘Eily Mavourneen’ from The Lily of Killarney.

Over the next couple of seasons, George appeared in a handful or two of concerts –  at Isabelle Schuster’s matinee at South Belgravia (7 July) alongside Linas Martorelle and Sig Nappi, at Allan Irving’s soirée musicale (10 June 1864) in the company of Mathilde Enequist, Florence Lancia, Reichardt, Eleonora Wilkinson and a Mrs Radcliffe Staunton Abbot (née Lizzie Perkins), and at Mrs George Vining’s soirée (6 July 1864) again with Lancia, Irving, Aptommas and Eliza Hughes &c – before securing what must have seemed a surprising engagement.


The Pyne and Harrison opera company having gone into retirement, English opera at Covent Garden had been taken over by the Opera Company (Limited), who would attempt to run an opera season there in the same manner that the earlier managers had done. And among the tenors who were listed in their prospectus, alongside Henry Haigh, Charles Adams from Berlin ‘his first appearance in England’, Mr W H Coates (‘his first…’), and that supreme comic and comprimario player Charles Lyall, was Mr H Bond ‘his first appearance’. Herbert actually appeared on the first night of the new company’s existence, 15 October 1864, in their opening production of Masaniello, cast in the ungrateful supporting role of Alphonso. The Era gave him credit ‘his voice is of pleasing quality and the music appertaining to the character he gave smoothly and with correct execution’, but the Times found that his performance of grand opera was insufficiently grand: ‘a tenor with a light and agreeable voice and considerable taste, but on the whole rather too lackadaisical.’ Masaniello seems, however, to have been Herbert’s only role in the rather unfortunate first season of the Opera Company (Limited), and by January he was back on the concert stage – Ralph Wilkinson’s Benefit at the Gallery of Illustration, the Inaugural beanfeast for G B Allen’s Bayswater Academy of Music at Westbourne Hall, and so forth – until singer-manger George Perren took him on to play an opera season at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel. 


Perren and Elliot Galer were the first tenors of the company, but Herbert shared next billing with ‘the new tenor’ Mr Bennett. Until William Parkinson was added to the list. A lot of tenors for two to three weeks of a season. It didn’t leave anything significant for George. A 13-night season at Greenwich’s New Theatre soon after, under the management of James Leffler, staged to give Rose Hersee her operatic debut, featured Perren and William Harrison as its principal tenors, and George took part, again, as a second stringer.


In 1865 and 1866 the young tenor started to be seen very much more regularly on the concert stage. He appeared at the Hanover Square Rooms in Elena Angele’s first concert (5 June 1865), and at the Dispensaire française concert (‘Mori’s ‘Sunshine of Love’, ‘Di quel di’ with Louisa Pyne) alongside Lancia, delle Sedie, Agnesi, Lemmens-Sherrington, Carolina Zeiss and Emily Soldene, he was featured as the vocalist for the Beethoven Society, delivering ‘Salve dimora’ from Faust, and on 12 June he promoted a concert of his own at Collard’s Rooms. Louisa Pyne, Miss Angele, Allan Irving and George Patey, the harpist Aptommas and Sig Romano (piano) made up the bill, and father Bond played some of the accompaniments.


In between times he appeared as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor in James Leffler’s opera company (Greenwich 3 July 1865) on the occasion of Rose Hersee’s debut as an operatic prima donna, and as Thaddeus when the company mounted The Bohemian Girl


He performed in Brighton on a regular basis, but he also spent several months in Scotland and the north, singing on several occasions at the Glasgow Saturday Evening concerts on programmes with Helen Lemmens-Sherrington, Edith Wynne, Julia Elton, Mrs Howard Paul and the ilk. The temperance folk usually had a wee quibble with new and unfamiliar singers and Herbert was no exception. He was credited with ‘good taste, but a little more spirit thrown into [his songs] would have been a decided improvement’. In January 1866 he can be seen at Greenock, singing the tenor solos in The Creation alongside northerners Helena Walker and David Lambert (‘a fine high tenor voice’) and in concert (‘The Gathering of the Clans’, ‘Bonnie Mary of Argyle’ &c).


Back in London, he sang at the Beaumont Institution with Sims Reeves, Parepa et al, and purveyed Costa’s ballad, ‘My heart to thee’, round the city and suburban concerts (Rose Hersee’s, Sig Romano’s &c), and when Gustave Garcia and Walter Bache, effortfully promoting the music of Wagner, included a selection from Tannhäuser in their concert of 23 May 1866, he took a prominent part. Rose Hersee sang Elizabeth’s prayer, and George took the top tenor line in the Act II septet.


In May of 1866, he had another short stint on the stage, when he appeared with Annie Thirlwall’s company at Bradford in place of an overlapped-engagements Henry Haigh. This time he got to be first tenor, as Thaddeus to Annie’s Arline. ‘He is a singer of much promise’ nodded The Era ‘His voice, though not very powerful, is musical, and he sang the music very tastefully and was much applauded’. On the Wednesday he went on as Manrico (and the Miserere had to be encored), Thursday it was Faust and Friday Haigh arrived. Three performances as leading tenor. But there would soon be plenty more.

For the meanwhile, however, it was back to the ever-increasing round of concerts. Between June and September, he was seen at the latest Rose Hersee (‘Questa o quella’) and Elena Angele concerts, in more performances here and there of ‘My heart to thee’, at Maria Merest’s concert (22 June 1866) singing that lady’s ‘Farewell, it was only a dream’, in Mrs Raby Barrett’s at Collard’s rooms, with a rather more ambitious programme of ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ and ‘La donna è mobile’, at Florence Braze’s concert (‘Salve dimora’), G Lansdowne Cottell’s concert, the Brighton Popular Concerts singing Balfe’s new ‘Lady Hildred’, and so forth.


But September 1866 brought the end of all this concertising, for it was in that month that Herbert was hired as principal tenor with the touring ‘Grand English Opera Company from Covent Garden’. Henceforth, he would troupe the roads of England singing all the lead roles, in all the favourite operas, with one group of singers and managers or another, almost without pause.


In this first case, the singers and the managers were one and the same, for when the advertisements went out George’s was the only name on the bill which was not that of a member of the Corri family: Henri Corri baritone, Eugene Dussek (brother, né Corri) bass, Haydn Corri (nephew) second baritone, Annie Thirlwall (Mrs Eugene Dussek) soprano, Emma Adami (daughter of Henri) contralto. They didn’t breed a tenor, so they had to buy one. The company started out at the Exchange Hall in Grantham on 25 September, beginning their stay with Faust, La Sonnambula, and Maritana (‘Mr Bond received an encore for ‘Ah! let me like a soldier fall’’), followed by Il Trovatore andMartha (‘Mr Bond received an encore for ‘She appeared clothed in light’’) before setting off for Doncaster, Derby and dates beyond.  Doncaster found him merely ‘an agreeable tenor’, but Bolton decreed ‘Of Mr Bond as a tenor too much praise cannot be awarded, one great thing in his favour being that he not only sings the music but gives distinct utterance to every word he utters, a want too often found in operatic performers.’ Sheffield decided that his performance in The Barber of Seville was ‘marred by an apparent lack of confidence’, but allowed that ‘his songs were delivered with much taste and feeling’ and liked him better as Nemorino when ‘he sang very sweetly’. Halifax agreed on the ‘great care and sweetness of tone’ of his singing. The Rose of Castille, The Bohemian Girl, Fra Diavolo, The Love Spell, The Barber of Seville, Dinorah, The Daughter of the Regiment, Guy Mannering and the little Georgette’s Wedding were all in the repertoire by Christmas, and Herbert-George delivered the tenorial goods in each and all (except, of course, the last) of them. And, all the while, no-one mentioned anything in review but the attractive sound of his voice, the well-schooled method, the perfect diction. Nothing on his acting. Nothing on his looks. Just the sweet, perfectly controlled voice.


In the new year, the composition of the company underwent some changes. In fact, it got heavily de-Corrified. Ida Gilliess (the future Mrs Henri Corri no2) came in, as did the seriously weighty Emma Heywood and her debutante daughter Fanny, Emma Adami departed, and so did the Dusseks, but throughout the ups and downs (and, I suspect, family rows) George remained the company’s tenor, singing now opposite Annie Thirlwall, now opposite Miss Gilliess (Norma, A Masked Ball, Ernani &c), intermittently opposite Fanny Heywood and on one occasion, when the company visited Liverpool in November 1867, opposite Edith Wynne. This guest performance of Maritana was announced as Miss Wynne’s ‘first appearance as a lyric artist’. It wasn’t, but it certainly was a rare stage occasion for the great Welsh vocalist. 


In the end, George Bond performed as lead tenor with Henri Corri for some two and a half years. By the end they were saying ‘Mr Bond rendered the music of Manrico in capital style’, ‘the acting and singing of Mr Bond were much admired’ and, after a long season in Edinburgh, he was proudly described by the press as ‘the favourite tenor’. 28 year-old George had got thoroughly into the swing of his new position, and was up there now with Haigh, Parkinson, Galer and co as one of the principal tenors of the healthy English touring opera scene.


In the usual game of musical tenors, it was Parkinson who moved into George’s place with Corri, whilst he shifted over and up to the company run by George Loveday and Oliver Summers, taking the spot previously held by Haigh, for their new season of touring. The young Sophia Mariani was prima donna, her mentor Charles Durand the baritone, and Oliver Summers, Fanny Leng (Mrs Summers), John Grantham, de Lancey, Stanley Potter and Richard Arthur, Ellen Payne and Ella Collins supported. The company opened at Portsmouth (24 April 1869) with the usual run of operas: Maritana, Lurline, Il Trovatore, The Barber of Seville, The Bohemian Girl, Un ballo in maschera (thus billed) and The Rose of Castille. George, once again, was praised for his ‘cultivated tenor voice’. At Norwich, Lizzie Haigh-Dyer arrived to share the soprano roles en route, and NormaLa Sonnambula, Faust, Lucrezia Borgia,  Don Giovanni, L’Elisir d’amore  and Rigoletto were added to the repertoire. Norwich voted George ‘one of the best tenor singers that has appeared at this theatre for some years past’.  Leicester concurred ‘Mr Herbert Bond, a tenor entirely strange to our theatre, has made his mark and his pleasant voice and fine presence are both of advantage to him’. Liverpool nodded ‘Mr Herbert Bond’s Faust was an artistic rendering, the more noticeable feature being the trying air ‘Salve dimora’, which was rendered with much taste and finish and greatly applauded.’ George’s party piece. Leeds voted him ‘a very even and accomplished tenor ... a capital actor and stage tactician.’, and in Newcastle he had to repeat both his songs in Maritana …


On 25 October the company arrived in Wakefield and opened at the Corn Exchange. Herbert wasn’t well, and after one act of Maritana he was unable to continue. The company’s comic tenor, John Grantham, stepped in. A bad cold, the paper reported. When the company left for Halifax and Huddersfield on the Sunday morning, he was so ill he could not go with them. He died in his hotel room on the Tuesday. Aged thirty-one. Of a cold?


Herbert George Bond left several published songs including ‘When Twilight dews’ (1861),  a version of Thomas Hood’s  ‘It was not in winter’ (1862) ‘Jessie’s Wedding’ (1863), Wither’d leaves’ (1864) and ‘One thought of thee’.  

Is it a coincidence that this small selection of photos also includes one of Tom Hood?

Sigh. I wish it included the other members of the Corri company ... Annie Thirlwall, Eugene Dussek, Ida Gilliess, John Manley, Henry and Haydn Corri, even Edward Cotte, Alfred Leslie, Tom Grundy ... I am guessing this is the company's visit to the Newcastle Opera House in May-June 1868. When they played Il Trovatore, Barber of Seville, Lucrezia Borgia, La Sonnambula, Faust, The Bohemian Girl, Norma, Don Giovanni, Un Ballo in maschera, L'Elisir d'amore ... but I don't spy Masaniello!  George played Alfonso to the fisherman of Charles Adams in 1864 .. but ... in spite of much digging, I have no record of his ever playing the title role. This was George's stage debut ... I am wondering more and more if these cdvs might come from his own estate ...

I guess I'll never know. But thank you Mr Buggering for letting me see them. And ...

PS this is 'little Nellie Hayes' 'youngest daughter of Mr James Hayes of Belfast' from Liverpool (b c 1852). She sang 'Killarney' and other Irish ballads round Yorkshire in the late 60s and the 70s ... advertised as having sung Balfe's song 100 times at London's Palais Royal.  She featured with Dr Corry's diorama ('The Last Rose of Summer' etc), and with Howard Paul (which I guess is how she got into this bundle) for some years. She married James Turner (b Durham 1846) in Swansea 1 June 1876 and the couple worked halls and theatres well into the 20th century. A daughter Ellenor Martha Turner was born in Durham in 1879, then a Thomas and an Alice. I see Nellie and James 'artist and photographer' in Shropshire in 1891, and Nellie  'theatrical, married' in Worthenbury in 1911 ..  

I had best dig some more!  And somebody .. snap up these slices of C19th musical and theatre history ..

Because the most desirable slice has been snapped up. Gilbert and Sullivan collectors have long wanted a good photo of Frederick Sullivan. Now, thanks to Andy (Mr SU&BO) our little team (2 Davids, Allister and I) has one. As soon as I saw it I mailed USA, Australia and England with a red alert. England jumped the quickest ... and Fred is on his way to Leicester! I wish he had put in his appearance in time for my book ...


Emma HEYWOOD Manchester contralto


Another article from my archive. Promoted to the blog thanks to a Sheffield ebay shop which says its 'selling up and buggering off'. Amongst his delicious items I found the photos which illustrate this article and which include portraits of several artists from the Corri Opera Company on tour in Newcastle. Including mother and daughter, Emma and Fanny .

HEYWOOD, Emma (b Manchester c 1823; d 82b Portsdown Rd, Maida Vale, London 5 January 1909)

HEYWOOD, Fanny [THOMAS, Fanny] (b Manchester 16 December 1846; d London, 24 January 1922)


Emma Heywood was born in Manchester in a year undefined. She herself said it was 1824, when she was young, but she later gave herself the benefit of anything up to four or five years. The four or five years seem improbable, if not perhaps impossible, for on 1 May 1843, at Cheadle in Cheshire, Emma stopped, for a while, being Miss Heywood. She became the wife of one James Thomas, a Manchester gentleman who described himself as a machine maker, of 9 Tamworth Street, Hulme. I suppose she could have been fourteen at the time, but nineteen does seem more like it. In 1846 she gave birth to a daughter, Fanny, and two years later to a son, William Henry.


Young Mrs Thomas and her sister, Eliza, were both fond of music, and their father who seems to have been one William Heywood, arranged for them to have singing lessons with a well-known and long-established local vocalist, composer and concert-fixer named James W Isherwood, son of a musically celebrated Mancunian father. Since both girls had talent, there was little difficulty in placing them, but Emma was decidedly the more interesting proposition, and she seemingly made her first appearances as a solo vocalist at the Salford Lyceum (3 October) and the concert of the Manchester Choral Society on 27 October 1842. The Misses Leach and Hardman, Mr Walton and Mr Isherwood were the soloists for a performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C, but ‘The duet ‘Hail! happy land’ introduced a young lady (a Miss Heywood) most advantageously to the company, having previously been confined to the choral parts, possessing a voice of great power and rich quality – a mezzo soprano’.


In 1850 ‘Mrs Thomas’ was amongst the soloists for the Manchester resuscitation of Mr William Jackson’s oratorio The Deliverance of Israel. Susan Sunderland and Mrs Winterbottom shared the soprano duties, and the gentlemen soloists where Mr Isherwood, Cooper and Slater


The young Mrs Thomas became a regular participant at the concerts at the Free Trade Hall, and other Mancunian and Lancashire venues. I have spotted her at David Ward Banks’s Concerts for the People in January of 1851, sharing a platform with Alfie and Bella St Albyn, amongst others, and I have spotted Mr Isherwood – many years a feature of the local concert scene -- doing the vocal illustrations for Mr Conran’s lecture on the songs of Dibdin at the Mechanics Institute around the same time. In March 1851, Mrs Thomas (sic) gave her own concert at the Free Trade Hall with the flautist Creed Royal (‘a full house paid a just tribute to this lady’s ability as a vocalist’), in April 1851 she was censussed at her home at number nine Tamworth Street in Hulme with husband and children, and in May 1851 trouble struck. Whether Emma really had been having an affair with her singing teacher, as scuttlebut had it, and as James later and loudly alleged, or whether something else had put his nose out of joint, he walked out of the family home. Then he walked back in, packed up all the furniture, and walked out again, taking it with him. When the thing went to court, the house was described as ‘Mrs Thomas’s house’, but of course, as a married woman, she had no property rights. Emma took her children and went to stay with her father. And even the respectable Era reported: ‘Report states that a vocalist belonging to the People’s Concerts has committed herself and that a separation from her husband has already taken place and the finger of accusation points most strongly towards a well known professional as the gay Lothario.’ The thing went to court getting on for a year later, but not the divorce court, the criminal court. Because James Thomas resorted to the use of fists and boots to assuage his frustrations.

‘For some time there has been much small talk in musical circles respecting Mrs Thomas the vocalist and Mr James Isherwood another vocalist and musical mentor to the lady both of whom are popular singers at the People’s and other concerts in Manchester. It appears that Mr Thomas nursed the green-eyed monster, separated from Mrs T in consequences of the suspicion he had of Mr I. On 4th of last month Mr Thomas saw Mr Isherwood get out of a cab (which was going to the Gentlemen’s Glee Club) leaving Mrs Thomas in the mysterious cab to go alone. That was a clencher which aroused Mr Thomas’s indignation and strengthened his suspicion that all was not what it should be. The jealous husband met Mr Isherwood, gave him ‘one for his nob’ and the music master and vocalist was soon ‘down down derry down’. The dose was repeated and on Monday last Mr Thomas appeared to answer the charge at the Manchester Borough Court. Many hints, insinuations and naughty suspicions were indulged in, but the magistrates could only interfere with the assault and fined Mr Thomas 5 pounds which was paid when the alleged gay Lothario swooned away in court and so ended for the present the conflict between the sharps and the flats”.

In fact, there were more than hints and insinuations, not so much as to the affair, which seemed to be taken for granted, but over Mr Thomas’s way of life. His wife’s lawyer claimed that he didn’t make machines, he didn’t make anything, he just leeched around living off her earnings. And it went on from there. The judge let it all come out, but none of it was relevant. James Thomas was on trial for assault and he had assaulted. So much, assured the pharmacist who had treated the victim, that his features were unrecognisable. So he was guilty. 

Mrs Thomas stayed around in Manchester for another year or two after this incident, appearing in the usual round of concerts and even as far away as Glasgow where she can be sighted in late 1852 singing Elijah alongside Therese Magner and Lawler. . But she latterly spent periods of time down in London, taking singing lessons. With a different teacher. Mr James Bennett. On 15 April she made her ‘first appearance in Manchester since taking up her residence in London’, in the local premiere of Mendelssohn’s Athalie alongside Rudersdorff and Dolby, and on 16 April 1855 the young contralto made her debut on the London concert platform. It was quite a debut. The venue was Exeter Hall, the event was a concert of Sir Henry Bishop’s music, and for the occasion – and all of the future – Emma had become ‘Miss Heywood’ again.  A glee party including Benson, Lawler, Land, Francis, Buckland and a certain ‘Master Sullivan’ had been engaged, and the soloists were star tenor Sims Reeves, top oratorio soprano Charlotte Birch and Miss Heywood ‘her first appearance in London’. Emma gave ‘Sons of Freedom’ from Bishop’s musical drama The Slave and the duet ‘As it fell upon a day’ from The Comedy of Errors with Miss Birch. Sir Henry himself was due to play at the concert but he was not well enough. A fortnight later he was dead. Emma appeared on 16 May at Covent Garden alongside Misses Birch, Dolby, Ransford, Mrs Enderssohn, the Weisses, the Reeveses, the Brahams, Henry Phillips, Lawler and others at the concert to support his two youngest children.


She appeared at Exeter Hall in the Walpurgisnacht and the Midsummer Night's Dream music, with the New Philharmonic, at the Hanover Square Rooms in a concert for the Goldsmith’s Benevolent Association alongside Frank Bodda and Anna Thillon, and then in October she revisited Manchester for a formal farewell concert at the Athenaeum. Her programme included Mercadante’s ‘Ah s’estinto ancor’, an unspecified aria and J J Blockley’s ‘Excelsior’ and her guests included Susan Sunderland and the county’s favourite buffo Prosper Delevanti. ‘Mrs Thomas gave a farewell concert previous to her engagements in the metropolis ... we understand Mrs Thomas has recently been undergoing a process of instruction in London and the improvement she evinced on Tuesday evening is sufficient guarantee that this lady will ultimately attain a leading position in the metropolis’ quoth The Era

Where she was going, Emma would no longer be ‘Mrs Thomas’ and  the ‘Miss Heywood’ in the Manchester concert world would be sister Eliza. 

It seems to have been January 1856 before Emma made her next London appearance, and again she was in good company. It was Exeter Hall again, and this time it was oratorio: Elijah with the Sacred Harmonic Society. Mrs Sunderland, the Misses Wells, George Perren, Tom Lawler and Mr Tillyard from Harrow were the other soloists. ‘A Miss Heyward made her debut on this occasion and exhibited an excellent contralto voice and qualities of style and feeling in which we discern promise’.

The concert engagements began to proliferate in the months that followed. She repeated her Elijah at the Eyre Arms in a team with the Weisses and Montem Smith, and returned there in concert with Mme Gassier, Haigh and Leffler, she sang at Beaumont Institution in concert alongside Clara Novello and Sims Reeves, she appeared in several of the big Dramatic Fund concerts, and on the other hand took part in a glee and madrigal concert for the Vocal Union, singing part songs with Marion Moss, Montem Smith, Lewis Thomas et al. She also sang at the London Musical Society concert at St Martin’s Hall performing ‘O rest in the Lord’ ‘with much devotional feeling’ and a ballad ‘When sorrow sleeps’ which ‘obtained the honour of an encore’, and she had her name on the front of a music sheet for the first time when Herr N de Becker’s song ‘Tho Absent I think of thee’ was published ‘as sung by Miss Poole and Miss Heywood’. 

The first part of 1857 brought more of the same, including a stint as vocalist at the Royal Colosseum (‘Il segreto’ ‘Bid thy faithful Ariel fly’ &c), before the month of August brought her a different type of engagement. In an operatic company.

The company in question had been in existence some time, playing town and country under the name of the National English Opera Company. Two American artists, Lucy Escott and Henry Squires were among the top-billed names, along with – at various times -- tenors Henry Haigh, Augustus Braham and Manvers, soprano Lizzie Dyer, the versatile Rosalia Lanza (anything from Amina to Azucena), contraltos Fanny Huddart and Eliza Brienti, baritone Charles Durand, comedian J A Shaw and others, in a repertoire of more than a dozen operas and a bundle of musical comedy afterpieces.

In the middle months of 1857 the company had come to rest for what would be a season of nigh on three months at the Surrey Theatre. Its female side consisted basically of Escott prima donna, Lanza deputy prima donna and contralto, and Lizzie Dyer small parts and afterpieces. Emma seems to have come in around the beginning of August when ‘Miss Josephine Heywood’ is billed to play a bit in Lucia di Lammermoor and the part of Wilhelmina in the afterpiece of The Waterman. The next week Miss J Heywood is billed for Gillian in The Quaker and Inez in Trovatore, and she doubtless did bits in other operas and parts in afterpieces such as No Song No Supper and The Swiss Cottage.  

Is it she? Oh, yes. ‘Josephine’ is either a mistake or  a momentary aberration. For on 31 August 1857, when the Surrey season was done and the National Opera Company opened its newest tour (‘416th representation’) at the Theatre Royal in Manchester the billing read .. Miss Lucy Escott, Miss Lanza, Miss Emma Heywood, Miss E Hodson, Miss Hammond.  It is reported that Emma played Wilhelmina (‘she sang the songs incidental to the piece with much humour’) and Gillian again, plus Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera and Margaretta in No Song No Supper, but she didn’t get to play all the afterpieces. When The Daughter of the Regiment went on, the practised Rosalia Lanza played Marie even though she’d already done Elvira in Masaniello the same night. 

When Glasgow was reached, however, in mid-November, a bit of reshuffling had to be done in the casting. For Lucy Escott caught cold. Miss Lanza went on as Maritana. With Emma Heywood as Lazarillo. Then Lucy came back and played Arline, and the part of the Queen of the Gipsies was also given to Emma. ‘A debutante as far as the stage is concerned’ nodded The Era ‘she promises with care to become an excellent singer, her voice, contralto, being rich and pure’. On the first Saturday, she appeared in both Maritana and The Beggar’s Opera and the press nodded ‘Miss Emma Heywood was very successful, her fine contralto voice telling with effect in both roles’. They finished their season in Scotland with a Scots concert, in which Emma scored largely with her rendition of ‘Auld Robin Gray’, a piece which round this time seemed to be something of a standby for her.

After Glasgow, the company set off for Ireland. But it set off without Miss Lanza. It went with just one soprano, Escott, and two contraltos Emma and another fine vocalist in Harriet Payne, who in Manchester had played just the dumb Fenella in Masaniello for them. Roles had now, of course, been re-reshuffled, and on opening night in Cork Emma appeared for the first time as Azucena (‘a great addition … a contralto singer of great compass’), when Lucy Escott played Norma Emma was Adalgisa, when The Mountain Sylph was done Emma played Bertha to Escott’s Giselle. And yet she still appeared in her Gillians and Wilhelminas and Pollys and, for heaven’s sake, in the tights part of Apollo in Midas. Harriet Payne did The Daughter of the Regiment. But when they got to Worcester, Emma did that one too.  Rigoletto, Lucrezia Borgia, Lucia di Lammermoor, Esmeralda, Cinderella, La Sonnambula … the Escott repertoire poured forth, and even though Annie Leng and a Miss Mortimore appeared to take on some of the minor parts, Emma was churning out new role after new role. Maddalena, Maffeo Orsini, Lisa … It was all right for Miss Escott, she’d played them all countless times before. But Emma Heywood, for her first job in the theatre, was getting a crash course in (I suspect sometimes truncated version of) new parts. The tour finally ended at Newport in late June. But the National Opera Company, or a version thereof, was not yet done. A few months later this group of soloists, more or less in its entirety would set off again. To America.

The trip to America was to be a seriously eventful one. To start with they had a perfectly dreadful trip over, but Mr Burton of Burton’s Theatre had announced his opening and he shoved the ailing singers on to the stage for their first night performance of Il Trovatore. Poor Henry Squires was so ill he gave up the ghost halfway through the night and had to be replaced. They soon left Broadway and headed for dates beyond. Away from Mr Burton ‘they were received with rapturous applause’, ‘a complete triumph’, but the company soon folded. Escott and Squires began the trip that would take them to their apotheosis in Australia. Durand caught the first ship home. According to the press, so did Emma, in spite of an announcement: ‘Miss Heywood late of the English National Opera Company has been engaged by the director of the Italian Opera Company New York to sing the part of Azucena in Il Trovatore with Piccolomini as Leonora’. I think she did neither. She did a little concert tour with the juvenile pianist Arthur Napoleon, she showed up on Broadway again playing Polly Peachum to the Macheath of British tenor David Miranda at Niblo’s Garden, and the Queen when he and Lucy Escott did some Bohemian Girls, and then in July took the good ship Argo for St John, Newfoundland.  But the Argo turned out not to be such a good ship . She went ashore near Cape Race, Newfoundland, in dense fog, with 200 people on board, and was wrecked. Emma’s luggage went with it. But she gave her concert at St John’s and got the merited reviews: ‘she surpasses all we have ever heard’, ’These musical treats far excel anything of the kind we have ever had in St John’s’, ‘ballads, operatic pieces etc, one and all [of her songs] were super-excellent’.

Emma reached the British isles in September and, with the bills bannering ‘her first appearance in public since her unfortunate adventure in the Argo steamer’, played an engagement at the Queen’s Theatre, Dublin. No Azucenas here: she gave them Midas and the musical comedy ‘Twas I. From Dublin, she moved on to Manchester and a Benefit at the Free Trade Hall. Catherine Hayes, Mr and Mrs Weiss and Wilford Morgan took part, and the conductor was the same David Ward Banks of her debuts. Manchester found that ‘since her last appearance in Manchester Mrs Thomas has greatly improved...’.

Christmas time found her back again at Cork. The National Opera Company having now dispersed its members, from one end of the world to the other, Mr Alexander Walker of Cheltenham put together what he called the Anglo-Italian opera company for the season. Nineteen year-old Florence Lancia was prima donna, Augustus Braham was first tenor, and Emma was contralto. Cork, too, found ‘her voice and acting is greatly improved since her previous appearance in Cork’, but after a few performances she disappears from the company and Jane Manley and Annie Leng, proprietors normally of smaller roles, take over. What happened? Well, I have a theory. Its only a theory. But I think she may have been widowed. I think so, because a twelve month later, 30 January 1861 at Old Church, St Pancras, Mrs Emma Thomas remarried. She married the man who had been the secretary of the National Opera Company, William Augustus Burt (b Marylebone 1828; d London, 1900), and this time she chose rather better. They would have nearly forty years of married life together.

Emma resurfaces again, it seems, on Good Friday, in Manchester. The occasion was the seasonal performance of The Messiah and her partners on the platform were local soprano Miss Witham, George Perren and Henry Wharton, Three nights later she was back in London, making what was confusingly announced as her ‘metropolitan debut’ on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The conductor James Pech had turned impresario (‘secretary: Mr Burt’), and – in spite of the fact that the Italian opera was in full flight at Her Majesty’s and Covent Garden, hired Henry Haigh and wife, Charles Durand, Emma Heywood, Borrani, Melchor Winter and others for a season of English opera. Emma gave her Lazarillo on opening night and The Era reported ‘Miss Emma Heywood, in the page, made her first appearance and sang the air ‘Alas those chimes’ most unaffectedly. She was loudly encored. Her debut may be considered a success’. A debut at 36 years of age, or more? The Times commented favourably on her ‘fine toned mezzo-soprano voice with some legitimate contralto notes’.  After a few nights, and in face of a Trovatore with Titiens and Giuglini down the road, Pech mounted the same opera. Emma played Azucena to the Leonora of Lizzie Dyer and the Manrico of Haigh. And closed.


Conductor Meyer Lutz picked up the pieces and, reviving the old title ‘National Opera Company’ (secretary: W A Burt), sent the company off to Cheltenham, Plymouth, Brighton, Southampton and to Cork (‘one of the best opera companies that has visited Cork’).. Emma played her usual roles – as ever Azucena, the Wilhelmina of The Waterman – as well as Nancy in the now popular Martha and Lady Allcash in Fra Diavolo.  But she had a trip back to London during the Cork season. ‘The absence of Miss Heywood’s rich contralto voice was sadly felt during her absence in London as a witness on the trial of Wilton v the Atlantic Mail Company, but she appeared on Thursday evening and met a real cead mille a fealtha from her numerous admirers. The engagement was to have ended on Wednesday but there was such a public outcry that the spirited proprietor, Mr Burke, re-engaged them for the rest of the week…’


On 10 December 1860, Emma took a new turning when she was hired in a quartet with Clelia Albertazzi, William Parkinson and Edmund Rosenthal to sing operatic selection on the initial programme at the freshly instituted Royal Alhambra Palace Music Hall, but she soon returned to her accustomed places in the more traditional kind of concert hall.


On 18 January 1862 Emma returned to the stage, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The occasion was the production of an operetta Once too Often composed by Howard Glover and played as a supplement to the Lane pantomime. A traditional and featherweight bit of marquises-and-milkmaids, it nevertheless had the support of a splendid cast: Karl Formes and Alexander Reichardt as the gentlemen, and Jenny Baur and Emma as the ladies in the affair. ‘A more comely and sprightly maid of honour than Miss Emma Heywood who gave Hortense’s only air ‘Love is a gentle thing’ with true expression, and who is gifted with a contralto voice of genuine quality, could hardly have been desired’ was the verdict. The starry foursome took their little piece to a number of provincial dates in the wake of the performances at the Lane, and on 5 April they brought it back to base with original cast intact to play at Julius Benedict’s Benefit concert.

At Easter time (21 April 1862), Emma joined again with Jenny Baur when the soprano took a company to the south coast to give a month of opera. Swift and Rosenthal were the principal tenor and baritone and W A Burt the acting manager, which provoked some comment in Cork where the New English Opera Company was due to open. ‘Mr Burt’s name is withdrawn as agent so that it is not probable the second female part will be sustained, as expected, by a now celebrated contralto.’ It wasn’t. Emma went to Brighton and played Satanella, The Amber Witch, The Bohemian Girl, Fra Diavolo and   The Rose of Castille, and Annie Leng again did duty for her with the Haighs in Cork. ‘Her performance was very expressive and her lower notes especially most harmoniously blended’ noted the press.

Emma returned regularly to the concert platform – this year she visited Glasgow for the well-known Saturday concerts – but the backbone of her programme was her operatic work and she played in two further operatic season during the year. The first was at the Eastern Opera House (otherwise the Pavilion Theatre) in Whitechapel and featured Emma alongside Walter Bolton (tenor), Durand (baritone) and a certain Mlle Augusta Constantini. ‘Mlle Constantini’ was a Liverpudlian church organist who’d done a crash course on vocals in Italy. Emma played Azucena to her Leonora, Maffeo Orsini to her Lucrezia, and in week two the theatre brought in Hermine Rudersdorff. They also brought in Eliot Galer and his wife. So Bolton and Emma moved out, on the Liverpudlian lady’s coattails.

The second was at Christmas, right back at Cork. This year’s prima donna was Annie Tonnellier, the tenor Mr Swift, and here things were less harum scarum. They opened on Boxing night with Il Trovatore and the critic sighed ‘Miss Emma Heywood is still the favourite contralto in Cork, her reception was most enthusiastic’, confirming after week two ‘[she is] a contralto of rare excellence, her careful and artistic singing enhances still more if possible her favourable position here’, ‘sings with excellent judgement, everything she undertakes is done creditably’. Except then both she and Swift got an Irish cold. He was able to leave his roles to Brookhouse Bowler, but Emma had to soldier on as everything from Adalgisa to Gertrude in A Loan for a Lover and a performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater.

Back in town, Emma appeared in the National Melodies series of concerts at St James’s Hall (10 March), and in one of Howard Glover’s spectaculars with a romance by Randegger, but within weeks she was off on the operatic trail again, back to Brighton and Portsmouth with that company that she hadn’t gone to join in Cork and headed by the Haighs. They played the usual round of English operas: Maritanas and Bohemian GirlsSatanellas, Lurlines, Robin Hoods and Rose of Castilles, plus the basic handful of translated ones Martha, Fra Diavolo, La Sonnambula, and Emma – after powering out the gory tragedy of Azucena in Il Trovatore-- still played such soubrettes of the afterpieces as Lisette in The Swiss Cottage, Gertrude in The Loan of a Lover and Margaretta in No Song No Supper. The local Era critic was so impressed by her acting (‘she made a decided hit’) that he declared she was more of an actress than a vocalist. But then went on to say how well she had sung her showpiece aria. In June, a remake of this company ‘under the management of Mr Berger’ played the established repertoire at the New Adelphi Theatre, Birmingham. One more Azucena, Lisa, Lazarillo, and several more Wilhelminas (of course). But like the earlier season, this was a short engagement and Emma was soon back in town. Apparently with a nine-months contract for the Alhambra in her pocket. At a fine ten pounds a week. But it didn’t happen. Mr Burt went to law, waving the contract, and he got one month’s wages.


The job Emma got instead mightn’t have been as long or as lucrative, but at least in was at Drury Lane. On 12 October 1863, Edward Falconer produced a version of Lord Byron’s Manfred with Phelps in the central character. Miss Poole, Cicely Nott, Emma and Swift were engaged to give the music, and Emma was cast as ‘Ariel, Spirit of the Aether’ and delivered one solo ‘Mortal to thy bidding bow’d’ (‘which could hardly have been given with purer voice or better taste’) and a septet. Manfred was classy, spectacular, dull and was kept on just long enough to be classed officially not a disaster. 

Since her beginning as 3rd to 4th lady with the Escott company more than six years ago, Emma had had employment with a bundle of opera companies and seasons. None had been frankly tatty. Not even near. Even if some had been frankly mismanaged and short-lived. She had worked with many fine singers and musical directors. But since the Escott company, she hadn’t been with a truly top-line outfit. As far as English opera went, top-line these days meant Miss Pyne and Mrs Harrison. and, really, no-one else. 


On 23 November 1863, Emma Heywood opened at the ‘English Opera, Covent Garden’ – whilst still performing her bit in Manfred nightly -- as a member of the Pyne and Harrison company, creating the role of the Princess de Gonzagnes in the new opera Blanche de Nevers. It was, of course, a supporting role, but she did have an aria ‘Time, with reluctant steps’ with which to make her mark. And, in the large shadow cast by the two stars, she did. She was adjudged ‘very successful as a vocalist and an actress and was not infrequently applauded, particularly in the concerted piece towards the end of Act II’. Blanche de Nevers was less well regarded. 

Emma doesn’t seem to have played anything but the first part of the Blanche de Nevers run with Pyne and Harrison. When The Bohemian Girl took its place, sister Susan Pyne came back. When Balfe’s new piece was brought back after Christmas, Harriet Aynsley Cook took the part. Was there a story here? I wonder. 

Be that as it may, Emma marched on. She appeared in Frederic Cowen’s concert at Her Majesty’s Theatre introducing the young composer’s ‘My beautiful, my beat’, she sang on the programme for Howard Glover’s latest, performing the duet ‘Charming fancies’ from Once too often with Rose Hersee, she turned up at Exeter Hall on the occasion of the Mendelssohn 64th Birthday celebrations (3 February 1864) singing Elijah for the National Choral Society with Reeves Santley and Mme Rudersdorff,  a performance repeated a month later. Both her rendition of ‘O rest in the Lord’ and the trio ‘Lift thine eyes’ (Rudersdorff/Annie Cox/Heywood) were encored. She appeared in the big Shakespeare Celebration Concert at St James’s Hall (11 April) and its equivalent at the Agricultural Hall (21 April), sang at the concerts given by the pianist Mrs Melchor Winter (‘She never told her love’, Charles J Hargitt’s ‘Rest thee, babe’) and made another trip to Brighton before, in October 1864 she returned to the stage. Once again, it was Drury Lane. Once again the star was Phelps. And the play was Macbeth. Locke’s famous music was used and Tom Bartleman sang the basso role of Hecate with Emma and Rebecca Isaacs as the contralto and soprano witches. 

Phelps obviously didn’t mind his performers doubling, for during the run of Macbeth Emma continued her life as a concert vocalist. In November she appeared at the Crystal Palace in Arthur Sullivan’s new cantata Kenilworth. Cummings and Santley, who had created the piece at the Birmingham Festival repeated their roles for the first London hearing of the piece, and Anne Banks and Emma took the soprano and contralto music. In the concert that followed the cantata Emma gave ‘The Minstrel Boy’ with encore. At Christmas she appeared at St Martin’s Hall in The Messiah with Anna Hiles, Vernon Rigby and Aynsley Cook and on 28 February 1865 she sang in another, and this time wholly new, cantata at the Crystal Palace. This one was by Charles Deffell and entitled Christmas Eve and her collaborators were Fanny Armytage, David Miranda and George Renwick
Her concert engagements for 1865 included an appearance as vocalist with the venerable Philharmonic Society - her songs for the occasion were the aria ‘Ah rendimi quel core’ by Rossi and a duet from Spohr’s Jessonda with Euphrosyne Parepa – and several concerts with the Beethoven Society (Haydn’s Spirit Song, ‘Tell me shall my love be mine’, Reissiger’s ‘Lovely Clouds’), before she returned to Covent Garden and the opera. Pyne and Harrison had gone, and it was now ‘The Opera Company (Limited)’ who were attempting to follow where they had led. Unfortunately the two pieces in which she was allotted roles during the season – Henry Leslie’s Ida (Greta) and a staging of the Christmas Eve cantata – were very much less than memorable.


In 1866, Emma returned to the touring circuits and, in the years to come, she found plenty of opportunities, and leading roles in plenty of established operas, there. The first of these was The National English Opera Company, a small company put out by singer Susanna Cole and her husband W G Offord.  Enrichetta Alessandri was lead soprano, Charles Lyall first tenor, Charles Durand principal baritone and ‘Madame Heywood’ the contralto. Mr Offord contented himself with supporting roles and Miss Cole with singing the occasional oratorio. The company seems to have existed very discreetly and ephemerally, and soon Emma joined up, instead, with Henri Corri’s established company. She made her debut with them at Halifax in February 1866 playing Nancy to the Martha of Annie Thirlwall. However, she had not come to the Corri company alone, for the bills for the concerts which the company delivered at the Sheffield Music Hall a few weeks later billed Miss Annie Thirlwall, Madame Emma Heywood, Miss Fanny Heywood….  Emma had become ‘Madame’ Heywood because there was now a new ‘Miss Heywood’ on the scene: her 21 year-old daughter, Fanny. Emma was now excused those afterpieces which she had played for so long, and for which she was now distinctly too old. Fanny played Wilhelmina and Margaretta, until they got to Nottingham, where Fanny had a cold, and her mother went on in her place.


En route, the young soprano Ida Gilliess joined the troupe which now carried two prime donne. Emma was chief contralto, and Fanny third soprano and afterpieces, that same run of parts her mother had taken in her first operatic engagement. Fanny was more suited to them. She was a good many years younger than Emma had been, and she was a soprano, not a ‘rich and powerful contralto’ whose speciality role was the hyperdramatic Azucena. Emma played here usual roles: Azucena, Lazarillo, Siebel, Adalgisa, Maffeo Orsini and so forth, Fanny seems to have covered just about every soprano role in the repertoire. And in the two years that mother and daughter remained with the Corri company, she got to play a remarkable number of them – Marguerite, Arline, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Zerlina in the place of Annie Thirlwall in Don Giovanni (and mother stepped up to play Donna Elvira for her), Amelia instead of Edgar in A Masked Ball (with Emma as Ulrica), Caterina in The Crown Diamonds, Zerlina to her mother’s Lady Allcash in Fra Diavolo, Marguerite to Emma’s Siebel in Faust. When Ida Gilliess first starting being awkward, the Corris got Enrichetta Alessandri in as a replacement, but apparently they found that their very young number three was up to all eventualities. Miss Gilliess came back – and the following year married the boss – but in the meanwhile the Heywoods had quite a bit in the way of opportunities to thank her for. Except William Burt. He’d got Ida the job, as an agent. She jibbed at the commission due, took him to court and generally caused a deal of trouble. She shouldn’t have. She should have given him a medal. He got her a husband.

The relationship between Henri Corri and Ida Gilliess was possibly at the root of the departure of Emma and Fanny (Annie Thirlwall and her husband had already gone, and the tenor Bond left now as well) from his company early in the new year of 1869. Fanny Harrison and Kate Villiers came in to replace them after the long Edinburgh Christmas season. But the bright, young coming prima donna and the experienced and undiminished contralto soon found themselves a new company. The troupe run by tenor Stanley Betjemann was several notches below the Corri group in status -- it was nothing but a fit-up opera group covering minor dates -- but this it had some fine singers in its ranks beginning with the young couple Richard Temple and Bessie Emmett. Fanny was prima donna (‘a rich voice over which she has perfect control’), Emma did her usuals, and they got a bonus when Betjemann got ambitious and decided that instead of Grantham, Stroud and Cirencester he would take his troupe to London. Thus Fanny got to give her Marguerite (‘the most prominent feature of the entertainment. Her singing of the Jewel Song was vociferously redemanded..’) and her Maritana, to considerable praise, at the ‘St George’s Hall Saturday Operas’ before – after two Saturdays -- Betjemann took a wise retreat.

Fanny was now fairly launched. Emma, on the other hand, was easing her singing career down and out. She went out on the road, with Fanny again, in ‘the National English Operatic Company’ later in the year, and as the Franco-Prussian war raged she went on stage at Glasgow’s Prince of Wales Theatre (acting manager: W A Burt) in the local production of The Dead Heart, with Ada Dyas, to deliver ‘La Marseillaise’ to a double encore. She appeared with Aynsley Cook’s ill-fated opera company at the Standard Theatre in November 1872 (but was not even allotted her Azucena!), she appeared with Fanny in the Crystal Palace operas, and she sang her Azucena and her Maffeo Orsini, for what seems to have been the last time, in a season organised by the Gunns in Dublin and Cork in 1874,  before – the half century reached – she retired from the profession.


Fanny went on for a little longer. In 1869 (21 October), she visited Reading to create the title-role in the operetta Eveleen, composed by local W H Birch alongside Theodore Distin and the local amateurs, and in 1871-2 she fulfilled an unusual engagement when she was engaged by H L Bateman for the Lyceum Theatre. She made her West End debut giving her mother’s old part of Gertrude in A Loan of a lover opposite the Peter Spyk of Fred Irishand then was cast as the juvenile lady in the new play on the bill.  Thus, on 25 November 1872, Fanny Heywood, operatic prima donna and some 26 years of age, created the part of Annette, the burgomaster’s daughter, alongside Henry Irving, in the original production of The Bells. Needless to say, she ‘sang a little ballad to good effect’, but that was not all. Fanny’s debut as an actress was a success. ‘No better representative of Annette could be found’ pronounced The Era. 

But Fanny did not follow up her dramatic start as an actress. She returned to the opera, and made a series of appearances in George Perren’s Crystal Palace operas -- Ännchen to the Agathe of Florence Lancia in Der Freischütz, Zerlina in Fra Diavolo, Maritana, Marguerite – she took part in Aynsley Cook’s Standard Theatre season, sharing the soprano roles with Blanche Cole and Lizzie Dyer, she created a role in Deffel’s The Corsair at the Crystal Palace (1873), visited Ireland with her mother in 1874 for the Gunn seasons, and featured in the Glasgow Theatre Royal’s Rob Roy (1875, Diana Vernon). She sang in concert at both the Crystal Palace and the Alexandra Palace, and she made regular appearances in Brighton, on one occasion appearing as Julia Mannering and Polly Peachum to the Guy Mannering and Captain Macheath of Sims Reeves (1875). Thereafter, however, she was seen out less often in London, and, although she toured in 1880 as Suzanne to the Madame Favart of Adelaide Newton, she had been some years out of sight when, in 1881, she was cast to play the ingenue role of Germaine in a revival of the phenomenally successful Les Cloches de Corneville at the Globe Theatre. If it seemed a surprising return, there was an explanation. The manager for the season was William Augustus Burt.  Fanny was described as ‘of the Crystal Palace English opera’ in the announcements, which is doubtless the way she would have wanted it. To the reviewer for The Era however she was ‘the original Annette in The Bells.’ For this operatic prima donna’s main claim to fame was undoubtedly the one and only dramatic role she had undertaken in her career.

Fanny never married, and she, her mother and her stepfather and a cousin, Bessie Halliday, lived their later days together in their long-term home at 6 Arlington Street, London.  Burt died 6 January 1900, and Emma took to letting rooms in the house. She herself died in 1909, leaving L471 10s 5d to Fanny.  

Fanny became a teacher of singing at the Royal College of Music, originally with the operatic class (1905-1919) and subsequently as a general teacher (1907-1915, 1917-1921). She died in 1922 at the age of 77.


Eliza Heywood remained in Manchester where she had a very appreciable local career as a contralto singer. In 1871 a correspondent to the musical press described her as ‘one of the most accomplished of our native vocalists’. When she sang at the Athenaeum Musical Society concerts, he reported ‘her excellent contralto voice was heard to great advantage in Méhul’s song from the opera Joseph and the old English ballad ‘My lodging is on the cold ground’. She was recalled after each song and accepted an encore for the former’. The following year she advertised from 1 Blenheim Terrace, Stretford Rd, Old Trafford, Manchester …


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Mr Millar of Bath (tenor)


MILLAR, Thomas Francis (b London, c 1801; d Haydock Lunatic Asylum 12 June 1868)


London-born tenor Thomas Millar made himself a thirty-year career as a vocalist, more than twenty of those years labelled, with good reason, as ‘of Bath’.


As the Quarterly Review remarked, in the mid-1820s, ‘The most polished audiences, out of the metropolis, this country boasts, it has hitherto been considered, were to be found in the city of Bath, whither the fashionable world has long resorted …’ and ‘the Bath concerts were, at this period, some of the best Britain offered’.


Thomas Millar moved from London to Bath in 1823, made his home there, and became, thereafter, the unchallenged ‘first tenor of the Bath concerts’, and a central personality in the city’s musical life.

Episodically, he ventured to London, and appeared there in the theatre, in oratorio and in concert. However, his well modulated but not very voluminous voice could not compete with the richer and more dramatic organs of the big London stars, and he returned each time to his own fief, as ‘first tenor’, teacher, songwriter, music publisher and local celebrity.


Coached by the bass-player and singer John Addison, of the English Opera House and Ancient Concert orchestras, Millar began his singing career as a boy soprano. I spot him singing for the Caledonian Society at the Freemasons Tavern in 1815 ('The Birds of Invermay'), and in 1816, performing his teacher’s ‘Arise, thou bright sun of Britain’ ‘written in Honour of the nuptials of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Leopold of Saxe Coburg’ and ‘sung at the most fashionable festive parties’.

He gave his ‘first performance as a tenor’ at the Choral Fund concert of 1817 (3 February) and was subsequently engaged for the Covent Garden oratorios, while in 1818, he was amongst the supporting soloists for the Huddersfield Musical Festival. However, he seems to have been little seen thereafter until, in 1822, he was announced for a theatrical debut at Drury Lane.


‘By the character Mr Millar has chosen for his debut on Wednesday night we perceive his pretensions are very modest. We remember him when a boy, and have heard him with much delight; if he retains the chaste and impressive manner in which he then sang, he cannot fail to please...’ commented The Morning Post. The role in question was Dermot in The Poor Soldier and, on 16 October, it was announced as ‘his first performance’. He evidently made little impression, for at the second performance his name was not mentioned, and the ‘second performance of Mr Keeley’ got the billing.

Over the years that followed, Mr Millar’s name appeared regularly in the bills at Bath, at Bristol, at Margate, Broadstairs and Worthing (playing Love in a Village with Miss George). Mr Millar ‘of the Bath Theatre’ had found his niche.


In 1830 (30 January), however, courtesy of William Hawes, he visited London once again for the oratorio series at Covent Garden. Hawes chose both his tenors – the other was ‘Mr Bennett of Manchester’ – from the provinces, and the press weighed the one against the other with different preferences. The Morning Post admired the ‘taste and ability’ of Millar, and wrote ‘Mr Bennett made poor work of 'Comfort ye' and 'Thy rebuke'. Mr Millar would have sung them better: he possesses a more musician-like style and sings more correctly in tune ...’. The Drama retorted ‘Mr Millar (our new Braham) no doubt passes for a great singer at Bath. It would be wise of him to return thither…’ and nodded ‘Mr Bennett is a better singer with less pretension’. It was Bennett who would go on to have the metropolitan career as a star tenor: Mr Millar had to be content with Bath, Bristol and Liverpool. But not yet.

For Mr Millar had been engaged not only for the oratorios, but for the operatic season (md: Hawes) at the English Opera House. He made ‘his first appearance on the London stage’ (the bills preferred to forget the earlier venture) on 5 July 1830 as Don Ottavio to the Don Giovanni of his Bristol compere Henry Phillips, and did well enough. His ‘Il mio tesoro’ was encored on opening night and the press judged him neatly as ‘a quiet, careful and agreeable singer’ ‘[he has] a very sweet though not very powerful voice, perfect intonation and a good style of singing’. He played, thereafter, some performances of The Vampire, Sir Leinster Leybrooke in The Irish Girl, and as Belville in Rosina whilst Sinclair took the other tenor parts. In 1831, he returned for a second summer season of opera, as Count Arwed in The Sorceress (‘a pretty tenor voice but in its management he seems to be not so happy as diligent study would make him’), Andrea in The Evil Eye (18 August)  and as Lorimer in the little The Picturesque. In 1832 he played in Arnold’s English Opera Company at the Olympic (Rosina, No Song No Supper).

Whilst Mr Hawes went to work advertising ‘the whole of Mr Millar’s vocal compositions’ – the now sizeable bulk of songs which his protégé had turned out over the past years – Millar returned to Bath and Bristol where, during the season, he sang as part of the support programme to Paganini on his concert tour. 

However, in 1833 Hawes, Arnold and Millar got a tad too ambitious. The English Opera House produced a piece entitled The Convent Belle, words said to be by J Haynes Bayley, one of Millar’s preferred lyricists, and score by Millar. Millar himself took the leading role of Baron Wildenstein opposite Mrs Waylett, with John Reeve and Mrs Charles Jones in support. It was a disaster (‘a more low and miserable affair it as never been our lot to witness’) and Millar’s music critically slaughtered (‘as much wanting in character as the words were deficient in meaning’) putting a permanent end to any ambitions he may have had as a theatrical composer. When the ‘new Scottish operetta’ Jessie the Flower of Dumblane (Lord Dumblane) went the same way, Millar returned to Bathwick, to his concerts and oratorios.


However, he did take from London a wife. On 25 July 1835, Millar married Louise Rivière (b London 1 January 1815), one of the daughters of artist Daniel Valentine Rivière, and a sister to the more celebrated Ann Rivière, better to be known as ‘Anna Bishop’. Louise, herself a vocalist of more modest pretensions, would make a ‘first appearance in public’ at Clifton Church, in a concert alongside her husband, in March 1838, but she would spend most of the next fifteen years, between concert engagements and a position as a church vocalist at the Pierrepont Chapel, producing and raising a vast family of something like a dozen children. Thomas, Louisa Henrietta, Annette Eliza, John, Catharine Susan and Mary Isabella, Theresa Agnes, Henry, Ellen, Joseph Benedict, Cecilia  …


Over the years that followed. ‘Mr Millar of Bath’ appeared regularly in concert, turned out a regular flood of vocal music, published his flood of vocal music, gave singing lessons, founded the Anacreontic Society of Bath, and generally confirmed his place in British provincial musical life.

‘New songs by Millar (of Bath): ‘The Village Bells’ as sung by Mr Millar with great success, it being called for a third time at the Liverpool concerts, Bath, Clifton and Chester…’


But London would call again, and when it did it was to the highest places. In 1842 (1 April), Mr Millar sang principal tenor alongside Miss Lucombe, Miss Dolby and Messrs Young and Phillips in a performance by the Sacred Harmonic Society at Exeter Hall. In 1847, he was included in the programme of the revered Concert of Ancient Music. His solo was cut after the rehearsal, but he took part in a trio.  One paper judged him the best tenor -- after Braham -- that Britain had to offer, others ignored him, or dismissed him as ‘sweet but feeble’, but neither engagement had any follow up.

But when Mr Millar was billed, in Bath and in Bristol, he could (and did) now bill himself as being ‘of the Ancient Concert and Exeter Hall’.


By the 1850s, the Millars were less in view. In 1852 Millar, established now in Cornwall (‘publisher and music-seller, dealer and chapman’) was adjudged bankrupt. They then moved to 7 Ivy Street, Birkenhead, and they took part as supporting soloists in the 1854 Liverpool Festival, sang at the opening of St George’s Hall, in the concerts of the Liverpool Musical Union and in the Philharmonic Hall oratorios. I spot them in 1855 giving a concert at the Avenham Institution of Preston (18 April), in 1856, singing in the Liverpool Saturday Evening concerts, along with ‘Master Millar’ performing his father’s ‘The Sailor Boy’, and at the People’s Concerts in Birkenhead. And in October 1857 at a concert for the Catholic Blind Asylum and with the Scarisbricks and little Miss Wynne at Christmas …

In 1857 (20 April, Mr, Mrs and Miss Annette, the Scarisbricks and Henry Phillips) and for some years thereafter, he gave concerts at Birkenhead’s Craven Rooms. ‘The well-known resident professor’. In the 1858 edition, he sang, as did the Misses Millar, and Mr Millar jr played piano. ‘Though his voice is evidently affected by the ravages of time…’, he sang his own ‘As light o’er the waters breaking’. The Scarisbricks and Edith Wynne completed the line-up. But no Mrs Millar.


I see him, still, giving his ‘annual’ in 1861, in 1862, singing ‘three or four songs’ at the Birkenhead Saturday Evening Entertainments for The Working Classes, and what I presume is his son rather than he ‘presiding at the pianoforte’ for Ryalls and Mrs Sunderland at the local Saturday concerts …


And then…?


It is not often that I lose one of my vocalists in Britain. But I don’t know what exactly became of the Millar family. They evidently stayed in the north, where I see that our vocalist, ‘Thomas Francis Millar’, died in Haydock Lunatic Asylum in 1868.

But what became of Mrs Millar. Last sighting 1857. And all those children?  I know Benedict died aged two, and both Theresa Agnes (Mrs Thomas Elsey Bland, d Norfolk 25 January 1927) and Louisa Henrietta (Mrs George Britton Halford, d Inverloch, Australia 18 December 1910) married and bred, Louisa jr left nine children ... but that still leaves nine more. In the 1861 census, several of them are farmed out on the Rivière family, or in the care of daughter Annette Eliza (‘professor of music’, d Liverpool 13 March 1919) in Birkenhead, in a fashion that seems to say that mother is dead. Or gone. Or something. 


A bit more digging shows that Cecilia became Mrs George Edward Parsons and also went Australiawards (d 1937), Mary Isabella (Mrs William Redgrave Bullen) died in Lancashire in 1904 having produced ten children...  That leaves seven …


The family historians say that Louisa Riviere Millar died in 1889. However, they equate Louisa with a Bristol-born lady keeping a shop in Bedminster in the 1881 census with a lunatic son whose seems to be named Miller with an ‘e’ whose father was a flax-dresser Christian-named Joseph … I think I’ll just leave the whole thing there .. trust not in family historians…


I didn’t expect ‘Mr Millar of Bath’ to be opaque. He was such a predictable and orderly and unexceptional man and singer. But he just fades away… and … the lunatic asylum?