Sunday, March 31, 2024

Star mezzos only live twice: Miss Hallande of Covent Garden.

In my ceaseless inquiring wandering through the theatre of the Victorian, and more recently, Georgian eras, there is, since publishing my Victorian Vocalists seven years ago, no particular rule as to what I light upon as fodder for my forensic research. Something catches my eye and ... if its the 'right day', away I go. Especially if the something involved has been otherwise ignored (or referred to without knowledge), by other writers.

I'm not talking about  choristers. Today's victim was an operatic leading lady at Covent Garden for several seasons, and starred round Britain for several more, before ....

Following her debut 'Miss HALLANDE' was rated, and cast at a level at least equivalent to Maria Tree, Kitty Stephens or Miss Paton. That debut was made in October 1821 when she was, allegedly ... well, nobody was quite sure. In fact, there was very little said about the lady in the press. She was said to have been born 'in Somerset', her father was 'a clergyman in Worcester'. All rather difficult to check up upon, for the Swedish-sounding surname of 'Hallande' fitted ill on an Anglican churchman's cassock.

I have worked really long and hard at this one, but I got there. 'Miss Hallande' was christened at St Swithin's, Walcot, 18 February 1800, as Julia ALLEN, a daughter of one William Allen, who may or may not have been a vicar, and his wife Elizabeth. So she was 21 when she came to Covent Garden, cast opposite Charles Kemble and billed above Miss Stephens in a piece entitled Don John. If she was a bit stage-frightened on the first night she quickly swung into gear, to rapturous reviews for her voice and singing. And praise for her lively performing. And it, quite simply, stayed that way. And the competition among the Garden's leading singing ladies seems to have been loyal: Julia's rich soaring mezzo, Kitty's agile trills and frills, Maria's all-round fine voice ...

So Julia was cast as Miranda in The Tempest (Maria was Ariel), as Silvia in Two Gentlemen of Verona...

Diana Vernon in Guy Mannering, Nannette in Fontainbleau, Kathlane in The Poor Soldier, Leonora in The Padlock, William in Rosina, Donna Isidora in Brother and Sister, Lucy in The Beggar's Opera and on occasion as Macheath to Kitty's Polly Peachum. When Miss Paton proved insufficient as Countess Almaviva, Julia was hurried on as her replacement (Kitty was Susanna), and she scored again as Carlos ('Sure, such a pair') in The Duenna. Ninetta in Clari, Daphne in Midas, Squalling Fran in Don Giovanni in London ..

She went a-touring to main centres, and then teamed up with star tenor, John Sinclair ... which is where my playbill comes in.

You can see at the bottom of the bill that, the other nights of the week, they played the most familiar of British musical plays ...  What the public wants ...

So, why is not Julia Hallande seen again in the patent theatres of London? There she is in 1825 appearing in Dublin, appearing in the repertoire with no less than John Braham and little Kitty grown great ... but when she returned to London, it was to play at the nearly completed Brunswick Theatre. And on 27 February 1828, during a rehearsal of Guy Mannering, the iron roof caved in. All the players and workmen, estimated at 230, were reported dead or 'deadfully mutilated'. 'The most melancholy forebodings prevail with regard to Miss Hallande ...'. But she was safe ...  The Sakers, who were late for rehearsal, saw the roof fall as they approached.

They say cats have nine lives. Mezzo-sopranos, alas, fewer.

Julia migrated to the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel and there I see her (the Pavilion was not covered much by the press) playing Mrs Christie in The Fortunes of Nigel alongside one Mr Hadaway, as David Ramsay. Mr Hadaway was Thomas Henry HADAWAY (b Worcestershire 18 January 1801). They were wed in Bloomsbury's St George's Church 10 May 1831.

Six months later (7 November 1831), they took ship for New York, and its Bowery Theatre. The Bowery! She who had been leading lady at Covent Garden. Nine months later, she was dead. The insanitary conditions of the Bowery led to both of the Hadaways falling prey to the cholera. Julia was taken after curtain fall, and dead by dawn. Tom, reported dead in the international press, in fact survived for sixty years, two wives, half a dozen children and the reputation as 'America's oldest actor'. He died 7 September 1892.

Bowery Theatre

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Arab Esoterica on my bookshelf


I really don't know much (OK, anything) about Indian philosophers or their writings. So how did this Stuttgart translation, dating from 1839, of the works of one BIDPAL find its way to my New Zealand farmhouse?

I suspect my grandfather's family. The Rosenbaum side. They were publishers, and seem to have toyed with Eastern literature ... and one or two asian books seem to lurk still around the house

I also suspect that it might a sort of Thousand and One Nights ...  or AEsop's Fables. I don't know.

Well, this one has been read ... and annotated ... I wonder by who....

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Antiqueinspired: One of the truest theatrical treasures of my career!


I spent twenty years of my life compiling what ended up as the two vast volumes on the life and theatrical times of Miss Emily Lambert-Swain ... otherwise EMILY SOLDENE, the greatest opéra-bouffe vocalist of the Englsh nineteenth century. 

I scoured the libraries and old bookshops and flea markets of the world, and gathered some wonderful information, pictorial matter, music ... and the result was, though I say it myself, the best ever record of the world of the Victorian musical theatre to date. A quarter of a century later, it still is.

Twenty years of life (a whole quarter of my 'so far') is a lot. And it doesn't get shelved or forgotten just because one moves on to all the subsequent projects of one's career. Emily remains an important part of my life to this day. Even my racehorse is called EMILY.

My self-designed luxury mini-bathroom is decorated with Soldene posters. Notably this one, given to me by dear friend, the late Peter Joslin

And, yes, my farm is called GEROLSTEIN.

When you've published a book(s) -- and I'm very proud of this one -- there is, however, a downside. In the years, the decades that follow, you come upon material that makes you go .. 'oh! I wish I'd had THAT for the book'.  Happily, that hasn't happened much with the Emily project.  Yes, more pictures, from one side of the world or the other, have surfaced of Emily in her various roles. Today on e-bay is a nice young Drogan (from Faustino's Dad) and a rather plump ageing Chilpéric (from Antiqueinspired)

And blow me down, here'a Nellie Beaumont (Soldene chorine) from Boston 1876!

But to today's find. It's not Emily. But it's La Grande-Duchesse. Photographs from the original British production, that production which is a white stone in the history of British musical theatre and helped change its course for many a decade.  The production which I have investigated, and written about, more than perhaps any other ...  

Emily was not the first Grand Duchess in John Russell's first stop-gap mounting of the show at Covent Garden. She was a subsequent take-over ... the story of how it happened ('Opéra-bouffe in England' 'The Grande Duchesse') is in my book, along with the story of how the 'stop gap' became a huge hit. And also the story of the Anglo-Australian lassie, fresh off the boat from the antipodes who was its first star. It all takes up fifty pages, so I'll not repeat it here.

The show was a success of stature, but it had to end its brief run as it was time for the all-important pantomime 1867-8, to take the Garden's stage. Some of the cast went into the panto, others to their Christmas jobs ... but Russell managed to gather a good number of his cast back together for Spring 1868 and sent the show on the road. With Miss Julia Mathews from Australia, eventually, in her 'original' role ...

And in Edinburgh, it appears, at some stage, they all had their photo taken.  I didn't know that till now.  And those photos appeared today in Antiqueinspired's e-bay shop!

Well, six of them. The Duchess (Julia Mathews), General Boum (Tom Aynsley Cook), Baron Puck (Frank Matthews, 2 ts and no relation), Prince Paul (J D Stoyle), Nepomuc (Fred Payne) and Baron Grog (originally 'mad' Odell, but the caption is cut off).

No Soldier Fritz and No Wanda. Two roles which had changed hands notably since the original production. 

Julia Mathews as the Duchess

Aynsley Cook as Boom

Presumably Fred Payne as Nepomuc

Frank Matthews as Baron Puck

Baron Grog ... Edward Odell?

Johnnie Stoyle as Prince Paul

There they are! Now I just need to find that Edinburgh date ... 12 October 1868, Edinburgh Operetta House? That looks like it ...  so it IS Odell as Grog. Splendid!

So Wilford Morgan as Fritz and Claliah Albertazzi as Wanda ...

Oh! Antiqueinspired .. pleased find the two missing pictures and here we shall have a wonderful souvenir ...

PS In and out of my books I have done large-to-very-large to not-quite-so-large biographies of all these folk. Too long to post here ... inquiries welcome at

ZING!!!!  Old rule of e-baying and junk shopping.  Where you find one treasure, check the surrounding items ...

This is another Grande-Duchesse item. 

This is Marguerite Anaïs PRADAL (b Bordeaux 27 July 1839; d Nimes 23 April 1883) who appeared in London in the company led by Hortense Schneider, with which she played the role of Wanda to the creator's Duchess. However, she had a rather remarkable decade of career around that.
She trained at the Paris Conservatoire under Laget and Levasseur and was awarded merely two minor accessits. However, she was signed for the Hague where she debuted most successfully in La Juive, as Valentine in Les Huguenots then caused a minor sensation when, cast for Berthe in Le Prophète, she stepped in at the last moment in the vast role of Fidès. She played at Toulouse in 1861, at Orleans in 1863 (Rosina in Le Barbier de Seville, with the Venzano Waltz) and then, again at Toulouse as Leonora (Trovatore) and Valentine.
In 1868 she appeared at the Porte Saint-Martin in Nos Ancêtres, at Versailles in Zampa, La Dame Blanche, Le Voyage en Chine, La Traviata and as Berthe in Le Prophète, then at the Athenée in Première Fraicheur.  She visted Liège as première chanteuse, was hired for Schneider's company for London in June 1869 (Wanda, Fleurette in Barbe-Bleue) and the 1870 Félix tour of the British provincesand subsequently joined the company at the Bouffes-Parisiens where she created the little Le Moulin tenébreux of the Félix company's conductor, Vizentini. 
She seems to have followed up at Théâtre de la Monnaie at Brussels, and at Nantes .. and then she vanishes.
Remarkable? She seems to have performed every kind of soprano role, from the heaviest to the the very lightest. And everywhere with success. And she doesn't seem to have been photographed much. This is the only picture I have ever seen of her.

Better dig some more!

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Antiqueinspired: a grand hoard of history (Part I)


It happens some days. With my first cuppa peppermint tea, each morning, I whisk through the last day's additions on theatrical e-bay. Some days there is nothing of interest. Just a ton weight of 'rare' Adelina Pattis and Eveleen Raynes and Christine Nilssons. Sometimes there's a little jewel -- identified or not identified -- and very, very occasionally, there's a little treasure trove. 

Today was a trove day. Mostly from a dealer named Antiquinspired. Sadly, many of the items he has posted are unnamed or named so faintly that is difficult nay impossible to identify the sitters, but a got a few .. and sent him/her the answers by the ebay intermail. Until ebay decided I was writing to him/her too often, and cut the link.

These are some of they. Those which I have never seen before, and, thus I suppose, fewbody if anybody else has either. Let's start with this one: labelled faintly Katy and Harry King and dated 1869/70.

No problems with the identification. These are two of the children of tragedian Thomas [Chiswell] King (1818-1893) and his wife, Elizabeth Chiswell. King has been biographised on many an occasion, most notably in the DNB revision of 1901 ('many errors of detail are here corrected' by a nephew). Well, there are still errors of detail. Neffie credits the Kings with three children. They had at least five. Though I will admit that the first two died in childhood. One was run over by a wagon aged 'about 8', the second succumbed to 'gastric fever 4 December 1855'. 

Facts and figures, to be sure, are hard to come by concerning the where and when of the births of the three survivors: Elizabeth dit Bessie, Harry and Kathleen dit Katty, all said to have been born in the period 1849-1851. According to the DNB, during that time he was in Edinburgh, according to me he was in Southampton, probably he was at both. Then from October 1850 he was at the Princess's Theatre, and in 1851 he was engaged at the Dublin theatre. In 1847 I see him playing Hull, Leeds, Glasgow, dubbed 'of Southampton'. Which means, theoretically, the babes were born in one of those places. Well, the 1871 census finds the family at home in Islington. Father born Tewkesbury, mother born Clifton, and Katty born St Pancras. Aged 18. So... here she is! Olivia Emily Kathline King born third quarter 1852 ... the other two? Well ... who can tell. Ireland, I suppose.

Harry (unless it were him as a child playing Albert to TCK's Tell) was announced for a debut as Blue Peter in Black-Eyed Susan at his father's Benefit in 1862. And the following year, he and Katty featured as a juvenile dance pair at the Dublin Theatre Royal. Between 1866-1870 the young pair were a featured item in the little touring 'Merry Folks' party headed by rising comedian Arthur Lloyd.

Then, on 17 May 1870, the sickly Harry died. Still a teenager. Nineteen, so it is said. The following year, 'sweet little' Katty, audience's darling' married Arthur Lloyd. 

And that is really the end of the story. They had seven children, worked together happily, lived together happily until Katty died, at only 39 years of age (2 May 1891). I hav'n't followed up the children, but there is a website devoted to Arthur Lloyd which rejects my email, after umpteen years, which you may find: I think.

But I have never seen a photo of Harry and Katty together before.

Well, hopefully Chris of Antiqueinspired will see this item and write to me!  

Now, I'm off to bury a deceased peahen :-(

Die verlorene Wellgunde


Once upon a time ... some quite-a-few years ago ... an uninvited guest knocked on my door ..

He was novel, he was cute, he was friendly 

We fed him. We didn't want him to go away. But he did. Mating season, he went in search of sex. But a few months later he came back!

How to keep him here? Answer: import him a harem. We did. Three hens from Little River.


Within a few years we were overflowing with peafowl. They don't know what Oedipal and Incestual and Miscegenation mean.

See previous blogs for pictures of cute chicks, and teeming fowl  .. I think that, after a few years, there were up to 40 or 50 of the big birds on our wee farm. Squawking and Fighting and omigod SHITTING everywhere.

It's a long tale, but, bit by bit, we divested ourselves of the peastock.  The fighting cocks and the squabbling sorority 

Nigel, the peacock catcher, rugby tackled the noisest cocks and carried them off to eager places where peacocks were a novelty  

To cut a long story slightly shorter, a few years back, after much avian exporting, we ended up with, only, for 'housepets', the paterfamilias, one son (Alberich), and three girls of known lineage (Wellgunde, Woglinde, Flosshilde) if not of precise parenthood. 

Still too much. So Alberich and Flosshilde were sent off to someone in the North Island and we, finally, got the Gerolsteiner stock back to manageable proportions.  Mr P (less rampant than before) was satisfied with a harem of two, and we have all lived happily together .. except when they dig up my plants! .. until ...


Peafowl are supposed to live forty years or so. So we thought that this agreeable threesome was our ornithological family for life. But we noticed, a few weeks ago, that Wellgunde was looking strange. Droopy wings. Last night she was not in her tree. Mr P and Woglinde seem to know ..

Ach, have we lost a Gerolsteinermädchen ...

If so, will Mr P be content with just one wife ... is he too habituated to Gerolstein and his nightly tucker ... or will he leave us? He wouldn't surely after all these years

Wellgunde, come back .. but I fear she has gone to the great chookyard in the sky ...

Next day: Weia! Weia! Wellgunde ....

Lovely day here. Gardening day. And, while weeding behind the roses. Wendy spotted feathers. Wendy can cope with anything, except spiders and dead birds. Fortunately, I have no qualms with any of that. And yes, it was the mortal remains of our Wellgunde. She just looked as if she were asleep. Beautiful as ever.

Wendy dug a hole (I can't) by the riverbank. I placed her in it, self-consciously warbled a snatch of 'Wotan's Farewell', and threw some earth over her.

Woglinde watched at a distance. Seligkeit. 

All alone, I'm just all alone

Message from Woglinde. Formal dissolution of the Gerolstein ladies' Harmonic Society. I can't do it alone! 

PS two days later. Woglinde has used her free, choir practice time, to dig up the new tomato plants. Sympathy is waning, lady ...

Friday, March 22, 2024

Blanche Owen: A Girl in Advance of the Times


I was rather surprised to run across this piece of music today.  Quality too. Published by Ben Williams, with an illustrated cover by Concanen. Sung by Miss Blanche Owen of Howard Paul's Entertainment. Mr Howard Paul, you notice, not the vastly superior outfit lead by his wife. 

And yes, Blanche Owen was for several seasons a part of Howard Paul's troupe, along with Nelly Ford (piano) and variously changing vocalists who included such lasses as the young Laura Joyce (qv), Louise Beverley, Agnes Lyndhurst (later, briefly, of the Soldene troupe) and -- most infamously, the future musical comedy star, Letty Lind. Since Paul was bonking Miss Lind -- a child was the result -- I was going to assume that he wasn't bonking Blanche. But with Howard Paul one can't be sure. Anyway, what seems to have been the first and longest of her professional engagements, seems to have been her best.

Back to square one. Miss Owen was, of course, not Miss Owen. She was born in Stepney in 1851 as Blanche Thomas, to a printer named Henry Thomas and his wife Susannah Mary née Owen. I suspect that Mr Thomas, when not printing, played piano, for I see in 1869 

Maybe, maybe not. Shortly after (December 1869) we have him for sure. And the teenaged Blanche

Is he then the Henry Thomas accompanying at St James's Hall? I don't know. But I think not.

Over the next two or three years, Blanche is to be seen in local concerts in Brentwood, Hackney, Marylebone, Islington, Braintree and the East End, sometimes with her parents, and latterly with her younger sister, Lucy Thomas (pianist). 'A very pretty lady with a ringing soprano voice and a marvellous set of teeth'. She also took part in amateur dramatics, and performed the celebrated War Songs of the Franco-Prussian War.

And around the beginning of 1872, she became a pendant to Howard Paul. 
'This young lady is a bright, sunny, clever little actress of considerable personal beauty, with an archness of manner that may be described as 'very taking'. She sang three songs in costume, one of which 'Norah's Coutship', a serio comic ballad, was loudly re-demanded, while another song 'A girl in advance of the times' was also greatly applauded'. So there it is. A Concanen cover for her first real job.

Or was it? Who is the 'Blanche Landre' of Vance's operetta company who sang this song in 1870, and midlands amateur soubrettes had been singing it since.  Anyhow the rest of her repertoire included Beautiful Isle of the Sea', 'Charlie is my darling', 'Come, where my love lies dreaming' and a topical song 'The Latest News' dressed as a newsboy. But why is this popular song not credited? It appears the words were by one H W Sweeney, and the tune by Alfred Lee. And it was published elsewhere as 'sung by Milly Howard'. In America it was claimed by E Mack. I see Milly Howard touring with Mr Lee in Vance's Party between 1868 and 1870 .. So I think it is safe to credit the beginnings of the song (as so many others) to the Vance party. Mr Paul (not unexpectedly) has pirated it.

Blanche returned to the Halls and Institutes of Northern and Eastern London. Burdett Hall, Mr Norris's concerts at Greenwich (with photgrapher Mr Frederick Bathurst who signs her wedcert and wed sister Kate), Holloway Hall, on the odd music hall ... and she wed a bookbinder by name James Bolton. The Boltons were to breed seven children in years to come, but that didn't stop Blanche from singing. Over the next fifteen years 'Madame Blanche Owen' apppeared in lesser concerts and sketches, grandly billed, around the south of England. She was also occasionally billed as 'of' the German Reed company, Exeter Hall, Crystal Palace ...  Oddly, I can't find these.

I spy her last, on the platform in south London in 1889 ...

Her family? Henry died in the 1870s. Kate, Lucy and Samuel King Thomas ..
Well, Lucy performed at Brentwood from a young age. She is billed as 'from the London concerts' playing 'high class music' at Hastings in 1875, with Walter Cole and his 'Merry Folks' troupe, she's still tinkling in 1882 and in 1887 she's accompanying at St Austell ... and we are told she's RAM! I think that might a local Lucy ... 
Kate (Mrs Bathurst d London 1891) seems to have confined herself to amateur dramatics -- although her husband had more visible ambitions - and Sydney became a clerk. Kate had children, but Blanche's five surviving children must have surely seen the family into the 21st century ... be nice to find this piece of music sheet a home!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Wendy House: an (unfinished) melodrama in umpteen acts

I know the Sagrada and the Stephansdom have taken years to arise from earth to sky ...

But we only wanted a little sleepout cum garage. A Wendy House. For the cars, the cats and the occasional visitors.

We signed the papers and paid a lot of money in February 2023. Hopefully the thing would be ready by the time Easter's guests arrived...  Well, Easter is now approaching ... but it's Easter 2024. There have been lots more bits of money demanded, huge frustrations, a good bit of incompetency and unjustified greed from the authorities, but once the team of workers hired by Versatile finally got into action things moved ...

Today Jesse is digging the trench for the sewerage and stormwater

And Bill, the champion painter is finishing the sleepout indoor decoration. We 'found' Bill at New World Supermarket when he parked alongside us ... best thing a supermarket ever did for us!

Then it's the shower, the tiles, the lavatory and hot water tank ...  oh no, we're not quite there yet! This year's Easter visitor will have to sleep on the couch in my dressing room. Which won't please Tibby ...

Well, here is the history of a build.

Begun 11 December, thanks to huge delays caused by Waimak Council pussyfooting round their self-invented 'rules' for weeks and months on end, and then Rain. And more rain. And the months dwindled on ... until finally

And then, of course, it was Christmas. You know, that theoretically religious festival where no one works. Oh, and it rained again.

Next stage: January. The Council decrees that we need to have an extra-large concrete slab. I'm sure the cats and the cars will appreciate it .. but why? What Bulgarian decreed that?


Smooth concrete

Hang on, that slab is sticking up way above ground level. It appears that the Demon Council says it has to. Bah! Why? None of the other buildings on the property stands on a man-made slab like that. Oh well, I sha'n't be able to drive or even step up to that level. Extra expense for stairs, handrails ... no, not for the cats, for me. My car will have to go back into the old, condemned garage. And another 5-figure bill hits me in the jaw .. and 1 February, all I've got to show, so far, is this for my six figure sum ..

And a week later .. here comes the building. Posted in a little package from Auckland. 

And then came Brendan, and thing really started to move ...

So, on the first anniverary of our signature, we had a very neat looking building. Or, should I say, shell...

With a sweet view ...

And now we start the next stage. Bathroom fittings, electricity, water, sewerage ...

But before Bill leaves us, we have got him to put up the sign ...

Who's coming tomorrow? A shower? OK ... but we hav'n't water yet. Or do we?

Hours later. I've just been hit with another bill from the council for  'services'. $5k.  

My next will have a carefully documented break-down of what this sleepout cum garage has cost us. I suspect ten of thousands over the original quote ... which I was told, at the time, would not be exceeded ..

Addendum: Good Friday: We have a hot water cylinder ...

We have a shower ...

And I spy the kittens preparing to move in already!