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Jennie Opie as the Duchess of Della Volta, Australia, 1905

September 14, 2014

Jennie Opie (1871-1943), Australian contralto in comic opera and musical comedy as she appeared as the Duchess of Della Volta in a revival of La Fille du Tambour Major at the New Theatre Royal, Melbourne, 8 April 1905
(photo/postcard: Talma, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, circa 1905)

Jennie Opie, whose real name was Jane Opie, was born in Wallaroo, South Australia on 24 March 1871. On 26 October 1895 she was married in Rugby, South Australia to Isaac Killicoat (1861-?) but their union did not last; they separated in 1898 and finally divorced in 1929. By that time Jennie Opie had been semi retired from the stage since about 1914, the year in which she advertised herself as the new proprietress of the Scotch Thistle Hotel, North Adelaide (The Mail, Adelaide, Saturday, 31 October 1914, p. 2s); she later became the licensee of the Botanic Hotel, Adelaide.

Jennie Opie, who began singing at the age of 13, spent much of her career on tour throughout Australia with the J.C. Williamson’s company, with whom she also made two trips to India. From the summer of 1905 she spent five years in America and was in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake in 1906. She appeared in New York at Daly’s Theatre from 3 December 1906 to 30 March 1907 in The Belle of Mayfairas Lady Chaldicott, the part originated in London by Maud Boyd. Other leading parts were played by Christie MacDonald, Bessie Clayton and Valeska Suratt, the latter playing the Duchess of Dunmow, the part originated in London by Camille Clifford.

* * * * *

La Fille du Tambour Major revived at the New Theatre Royal, Melbourne, 8 April 1905.
‘The revival of La Fille du Tambour Major at the Theatre Royal was brought to a close on Saturday night [22 April 1905], after a successful run of a fortnight. The opera is so well known, or perhaps I should say, has been, as it is seldom heard nowadays, that is is unnecessary to describe the plot, and indeed there is very little plot to describe – it is of the simplest and most transparent kind, and it is certainly not n it that the opera relies for its popularity; but on its bright, rhythmical music, and the scope which it gives for picturesque dressing and effective ensembles. The production was notable for its excellent chorus, some numbers of which had to be repeated each night, and the beautiful minuet introduced in the second act. In the latter the dancers look as if they had stepped straight off a beautiful Dresden china plate. The colouring was most lovely – a pale pink and pale blue: the gallants in knee-breeches, old-fashioned coats and waistcoats, and the ladies in full short skirts and low-necked lace bodices, and carrying which ostrich feather fans. All wore white curled wigs. The minuet also received nightly a well-deserved encore. Miss Jessie Ramsay, as La Fille du Tambour Major, looked very pretty, and acted her part well; her voice is pleasant, but was hardly big enough for the theatre. Miss Jennie Opie made a very handsome Duchess Della Volta, gowned first in a beautiful white satin ball dress, trimmed with deep yellow roses, and afterwards in a most becoming russet brown velvet riding habit, and large brown velvet hat, with which ostrich plume. Miss Maud Thornton as Griolet, the little drummer boy, acted with great vivacity and abandon. She looked very taking in her drummer-boy costume, and her drum solo was much appreciated. She has a good voice, but had very few opportunities in which to display it. Mr. Con Burrow made a rollicking Tambour Major, his sallies being greeted with much laughter. Mr. George Majeroni, as the Duc Della Volta, and Mr. John Wallace, as the Marquis Bambini, were also very amusing. The staging was excellent, the scenery having been specially painted by Mr. Rege Robins; the costumes were designed by Mr. T.J. Jackson. A full orchestra was conducted by Mr. Edward Hanstein; the whole production being under the direction of Mr. A. M’Nicol Turner.’
(Rowena, ‘Melbourne Lady’s Letter,’ The Town and Country Journal, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Wednesday, 26 April 1905, p. 40b)

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