Posts Tagged ‘J.C. Williamson’


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)


Nora Delany, Irish-born English variety and revue actress and singer and pantomime principal boy

April 5, 2014

Nora Delany (1887-1977), Irish-born English variety and revue actress and singer and pantomime principal boy
(photo: J.P. Bamber, Liverpool, circa 1914)

Nora Delany (Annie Leonora Delany) was the elder daughter of George Delany (1832-1895) and his common-law wife, Alice Ann May (1864-1914). Her first marriage was on 7 October 1911 at St. Saviour’s Church, Paddington, to the theatrical manager, Benjamin Gilles Maclachlan, a widower. Following his death at the age of 38 in 1916, Miss Delany is said to have married the journalist William Maxwell (1862?-1928), who received a knighthood in the New Year’s honours list of 1919. In fact, they were never married and their relationship was over by the time he married his ‘third’ wife in 1924. In 1932 Nora Delany (Mrs Maclachlan) married Prince Littler (1901-1973), the theatrical impresario.

For further information regarding Nora Delany’s father and family, see M.J. Delany, ‘William Delany (1832-1895) of Durrow, Queen’s County,’ Genealogical Society of Ireland, vol. 13, Dublin, 2012, p. 56.

* * * * *

‘Nora Delany, a stately young brunette, with a joyous look in her smiling brown eyes, has arrived her with her friend, Audrey Thacker, in readiness for Saturday afternoon’s production of Babes in the Wood. Therein the new beauty-actress will figure as principal boy. These two artists travelled separately. Otherwise the entire J.C. Williamson Company, which appeared in Adelaide last Saturday, occupied a special train to the number of 82 persons, reaching Sydney at 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday.
‘Miss Delany (Lady Maxwell) is the wife of Sir William Maxwell, K.B.E., a journalist who represented the London ”Standard” during the Commonwealth celebrations of 1901, when he was attached to the Duke and Duchess of York’s party. Since then he has become identified with financial affairs in London, where he is the director of several companies. Before he settled in the metropolis, however, Lady Maxwell visited India, China, Japan, Ceylon, Arabia, and the United States with him, and one of her reasons for joining the present theatrical combination was to gratify her love of travelling and to see the country of which her husband so often spoke with enthusiasm.
‘Miss Delany was born at Abbeyleix, Queen’s County, but she left Ireland during her early school days, and lived for eight years in Manchester. She began her state career by joining the chorus of Dick Whittington at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, in 1910 [sic: it was actually Christmas, 1908], and was also in the original production of The Arcadians in London, before realising that she must discover some opportunity for individual action to justify her own faith in herself. The ambitious girl did this by securing a music hall engagement, and in vaudeville quickly made a name as ”The Girl in Uniform,” spirited songs of a more or less martial character roving the source of her first great successes.
”’I studied under Winslow Hall, a singing teacher of distinction in London,” remarked the actress at her Elizabeth Bay flat yesterday, ”and it was a great pleasure to me to meet him and his wife once more in Adelaide, where he is a professor at the Elder Conservatorium. His wife, Georgina Delmar, was principal boy when I made my start at Croydon, was also one of the many Carmens with the Carl Rosa Co., and I hear that she sang Delilah in the first production in Australia of Saint-Saens’ Biblical opera by the Royal Philharmonic Society of Sydney. Really, I am a trained contralto, but the voice is not much used in these revue pieces, and, in fact, it is almost a special art to do without it whilst articulating distinctly. I am still nominally engaged in vaudeville, as I am under ten years’ contract to Mr. Charles Gulliver, and I am mulcted in a penalty throughout my absence. For this reason I shall sail for home as early as I can in August, after completing the New Zealand tour.”
(The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Thursday, 16 March 1922, p. 6e)

A copy of the contract between J.C. Williamson Ltd and Nora Delany, signed on 26 January 1921, relating to the latter’s engagement to play Principal Boy in pantomime in Australia and New Zealand during the 1921-1922 season, is in the theatre collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, museum number: S1193-2012.


January 17, 2013

a carte de visit photograph of Blanche Rosavella (1853-1898), American soprano
(photo: The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co Ltd, London, circa 1876)

‘American actors are in force in London at the present time. There is ”Rip Van Winkle” Jefferson, as he is popularly called, who is already a public favourite, and Mr. Williamson, at the Adelphi, in Struck Oil, seems quite as likely to take a good position as a comedian. The new prima donna at Covent Garden is also an American lady, although not recognisable as such under her acting title of Mdlle. Blanche Rosavella. She is the daughter of an American Senator, the Hon. William Tucker, and her appearance in La Traviata was her first essay upon any stage. She has youth, beauty, accomplishments, and marvellous self-possession; qualities which are a sure passport to fame and favour. She received a most enthusiastic welcome, and Mr. [Frederick] Gye [the younger] may be fairly congratulated upon having secured a soprano singer of the very highest order.’
(The York Herald, York, England, Saturday, 22 April 1876, p. 5f)