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Singers (M - S)

(Please note that these pages are still under construction)

This section also includes people who were primarily actors but fulfilled either non singing roles, which were sometimes included in English opera of this era, or in roles that did not make great demands on vocal ability.

An article on the changing ways that female singers were titled in the first half of the 19th century can be found here

A - F           G - L             M - S             T - Z 


Melton, Miss
According to Allston Brown [1], she was the sister of Charles Melton Walcot, comic writer and actor. Thus she seems to have used "Melton", a family name, as her stage name. She was a pupil of the bass singer Carlo Rovedino and probably made her first public appearance at one of his concerts in the Argyll Rooms on May 13, 1828 [2]. According to the Norfolk Chronicle (Feb. 28, 1829), she first appeared at the theatre in Norwich on February 25, 1829 and this may well have been her stage debut. In the June she moved on to the Haymarket in London, then to Dublin in 1831 and 1832 and then two years touring the provinces before becoming part of John Braham's St James's troupe in 1835, which was wrongly billed as her London debut. In 1837, she toured the US as part of the Keeley's company and then stayed there for many years, being joined after a few years by her brother, Charles.  According to Allston Brown[2], she married and retired in the early 1840s and by 1861 was living in Ireland. In fact, she continued to perform in the U.S. and returned to London and the St James's in 1845. By 1847 she was back in New York and advertising for students under her married name of Mrs McKenna. However, she did not completely leave the stage as the Sunday Dispatch (Apr. 4, 1852) wrote that she was "a truly valuable acquisition" to the company at Niblo's in New York but it looks like it might just have been for the season. There seems little news of her after this time so perhaps that was when she retired to Ireland.
[1] F. Allston Brown, History of the American stage. (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1870), p.243.
[2] Morning Post (May 15, 1828)

Novello, Cecilia

Novello, Clara

Parry, John Orlando (1810-1879)
Born in London, he was of Welsh parentage. After an early broad musical training and stage appearances while still a boy, he concentrated on singing receiving some training from the well known bass, Lablache. In the 1830s he accompanied Liszt and Thalberg on their British tours. After some success in serious opera he turned to concert work and became noted as a comic entertainer. He also composed a wide range of works. There are several books and articles on him, including  by Peter Sheppard Skærved, see here , Kurt Gänzl, Victorian Vocalists (London: Routledge, 2018,  p. 443- 458) and Janet Snowman, John Orlando Parry and the Theatre of London (London: self publish, 2010).  

Phillips, Henry (1801 - 1876)

   Phillips was the leading English bass of his day. His father was an actor and Henry's career  started early as a boy soprano maturing later into a bass. From then on he was a frequent presence in concerts, oratorios and operas, premiering several of the latter including Balfe's The Maid of Artois and Wallace's Maritana. He did little further opera after the latter but continued his concert work almost up until his death in 1876, partly out of necessity after he had been declared bankrupt in 1866. Phillips wrote an autobiography, Musical and Personal Recollections during Half a Century (London:  Charles J. Skeet, 1864). Kurt Gänzl, Victorian Vocalists (London: Routledge, 2018,  p. 507-535) has a detailed chapter on him. Phillips

Poole, Elizabeth

Rainforth, Elizabeth (1814-1877)

   Rainforth's first professional operatic was at the St James's Theatre in 1835 after which she became a familiar presence in English opera over the next two decades. In 1843, she created the role of Arline in Michael William Balfe's The Bohemian Girl, the most successful English opera of the 19th century. Mrs Cornwall (Margaret) Baron Wilson in her book, Our Actresses. Volume 2 (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1844, p 160), wrote that "although she never astonishes or electrifies, yet she always pleases and generally delights - in a word, she is a most charming English singer". Robin Legge in the Dictionary of National Biography (Lee, Sidney (ed.), London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1896, p.179) wrote that she was "an admirable singer, but lacked sufficient power to place her in the foremost rank of great sopranos". She appeared in concerts and oratorios, giving the first performance of Mendelssohn's Hear My prayer in London in 1845. On occasion, she accompanied herself on the piano and composed the accompaniment to at least one song. After her retirement from the public performance in 1859, she taught singing for some years. Elizabeth Rainforth

Romer, Emma (1814-1868)

   Romer came from a theatrical family, including her brother Frank, composer of Fridolin. She received training from John Elliott and possible Sir George Smart.  Her first appearance was as Clara in Sheridan's The Duenna at Covent Garden in October 1830. She had a large voice, which was a considerable asset given the size of Covent Garden and Drury Lane. In the 1830s she took many leading roles including the premieres of Loder's Nourjahad (1834), Barnett's The Mountain Sylph (1834) and Fair Rosamund (1837). She took over from Maria Malibran in Balfe's The Maid of Artois after Malibran's untimely death and starred in several English versions of continental operas.  Her success carried on through the 1840s and into the early 1850s, including the lead in Wallace's Maritana (1845). In 1853, she then took over as manager of the Surrey Theatre for three seasons of English and continental opera. She retired after her husband's death in 1863. Romer was one of the first women to continue to use her maiden name on stage after marriage, see here for more on how 19th century female singers titled themselves.  
National Portrait  Gallery    

Shirreff, Jane

Strickland, Robert 1797(?) - 1845
Described in his obituary in the ILN (May 24, 1845) as an eminent comedian who concentrated on the "representation of old men of the jovial, or blustering class:- as Falstaff,...". The major part of his career was spent at the Haymarket Theatre. 

Smith, Kitty (1817? - 1879?), Julia (1819? - 1881) and Maria (? - 1853)

   These sisters were the nieces of the celebrated earlier 19th century singer, Kitty Stephens. The two oldest were pupils of Signor Liverati, a well known London musician. Their careers appeared to have started in 1834 with concerts and opera in several provincial cities as well as Dublin. Their first London appearances were at the St James's Theatre in September 1836. Julia seems to have made the greater impression. After the collapse of John Braham's management of the St. James's Theatre in June 1838, they once again started to tour the provinces, over the years moving more to concert work. In 1847, Kitty married an architect, Nehemiah Stevens, and retired from the stage. The youngest daughter, Maria, then joined forces with Julia for a few years. Maria died in 1853 and, soon after, Julia went to Cheltenham where she and her brother, Frederick, taught singing and piano.
Julia and Kitty, National Portrait Gallery           

Stretton, George (1810? - ?)
Stretton was a bass singer who entered the Royal Academy in 1830. He sang in all the main opera houses in London as well as abroad. His best known role was as Devilshoof in the premiere of Balfe's The Bohemian Girl (1843).   In 1848, he was singing at the Theatre Royal, Dublin. He went to the US as part of the Pyne/Harrison company's tour of 1855/56 and took the lead role in the premiere of George Bristow's Rip Van Winkle in New York in 1855. He stayed on in the US until, at least, the end of 1857 after Pyne/Harrison had returned to the UK.


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