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Article

Roland J. Vázquez

(de)

(b Portugal, 1836; d Madrid, May 21, 1886). Spanish impresario, actor and singer. He first became popular in comic roles at theTeatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid. In 1866 he formed his own company, the Bufos Madrileños, modelled on Offenbach’s Bouffes-Parisiens. It was an instant success. By 1870 he had begun a second company in Barcelona. In addition to operettas by Offenbach and Lecocq, Arderíus staged new works by Spanish composers, including F. A. Barbieri and P. J. E. Arrieta.The dance routines and brief costumes of the female chorus were indispensable to the appeal of the Bufos, and were among the features that incited critics to condemn the genre as frivolous and a hindrance to the development of serious opera in Spanish. By the beginning of 1873 the company’s popularity had ended, and Arderíus had become director at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Thereafter he championed the cause of national opera, attempting, without success, to launch a Spanish opera series in ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Portsmouth, NH, Nov 14, 1833; d Jamaica Plains, MA, Dec 16, 1917). American actor and singer. He began performing in amateur theatricals and concerts while working as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He became professional in 1865 but did not gain widespread recognition until he was recruited by the Boston Ideal Opera Company in 1879 (he was one of its original members). When the group was later reorganized as the Bostonians Barnabee was elected one of its officers; he remained with the company for the rest of its existence and the rest of his career. His most celebrated role was the Sheriff of Nottingham, which he created in the operetta Robin Hood by De Koven and H.B. Smith (1891), and which he sang more than 2000 times. His other notable roles included Sir Joseph Porter in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Izzet Pasha in Franz von Suppé’s ...

Article

Bertil H. van Boer

(b Stockholm, Aug 10, 1757; d Vaxhälla, March 17, 1810). Swedish actor, singer and librettist . He made his début as an actor as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ play Le barbier de Séville in 1785 at the New Swedish Theatre, where he became well known for his comic roles and original opera librettos, mostly written for Carl Stenborg’s comic opera. In 1790 he became an administrator at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, a position he held until after Gustavus III’s assassination in 1792. In 1794 he turned to publishing in the provincial town of Linköping. During his career he supplied the texts for more than 65 one-act comedies with music, including the Singspiels Födelsedagen (‘The Birthday’, 1790), Fricorpsen eller Dalkarlarne (‘The Free Corps or Men from Dalacarlia’, 1788) and Marknaden (‘The Market Place’, 1792), all with music by Kraus. His tenor voice was considered expressive but fairly weak; his main talent as an actor lay in his satirical portrayals of figures such as Abbé Vogler in the first of the operas named above....

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Stanstead, Quebec, ?1860; d Boston, MA, Sept 22, 1948). American actor and singer of Canadian birth. He was brought up in Vermont, and later moved to St. Paul, where he studied singing. He achieved fame when he joined the Bostonians, particularly for his performance as Will Scarlet in the operetta ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Boston, MA, Jan 6, 1859; d Atlantic City, NJ, Feb 25, 1943). American comedian and singer. Following his debut in Under the Gaslight in his hometown at the age of ten, he came under the tutelage of the pantomimist James S. Maffitt. Dixey’s New York debut role was half of the heifer in the Manhattan premiere of E.E. Rice’s popular musical burlesque Evangeline (1874). He played increasingly more important comic parts in contemporary lyric pieces before he achieved stardom as the statue brought to life in Adonis (1884). This musical was the first play in Broadway’s history to run for more than 500 consecutive performances; women flocked to gape at Dixey’s handsome face and attractive figure, and all sorts of playgoers returned to laugh at his sly interpretation of the miraculous statue, his spoof of Henry Irving, his hilarious routine in drag, and other comic highpoints. The show marked the apogee of his career, for although several other musicals were written especially for him, including ...

Article

Krystyn R. Moon

[Frank Lee; Lee Tung Fook; Lee Sing]

(b Watsonville, CA, 1875; d Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 1966). American singer, vaudevillian, and film actor. Lee was a Chinese American music pioneer who helped to open the vaudeville stage to other Asian American performers. He began to study voice and music theory in 1897, relatively late in life, with Margaret Blake Alverson, a prominent music teacher in the Bay Area. After eight years of studying and performing in local churches, he received his first vaudeville contract to sing at the Empire Theater in Oakland, California in January 1905. For the next 14 years, he toured the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Belgium. Based on theater reviews and correspondence with his music teacher, it is clear that Lee’s act consisted of light operatic and popular songs as well as ethnic send-ups, which included Irish, Scottish, and Chinese caricatures. Of particular significance were his Chinese numbers, in which he made fun of stereotypes of Chinese immigrants and wore elaborate costumes. His Scottish routines, which were based on Harry Lauder’s Highlander caricature, were also popular. With the decline of vaudeville, Lee moved in the late 1920s or early 1930s to Hollywood where he performed minor and walk-on roles in at least 39 films....

Article

Leon Berger

(b London, Dec 9, 1847; d Folkestone, March 1, 1912). English actor, singer, composer and writer, father of George Grossmith. He was a courtroom reporter and comic recitalist, like his father of the same name, before becoming a drawing-room entertainer: he was sometimes called ‘G.G. II’, to distinguish him from his father, or ‘G.G.’. He began a 12-year association with the Gilbert and Sullivan Savoy operas when he made his stage début in the title role of The Sorcerer in 1877. Of slight stature, with excellent diction, dapper footwork and a light comic touch, he created what became known as the patter parts or the ‘Grossmith roles’. In 1889 he resumed his lucrative Humorous and Musical Recitals, touring in England and America.

According to contemporary accounts he was not much of a singer, but his own songs display a wider tessitura than the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory suggests. He was the author of and often a performer in eight operettas, nearly 100 musical sketches and some 400 songs and piano pieces. This prolific song output was mostly in a patter style, with an infectious melody and a syllabic setting for fast delivery: a third of them were published and survive, but his manuscripts along with his performing librettos from the Savoy operas were destroyed in World War II. His songs are couched in quotidian detail: London streets and their surly cab drivers and bus conductors, seedy lodging houses, obstreperous babies, and fashionable dances as in ...

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

[Cannon, Anthony J. ]

(b Worcester, MA, July 25, 1855; d Worcester, MA, Nov 4, 1891). American actor and singer. A mischievous child, he was placed at age 11 by his parents in the Lyman School, a reform school, in an effort to control him. He rebelled and ran away to Boston, where he worked odd jobs until a publican who employed him noticed his singing skills. He subsequently worked on the periphery of the theatrical world for a number of years as a boy soprano, billed as “Master Antonio.” In 1870 Hart was in Chicago where, by chance, he met Edward Green Harrigan, a minstrel performer ten years his senior. Harrigan was impressed by Hart’s falsetto singing voice and the two teamed up as Harrigan and Hart.

Hart made the most of his ability to sing falsetto in the duo’s sketches and songs, frequently appearing as a female character. He made both a convincing and attractive female partner for Harrigan, although he was also capable of playing the more grotesque comic female types. Female impersonation was common in minstrelsy, although after the Civil War the character type emphasized beauty and fashion to a greater extent than before the conflict. Hart portrayed a range of characters, both male and female....

Article

Susan L. Porter

(b nr Manchester, England, cJune 7, 1765; d nr Bladensburg, MD, Sept 12, 1805). Actor, singer, and theatrical manager of English birth. He began his career in 1782 with the Tate Wilkinson troupe in York; by 1790 he was playing leading roles in tragedy, comedy, and comic opera at the major English provincial theaters. He made his debut in the United States on 26 September 1792 with the Old American Company in Philadelphia, together with his second wife, Frances Hodgkinson (née Brett) (b England, 1771; d Philadelphia, PA, 27 Sept 1803). In addition to his varied acting roles and his notable popularity with audiences, Hodgkinson frequently sang in concert. He was credited with “a fine taste for music” and a voice that was “powerful, melodious, variable, and of immense compass” (Mirror of Taste and Dramatic Censor, i/3, 1810); he was also said to be proficient on the violin and the flute. He became manager of the Old American Company in ...

Article

Gillian M. Rodger

(Jane )

(b Columbus, OH, March 16, 1889; d Beverly Hills, CA, Feb 26, 1956). American actress, singer, songwriter, and entertainer. Her stage career began when she was just a child and was promoted tirelessly by her mother, Jennie Cockrell Bierbower, a woman whose own theatrical aspirations had been thwarted. Janis’s first roles on the stage were with the Ohio Valentine Stock Company in 1897. Her career in vaudeville lasted into the 1920s, and the format of her act varied little. She opened with a song and then moved through imitations of popular stars of the period; her imitations varied from year to year and included a wide range of celebrities including Weber and Fields, Lillian Russell, Pat Rooney, Anna Held, Ethel Barrymore, Alla Nazimova, Fanny Brice, and George M. Cohan. By the 1920s she had begun to move into musical comedy and revue.

Janis was a tireless supporter of the troops during World War I and traveled to France and England to entertain them. She found equal popularity with English and French audiences. After her mother’s death in ...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

(b Jacksonville, FL, Aug 11, 1873; d New York, NY, Nov 11, 1954). American composer, lyricist, vocalist, actor, theatrical director, and educator, brother of james weldon Johnson . He was born to James Johnson, a freeman from Virginia, and Helen Louise [née Dillett] Johnson, born free in Nassau, the Bahamas. His mother, a trained singer and educator, began teaching Johnson piano when he was four. From 1890 to 1896 Johnson studied music at the New England Conservatory. He then performed in John W. Isham’s Oriental America, which whetted his appetite for theater. After returning to Jacksonville (spring 1897), he taught music privately and was supervisor of music for Jacksonville public schools (1896–9). He was also choirmaster and organist at a large Baptist church and taught music at the Baptist Academy. Johnson’s earliest compositions, with his brother as lyricist, date from this time.

In summer 1899 the Johnson brothers went to New York hoping to get their operetta ...

Article

Irmlind Capelle and John Warrack

(b Berlin, Oct 23, 1801; d Berlin, Jan 21, 1851). German composer, actor and singer. From the mid-1830s he composed comic operas with spoken dialogue, adapting the opéra comique genre which had been very popular in Germany as well as France in the early 19th century. His operas were particularly successful in German theatres, less so in French- and English-speaking countries. While this distinction still holds good, Lortzing remains a frequently performed operatic composer on the German stage.

Irmlind Capelle

The composer’s father, Johann Gottlieb Lortzing (b Berlin, 12 May 1776; d Leipzig, 2 Dec 1841), was a leather merchant. His mother, Charlotte Sophie, née Seidel (b Berlin, 6 April 1780; d Vienna, 8 Dec 1846), was descended from a French émigré family. Albert’s parents took a great interest in the theatre and performed with the amateur dramatic company Urania, from which many professional actors had graduated. (Lortzing composed a festive piece in ...

Article

Peter Branscombe

( Eduard Ambrosius )

( b Vienna, Dec 7, 1801; d Graz, May 25, 1862). Austrian playwright, actor, director and singer . He studied law at the University of Vienna (1817–22), but left without a degree in order to devote himself to singing. At the age of 17 he had sung solo bass in a public performance of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, and on 24 August 1822 he made his début as Sarastro at the Court Opera (Kärntnertortheater). He was a member of the company until August 1823, singing ten roles in works by Paer, Rossini, Grétry, Gyrowetz and others, including Don Fernando in Fidelio. He then joined the German Theatre at Amsterdam, where in two years he built up his repertory to include Kaspar and Ottokar in Der Freischütz, Publius (and later Annius) in La clemenza di Tito, Masetto (and later Don Giovanni), Papageno, Pizarro, Adam in Schenk’s Der Dorfbarbier, and numerous Rossini roles. Towards the end of his Dutch engagement comic character parts begin to figure prominently, a tendency increasingly marked during his ...

Article

John Koegel

[Samaniego, José Ramón Gil ]

(b Durango, Mexico, Feb 6, 1899; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 30, 1968). Film actor and singer of Mexican birth. He moved to Southern California with his family during the Mexican Revolution in the later 1910s, and worked in Hollywood as an extra in such silent films as Cecil B. De Mille’s 1916 epi c Joan the Woman (with Metropolitan Opera star Geraldine Farrar). By the early 1920s he was starring in high-budget films such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) and Scaramouche (1923). In the later 1920s, as one of MGM’s biggest stars, he appeared as the romantic lead in a series of dramas and comedies, notably in Ben Hur (1925) and Ernst Lubitsch’s silent version of The Student Prince (1927). He also performed as a singer and dancer in three early MGM film musicals by the composer-lyricist team of Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey: ...

Article

Jewel A. Smith

(b Hamburg, Germany, March 19, 1827; d after 1895). American singer, actor, and teacher of German birth. At the age of 16 he became an orchestral member, playing violin under Karl Krebs and Richard Wagner. He arrived in New York City in 1848 as a member of Josef Gungl’s noted band. For four or five years after Gungl returned to Europe, Rudolphsen was a member of the Italian Opera Orchestra, New York, directed by Max Maretzek. Concurrently he studied singing, giving his début in 1853 at Niblo’s Garden, New York, in Anna Bishop’s English Opera Company. He concertized extensively throughout the United States, attaining a brilliant vocal career. In 1862 he was recruited by the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston to sing in Messiah and then settled in Boston, becoming highly regarded as a teacher and singer. Around 1875 he began touring again, accompanying Camilla Urso in her concerts in the United States. In ...

Article

Peter Branscombe

(b Vienna, July 20, 1779; d Vienna, Nov 6, 1835). Austrian actor, singer and composer. He was a treble, and later a bass, chorister at the Schottenstift in Vienna; Eybler and Franz Volkert were among his music teachers. At about the same time he was offered posts as a bass in the Esterházy musical establishment and at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt in Vienna. He chose the latter, and despite his rather small, misshapen figure he quickly established himself as a comic actor and singer after a successful début in December 1801. From 1804 he began to figure as a composer too (Baron Barfuss, by Perinet), supplying some 30 or 40 scores for farces, parodies and pantomimes, some of them enjoying a long and distinguished life. In 1806 he was appointed a solo singer at the Hofkapelle; such was the urbanity of Vienna’s cultural life that nothing untoward was felt about the city’s leading comic actor (which Schuster had by then become) being also employed as singer in the imperial and royal chapel, and in the Stephansdom. A notable date in his career was ...

Article

Peter Branscombe

(b Vienna, 1806; d Prague, Feb 24, 1863). Austrian composer, actor and singer. The experience of taking part in a performance of Rossini’s Mosé at the Theater an der Wien determined him to take up music as a career. He studied singing at Count Palffy’s conservatory, and in 1824 went to Graz (and later to Linz and Zagreb) to gain experience. Illness cost him his fine and expressive singing voice in 1829 and he began to take comic parts in plays. After two years in the provinces he was engaged at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt after a successful guest appearance in 1831, soon making a name for himself not only as a skilful comic actor but as the composer of music for a long line of farces and parodies. In 1831 he married Therese (Josephine) Palmer, widow of his former director, who as a 13-year-old girl had created the role of Cinderella in Isouard’s ...

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Chelsea, London, bap. July 29, 1755; d London, July 6, 1805). English actor and singer . As a boy he sang at St Paul’s and in the London pleasure gardens. He worked for several years in the north of England in Wilkinson’s company before making his Drury Lane début as Ralph in The Maid of the Mill (1780). Tall and thin with a lugubrious face, he became a popular comic actor; Lamb wrote that ‘Shakespeare foresaw him, when he framed his fools and jesters’. Although his adult voice was not of fine quality his musical ability and comic genius led Storace and Kelly to create many roles for him. His greatest success was the barber-factotum Dicky Gossip in Storace’s My Grandmother (1793). His published compositions include a set of sonatas, six glees and a number of songs, mainly sentimental ballads.

BDA DNB (J. Kennedy...

Article

Patrick Huber

[James Gideon ]

(b Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, GA, June 6, 1885; d Dacula, GA, May 13, 1960). American fiddler, singer, comedian, and hillbilly string band leader. He was a well-known entertainer in north Georgia during the early 20th century, famous for his outrageous comic antics, old-time fiddling, and trick singing. He competed regularly at Atlanta’s annual Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association conventions and won the state fiddling championship in 1928. In 1924, Columbia A&R man Frank B. Walker recruited Tanner and his sometime musical partner, the blind Atlanta street singer and guitarist Riley Puckett, to make some of the earliest recordings of what soon came to be called hillbilly music.

In 1926, Walker assembled a studio group around Tanner called the Skillet Lickers, whose other regular members consisted of guitarist and lead singer Puckett, fiddler Clayton McMichen, and banjoist Fate Norris. The band’s first release, “Bully of the Town”/ “Pass around the Bottle and We’ll all Take a Drink,” recorded in ...

Article

Ann Charters

revised by Jonas Westover

[Egbert Austin ]

(b Nassau, Bahamas, Nov 12, 1874; d New York, NY, March 4, 1922). American Comedian, actor, and singer. In 1885 he moved with his parents from the West Indies to California. Williams joined a traveling minstrel show in San Francisco in 1893 and shortly afterwards joined with another black singer, george Walker (i) , to form a vaudeville comedy act. They appeared in New York in a musical farce by Victor Herbert, The Gold Bug, in 1896; it closed after only a few performances, but Williams and Walker joined the music-hall circuit as blackface singers and dancers in a comedy routine, Williams playing the awkward, bumbling clown and Walker the arrogant, flamboyant dandy. Although Williams wore the makeup of blackface, he shaped a unique comic personality behind the “coon” stereotype, projecting a hard-luck character—known as the “Jonah man”—wryly amused by his own misfortune. In 1898 Williams and Walker appeared in ...