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FOOTLIGHT NOTES
no. 597

updated
Saturday, 21 February 2009

FOOTLIGHT NOTES
images of theatre and other popular entertainment
1850s-1920s


a cabinet photograph of Clara Wieland (fl. 1890s),
English music hall comedienne, actress and dancer,
autographed for the celebrated London perruquier and costumier Willie Clarkson (1865-1934)

(photo: Warwick Brookes, 350 Oxford Road, Manchester, England, circa 1896)

'Clara Wieland, the celebrated serpentine dancer, has been associated with the stage from the time she began to think. She has traveled with her father [W.H. Wieland, 1852?-1922], and his invention, the celebrated ''Zeo'' [i.e. Adelaide Wieland, the trapeze artist known as Zaeo] all over the continent of Europe and into Egypt, and wherever a length stay was made Clara was placed under the best procurable master of music, singing, acting, mime and dancing. She is an excellent linguist and remarkably well informed. Her varied training has been invaluable in her career, for French, Italian, and even Arabic, came to her with the facility of her mother tongue, which explains the perfect accent she gives to the foreign songs that form so piquant an attraction in her vocal selection. At the time she was born her father had just left the Crystal and Alexandra Palaces, London, where he has managed the amusements for years, and had gone to the continent with his circus, and the circus life came as almost part of herself. Entering into its excitement, she became an efficient haute ecole equestrienne. Her love for singing, however, prevailed, and her father indulged her fancies and carefully instructed her. When she was capable she made her first appearance before the public at the Empire [Leicester Square], London, in June, 1893, by creating a new prismatic serpentine dance. For five years she exhibited at the Aquarium [Westminster, London], where she produced her mirror dance. After this she was engaged as a vocalist at the Empire, where she remained sixty-nine weeks. A short engagement in the variety halls followed, ending with the Palace theater [Cambridge Circus, London], where she remained until the night before she sailed for America.'
(The Gazette, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Wednesday, 25 December 1895, p. 4c/d)

'CLARA WIELAND.
'A Beautiful Young Actress Who Has Come Into Prominence Recently.
'In the cast of the ill fated imported London monstrosity Gentleman Joe, which was recently seen in New York [at Henry Miner's Firth Avenue Theatre, 6 January 1896, for ten performances, with M.B. Curtis in the title role, a part created in London by Arthur Roberts; and with a different cast at the Bijou Theatre, 29 February 1896, for 48 performances, with James T. Powers in the title role, and Clara Wieland as Emma, a part created in London by Kitty Loftus] and a few - a very few - of the larger cities, there was a young woman who at once attracted the attention of the dramatic critics. Columns were devoted to descriptions of her beautiful face and figure and her refreshingly original and thoroughly refined methods. She appeared to be a natural born comedienne and was hailed as one of the rapidly rising lights of comic opera and travesty. The name of the young woman was Clara Wieland, and she was by no means a newcomer or a discovery of the New York critics, for her ability had long been recognized in almost every other large city in the United States.
'Miss Wieland is an English girl. Her father was for many years the proprietor of a large circus which spent the greater portion of each year in London. His daughter early displayed a marked inclination for the stage and no obstacle was put in her way. While she was still a little girl her father went on an extended tour of foreign countries with his circus, spending a long time in Egypt. Miss Wieland had by this time shown that she was possessed of an exceptionally good voice of rather light caliber, and at each place visited she was put under the care of the best vocal instructors to be had. Her dancing lessons were also faithfully kept up.
'Later on came a course of instruction in the musical centers of France and Italy, and then Miss Wieland was ready to make her debut. This occurred less than four years ago at a prominent London music hall, where she scored a tremendous hit and was at once engaged for a certain number of weeks each year for three years. Her popularity with the habitues continued to increase, however, and her original engagement, which was intended to last only a month or so, was prolonged until she had been at the music hall for 68 weeks uninterruptedly. She was then the rage and her services were constantly in demand.
'A firm of American managers brought her over to this country, where she duplicated her success in the vaudevilles. Latterly she has appeared in burlesques of the class of Gentleman Joe, and it is rumored that she will probably be one of the leading members of the cast of a prominent comic opera organization next season. Miss Wieland sings as well as she dancers and acts as well as she does either. The fact that she is bewitchingly pretty and intensely ''chic'' is naturally not a drawback to her future success, which is as certain as anything can be which has not actually occurred.'
(Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Thursday, 4 June 1896, p. 6b)

Tivoli music hall, London
'Since our last visit Miss Clara Wieland has considerably improved her impersonations of prominent musical composers, a form of entertainment that Biondi made popular at the same house. The spectacle of a charming young lady in short skirts and decolletée bodice conducting an orchestra is a somewhat curious one, but there can be no doubt of the artist's cleverness, whatever we may think as to the reasonableness of its display. We prefer the fair Clara in her chic and animated rendering of a chanson from La Femme Narcisse, entitled ''Ca fait toujour plaisir,'' or her mimicry of a plantation Negro in the song ''That high-born gal of mine,'' which has been stamped in this country with the hallmark of popularity by Mr Eugene Stratton.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 18 September 1897, p. 18a)

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