Clara St. Casse (b. 1841),
English actress and singer
'This talented young actress was born at Bridgewater in the year 1841. At a very early age she manifested a remarkable taste for music, and evinced considerable vocal powers. Her parents secured the assistance of a teacher of ability, who instructed her in singing, the pianoforte, and the guitar. At the age of seven years she acquired considerable skill on both instruments, and was able to sing music at sight. As her voice became developed it proved to be one of power, certainty, and sweetness. Her musical abilities becoming known to the manager of the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, that gentleman became anxious to secure her services. He offered her an engagement for twenty nights to sing ballads between the pieces. Accordingly she made her first appearance upon the stage at Newcastle in November, 1852, while she was in her eleventh year. The principal piece of the evening was Macbeth, in which Miss Glynn [i.e. Isabella Glyn] personated the leading female character. After the play Miss Clara St. Casse sang the difficult song of ''The Soldier Tired'' [by Arne]. Her reception was very encouraging, the favour of the audience being won as much by the childlike appearance of the singer as by the pleasing quality of her voice and finished style of vocalisation. She sang nightly for several weeks, and always with success. She then went to Edinburgh and fulfilled a short engagement at the Theatre Royal. Thence she went to Bath and Bristol. One of the local papers described her as ''a very simple childlike little girls, exhibiting few of those airs and graces which usually accompany precocity; but, with the simplicity of deportment becoming eleven years of age, she possesses greater maturity of style combined with musical knowledge than is usually found in singers of double her age. Her tones are clear, round, and belllike, her range considerable, and her power great; while the artlessness of her style comes into marked and effective contrast with the artistic precision with which she executes the music of her various songs.'' While at Bristol Miss Clara St. Casse made her first appearance as an actress in a piece written expressly for her, and founded upon Mrs. Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was produced at the Theatre Royal on Monday, March 28, 1853, under the title of Eva's Home; or, the Happy Days of Uncle Tom. The drama achieved a great success, and was frequently repeated. Miss St. Casse's representation of the gentle Eva was generally pronounced to be a most chase and finished performance. Before leaving Bristol Miss St. Casse added several new characters to her répertoire - among others, Lisette, in The Swiss Cottage [i.e. A.H. Bayley's vaudeville, The Swiss Cottage; or, Why Don't She Marry?, first produced at Drury Lane, 15 January 1852]; Julie, in the drama of that name written for her; Gertrude, in The Loan of a Lover [a vaudeville by J.R. Planché, first produced at the Olympic, London, 29 September 1834], &c. Her next engagement was at the Theatre Royal, Sheffield, where she played her favourite character of Eva St. Clare upwards of forty consecutive nights. After fulfilling short engagements in Wolverhampton, Newport, Exeter, Devonport, Barnstaple, Plymouth, and other towns, she came to London and accepted a lengthened starring engagement [in Eva's Home; or, the Happy Days of Uncle Tom] at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton. This was in 1854, before she had attained her thirteenth year. Having made another provincial tour Miss Clara St. Casse returned to the metropolis, and appeared at the Olympic Theatre, in December, 1856, as Cupid, in Mr. Planché's extravaganza of Young and Handsome [first produced there, 26 October 1856]. This piece was very successful, as also was Miss Clara St. Casse in the rôle allotted to her. As soon as her engagement at the Olympic Theatre was concluded she joined the operatic troupe under Mr. [Fred] Kingsbury, including Miss Fanny Huddart, Mr. Henry Haigh, &c. While attached to this company she successfully appeared as Leonora, in Il Trovatore; Maritana, in Wallace's opera of that name; Arline, in Balfe's Bohemian Girl; Amina, in La Sonnambula, &c.
'ST. JAMES'S THEATRE. - Mr. William Brough's graceful extravaganza, Endymion, originally produced at this house under the management of Mr. Alfred Wigan, has been revived with great splendour. The picture of Mount Latmost, in which Miss Herbert as Diana descends in her cresent to visit the sleeping youth, is one of the most beautiful that has been witnessed, and admirably serves to develop the genius of Miss Herbert for graceful attitude and gesticulation. Indeed, the scenery throughout is exquisite, and entitles Mr. Lloyds to a high place among the now numerous band of painters who have brought stage decorations to such a high degree of perfection. Endymion is played by Miss Rosina Ranoe, a promising novice of agreeable appearance; and as Cupid, Miss Clara St. Casse, an established favourite at St. James's, and one of the very best of burlesque singers, has re-appeared to be welcomed with enthusiasm. Mr. Brough's ingenious combination of the fable of Actæon with that of Endymion reveals a new talent in Mr. Charles, whose execution of the ''Jockey Hornpipe'' almost amounts to a gymnastic feat and commands an undisputed encore. The lack of vis comica can scarcely be considered a fault in an extravaganza which so poetically embodies one of the most beautiful legends connected with the mythology of ancient Greece. Those who have seen the two exquisite tableaux in which the elegant figure of Miss Herbert first descents to Endymion and then ascends with him, will not regret that the number of puns is more than usually small.'
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© John Culme, 2008