Mapleson, Col. James Henry



Well-known impresario, who for many years promoted Italian Opera in England and America. When fourteen years old he became a student at the Royal Academy of Music, where for about two years he studied violin under Watson and harmony under Lucas. In 1848 he played among the first violins in the orchestra of Her Majesty's Theatre. He studied singing with Balfe, Gardoni and Belleti, and determined to go to Italy for further vocal instruction. Before going, however, he spent several months during 1849 touring the provinces with a company which included Sontag, Calzolani, Belled, Lablache and the pianist, Thalberg; in 1850 taking out another company, in which were Madame Viardot and Rogers. Several times during these tours, when his tenors failed him, Mapleson himself sang the tenor parts. During this period he contributed many articles on musical subjects to various London journals and periodicals. After some time in Italy he returned to England, but, contracting a disease of the throat, he had to undergo an operation which ruined his voice. Bitterly disappointed at this misfortune, he opened a musical agency in 1856, which enterprise was prospering, when, in 1858, he undertook the management of Italian Opera for E. T. Smith. Encouraged by a very successful first season in 1860, he made an unsuccessful attempt to lease Her Majesty's. In 1861, at the Lyceum, he introduced the experiment of giving English Opera on alternate nights with Italian, engaging Charles Halle as his English conductor. In 1862 he obtained a lease of Her Majesty's and in 1863 produced Gounod's Faust, which had been indifferently received on the Continent, but which, owing to a clever maneuver on his part, was well received by the British public. During a long career of varying success and failure he produced many operas never before heard in England and introduced many stars to the British public. In 1867 Her Majesty's burned during the night, but the enterprising impresario sent his agent early the next morning to negotiate a lease of Drury Lane. He joined Mr. Gye, in 1869, for a few seasons, carrying on Italian Opera at Drury Lane and the National Opera House, until Her Majesty's was rebuilt in 1877. In 1878 he was induced to bring Italian Opera to New York, and came to America with a company of a hundred and forty persons, among whom were numbered Etelka Gerster, Minnie Hauk, Trebelli, Campanini, Galassi, Del Puente, Foli and his faithful conductor, Arditi. He made an extensive tour, going as far west as St. Louis, and south to Washington and Baltimore. This venture was so successful that Colonel Mapleson was emboldened to come back almost every succeeding season until 1886, with varying success. He is said to have had enormous receipts at the musical festivals at Cincinnati and at Chicago. Under Mapleson's direction a large number of stars have made their English and American debuts, among them being Bolton, Minnie Hauk, Campanim, Etelka Gerster, Christine Nilsson, Patti and many others. Among the operas he was the first to put on the boards may be mentioned Verdi's Ballo in Maschera; Gounod's Faust; and Bizet's Carmen. From the delightful Mapleson Memoirs, published in 1888, Colonel Mapleson seems to have been a man of infinite resource and diplomacy and much daring. He died in London.