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Clara Butt

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Category: Music - Classical
Reference No: 10096
Status: Available
Price: £45.00
  Clara Butt

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Great English contralto, described as “The Voice of the Century”.

After a scholarship at the Royal College of Music, Butt made her professional début at the Royal Albert Hall in Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Golden Legend in 1892.

She rapidly acquired an excellent reputation, aided by her physical presence - she was 6 feet 2 inches tall. Primarily a concert singer, she only ever appeared in two opera productions, both of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, in 1892 and 1920.

She toured throughout the world and sang regularly before Royalty.

Butt had a tremendous sense of theatre. At her concerts she wore beautiful jewels and dresses shimmering with sequins, and was the first to use a spotlight in the concert hall—an effect that initially shocked audiences. 

Edward Elgar composed his Sea Pictures for contralto and orchestra with Clara Butt in mind as the soloist, and she sang at the first performance at the Norwich Festival on 5 October 1899, with the composer conducting. At a later performance in London she heard his march Pomp and Circumstance No. 1. “What a tune!” she exclaimed to Elgar, “Why don’t you write a song for me, and use that as a refrain?” And so Land of Hope and Glory was born, her signature tune, which she would bellow all over the Empire for the rest of her life. Sir Thomas Beecham once said, jokingly, that "on a clear day, you could have heard her across the English Channel".The song originally formed the closing part of the “Coronation Ode” written for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

In 1900 Butt married the baritone Kennerley Rumford, and often appeared with him in concerts.

This is a fine vintage sepia Rotary postcard of "Clara Butt & Baby*", boldly signed ("Clara Butt-Rumford") in dark blue ink across the image. A light crease across the top right corner but otherwise in good condition.

(*It's difficult to know which of her children the baby is - she had a girl and two boys. Only the girl survived - one boy died of meningitis while at school and the other committed suicide.)