Many of the world’s top names have played in the Winter Gardens, and as this trend continues, this month sees the Blackpool debut of troubadour Bob Dylan in the Opera House.
But, according to showbusiness historian Barry Band, the term superstar, bandied about so much today, could so easily have applied to the visit of opera singer Adelina Patti to the Winter Gardens Pavilion, on August 20, 1900.
While researching for a new entry in his Century of Stars book, Barry has discovered that the diva was paid what was then an astonishing £600 for her performance.
Barry says: “John R Huddlestone, general manager of the Winter Gardens, was building a schedule of prestigious summer concerts and needed the presence of the Italian prima donna, who was actually born in Madrid.
“At 57, Adelina had amassed a fortune during a glittering career as The Queen Of Song, as she was billed.
“She appeared at Covent Garden for 25 consecutive seasons from 1861. Her jewellery was legendary, and she lived in a Welsh castle with her third husband, Baron Cederstrom.”
According to Barry’s findings Adelina Patti opened her first spot at the Winter Gardens with The Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust, and as an encore gave Batti, Batti, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
For her second appearance, she sang Voi Che Sapete, from Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro, and followed it with Pur Deceeti by the Italian composer Lotti.
For her final spot, the singer gave Luigi Arditi’s popular romantic song Il Bacio (The Dove), which she had made famous by interpolating it into the Lesson scene of Rossini’s The Barber Of Seville.
But Barry asks: “Had The Queen of Song actually appeared at the North Pier Pavilion almost 20 years earlier? The late Cyril Critchlow, a fellow scribe in the area of Blackpool entertainment history research, had seen her named in Blackpool newspaper adverts in the early 1880s.
“Cyril asked me to follow it up and I located them recently. And – yes – there were adverts for an artist of vaguely similar name in North Pier concerts in August, 1881 and 1882 and for four days in July and August, 1884.
“However, that ‘similar name’ throws up a mystery. It was printed ‘Madam Patey’ in each of those years. The spelling was repeated in newspaper reviews.
Was it likely that the gentleman of the Press in Blackpool would not have known how to spell Patti’s name? Even the pronunciations of Patti and Patey are different.”
Barry says: “The artiste was unlikely to have been Adelina Patti , or her older sister Carlotta Patti. More likely, it was a different person, using a familiar sounding name to deceive entertainment bookers and audience in the ‘uninformed’ provinces. A trick not unknown in those days.”
Barry says: “Unless a more knowledgeable reader can shine a light on the puzzle, let’s assume Adelina Patti’s only Blackpool performance was at the Winter Gardens in 1900, one of the first in a golden thread of international superstars who have sung at the Winter Gardens and Opera House since that date.”
Readers with details on Adelina can contact Barry on (01253) 400908.