Taking bets on Verdi

In the anticipation leading up to the new season of the Royal Italian Opera in 1853, one might think that a new opera by Verdi would be of interest.

Not for the writer in the Daily News, 22 March 1853, who comments, without naming the opera, “… a new opera by the weak and worn-out Verdi, which, ten to one, will turn out a failure…”

The title of the opera might be deduced from the date but I checked in The Era, 27 March, to be sure.


I am not going to criticise the writer for a lack of foresight as that would be unreasonable. That said, oh to be as weak and worn-out as Verdi!

Daniel Hartley — The Preston Giant, 1825-1862

The Giant Brothers - A waxwork of Daniel's dead infant brother was also exhibited

The Giant Brothers – A waxwork of Daniel’s dead infant brother was also exhibited

I came across Daniel’s name when I was walking through Aberdare old cemetery. The headstone, though small, was not just the usual recitation of dates and the promise of the then-living to remember the deceased; this was an obituary etched in stone.

The headstone of Daniel Hartley, Aberdare

Daniel’s headstone

“In memory of Mr Daniel Hartley native of Preston in Lancashire who died suddenly on the 26 Nov. 1862 at Mountain Ash, Aberdare, Glamorganshire, aged 28 years The well known fat man who had travelled and been exhibited for the last twenty years through every town in Great Britain. Deceased had six perfect fingers on each hand, and six perfect toes on each foot. He weighed a little before his death 30 stone but when in full health he weighed 37 stone.”

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A review of the UK premiere of Verdi’s Rigoletto

Rigoletto 1853

Title page of the libretto in English translation, sold at Covent Garden in 1853 – Osborne, Rigoletto

“When Rigoletto was first produced in London, at Covent Garden on May 14, 1853, the conductor was Michael Costa and the principals were Angiolina Bosia (Gilda), Giovanni Mario (Duke of Mantua) and Giorgio Ronconi (Rigoletto), all of whom were admired by the critics, though the opera was not. It was, however, an instant success with that real and final arbiter, the public, and has seldom since been long away from the Covent Garden stage.”

Charles Osborne, Rigoletto

Rigoletto is, perhaps, my favourite opera. So, when I came across this review of its UK premiere, I was fascinated by the response of the writer to the performance. My commentary is unnecessary; read it for yourself. Continue reading

The Lentons of Aberaman

Arthur and Samuel Linton of Aberaman were well-known names in the cycling world of the late 19 century. Some years ago, I was asked by a descendant of Samuel Linton to investigate the history of the family name as, despite all the references to the Lintons, the name was actually Lenton. My report was passed on by the descendant to a historian interested in the brothers so that the “correction” could be made. For any who might be interested in the family history of the Lentons/Lintons, this is the report that I wrote. Continue reading