Home Page

Preserving and Exploring our Musical Heritage

Exhibition Categories

> Past Exhibitions of the Month

> Music and graphic design

> Music for children

> Ballet

> Music and social history

> Social Dance: Tickets, invitations and posters

Past Exhibition of the Month - March 2013

Previous | Next

< Return to list

Miss Inverarity. Drawn on stone by W. Sharp after William Booth. From The Musical Gem, London. 1832.

Miss Inverarity. Drawn on stone by W. Sharp after William Booth. From The Musical Gem, London. 1832.

[View All Images]

INVERARITY , Elizabeth (b.Edinburgh, 23 March 1813; d.Newcastle upon Tyne, 27 December 1846)
A soprano vocalist, Miss Inverarity was born 200 years ago, the elder daughter of James Inverarity, a merchant, and was great-niece of the ill-fated Scottish poet Robert Fergusson (1750 - 1774) whose works were greatly admired by Robert Burns.
In 1828 she began lessons in vocal music with Mr Thorne, a bass singer from the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. Early in 1829 she transferred her studies to Alexander Murray, a highly reputed violinist and singing teacher, also from the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. It was he who introduced his young pupil to the public at a concert in the Assembly Rooms in April of that year. In 1830, under Mr Murray’s guidance, she appeared in a series of concerts, principally for the Edinburgh Professional Society and appeared also at the Theatre Royal for the benefit evening of the tenor John Wilson, with whom she subsequently appeared professionally in London and on provincial tours. With her increasing popularity and success, Mr Murray persuaded Mr Inverarity that a course of study in Italy would be advantageous for his daughter and in the autumn of 1830 arrangements proceeded.
Arriving in London, an introduction to Sir George Smart the influential conductor and teacher was effected, the result of which was that Miss Inverarity’s Italian trip was postponed - for ever, alas - and she was engaged to take the place of the absent Mary Ann Paton at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in the title rôle in Cinderella, the Rophino Lacy adaptation of Rossini’s work to the English stage. Preparations were made, including lessons with Domenico Crivelli, and a successful debut took place on 14 December 1830. "All London", it seemed, including the Duchess of Kent and her daughter Princess Victoria [twice], flocked to see and hear the beautiful seventeen-year-old. Success was confirmed in March 1831 when there was a performance "by Command of Their Majesties" King William IV and Queen Adelaide.
With Covent Garden success the young singer was much sought after to appear in concerts where she shared the bills with established musicians including John Braham, Giovanni Rubini, Luigi Lablache, Giuditta Pasta, Niccolò Paganini, Ignaz Moscheles, J. N. Hummel, John Field, Felix Mendelssohn and Théodore Labarre. A Philharmonic Society concert was a further notable event.
A run of Cinderella performances was broken by an equally successful new production in April 1832, Louis Spohr’s Azor and Zemira with John Wilson and Miss Inverarity in the title rôles. The 1830/31 season ended in June and before embarking on her first inter-season provincial tour she participated, together with Paganini, Hummel and others, in a concert for the Royal Family at St James’s Palace.
The provincial tour, with a repertoire of Cinderella, Azor and Zemira, Love in a Village (as Rosetta), The Maid of Judah (as Rebecca), The Barber of Seville (as Rosina), Guy Mannering (as Lucy), and Rob Roy (as Diana Vernon), visited Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Southampton.
The 1831/32 season at Covent Garden opened in October and the highlight production, in February 1832, was The Fiend Father; or, Robert of Normandy, Rophino Lacy’s English adaptation of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable. John Braham played Robert and Miss Inverarity Alice. Another successful repertoire addition before her nineteenth birthday was The Marriage of Figaro (as Countess Almaviva).
Charles Kemble’s management at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden was coming under increasing financial strain at this time and by April of the following season the company largely dispersed. Miss Inverarity went for a time to Glasgow before returning to join other "refugees" for a short season at the Olympic Theatre and once again undertook a major provincial tour in England and Ireland in the course of which Der Freischutz (as Agnes), The Beggar’s Opera (as Polly), Der Vampyr (as Liska) were interesting inclusions in the repertoire.
For the season 1833/34 the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane were under the joint management of Alfred Bunn, with artists performing at both theatres as required. A Shakespearean flavour was added to Miss Inverarity’s repertoire, including The Tempest (as Miranda), Twelfth Night (as Olivia), Henry the Eighth (as Patience), Macbeth (as a singing witch), and The Merry Wives of Windsor (as Mistress Ford) before the great success of the season was launched - Gustavus the Third; or, The Masked Ball, with Miss Inverarity in the rôle of Madame Ankarstrom. This opera by Daniel Auber, heavily adapted by Thomas Cooke, occupied the stage for almost the entire season to June 1834. Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, saw two performances.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

The Theatre Royal, Edinburgh in 1829. Engraving by W. Wallis after Tho. H. Shepherd.

Miss Inverarity in her first performance as Rebecca in The Maid of Judah. This took place on 16 June 1831 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in a benefit evening for the tenor John Wilson. Miss Inverarity in her costume for the rôle of Zemira in Azor and Zemira at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.  Watercolour, artist unknown, dated 12 May 1831. Miss Inverarity as Madame Ankerstrom in Auber's Gustavus the Third or, The Masked Ball. Caricature by Robert Seymour from Figaro in London, 1 February 1834.

Playbill for a Royal Command performance of Cinderella at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 7 March 1831 with Miss Inverarity in the title rôle. Playbill for a performance of Azor and Zemira at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 7 April 1831 with Miss Inverarity as Zemira. Concert bill for A Grand Miscellaneous and  Popular Selection of Vocal and Instrumental Music at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 21 May 1831.

Bill for Misses Dunn’s Annual Concert at the Freemasons Hall, London, 21 June 1831. Playbill for a performance of Cinderella at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, 1 July 1831. "… this VERY CELEBRATED VOCALIST has kindly consented to make her First Appearance out of London, in the NEW OPERA of CINDERELLA, …." Playbill for a performance of Love in a Village at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, 14 July [1831] with Miss Inverarity as Rosetta.

Playbill for a performance of Love in a Village at the Theatre Royal, Worcester, 30 April 1832 with Miss Inverarity as Rosetta. Bill for Signor Paganini's Second Concert at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 10 July 1832. Concert bill for a Grand Performance of Sacred Music at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 30 January 1833.

Bill for Three Grand Concerts for the Benefit of the Exeter Dispensary at the Royal Subscription Rooms, Exeter, 10-12 September, [1833]. Bill for the first English performance of Gustavus the Third at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 13 November 1833 with Miss Inverarity as Madame Ankarstrom.

Mrs Martyn. Stipple engraving by John Henry Robinson after Alfred Edward Chalon.  Published by Longman & Co, 1 October 1840.  Chalon's original painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839.

Bill for a performance of The Castle of Andalusia, a Concert of Vocal Music and No Song No Supper at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 6 January 1836 with Mrs Martyn as Donna Lorenza, (etc.) Bill for a Concert at the Cross Keys Assembly Room, Kelso, 28 September 1838. Playbill for a performance of Der Freischutz  at the Theatre Royal, Hull, 23 August 1841 with Mrs Martyn as Agnes.

Louis Spohr: "Rose Softly Blooming!" Romance from Azor & Zemira. London, [1831]. D. A. Hodson: "The Crusader's Bride." Cavatina. London, [c.1830]. Rossini: “Non Più Mesta”, from La Cenerentola. Piano arrangement by Anton Diabelli, London, [1831].

Miss Inverarity - now Mrs Martyn, having married the bass-baritone singer Charles Thomas Martyn (1800 - 1871) at the parish church of St Giles-in-the-Fields on 17 May 1834 - left London at the end of the joint Covent Garden / Drury Lane season and returned to Scotland. Together with her husband and sister Barbara Inverarity (1814-1845) Mrs Martyn undertook a prolonged series of provincial concerts and opera performances supported by members of the stock companies in the major theatres in England and Scotland concluding in December 1835 with an extended period in Glasgow where they were joined by the esteemed tenor John Sinclair.
In the following year Mrs Martyn took a maternity break from performance, although she gave lessons, while her husband and sister continued for most of the year at the Theatre Royal, Bristol. The 1837 spring/summer season at the Theatre Royal, Bath by all three was followed by a resumption of their established touring pattern to the end of 1838 when they spent an extended period at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, once again joined by John Sinclair.
In 1839 the Martyns set their sights on America and after a few concert and opera performances by Mrs Martyn in London they sailed on 1 August for New York where they, together with a small group of London "stars", were engaged to appear at the Park Theatre. They made their first appearance on 9 September 1839 in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Mrs Martyn as Leonora and Martyn as Rocco. It was a brave decision to open with this work which was unknown in America and so different from the usual opening work of Cinderella to which Americans were accustomed with visiting troupe, but they were won over. The initial New York engagement was followed by tours throughout the Eastern States with repeat New York visits with a repertoire which also included Cinderella, La Gazza Ladra, La Sonnambula, Fra Diavolo and Der Freischutz.
The Martyns were joined by Miss Barbara Inverarity in August 1840 and for the following year the trio toured as a concert group in the Eastern States before returning to England to resume their pattern of concert and opera performances.
Physically and vocally exhausted the Martyns settled by mid-1843 in Newcastle upon Tyne where they became teachers of music in that city and in surrounding areas. A third child was born in 1844, emphasising the need for a settled domestic life.
While the career of Miss Inverarity / Mrs Martyn was not one of sustained brilliance from the heady, early days it was not untypical for the period. Early exploitation gave her a name and considerable status within the theatre of her time but did her vocal instrument no favours and surely led to an abbreviated career and an early death. She died on 27 December 1846 in Newcastle, aged 33 years and was buried in Jesmond Old Cemetery in Newcastle in the same plot as her sister Barbara who predeceased her, aged 31, on 19 October 1845.

Alexander Bisset © 2013

(All items shown are from the Inverarity Bisset Collection.)