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Mme. Theo


No one better exemplified the Parisian style of comic singing in opera bouffe than Mme. Theo who made Offenbach's playful farces charming as well as hilarious. A critic, characterizing her performance as Rose Michon, characterized her voice as the sparkle in champagne. She first appeared in the United States in 1882 with Maurice Grau's Company, and returned in 1884 performing "La Jolie Parfumeuse," "Girofle Girofla," and Bettina in "La Mascotte." Mme. Theo was too hoydenish a performer to please critics who championed refined vocal art, but no French contemporary had quite the same ability to inspire general hilarity in an audience.

Theo was not the astutest judge of art, and on occasion signed on to conspicuous failures, such as the Parisian "Adam and Eve" of 1886. But she was one of the few performers of the era who inspired imitators (Mlle. Jarbeau for instance) who established the type of flirty French femme mangling songs in Franglish that Anna Held would eventually occupy. She remained a figure on the transatlantic musical theatre stage until the 1910s. David S. Shields/ALS