Thursday, February 4, 2010

R.S.Smythe - Mrs. Cutter, Contralto

Much to my annoyance from 1870 until sometime during the 1880's the Australian press always referred to a very popular and steadily-in-work Contralto as "Mrs. Cutter" who sang with the Philharmonic and concerted herself all over the place. She had for about twenty years, steady work in concert programs and was by all accounts a very good singer and I have never spotted a bad review about her. But who was she? They never give a first name or even initial, nor her husbands initials as was normal practice. The only other thing the press say is that she was American.

I spotted her début in 1870 and looked on the incoming shipping lists in the previous 12 months and there she was with her husband on the Barque 'Corea' out of New York, arriving in 1869 and lo and behold there they are listed as Mrs. K. Cutter and Mr. A. H. Cutter. Subsequent searching of the national newspapers reveal nothing further even under these initials. The 'Corea' arrived carrying a handful of passengers so they must not have been traditional immigrants and possibly, he was a businessman although one can never be sure. They don't appear of the US passport applications list for that period, although there are several A. H. Cutters on the 1861 US Census and lord knows what he maiden name was, let alone her first. Katherine? Kathleen? Who knows. They both put their ages as 27 years, which makes them natives of the year 1842, give or take a dram. That would put their deaths, assuming misfortune did not befall them, from about 1910 to 1940, give or take another draft from the temporal mug.

Bizarrely, A. H. Cutter sells his house, number 10 Gray Street, East Melbourne in 1874 stating that he is moving 'out of the area' yet he lists on the Argus the full goods, chattels and goose-feathers of sconces, lithographs, whatnot's beds, chairs, sofas, ALL the furniture including a cottage piano by Wilhelm Biese of Berlin. Why? Had he suddenly come into so much money that he was going to upgrade to higher orders of magnificence on all things? Or, perhaps he needed the cash immediately although he's not listed on the insolvency indexes. Then they are on the ship to Sydney. Then later, back again? It is noted that M. E. Christian, noted contralto and R. S. Smythe's other woman, "helped her out" but why? Had A. H. Cutter clipped off? So many questions.

K. Cutter it is then. From whence came she and for what purpose he?

Post script: T.H.Guenett in an interview in 1901 states that she was " living in the United States, I think". Once there, who knows where she ended up.

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