Marie Lloyd (1870–1922) was a vocal superstar of the late nineteenth century. With tens of thousands of ardent followers in Britain and America—and an income that eclipsed even what Adele Patti and Nellie Melba earned—Lloyd was a vocal sensation. Biographers of the prima donna, the female vocal celebrity, are often quick to turn their subjects into heroines through the conferment of appellations such as “The Swedish Nightingale” (for Jenny Lind), “The Queen of Song” (Adelina Patti), and “The Voice of Australia,” in the case of Nellie Melba. Marie Lloyd was also bestowed a heroic title, but in an entirely different milieu: “Queen of the Music Hall.” This article probes the varied reasons—and ambiguities—of this appellation in biographical constructions of Lloyd, especially in relation to the dexterity of her voice that was arguably more varied in its scope than most of her operatic peers. Lloyd's biographers provide disembodied narratives of her career and achievements, since they have virtually nothing to say about the extraordinary range and versatility of her voice. With the aid of historic recordings it is possible to finally make an estimate of Lloyd's technique, and the results are surprising: she was no mere music-hall singer. Lloyd's voice and acting encompassed techniques ranging from eighteenth-century melodrama to nineteenth-century diseuse, allowing for an alternative reading of Lloyd's reputation as Queen of the Music Hall and the varied range of singing found in this institution.
Marie Lloyd (1870–1922) and Biographical Constructions of the Nineteenth-Century Female Superstar
Paul Watt is an associate professor of musicology at Monash University. He is the author of The Regulation and Reform of Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century England (Royal Musical Association Monographs/Routledge, 2018) and Ernest Newman: A Critical Biography (Boydell Press, 2017). With Michael Allis and Sarah Collins, he is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Music and Intellectual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (2020).
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Paul Watt; Marie Lloyd (1870–1922) and Biographical Constructions of the Nineteenth-Century Female Superstar. 19th-Century Music 1 November 2020; 44 (2): 119–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2020.44.2.119
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