Lalla Rookh

Sheet music cover 'Lalla Rookh' by George L'Estrange, illustrated by W. George
Lalla Rookh‘ by George L’Estrange, published by Cramer & C° Ltd (London, 1913) and illustrated by W. George.

In 1817 the Irish writer Thomas Moore published his bestselling epic book: Lalla Rookh. Hundred years later George L’Estrange —a now totally forgotten composer wrote a sentimental and unremarkable waltz of the same name. This L’Estrange was not the first who got inspired by Moore’s Oriental romance. From the start Lalla Rookh roused the romantic imaginations of several artists.

Illustration by John Tenniel, from the book ‘Lalla Rookh, An Oriental Romance’ by Thomas Moore, published by Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green (London, 1862).

Moore’s tale narrates how the beautiful Lalla Rookh, daughter of the Mughal Emperor, travels from Delhi to meet —for the first time— her fiancé, the king of Bukhara (in what is now Uzbekistan). She is accompanied by Fadladeen, a self-righteous, obnoxious chamberlain and also by the handsome minstrel Feramorz, who distracts her from the long journey by telling her charming stories. Predictably, the princess falls in love with the young poet and dreads the moment she will have to face her royal betrothed. In the end the amiable storyteller appears to be none other than the king who had wanted to know if Lalla Rookh would love him for his own merit rather than for his wealth. All’s well that ends well.

Sheet music cover for 'Maid of Athens'
Maid of Athens‘ by Edward J. Loder & Lord Byron, published by Jefferys & C° (London, s.d.)

It was Lord Byron who had advised his very good friend and literary rival Thomas Moore to try Orientalism. He in turn was tipped off by Madame de Staël, a French-Swiss writer and influencer avant la lettre. Byron wrote to Moore in 1813: “Stick to the East. The oracle, Staël, told me it was the only poetic policy. The North, South, and West have all been exhausted…”.

Moore had never travelled to the East and thus spent six years of extensive research to come up with his armchair traveller’s view of the Orient. But it was time well spent —and sound advice from Byron— that earned Moore a princely sum of money.
Byron also had orientalist ambitions and had by then already travelled to the east. In 1810, while in Greece, Byron wrote the poem Maid of Athens, which has been set to music by numerous composers. On the cover above we recognise Byron and Theresa Makri, the daughter of his landlord in Athens. Theresa was twelve years old when Byron (he was twenty-two at the time) fell head over heels in love with her. Reportedly he offered £500 for her hand in marriage. The offer was rejected. Byron wrote the girl a poem, and set to his new destination, Constantinople.

Lalla-Roukh‘ by Félicien David, arranged by H. Marx, published by F. Girod (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Célestin Nanteuil.

Félicien David, a French pioneer of musical Orientalism, was another composer excited by Lalla Rookh‘s fairy-tale plot. In his opéra comique Lalla Roukh the heroin kept her phonetic name, but the poet/king Feramorz became Noureddin. Lalla-Roukh is also accompanied by her servant Mirza and by Baskir (Fadladeen in Moore’s version), the pompous, critical and conniving chamberlain.

Emma Calvé, Eustase Thomas-Salignac and Hippolyte Belhomme in the opéra comique ‘Lalla-Roukh’. Photographs by Nadar. source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

Contrary to Thomas Moore, Félicien David did travel to the Orient. He even had a specially reinforced piano built to withstand the heat and long journeys. With this small piano that could almost be slung over the shoulder, he travelled to the Middle-East, Algeria and Egypt. He stayed for two years in Cairo where he gave music lessons and explored the desert. These years were decisive for the Orientalist character of his musical work.

Felicien David by A. Lemot. source: gallica.bnf.fr / BnF

David returned to France where his Lalla Roukh was first performed to huge acclaim in 1862 and would remain popular till the end of the century. It was the catalyst for an explosion of operas set in the ‘Exotic East’.

David’s Lalla Roukh was almost forgotten, but was revived in 2014 by Opera Lafayette in Washington DC. Enjoy an excerpt of their production with a classical Indian dance.

The story of Lalla Rookh also found its way in popular culture. Kate Vaughan, allegedly the first woman to flash her petticoats, also inventor of the skirt dance, had a vaudeville act as Lalla Rookh in the London Novelty Theatre during the 1880s.

Kate Vaughan als Lalla Rookh, Novelty Theatre London

In the United States showman Adam Forepaugh presented in 1880 a street pageant Lalla Rookh’s departure from Delhi. Atop of an elephant sat the most beautiful woman in the world, for which title she had been awarded ten thousand dollars. Curiously, it was not the beauty queen who was named Lalla Rookh but the elephant.

Mysterious Phenomena In Illustrated Sheet Music – Part 4

Detective-rag‘ by Erm. Oisorak. Published by Rob Rosewelt (New York, s.d.). Illustration signed with monogram SM.

We need the assistance of the finest detectives to investigate our next round of mysteries. How did they do it? What were their motives? Did illustrators and publishers concoct their misdeeds together? Were some of the printers accomplices? How did they get away with it?
We will not rest until the last puzzling enigma has been explained.

The Gaucho Lookalike

Y… Como le va?‘ Tango Argentino by Juan Valverde. Left: published by Edition Estic – Stadium des Arts (Paris, 1909). Right: published by Casa Dotésio (Madrid, 1912). Unknown illustrator.

Less is More? Ehm… More or Less

sheet music cover for 'Die kleine Fischerin' by Ludolf Waldmann
Die kleine Fischerin‘ by Ludolf Waldmann. LEFT: published by L. Waldmann (Berlin, s.d.) – source Indiana University. RIGHT: published by J. Kasteel (Den Haag, s.d.). Unknown illustrator.

The Theft of the Trumpet and Other Things

sheet music cover for Madame Gaspard illustrated by Caban
LEFT: ‘Madame Gaspard‘ by Bachmann. RIGHT: ‘Je n’ai qu’un Chat !‘ by Emile Spencer and Jorge Fabri. Both published by Georges Ondet (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Ch. Caban.

The Georgette Impersonation

Illustrated sheet music. Cover by Wohlman and Robert Laroche.
Georgette‘ by Ray Henderson & Lew Brown. LEFT: published by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co (New York, 1922), illustrated by Wohlman. RIGHT: published by Smyth (Paris, 1922) and illustrated by Robert Laroche.

The Metamorphosic Seduction

Sheet music cover for 'Good Night'
Good Night‘ by Leo Wood, Irving Bibo and Con Conrad. LEFT: published by Francis, Day & Hunter (London, 1923). RIGHT: published by Leo Feist (New York, 1923). Unknown illustrators.

We close this post with another Good Night puzzle, the one sung by Ringo Starr on The Beatles’ white album. Is it a plain sentimental lullaby or rather a campy spoof?

Now it’s time to say good night
Good night sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Close your eyes and I’ll close mine
Good night sleep tight
Now the moon begins to shine
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Close your eyes and I’ll close mine
Good night sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Good night good night everybody
Everybody everywhere
Good night.

Oxford Bags, Pullovers and Northern Soul

‘Le Gandin’ by Auguste Bosc, published by Auguste Bosc (Paris, 1928) and illustrated by Clérice frères.

Bloomers were not the only pants fashion worthy of a song or dance. Proudly this young man struts around, wearing very capacious trousers called Oxford bags. The fashion of these wide-cut trousers started in 1924 in the city of youth, Oxford. They were typically made of flannel, with a circumference of usually 66 cm around the knee and 60 cm around the ankle. These Oxford bags were sometimes also named ‘Charleston trousers’ or ‘collegiate pants’.

In those days young men in Oxford were seen as fashion icons. They were reported in the newspapers and their vestimentary code had a worldwide impact. Our sheet music covers are sure witnesses of that influence on the vogue in Paris.

The instant popularity of the Oxford-style trousers is illustrated by the song C’est chic les longs pantalons or Oxford Bags created at the Moulin Rouge in 1925. The cover for this song is illustrated by Roger de Valerio. He might have drawn a self portrait here: the young man is wearing de Valerio’s typical round horn-rimmed spectacles. Or he could have been joking: allegedly some followers of fashion wore these round spectacles with plain glass just to give “an appearance of owlish sapience”.

French papers were making fun of the ‘elephant leg’ trousers. Surely, if fashion wasn’t French it could not be elegant, could it?

‘C’est chic les longs pantalons’ or ‘Oxford Bags’ by Fred Melé & Craven, published by Francis Salabert (Paris, 1925) and illustrated by Roger De Valerio.

It is said that these large trousers became the style because students were not allowed to wear knickerbockers in lectures, so they hid them under Oxford bags. However, the belief is now that rowers used to slip them over their shorts during cold weather, the equivalent of a tracksuit. One such a pair of rowing-over trousers (already coined Oxford bags in 1896) is kept at the River & Rowing Museum, in Henley-on-Thames.

At first Oxford bags were worn with a double-breasted blazer but soon they were accompanied by pullover sweaters, another Oxonian fashion statement. “Conservative Oxford continues to add bizarre notes to the prevailing mode of men’s fashion. After the flapping Oxford bags of a previous year fanciful coat-sweaters of exotic colours, called pullovers have captured the undergraduate fancy.” (The Chicago Tribune, 26 October 1926). The newspaper continued to state that the pullover’s unusual popularity may be traced to the 1926 lockout of one million coal miners and the ensuing cold lecture rooms.

Il a mis son Pull-over’ by René Sylviano, published by Francis Salabert (Paris, 1928) and Illustrated by Roger De Valerio.

The Oxford trousers as a fashion item were taken to extremes. One pair even had a 122 cm wide hem, and extravagant trousers such as these were getting all the attention. But still, the normal kind of Oxford pants were to stay right up into the 1950s.

‘Charming’ by Romain Macker, published by Harmonia (Brussels, sd) and illustrated by Peter De Greef.

In the 1970s Oxford bags found their second life in the Northern soul scene, a British subculture that emerged out of the mod movement in the North of England. The youths danced all night to rare vintage vinyls of black American soul with a heavy beat and fast tempo. They had a particular dance style, spinning around, kicking in the air, performing splits and backdrops. A typical sweat-soaked all-nighter was fuelled by popping Dexedrine pills to keep dancing for hours. Beer was not served though, because the dance clubs could stay open as long as no alcohol was offered.

For practical reasons the boys chose light and loose-fitting clothes to easily move in: high-waisted Oxford bags, polo shirts, sports or track jackets and leather soled shoes for good gliding across the dance floor. Often patches representing the soul club allegiance were sown on the vest or shirt.

In this 25 minutes ‘Wigan Casino’ documentary from the seventies we can appreciate the dance moves of Northern soul devotees who lose themselves to their favourite music. The Wigan Casino (1973-1981), a night club in Greater Manchester, was the primary venue for Northern soul music.

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