Blanche Arral
Blanche Arral

The Belgian-born opera singer Mademoiselle Blanche Arral performed in Australia and New Zealand during 1906-1908. She first arrival in Australia at Fremantle aboard the French mail boat, the S.S. Sultan on 17 June 1906 from Surabaya, Java. After a brief stopover she continued on her journey to Melbourne via Adelaide aboard the SS Riverina.

Blanche Arral and her company performed at His Majestys Theatre, Dunedin on January 7, 9 and 12, 1907. It was reported to be a successful season, with audiences both large and enthusiastic. Following this they boarded the Wimmera for Wellington where they arrived on 24 January to open their show at the Town Hall. Her company comprised the violinist, Herr Paans; harpist, Signor Torzilla; pianist Harold T. Proctor; and Mr. J. F. Conway (trumpet).

Her costuming was described as something magnificent and that for her concerts she carries no less than 26 trunks of costumes, one of which cost 700 guineas.

“Born in Belgium as Clara Lardinois, the youngest of 17 children, Blanche Arral was destined for a life wilder than fiction. During her travels, Arral befriended such legendary figures as Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Harry Houdini, Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saens and Jack London, who based a character on her in his book Smoke Bellew. In Russia she met Rasputin, and in Turkey, the sultan Abdulhamid II. She describes her recording sessions with Thomas Edison and her run-ins with the difficult Nellie Melba. Writer and opera fan Ira Glackens discovered her living in a small New Jersey apartment and persuaded her to record her extraordinary stories. More than 60 years later, editor William R. Moran has confirmed the veracity of Arral s account and annotated this extraordinary memoir.”

The Extraordinary Operatic Adventures of Blanche Arral

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