Maria Bland, the daughter of Italian Jews, was born with the surname of Romanzini. The year of her birth is assumed to be historically correct, but as was common in the 18th century, the day and month went unrecorded.
Her parents came to London soon after their daughter's birth, and in the spring of 1773, through the influence of a hairdresser named Cady, obtained an engagement for their child at Hughes's Riding School. Her vocal talent developed at a very early age, and after singing at the Royal Circus she was engaged by Daly for the Dublin Theatre, where she sang with great success. In 1782, on the retirement of Mary Ann Wrighten, she was engaged at Drury Lane Theatre to take her parts, which were those known as 'singing chambermaids.' Miss Romanzini's first appearance at Drury Lane took place pool, and sang there with such success, both on the stage and at concerts, that she refused to return to Drury Lane unless her salary were raised. The management declining to grant her request, after waiting a few weeks, she came back to London and resumed her place at Drury Lane. Mrs. Bland remained attached to the Drury Lane company for the greater part of her life, but she also sang at the Haymarket Theatre under Colman's management, where her first appearance took place in 1791, as Wowski in Arnold's 'Inkle and Yarico.' She also sang for several seasons at Vauxhall Gardens. In 1824, she began to exhibit symptoms of imbecility, which developed into a kind of melancholy.
On 5 July 1824 a performance was given for her benefit at Drury Lane, which produced (together with a public subscription) about 800l. The money was handed over to Lord Egremont, who allowed her an annuity of 80l. She lived for the rest of her life with a family named Western, at the Broadway, Westminster, where she died of a fit of apoplexy on 15 Jan. 1838. She was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 25 Jan.
Mrs. Bland's voice was a mezzo-soprano of very sweet quality. Her powers were limited, but as a singer of English ballads she was singularly perfect and free from any blemish of style or taste. In person she was short and dark, but her acting was very bright and vivacious.
The following is a list of the principal engraved portraits of her: 1, in the 'Thespian Magazine,' vol. i., by J. Condé (publisher 23 June 1795); 2, as Miss Notable in the 'Lady's Last Stake,' by De Wilde (published 23 June 1795); 3, as Nina in the 'Prisoner' (published 1 Feb. 1796); 4 and 5, as Mary Ann in the 'School for Guardians,' by Graham (published 21 Jan. 1796); 6, 'The Bland Melodist' (coloured) (published 12 March 1805); 7, as Madelon in the 'Surrender of Calais' (n.d.).
On 21 October 1790, she was married to Bland, a brother of Mrs. Jordan of Drury Lane Theatre, a minor actor. Her husband, whom it was said that she had treated badly, left her some years earlier and went to America, where he died.
Mrs. Bland had had two sons: Charles, a tenor singer, who was the original Oberon in Weber's opera, and James, a bass, who began life as an opera singer, but later better known as an actor of burlesque, and who died at the Strand Theatre on 17 July 1861.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Squire, William Barclay Squire (1886). . In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 5. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 198–199. Endnotes:
- Ann. Register, lxxx. 197 ;
- Georgian Era, iv. 297;
- Genet's Hist. of the Stage vi. 424 ix. 240;
- Musical World. 19 and 26 Jan. 1838;
- Thespian Magazine, 1. 298;
- Gent. Mag. 1790, 956;
- Kelly's Reminiscences, ii. 80 ;
- information from William Henry Husk.