Pauline Joran (1870 – 13 August 1954) was an American-born opera singer and violinist. She was the wife of William Ernest Bush, the first and last Baron de Bush, and mother of Paulise de Bush, the "Baby Baroness". She is remembered for creating the role of Saida in Arthur Sullivan's 1898 Savoy opera The Beauty Stone.
After a touring career as a child violinist, playing together with her pianist sisters in the U.S. and abroad in the 1880s, Joran began an opera career in England, which lasted through the 1890s. With her marriage to Baron de Bush in 1899, she retired from the stage. He was killed in an accident in 1903, and Joran lived quietly for some years, returning to society by 1910 as a hostess and patroness of music.
Joran was born Clara Pauline Joran in Chicago, Illinois in 1870, the second daughter of Louis Grund Joran, a musician, and his wife, an English pianist. She made her violin debut, at age 11, forming a concert troupe with her pianist sisters, Lulu (two years older) and Elise (two years younger). Their director, the fourth member of the quartet, was Miss M. Hyde who also acted as an accompanist. The children's talents were much admired at the time, especially their skill at absolute pitch and their ability to tell the notes of chords sounded whilst blindfolded. The troupe visited California, Mexico and Australia, among others. In Hawaii, they played for the last king, Kalākaua.
Joran underwent preliminary voice training in 1884–85 with the singer Margaret Blake-Alverson, who had described her as singing with taste and feeling, as well as being a talented violinist. In 1885, they performed for the famous opera singer Adelina Patti. In the latter part of the 1880s, the Jorans travelled to Europe to further their musical studies.
In London, as a debutante, Joran was recommended to the conductor Wilhelm Ganz. As a member of the New Meistersingers' Club in St James's Street, Ganz arranged musical soirees for which he held auditions for potential performers. He found that Joran played the violin well, and that she had a lovely soprano voice. Ganz advised her to give up playing the violin and take to the operatic stage, as she was a very good-looking young woman with a beautiful figure. Nevertheless, Joran did not abandon the violin, playing Mendelssohn's G minor Violin Concerto in Liverpool in 1893 and, as late as December 1896, giving a concert at St James's Hall, London, as both violinist and vocalist.
Meanwhile, with a recommendation from Ganz, Joran was engaged by the Carl Rosa Opera Company, making her London stage debut in the mezzo-soprano roles of Lola in Cavalleria rusticana and Beppe in the UK premiere of L'amico Fritz, which opened on 24 September 1892 at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester. The latter required her to sing and play the violin simultaneously, enabling her to showcase both her talents. The Manchester Guardian wrote that she played the violin "like an angel" and then surprised her audience with the excellence of her singing.
She was well received and was soon engaged by Sir Augustus Harris to be one of his prima donnas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and on tour. Joran's roles over the next four years included Marguerite in Faust, the title role in Carmen (which she also played at the Garrick Theatre), Eurydice in Orfeo, Nedda in Pagliacci, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Anita in La Navarraise, Lady Pamela in Fra Diavolo, and roles in Maritana, Cavalleria rusticana, Die Walküre, Roméo et Juliette, The Lady of Longford, as well as the role of Gertrude in an opera bouffe called Il Maestro di Cappella at the Prince of Wales's Theatre. An 1896 review said of her, "Mlle. Pauline Joran is a bewitching Carmen. She sings and acts the part to the life. She is a true artiste." She also sang in Italy during 1895–96.
Joran created the role of Saida in the premiere of The Beauty Stone, by Arthur Sullivan, A. W. Pinero and J. Comyns Carr, at the Savoy Theatre, on May 28, 1898. She was one of two opera singers imported into the regular Savoy cast, which included Henry Lytton (who became her lifelong friend), at increased salaries to tackle the music, which was considered more vocally challenging than other Savoy operas. Cunningham Bridgeman deemed her "unquestionably the finest prima donna ever seen on the Savoy stage". The Times wrote, "Musically, the chief honours of the performance, such as they are, fall to Miss Pauline Joran's share; she sings the music of Saida with remarkable finish and success, and her acting is really powerful and full of suggestion." After this, in early 1899, she reprised her roles in Faust, Pagliacci, and Cavalleria rusticana at the Lyceum Theatre, London.
Marriage and later years
On December 6, 1899, Joran married William Ernest Bush, the Baron de Bush, and retired from performing. They had a daughter together, Paulise Mary Louise (1900–1975). In March 1903 Joran made a brief return to performing, singing at a concert at St. James's Hall, presented by her sister, the pianist Elise Joran. On July 24 that year, the Baron de Bush was killed after falling in front of an express train near Northampton, while he and his wife were travelling up to Scotland. This left their daughter the Baroness de Bush, England's youngest Baroness.
Joran lived quietly for several years, but by 1910, she had re-entered social life. She was a member of the Society of American Women in London and attended the events they hosted, such as a farewell dinner held for Charles W. Fairbanks in London on March 12, 1910. By this time, she was out of mourning, as she was noted to be wearing fraise (strawberry pink). She made her grand opera debut in Milan in 1910 "under Sonzogno, singing ... Santuzza and Nedda with the greatest success". She became a well-known hostess and patroness of music, presenting private concerts at her house in Regent's Park, featuring well-known singers.
Joran died in 1954 in London. She was survived by her daughter Paulise, an active collector of historical dress, who bequeathed her collection to the National Trust. The collection, including some of Joran's garments, is housed and exhibited at Killerton House, Broadclyst, near Exeter.
- "Baroness de Bush", The Times, 27 August 1954, p. 8
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- Neville, Amelia Ransome, The Fantastic City, chapter 9.(Massachusetts, 1932)
- Ganz, Wilhelm, Memories of a Musician, pp. 281–83 (1913)
- "Some Comments on Original Artists", Gilbertian Gossip no. 39, Winter 1992-93, online at The Gilbert and Sullivan Newsletter Archive
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- The Musical Times, June 1896, p. 383
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- Stone, David. Pauline Joran, Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, December 7, 2004, accessed 27 October 2010
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- The Times opening night review of The Beauty Stone, May 30, 1898, reprinted at The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 27 October 2010
- The Musical Times, March 1903, p. 186
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- Tobin, Shelley and Andreas Einsiedel. Inside out: a brief history of underwear, The National Trust (2000), p. 30 ISBN 9780707803708