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Kate in Paris

In 1842, Kate decided on an operatic career and for this to become a reality her best bet was to study under Manuel Garcia in Paris. First, she needed the consent of the Hon. Bishop Knox and his continued funding of course. Garcia didn’t allow his pupils to perform in public at all during training and so she had to have sufficient money to cover his fees and all her living expenses for up to two years.
Accompanied by Antonio Sapio and her mother, she went to Limerick where after some argument, they persuaded the Bishop to underwrite the new venture despite the Church’s opposition to stage careers for women. She also gave some concerts to raise funds and then returned to Dublin as soon as possible.

She left Dublin for Paris in October 1842 accompanied by her singing tutor but without her mother in attendance. The Limerick Chronicle at first reported her intention to travel with Antonio Sapio but quickly retracted that statement. Doubtless this was because he was a married man who was not a relative and it was considered improper for a young lady to travel in such company alone. Nevertheless, it made sense for him to go to Paris and hand his pupil over to Manuel Garcia. After all, she was the best pupil he’d ever had and he’d have wanted to discuss her strengths and weaknesses with Garcia. A Dublin paper gave the game away by publishing a notice of Sapio’s return on 18 October 1842.

The Paris of 1842 -1844 was quite different from what we know today. It was pre-Haussmann Paris without the wide boulevards and the Seine was virtually an open sewer. Human waste and tons of horse manure filled the narrow streets. In the Ile de la Cite, a short walk from the 9e district where Catherine lived, the narrow alleys had steps so steep up to the doors of the tenements that residents had to use ropes to keep from falling. Napoleon III ordered Baron Haussmann to construct the boulevards and clear the slums.

I'll include a map of 19c Paris in my book so that readers can see what is was like. The streets in which Garcia, Osborne, Montez, Chopin, his mistress George Sand and many other artists lived still exist today as the boulevards skirted round them to the North and South. The narrowest alleys of the Ile de la Cite around Notre Dame have gone and so it seems has the street off the Champs Elysee in which the editor of Galignani’s Messenger (Bowes) lived.

Some writers would have us believe that Catherine Hayes travelled to Paris with her mother and that they all lived with the Osborne family in the Rue St. Georges. This is not true and we must thank the writer ‘Q’ [Charles Rosenberg] for pointing this out albeit unwittingly in his work ‘You Have Heard of Them’. It never made sense to me that two women like Mary and Catherine Hayes would want to share a household with another woman. Mrs. Osborne may have welcomed the young Catherine as a guest when she first arrived in Paris but how could she run a house properly with another family present? They would all have had their servants and wanted to entertain their own guests privately. Just as in Dublin, London and San Francisco, they rented a house and set up their own household with the obligatory servants i.e. a cook and two maids at least.

Rosenberg tells us in some detail of the evening he spent with Catherine and Mary Hayes at the home of Bowes and his wife ‘just off the Champs Elysee going towards the Arc de Triomphe’. Garcia was also there. After dinner, Rosenberg and Garcia accompanied the ladies home. They left them ‘at their door’ and proceeded past the Madeleine and along to Boulevard des Italiens. Here the description ends but it can be seen that there is now a straight road up to the Sq. d’ Orleans where Garcia lived. Osborne was not in the party and he lived further to the North of the Sq. d’Orleans. It can therefore be seen that Catherine and her mother were living somewhere on or between the Champs Elysee and Sq. Madeleine. – perhaps in the Sq. itself.

We don’t know much about Catherine’s life in Paris between October 1842 and April 1844 when she left for Milan. Garcia didn’t allow his pupils to sing in concerts but we now know that she did on at least two occasions. Bishop Knox must have continued to support them as usual and was probably a regular visitor to their home. We know that he favoured life on the Continent and in France in particular and that he left Ireland in 1842 never to return to his See. He had his very high income from his Bishopric and his lands and could well afford to live where he choose.

In 1844, Lola Montez arrived and stayed at 24 Rue de la Victoire quite close to where Miss Hayes lived. At that time, Lola was Liszt’s mistress and he’d sent her on ahead to await him in Paris. She said she was there to improve her dancing and actually appeared at the famous Paris Opera dancing in "Le Bal de Don Juan" . Her numbers were entitled ‘Lolita’ and ‘Los Boleros de Cadix’. She was only allowed to give one performance because there were protests from some who said she was below the standard they expected at the Opera.

For entertainment, one may assume that Catherine went to operas and numerous soirees held by society families. She may well have sung for her hosts at these functions and no doubt had male suitors. She may have had a love affair but unfortunately, we don’t know. We know that she returned to Paris years later in 1856 and again in 1860. It’s a mystery as to why she never appeared on the stage at the Paris Opera. I think that Garcia blocked her attempts because she flouted his rules.

Life in Paris was anything but dull for the artistic set. Lola got her share of publicity by her usual outrageous behaviour but our Kate kept a low profile. Her mother’s presence will have helped her to remain discreet. In 1844, Garcia and Kate appear to annoy each other more than usual and she decides to complete her studies in Milan. She was a difficult pupil at times. Witness the incident at Bowes’ house when she insisted on singing an Irish ballad much to Garcia’s disgust. No doubt there were other occasions when she kicked over the traces such as the concerts mentioned above.

The following article appeared in an Irish paper regarding Catherine's stay in Paris in 1856 and it proves that Catherine owned or rented a villa on the Champs Elysees:

The Cork Examiner, 31 October 1856



OUR talented countrywoman, Miss Catherine Hayes, is in Paris. We had yesterday the pleasure of being received by her at her charming villa on the Champs Elysées. Mr Maguire and I were much pleased with her, and learned with pleasure that her health is considerably improved. Her voice, it appears, was never finer. She is considered in Paris now as one of the “grandes artistes” of the present day. She has had offers of engagement for the Grand Opera and the “Italiens,” her perfect knowledge of French and Italian allowing her to sing in both languages, and it is probable she will appear at the former theatre about the middle of the season.
We have no “prima donna” of any merit except Alboni, and her “embon point” prevents her from attempting many interesting parts. Miss Hayes will be the first English, or rather Irish, artist that ever made a sensation here, and the first judges of the day have unanimously declared her success as certain.
She leaves Paris in a fortnight, and will give concerts in England, after which she returns to the Emerald Isle, for which she professes and feels, I am sure, the greatest love.
She will make an exception to the general rule “On n'est jamais prophéte dans son prepare pays,” and will, no doubt, be received with the same enthusiasm at home as constantly greeted her in her long and prosperous journey to and from the antipodes. J.P.D.