Ilka Pálmay

Ilka Pálmay (often erroneously written Ilka von Pálmay) (September 21 1859 – February 17, 1945), born Ilona Petráss, was a Hungarian-born singer and actress.

Life and career

Pálmay was born in Ungvar, Ung Megye, Hungary. She was married twice, first to actor-manager József Szigligeti (from 1877 to 1886), and then to Austrian Count Eugen Kinsky in the early 1890s.

Early career

Pálmay began her stage career in Hungary (including Košice, Budapest and Klausenburg) and Vienna by 1880. In the early 1890s, she performed at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, where she created leading roles in Carl Zeller's "Der Vogelhändler" (1891) and Johann Strauss II's "Fürstin Ninetta" (1893). Soon, she was playing in Prague and the Unter den Linden Theater in Berlin. There, in 1893, she was scheduled to appear in a German production of "The Mikado" in drag as the tenor hero, Nanki-Poo, and Sullivan took action to try to prohibit her from appearing in the role. It later surprised Pálmay to learn that no woman had ever appeared on the stage of the Savoy Theatre dressed as a man. In 1893, also, she played Serpolette in "Les Cloches de Corneville" [ [ Photo of Pálmay as Serpolette] (the name of the operetta in the caption is mislabeled as "Rip Van Winkle", in which she played Lisbeth).]

). In June 1895, she made her first appearance on the London stage as a guest artist with the Ducal Court Company of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as Christel in five performances of "Der Vogelhändler" at the Drury Lane Theatre. W. S. Gilbert saw her there and hired her to play Julia Jellicoe in "The Grand Duke", a role which he expanded considerably and tailored to suit her comic talents. Pálmay earned very favourable notices from the critics. [ [ Reviews of Pálmay in "The Grand Duke"] ]

Pálmay had signed a two-year contract with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, but "The Grand Duke" ran for only four months in 1896. After it closed, she created the role of Felice in "His Majesty" at the Savoy in the spring of 1897. "His Majesty" gave Pálmay opportunities to display her talents as ballad singer, opera soprano, and comedienne, including the chance to sing in German, the language in which she usually performed. The song, "Das Kleine Fraülein Müffchen," is a German version of "Little Miss Muffet". Pitting the weak-voiced George Grossmith against the histrionic Pálmay may have speeded his departure from the production after only four performances. [ [ Introduction to "His Majesty"] .] Pálmay next appeared as Elsie in the revival of "The Yeomen of the Guard" in the summer of 1897. She left the D'Oyly Carte organisation in July 1897 and returned home.

Later years

In 1898-99 Pálmay appeared in Vienna, but most of her career was spent in Budapest. She also appeared briefly in German-language theatre in New York in 1905, but soon returned to Hungary. In 1911, she won the national Hungarian theatre's honorary prize. Pálmay played many roles from opera and operetta during her long career, as noted below. She retired from the stage in 1928.

Pálmay recorded two songs in Vienna in 1900 and several in Budapest in 1903. The Budapest songs included one in English, "Butterfly," a folk song. She also recorded "Madrigal" from "Ninoche" and "A Little Bit of String" from "The Circus Girl". All of these can be heard on "The Art of the Savoyard" (Pearl GEMM CD 9991).

Writing as Countess Kinsky, Pálmay eventually published her memoirs in the Hungarian language. They were translated into German and published in Berlin in 1911 as "Meine Erinnerungen" ("My Memories"). A chapter of the book is devoted to her days at the Savoy. That chapter was translated into English by Andrew Lamb and appears in the May and September 1972 issues of "The Gilbert & Sullivan Journal". In her book, she mentions D'Oyly Carte plans for a musical version of Victorien Sardou's "Madame Sans-Gêne" for the 1897-98 season, but those plans never came to fruition.

Pálmay died in Budapest at the age of 85.


* Giacomo Puccini/David Belasco: "Madama Butterfly" – Cio-Cio-San
* Ferenc Csepreghy: "Sárga csikó" ("Yellow Foal") – Erzsike (Elizabeth)
* Ferenc Csepreghy: "A piros bugyelláris" ("The Red Purse") – Török Zsófi (Turkish girl Zsófi)
* Ferenc Csepreghy: "A tót leány" – Misu
* Gilbert and Sullivan: "The Grand Duke" – Julia Jellicoe (in English, London)
* Gilbert and Sullivan: "The Yeomen of the Guard" – Elsie Maynard
* Gilbert and Sullivan: "The Mikado" – Yum-Yum (in Germany)
* Károly Gerő: "Vadgalamb" ("Culver") – Rica a pásztorlány (Rica the shepherdess)
* Charles Grisart: "A királykisasszony bábui – Les Poupées de l'Infante" – main role
* Hervé: "Mam'zelle Nitouche" ("Nebántsvirág" in Hungarian) – Denise
* Hennequin, & Millaud: "Niniche" – Niniche
* Charles Lecocq: "Nap és hold" ("Le Jour et la Nuit") – Manola
* Charles Lecocq: "The Gardener Girl" – Micaela
* Alexander MacKenzie: "His Majesty" - Felice
* Andre Messager: "A beárni leány – La béarnaise " – the main role
* Karl Millöcker: "A koldusdiák" (Der Bettelstudent - "The Beggar Student") – Bronislawa
* Karl Millöcker: "Gasparone" – Carlotta
* Jacques Offenbach: "La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein" ("The Grand Duchess of Gérolstein") – the title role
* Jacques Offenbach: "La belle Hélène" – Hélène
* Jacques Offenbach: "Orpheus in the Underworld" – Eurydice
* Robert Planquette: "Rip van Winkle" – Lisbeth
* Robert Planquette: "The Pirate King" – Yvonne
* Robert Planquette: "Les Cloches de Corneville" – Serpolette, the good-for-nothing.
* Robert Planquette: "A komédiás hercegnő" – main role
* Jenő Rákosi: "Magdolna" – Magda
* Jenő Rákosi: Szélháziak – Cseresnyés Alfréd, the lawyer
* Franz von Suppé: "Boccaccio" – Fiametta
* Johann Strauss II: "The Gypsy Baron" – Barinkay
* Johann Strauss II: "Das Spitzentuch der Königin" ("The Queen's Lace Handkerchief") – main role
* Johann Strauss II: "Fürstin Ninetta" (Princess Ninetta) - title role
* Franz Schubert - Besté: "Három a kislány" – Tscöllné
* Joseph Szigeti: "Csókon szerzett vőlegény" – Ábrai Irén színésznő
* Carl Zeller: "Der Vogelhändler" - Christel (Milka in Hungarian)
* Émile Zola: "Nana" (based on Zola's novel) – main role


"In English:"
* Theatre Notebook - "A Journal of the History and Technique of the British Theatre", 1945.
* Anon: "The Romance of a Famous Theatre / The Old Savoy and The New" - London, Curwen Press, 1930.
* W. S. Gilbert: "The Savoy Operas" - London, Macmillan Co., Ltd., 1926; 4th reprint 1935.
* Introduction by Martyn Green.
* ISBN 0903443120

"In German:"
* Honegger Marc – Marsenkeil Günther: "Das große Lexikon der Musik", 1-8 – ("The Large Encyclopedia of Music", 1–8), Freiburg, 1976-1983.
* "Lexikon der Frau", 1-2 – Zürich ("Women Encyclopedia", 1-2 – Zurich), 1953.
* "Das Jahrbuch der Wiener Gesellschaft. Beiträge zur Wiener Zeitgeschichte" - Wien ("The Yearbook of the Viennese Society. Contributions to Viennese Contemporary History" – Vienna), 1929
* "Biographisches Lexikon des Kaisertums Österreich". 1–60 – Wien ("Biographic Encyclopedia of Kaiser’s Austria". 1–60 – Vienna), 1856-1891.

"In Hungarian:"
* "Magyar Színházművészeti Lexikon" – Akadémiai Kiadó, ("Hungarian Theatre Lexicon", Academic Edition), Budapest, 1994.
* Gyula Krúdy: "Primadonna" – Regényes történet Pálmay Ilkáról, aki meghódította a világot. - Móra Könyvkiadó ("Primadonna" – About Ilka Pálmay and her world. Móra Publications), Budapest, 1988.
* Magyar Életrajzi Lexikon 1-3. Budapest, 1981–1982.: "Színészmúzeum / Pálmay Ilka" – Magyar Színházi Intézet, (Hungarian Biography: "Theatre Museum / Ilka Pálmay" – Hungarian Theatrical Institute) Budapest, 1981–1982.
* Hont-Staud: "Színházi kislexikon" – Gondolat Kiadó ("Concise Theatrical Lexicon" – Gondolat Edition) , Budapest, 1969.
* Dr. Dezső Bánóczi: "Rendezte dr. Bánóczi Dezső" – Szerzői magánkiadás, ("Staging by Dr Dezső Bánóczi" – Copyright Private Issue) Budapest, 1943.
* Dr. Antal Németh: "Színészeti lexikon" – Győző Andor kiadása ("Theatrical Lexicon" – Győző Andor’s issue), Budapest, 1930.
* "Révai mickle lexicon / Pálmay Ilka" ("Révai’s Large Lexicon / Pálmay Ilka" – Révai’s issue), Budapest , 1911–1927.
* Kálmán Porzsolt: "Blaha Lujza emlékalbum" ("Blaha Lujza’s Memorial Album") – Budapest, 1926.
* György Verő: "A Népszínház Budapest színi életében" ("Budapest People’s Theatre – The Colours of Its Life") – Budapest, 1926.
* Gróf Kinskyné Ilka Pálmay: "Emlékirataim – Singer és Wolfner Kiadó" (Countess Kinsky, Ilka Pálmay: "My Memoirs"), Budapest, 1912
* Sándor Bródy: "Színésznők" ("Actresses") – Budapest, 1905.
* Mihály Báthory-Románcsik: "Magyar színészek és színésznők életrajzai" ("Hungarian actors and actresses") – Kassa, 1883.



* ISBN 0-903443-12-0

External links

* [ Ilka Pálmay] at Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
* [ Profile of Pálmay ]
* [ Reviews of "The Grand Duke" and Pálmay ]
* [ Photo of Pálmay]
* [ Ilka Pálmay at Theatre Museum]
* [ Extensive information about Pálmay (in Hungarian)]
* [ Article in Hungarian that includes information about Palmay]
* [ A letter from Pálmay (in Hungarian)]
* [ Article about the women who created the G&S soprano roles]

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