Hayes, Catherine (DNB00)

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HAYES, CATHERINE, afterwards Catherine Bushnell (1825–1861), vocalist, was born of humble parentage at 4 Patrick Street, Limerick, on 29 Oct. 1825. At an early age her vocal talents attracted the notice of Bishop Knox of Limerick, and through his exertions funds wrere procured to enable her to study in Dublin under Antonio Sapio, from 1 April 1839 until August 1842. Her first appearance took place on 3 May 1839 at Sapio's annual concert in the Rotunda, Dublin. Early next year she sang in her native city, and then frequently in Dublin, and soon raised her terms to ten guineas a concert. After hearing Grisi and Mario in 'Norma' on 13 Sept. 1841, she decided to come out on the lyric stage, and, going to Paris on 12 Oct. 1842, studied under Manuel Garcia, who after a tuition of a year and a half advised her to proceed to Italy. At Milan she became the pupil of Felice Ronconi, and through the intervention of Madame Grassini was engaged for the Italian Opera House, Marseilles, where on 10 May 1846 she made her first appearance on the stage as Elvira in 'I Puritaui,' and was enthusiastically applauded. After her return to Milan she continued her studies under Ronconi, until Morelli, the director of La Scala at Milan, offered her an engagement. Here her first character was Linda, and she was recalled twelve times by the audience. Her voice had now become a soprano of the sweetest quality, and of good compass, ascending with ease to D in alt. The upper notes were limpid, and like a well-tuned silver bell up to A. Her lower tones were the most beautiful ever heard in a real soprano, and her trill was remarkably good. She was a touching actress in all her standard parts. She was tall, with a fine figure, and graceful in her movements. She remained at Milan during the autumn of 1845 and the carnival of 1846, and took the characters of Lucia, Zora in 'Mose in Egitto,' Desdemona, and Amina. Later on in 1846 she sang in Vienna, and on the first night of the carnival of 1847 appeared in Venice in a poor opera composed for her by Malespino, a nobleman, entitled 'Albergo di Romano.' Returning to Vienna, she took part in 'Estrella,' expressly written for her by Ricci. After a tour of the Italian cities, she returned to England in 1849, when Delafield engaged her for the season at a salary of 1,300l. On Tuesday, 10 April, she made her début at Covent Garden in 'Linda di Chamouni,' and was received with much warmth. At the close of the season she sang before the queen at Buckingham Palace. On 5 Nov. 1849 she appeared at a concert given by the Dublin Philharmonic Society, and afterwards at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, in Lucia, when the Edgardo was so badly played that an uproar ensued, and Sims Reeves, one of the audience, took his place on the stage. Under Lumley's management Miss Hayes played Lucia at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, on 2 April 1850, but owing to illhealth and other causes she was seldom seen during the remainder of the season. At the carnival in Rome in 1851 she was engaged at the Teatro d'Apollone, and performed in 'Maria de Rohan' for twelve nights, and received the diploma of the Academia di Santa Cecilia. From Rome she returned to London, where during the season of 1851 she was the star of the concert-room and of the performances of the Sacred Harmonic Society, singing in the oratorios of Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn. Leaving England in September 1851, and first singing in New York on the 23rd of that month, she there, by the advice of William Avery Bushnell of Connecticut, an electioneering agent, forfeited 3,000l., and gave him the management of her tour. During 1853 she was in California, where fabulous sums were paid for the choice of seats, one ticket selling for 1,150 dollars. She then departed for South America, and after visiting the principal cities embarked for Australia. She gave concerts in the Sandwich Islands, and arrived at Sydney in January 1854. After singing in that city, Melbourne, and Adelaide, she went to India and Batavia; revisited Australia, and returned to England in August 1856, after an absence of five years. In 1856 she lost twenty-seven thousand dollars by the failure of Saunders & Brennon of San Francisco. On 8 Oct. 1857, at St. George's, Hanover Square, she married William Avery Bushnell. He soon fell into ill-health, and died at Biarritz, France, on 2 July 1858, aged 35. She appeared at Jullien's promenade concerts at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1857, when her ballad singing, the branch of art in which lay her greatest power, was much applauded. After her husband's death she took part in concerts in London and the country towns. She died in the house of a friend, Henry Lee, at Roccles, Upper Sydenham, Kent, on 11 Aug. 1861, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 17 Aug. Her will was proved on 26 Aug., the personalty being sworn under 16,000l.

[Times. 13 Aug. 1861,p. 7 ; Illustrated London News, 6 Sept. 1851, pp. 285-6, with portrait; Era, 18 Aug. 1861, p. 10; Gent. Mag. 1861, ii. 331-2; Clayton's Queens of Song, 1863, ii. 274-96; Dublin Univ. Mag. November 1850, p. 684-95, with portrait; Chorley's Thirty Years' Recollections, 1862, i. 250-2; Tallis's Drawing-room Table-book, 1851, pp. 33-5, with portrait; You have heard of them. By Q., 1854, pp. 129-37; Lumley's Reminiscences of the Opera, 1854, p. 273; T. Allston Brown's American Stage, 1870, p. 167; Memoirs of Miss Catherine Hayes, the Swan of Erin, with portrait.]

G. C. B.