Florence Lancia (1840 - 1905) Opera Singer
Born in Lambeth, Laura Florence Morris was the musically talented daughter of a mathematical instrument maker. She was married at 14 with parental consent, to wealthy 21 year old Henry Ladbroke Clarke whose family owned extensive estates in London.
The newlyweds left for Italy where Florence studied music. By 1858 she was making a successful debut in Turin as Rosina in the Barber of Seville. A year later she made her London debut at St James Hall. Although early reviews in the Musical Times were not favourable, they were alone in this opinion according to Kurt Ganzl, who devotes a whole chapter to her in ‘Victorian Vocalists’ and considered her as one of the outstanding English operatic sopranos of the Victorian era. She then joined the Pyne-Harrison Royal English Opera Company in Covent garden as second soprano, where she was well received by audiences.
Florence changed companies frequently and by October 1859 she was principal soprano at the Whitechapel Pavilion Theatre. By 1861 she was touring with Augustus Braham’s English Opera Company. She went on to tour Ireland and Scotland with various companies. The Era theatrical newspaper described her as a well educated vocalist and a superior actress with youth and beauty.
Retiring in 1874 age 33, she went on to teach singing and make occasional appearances at the Great Hall, in Tunbridge Wells. Her husband melts away after 1871 and there is no record of his death in the UK although on censuses from 1881 onwards, Florence is describing herself as a widow. She died in Tunbridge Wells age 65 and is buried here in B3 (con)260. She had no children and left a substantial sum to her sister’s daughter, Ladybird Florence Bingley.