Lucia Elizabeth Vestris

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Lucia Elizabeth Vestris

c. 1835 Engraving: Eliza Vestris in The Alcaid
Born Lucia Bartolozzi
January 1797
London, England
Died 8 August 1856
London, England
Years active 1815—1854
Spouse(s) Auguste Armand Vestris
Charles James Mathews

Lucia Elizabeth Vestris (January 1797 – 8 August 1856) was an English actress.

She was born Lucia Bartolozzi in London, the daughter of Theresa Jansen Bartolozzi and Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi (1757-1821) and granddaughter of Francesco Bartolozzi, the engraver. In 1813 she married Auguste Armand Vestris, who deserted her four years later. Her contralto voice and attractive appearance had gained Madame Vestris her first leading role in Italian opera in the title-role of Peter Winter’s II ratio di Proserpina at the King’s Theatre in 1815.  At 16 she married the dancer Armand Vestris (1787–1825), the son of Auguste Vestris. Armand was working at the King’s Theater and in production for a “Gonsalves di Cordova,” a grand ballet that he was arranging, an expected extraordinary event, but the opening date was announced and pushed back, announced and postponed.and Armand’s stormy disposition was the suspected cause.  The ballet was eventually produced and a great success.    Armand performed in Vincent Martin y Solar’s Cosa Rara, where Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold were in attendance.  Vestris and the other performers sang “God Save the King” adding an additional verse in honor of the prince and princess who appreciated it so much, they requested it be sang again at the end of the opera.


Armand and Madame Vestris separated two years after marriage, and she later went on the stage in Paris.  Part of the reason for their divorce may be attributed to Armand’s bad fortune.  When the King’s Theater closed, Armand was broke.  He was arrested for debts, filed for bankruptcy, and according to gossip at the time went to Paris with his wife and a suspected mistress, the dancer Mademoiselle Mori.  Once settled in Paris, Armand abandoned Madame Vestris for a dance appointment in Naples with Mori.   Madame Vestris continued to work on stage and secured appointment to Italian Opera and social circles where she met an Englishman, Windham Anstruther, who became smitten with her and she with him.   He was appalled that she would stay married to man who had abandoned her.

She had immediate success in both London and Paris, where she played Camille to Talma’s Horace in Horace. Her first hit in English was at Drury Lane in James Cobb‘s (1756-1818) Siege of Belgrade (1820). She was particularly a favourite in “breeches parts,” like Cherubino in the Marriage of Figaro, and in Don Giovanni, and with such introduced songs as “Cherry Ripe,” “Meet me by moonlight alone,” “I’ve been roaming,” etc.

In 1831, having accumulated a fortune, she became lessee of the Olympic Theatre, and began the presentation of a series of burlesques and extravaganzas—for which she made this house famous. She married Charles James Mathews in 1838, accompanying him to America and aiding him in his subsequent managerial ventures, including the management of the Lyceum Theatre and the theatre in Covent Garden. They inaugurated their management of Covent Garden with the first known production of Love’s Labour’s Lost since 1605; Vestris played Rosaline. In 1840 she staged one of the first relatively uncut productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which she played Oberon, beginning a tradition of female Oberons that lasted for seventy years.

Her last appearance (1854) was for Charles’s benefit, in an adaptation of Madame de Girardin’s La Joie fait pour, called Sunshine through Clouds, and she died in London. Her musical accomplishments and education were not sufficient to distinguish her in grand opera, and in high comedy she was only moderately successful. But in plays like Loan of a Lover, Paul Pry, Naval Engagements, etc., she was delightfully arch and bewitching.