THE FINAL PHASE
AFTER MORE than ten years' uninterrupted engagement as the Empire's prima ballerina Adeline Genée sailed from Southampton, on New Year's Day 1908, to conquer fresh fields in the New World. As if unable to believe that she would not return, even though she had made it plain to them that she intended to bind herself to no particular theatre for the moment, the Empire directors at first made no serious attempt to replace her. Her most recent creation, The Belle of the Ball, was not taken off, but was revised by Fred Farren to feature Topsy Sinden.
Topsy Sinden, who had made her first appearance at the Empire as a child in 1889, in the ballet The Paris Exhibition, dancing a Lancashire clog-dance with her brother Bertie, was in no sense a classical ballerina. By training she belonged to what was then called 'the English school'. This was the term that comprised the tap-dancing and skirt-dancing that was so popular on the late Victorian and Edwardian musical comedy stage, and which had produced such famous exponents as Kate Vaughan, Letty Lind, Alice Lethbridge and Sylvia Grey.
Well received though she was, Topsy Sinden could not hope to replace the classically trained Genée in the hearts of the Empire audience, and a tremendous welcome lay in store for the Danish ballerina when she returned for a short session the following summer. On the night of June 10, 1908, the house was packed almost to overflowing, and when she first came into view as the curtain rose on the first act of Coppélia, the audience burst into a roar of welcome that continued for nearly a full minute. Coppélia remained in the bill for several weeks, with Francesca Zanfretta playing opposite Genée as Franz. Fred Farren repeated his success of the year before as Coppélius, but, falling ill during the run, was replaced for a few performances by Alexander Genée himself, who had not appeared before the public for more than ten years.
Before the close of this short summer engagement, Genée was to realize one of her ambitions. On September 7, 1908,