|Houdini and Compars Herrmann|
"Knew Blanche Corelli very well, and it may surprise you to know that my father's first wife
was a first cousin to Compars Herrmann's first wife. Rosa Csillag. My dear old Dad and Compars Herrmann were great companions and for business reasons have never given out the facts, because they might think that at one time I was seeking publicity." The last line of this is priceless, Houdini fearing someone might think he was just out to seek publicity! lol. This is from a letter Houdini wrote to Frederick Eugene Powell.
In his day, Compars Herrmann was enormously successful in Europe and very well known. Compars had one child by the name of Maria Dorothea Herrmann. She was named after the daughter of the Belgian Archduke Josef Palatin and his wife whose name was Dorothea. Maria would grow up to become a fairly well known opera singer and change her name to Blanche Corelli. My article here centers on Herrmann's daughter, Houdini's cousin, Blanche Corelli. Incidentally, Blanche herself would often tell people that she and Houdini were related. To make it easy, I'll refer to Compars daughter from here on out by her stage name Blanche Corelli.
|Postcard showing the students of Blanche Corelli|
An online search for Blanche Corelli brings up several pages where her name is mentioned either in conjunction with her Opera Company or as a music teacher. But the only place that I could find that really reveals who this woman really was is the site created by Cindy Lippincott.
Another line of interest reads "PLEASE dont refuse, for if you do, when I play a return to Berlin, I will tell Ike Rose." This line makes no sense to me today, so I tried to research who 'Ike Rose' was. Turns out there was an Ike Rose who managed a troupe of midgets. So I take it that the line was written in jest, again showing the friendly terms that Houdini and Blanche Corelli were on.
On a different note, I found the red/white/blue Houdini sticker at the top of the letter to be quite interesting. The very same sticker was placed over the back of the envelope that the letter was sent in. Take a closer look.
Getting back to Blanche, when she met Hall Lippincott she was 75 years old and living in Berlin. They stayed in touch through letters all the way into 1939. The letters are revealing in many ways. From a historical perspective, remember in 1933 Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and it was that same year that the first Concentration Camp was opened. But her letters describe the conditions in Germany as being bad as early as 1931.
It's clear that Blanche is not a wealthy woman and money is an issue at this time of her life. She tried unsuccessfully to obtain money from her fathers estate. When Adelaide Herrmann died Blanche tried to obtain something from her Aunt's Adelaide's estate. Blanche reveals that she was the one who kept after Alexander Herrmann, her Uncle, to marry Adelaide. Sadly, Adelaide gambled away her money and left pretty much nothing when she died. And to make matters worse, poor Blanche ended up getting into a battle of words with Herrmann family members here in the U.S..
What eventually happened to Blanche Corelli is unknown. Her last letter to Hall Lippincott was in 1939 when she would have been 86 years old. I can't help but hope she died quietly of old age in her home and not suffered the fate of many Jewish residents of Berlin Germany in the 1930s.
I have a personal interest in the Houdini/Herrmann connection, because I too have a Herrmann in my family tree. I've not been able to dig deep enough to discover if there is a connection to Compars & Alexander & Blanche, but even if there is, my connection is via marriage and regardless I would not be a blood relation only related through marriage.
If you'd like to read the letters that Compars Herrmann's daughter wrote you can read them by going to http://corelli.halllippincott.info/?s=corelli
I want to extend a huge thank you to Cindy Lippincott for letting me use the photos on this blog and for creating the site that records such incredible information about not only Blanche Corelli but also her father Hall Lippincott, one very amazing individual.