Vestris Road, SE23

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Lucia Bartalozzi Vestris (March 3, 1797 – August 8, 1856) was a celebrated actress, opera singer and beauty of her day who later went on to become a leading theatre manager and impresario of burlesques and extravaganzas. She was born in London into an artistic family, her mother was a pianist, her father an art dealer. She married aged just 16 to the French ballet dancer, Auguste Armand Vestris, a scion of the great family of dancers of Florentine origin, but her husband deserted her for another woman and left for Naples four years later. Nevertheless, since she had started singing and acting professionally as Madame Vestris, she retained the stage name throughout her career. Talented and successful, she really came to public notice during a show at Drury Lane in which she wore breeches, revealing the contour of her shapely legs. This scandalous (for the time) performance launched her career as a star becoming a favourite in opera, musical farces, and comedies until her retirement in 1854. When Covent Garden management sought to reduce the acting payroll in 1830, Vestris, who had accumulated a fortune over the previous decade, was able to lease the Olympic Theatre. There she began presenting a series of burlesques and extravaganzas — with herself as star. She produced numerous works by the contemporary playwright James Planché, with whom she had a successful partnership, which included him contributing ideas for staging and costumes. This is one of a number of Forest Hill streets that were largely developed in the latter half of the 19thCentury, many of them named after near contemporary theatrical stars.

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