and television personality Rosemary Butler, who shows signs of becoming a big name in this country before long, looks back on her recent singing and acting studies at Perugia. North Italy, with one memory that she especially treasures.
During the summer of last year Rosemary went again and again to Assisi. There she acted as unofficial guide during the day, read her own Italian translations of English and Australian poems to the summer festival audiences in the amphitheatre at night —and day or night, though not a Catholic, she experienced in the town a vivid sense of the sanctity and reality of St. Francis.
"Wherever you walk in the streets of the town," she says, "you expect to meet him round the next corner. It's over a year since I left Italy, but this awareness I got of St. Francis in Assisi is still with me."
But it was a very different sort of thing that brought her to Italy in the first place. It started when Rosemary at the age of four took to the ballet stage in her native Adelaide, a town outstanding in Australia as a cultural centre (its arts festival, of some years' standing, is modelled on the Edinburgh International.) From there she went on to sing and act in a number of school operas, roles, including Mary in Vaughan Williams's "Hugh the Drover." Carrying on her theatrical schooling with some of the many rep companies in the town, she eventually won her way through an acting talent test to television in Melbourne.
Here, says Rosemary with a wry chuckle, "I was helping behind the sets and on the cameras to produce commercials during the day. In the evenings on ABC I had a show of my own where I commered and sang. Some of the stars I was working for off the set during the day were actually my guests on the evening show."
From there on her work in Australia alternated between Melbourne and Sydney. It ranged from poetry readings, through pantomime and light opera to singing at social clubs ("Something like the workingmen's clubs that you have in the north of England, though I haven't had a chance to see how exactly these run yet.") It was shortly after a tour of "Lilac Time" that Rosemary was engaged to sing on a holiday cruise organised by an Italian shipping line. The organisers leapt at the chance to promote her talent, and she next found herself undergoing a year's course of singing and acting at Perugia Conservatorium. It was then that she fell in love with nearby Assisi.
Now that she has been in England a year, says Rosemary. "I intend to stay. But you can't expect to start at the top in a strange country." She is carrying on her studies, working mostly on musical comedy under Lucille Bensteadwho gave public reminiscences in London on Tuesday of her West End and Broadway experiences.
"Meanwhile, a girl's got to live," Rosemary points out. and she is at present making her living as a secretary. Her first break in England comes next month when a semi-professional production of Offenbach's "La Vie Parisienne" opens in the West End with Rosemary playing the soprano Metella.