Emma Calvé.This generation seems to be particularly fortunate in regard to the number and the quality of its singers. Not the least prominent among these is Emma Calvé, the well-known prima donna, who has sung, so it is said, in every civilized or semi-civilized country in the world and in each and every instance has vindicated her professional reputation. She was born in France in 1866 and was educated at a convent. After some years of study under continental masters, she made her début in grand opera in 1882 at the Theater De la Monnaie, Brussels, where she appeared in Massenet’s Herodiade. Since then she has been intrusted with a number of responsible operatic rôles and is well known in the United States. No small portion of her current reputation rests upon the success that she achieved in connection with her appearance in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.”
Zelie de Lussan.Among the younger prima donnas who have attracted nearly as much attention abroad as they have in this country is Zelie de Lussan. She is an American girl by birth and received her musical training in New York and Boston. Subsequently she studied abroad, and after some concert work in France and Germany, returned to the United States, where she appeared in English and grand opera. Her successes from the inception of her artistic career were almost continuous. Besides her vocal gifts she owns histrionic talents of a high order. Subsequent to her last New York appearance, she was again called to Europe, and in that connection has given renewed assurance of her abilities. She is one of the several American girls who have succeeded in a profession which bristles with difficulties.
Emma Eames.It is not often that one compasses one’s ambition to the full. More frequently it will be found that those whom the world calls successful are successful in part only, and that much is left unfilled. It is open to question, however, whether the man who has fully realized his hope is more happy than he to whom somewhat remains for which to crave and struggle. The answer to the question involved could hardly be given by Emma Eames, prima donna, for humanly speaking, she seems to have achieved the ambitions and the purposes of her life. The singer was born in Shanghai, China, August 13, 1867, of American parentage. Her childhood was spent in Boston, her musical education being at first under the direction of her mother and later under Miss Munyard, a well-known teacher of vocalism. While singing in a church choir in Boston, she attracted the attention of Prof. Gericke, then leader of the Boston symphony orchestra, and Prof. Paine, of Harvard, both of whom became interested in her. It was under their direction that the technical foundation of her future fame was laid. By their advice and with their assistance, she took lessons from Mme. Marchesi, of Paris, for two years and later, after instruction in operatic rôles by Prof. Gevart, chief of the Brussels conservatory of music, she made her début in Paris in Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. A pronounced and spontaneous success was hers, and the news that a comparatively unknown American girl had become famous in a night excited the interest of musically inclined people all over the world. Gounod himself declared that she was his ideal Juliet. During her engagement in Paris, Miss Eames was the recipient of many social and official attentions, the president of the French republic honoring her with a decoration. In 1891 and the year following, she appeared in grand opera at the Covent Garden opera house, London, where she also scored. In 1893 and 1894 she gave New York audiences a taste of her quality by appearing in opera at the Metropolitan opera house and won immediate popular favor. She is installed a permanent favorite in musical circles of this country. In 1891 she married Julian, son of W. W. Story, the sculptor.
Lillian Nordica.Lillian Nordica, one of the most popular of American prima donnas, was born in Farmingdale, Maine, in 1859, her family name being Norton. Her musical education began early and was of a very thorough sort. After a period spent in local public schools, she became a student in the New England conservatory, her teacher being John O’Neil. Later she studied under San Giovanni at Milan, Italy. After preliminary work in concerts abroad, she made her operatic début at Brescia, Italy, in La Traviata, and scored instantaneously and emphatically. In 1887 she made a successful appearance in London, and later visited Paris, St. Petersburg and other European capitals. In each and every instance she repeated her initial successes. She has been twice married, her first husband being a Mr. Gower, and her second Herr Zoltan Done. The prima donna’s repertoire embraces the leading rôles of forty operas, and includes nearly all the standard oratorios. She is best known to the public in connection with Wagnerian parts, and has appeared in grand opera in this country on several occasions. Mme. Nordica has a charming personality, and her professional successes have by no means estranged her from the friends of her childhood.
Adelina Patti.Theoretically the uses of poverty are many, tending to the development of varied virtues. As a matter of fact, poverty is the mother of much meanness and many crimes. The struggle for mere existence among the poor is so keen that it absorbs their mental and physical vitality. So it is that he or she who passes from the twilight of penury into the sunlight of prosperity must be rarely gifted. Such an individual is Adelina Patti, whose fame as a great singer is not only yet undimmed, but bids fair to last as long as music itself. Patti was born in Madrid, Spain, February 19, 1843, her mother being a prima donna at the Grand theater. In 1844 the family came to this country, the father being appointed one of the managers of the then Italian opera house on Chambers street, New York. Little Adelina received her preliminary musical training from her half-brother, Ettore Barilli. Owing to the financial stresses in which her parents then were, she, although only seven years of age, was allowed to make her début in concert at Tripler’s hall, New York, on which occasion her undeveloped but phenomenal voice attracted general attention. In 1859 she made her début in grand opera at the Academy of Music, New York, when she appeared in Lucia di Lammermoor. Her audience gave her a most cordial welcome. But, as it turned out, her struggles were only beginning. As far as the mere cultivation of her voice was concerned, her natural gifts were of such a nature that she had no difficulty in overcoming the technical obstacles of her art, but the spirit of jealousy and suspicion which success usually arouses in the breasts of the unknown, prevented her talents from being duly recognized, or, to put it in another way, she was so belittled by her rivals that she had to individually satisfy every great city in America that she had not been overrated. Patti was deeply wounded by these unlooked-for conditions, but nevertheless she bravely faced the sneers and unkind criticisms and overcame them, and for many years has occupied a place in the estimation of the public, which probably no other prima donna in the history of civilization has attained. Twice during her career she has been threatened with the total loss of her voice, but happily the “nightingale in her throat” is as yet unsilenced. To the end of her days she will reap the reward of the self-denial and persistent attention to duty and art which she gave them during the years of her childhood. She has been as successful abroad as she has in this country. In grand opera she has assumed nearly all existing prominent rôles. For some years past she made her home abroad. In 1881, Patti revisited the United States, when she received $5,000 per night, which is said to be the largest amount ever paid to a singer or actor for one performance. Married three times, her last husband was Baron Rolf Cedarstrom. She is the owner of a castle at Craig-y-Nos, Wales. During her last and most recent visit to this country, the American public gave her ample proof that she still occupies a warm place in its affection.
Marcella Stengel Sembrich.Marcella Stengel Sembrich is one of the several prima donnas to whom the American music-loving public has remained loyal for many years. As an artist she ranks with the foremost singers of to-day, while her domestic life is of an ideal nature. As a rule, the law of compensation takes greatly where it gives freely, and so the woman of talent who devotes herself to the service of the public is apt to be the loser as far as home life is concerned. In Mme. Sembrich’s case it is otherwise, however, and her social popularity, too, is no less than is her vogue on the operatic stage. The songstress was born at Lemberg, Galatia, February 18, 1858. Her early musical education was obtained in the Conservatory of Lemberg, after which she studied at Vienna and Milan. Her marvelous vocal gifts assured the success of her début as Elvira, in I Puritani, at the Royal theater, Athens. After a season spent on the continent in opera she, in 1883, came to this country under the management of Henry Abbey. Her reception here was of the warmest nature, and from that time on she has been a constant favorite with the American public. She has made a number of tours in the United States and has been uniformly successful in connection therewith. In 1877 she married Prof. Wilhelm Stengel, who had formerly been her teacher at Lemberg.
Compiled from sources in the public domain.
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