Lillian Nordica - Recording Artist and Willa Cather Opera Prototype

Lillian Nordica as Brunnhilde, 1898 (Courtesy of Nordica Memorial Association)


By Doug Boilesen, 2020

Lillian Nordica has been identified by scholars (1) as a prototype used by Cather in her opera related story The Diamond Mine, i.e., the prototype for Cressida Garnet.

Besides starring on the opera stage Nordica made phonograph records and was featured in advertisements which added her celebrity status, artistic reputation, and the prestige of opera to the promotion of the early phonograph.

The Phonographia gallery Willa Cather's Opera Prototypes who were Recording Artists provides an overview with examples and ephemera related to Cather's six opera related prototypes: FARRAR, FREMSTAD, NORDICA, GARDEN, SCHUMANN-HEINK and BORI.

This gallery provides examples focused on Lillian Nordica and her popular culture role as seen in advertisements and other ephemera.



Columbia advertisement courtesy of The Nordica Memorial Association






Nordica, Fremstad, and Mary Garden

Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911





Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, The Saturday Evening Post 1911




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911



Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1912




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1912




The Talking Machine World, Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, July 1913



Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, Garden Magazine, August 1913




Nordica 1902 endorsement of The Everett Piano



Nordica was featured on Coca-Cola calendars, trays and advertising posters in 1904 and 1905



Nordica endoreses the Everett Piano, Harper's 1909




Endorsements of "The Fowler" Bicycle includes Nordica's




Madame Nordica's Bath Powder




"In the advertising campaign for her weight-loss powder, Nordica even published a pamphlet with weight-loss tips, as well as pictures of other famous opera singers. The pamphlet was designed to equate the beauty and glamour of opera and opera singers with being thin—which could be achieved simply by soaking the pounds away in a bath laced with Nordica’s powder."

Madame Nordica's Bath Powder, Life 1913 (Text and advertisement courtesy of the Avid Listener)




Cleans and Protects finest homes in America including Mmd. Nordica, The Saturday Evening Post 1913 (Courtesy of the Avid Listener)



Nordica enthusiastically supports Woman Suffrage cause, New York Times, June 26, 1910




Nordica posed as Columbia in a suffragette pageant. (Courtesy of The Nordica Memorial Association)