Willa Cather's Opera Prototypes who were Recording Artists

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FARRAR FREMSTAD NORDICA GARDEN SCHUMANN-HEINK BORI

 

By Doug Boilesen

Willa Cather loved opera and was a devoted patron of opera wherever she lived or travelled. She had friendships with opera stars, understood the world of opera, knew the challenges of being an artist in a consumer world, and wrote multiple stories where a prima donna or an aspirational artist was the central character.

Six of the prima donnas identified by scholars as likely prototypes (1) for Cather opera related characters made phonograph records and appeared in phonograph ads.

By appearing in popular culture magazine ads these prototypes added their celebrity status, artistic reputations, and the prestige of opera to promote a key phonograph industry theme; namely, that the world of entertainment, highlighted by opera, was available to anyone, anytime and anyplace. The stage of the world, it was advertised, could now be in your own home where you would be more comfortable than in a theatre; it was more convenient than going to a theatre, no expensive tickets to buy, unlimited reperotoires, and always the best seat in the house. You just needed to own a phonograph and records.

The Cather prototype artists and their respective ads featured in this gallery are the following:

Geraldine Farrar (one of the prototypes for Kitty Ayshire in Scandal and A Gold Slipper and interviewed by Cather for her article Three American Singers).

Lillian Nordica (prototype for Cressida Garnet in The Diamond Mine)

Mary Garden (prototype for Eden Bower in Coming, Aphrodite! and one of the prototypes for Kitty Ayshire in Scandal)

Olive Fremstad (prototype for Thea Kronborg in The Song of the Lark and interviewed by Cather for her article Three American Singers).

Ernestine Schumann-Heink (prototype for "soprano soloist" in Paul’s Case).

Lucrezia Bori (prototype for "Spanish woman" in Scandal).

 

 

 

Geraldine Farrar .

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October 1908

 

 

In promoting opera The Victor Talking Machine Company led the way with its advertising campaigns featuring opera, Caruso and "the greatest artists of the world." Columbia was a competitor, likewise trying to exclusively promote the greatest singers of the world. Edison didn't have as many of the first-tier opera stars as Victor and Edison was perhaps more interested in advertising the technical accuracy of his phonograph than promoting world-renowned artists but he did recruit some 'famous artists', especially for promoting his Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph and records.

The Victrola's "Both are" advertising campaign of 1914-15, in which Farrar was one of the featured artists, was a promotion that the phonograph industry hoped all consumers would come to believe; namely, that there was no difference between a recorded voice and the voice of an artist on stage. With a record and an artist positioned side by side in the Victor ad, the artist and the record were said to be equals -- a record had "the same singularly beautiful voice, with all the personal charm and individuality of the artist." "The proof," said the Victor ad, "is in the hearing."

 

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Farrar and Schumann-Heink, Harper's Magazine, 1908

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The Talking Machine World, December 1908

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The Outlook Magazine, 1909

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1909

 




Deutsche Grammophon magazine ad with Geraldine Farrar (7" x 9.75") 1911

 





Parfum Geraldine Farrar

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Geraldine Farrar as “fashion editor” The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1914

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Farrar, "O, for the Wings of a Dove," 1911

"Do not neglect to cultivate the highest esthetic tastes." The loss of the taste for music is indeed 'a loss of happiness...'

 

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American Magazine, 1914

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Everybody's Magazine, 1915

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Farrar on cover of The Theatre, December 1915

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Miss Geraldine Farrar in "smart French Felt" hat, newspaper clipping 1915, Courtesy New York Public Library Picture Collection

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Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc, Picture-Play Magazine , January 1917

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Farrar in "Carmen" The Moving Picture World, September 1918

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1918 Farrar

 

 

 

 

 

Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Eames, the greatest American sopranos, 1911

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Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

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Exclusivity and hosting the world’s greatest artists like Farrar and Schumann-Heink (with Caruso of course here leading the procession) were privileges that came with owning a Victor. Wealth and high social status were obvious and intended parts of these ads. Victrola Christmas Brochure, 1914

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Geraldine Farrar, Mme. Schumann-Heink and Lucrezia Bori

Farrar, Schumann-Heink and Bori, The Ladies' Home Journal, September 1919

 

 

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Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schumann-Heink, the National Geographic 1919

 

 

 

 

Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schumann-Heink, The Literary Digest for November 6, 1920

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Geraldine Farrar makes Victrola Records exclusively, 1919

 

 

 

"It is quite fitting that so good an American as Miss Farrar" sing her rendition which "is quite an inspiring one." Victor Records Catalog August 1916

 

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Farrar sings "Star Spangled Banner" Newspaper ad 1919

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Motion Picture News, April 17, 1920

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Farrar as Zaza, Victor Records Catalog for April 1920

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Headline from New York Times article on April 23, 1922 about Farrar's farewell performance at the Met.

For timeline of Farrar's career using newspaper accounts see The Parterre Archives by LA CIECA on August 07, 2015

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Geraldine Farrar endorses the new Cutex Polishes, 1919

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Geraldine Farrar endorses Cutex, the modern way to manicure, 1919

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April 17, 1920 Testimonial by Farrar for Steinway pianos

 

 

 

 

Geraldine Farrar and Mme. Schumann-Heink

Farrar and Schuman-Heink,"The Chosen instrument by the world's greatest artists." The Ladies' Home Journal" November 1918

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1923 Farrar and Schuman-Heink and Homer - "Victor Supremacy"

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Geraldine Farrar, Mme. Schumann-Heink and Mary Garden

Farrar, Schumann-Heink, Mary Garden - 1922 sepia rotogravure

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Lillian Nordica

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

 

 

 

Columbia advertisement courtesy of The Nordica Memorial Association

 

 

 

The Talking Machine World, February 15, 1907

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

Mary Garden

Mary Garden as Thais, photograph by Reutingler, Paris, postcard c. 1901

 

 

 

Mary Garden made six cylinder records of Scottish songs for Pathe in 1903, four records for G&T in 1904 and 3 Edison records in 1905

 

Mary Garden’s Scottish Records, Pathe Record Catalog, 1904 (Courtesy British Library)

 

 

 

The Talking Machine World, April 1911

 

 

 

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1911 Mary Garden Parfum ad with same image used in 1911 Columbia Phonograph ad and

 





“Professional Jealousy – What happened When A Mary Garden Record Met a Tettrazini Record on the Library Table.” ca. 1910 by Albert Leving, Courtesy Music Division, Library of Congress

 

 

 

Mary Garden stopped Grand Opera to make this California song famous.

Sheet Music, 1913 (Courtesy New York Public Library)

 

 

 

 

 

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Mary Garden for Lucky Strike, Country Life, January 1928

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Olive Fremstad and Mary Garden

Announcement in the February 1911 trade magazine The Talking Machine World that Columbia has just added Nordica and Fremstad to their list of exclusive Columbia artists.

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Columbia Records featuring Mary Garden and Olive Fremstad, 1916. Outing 69, October 1916

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Columbia Records featuring Mary Garden and Olive Fremstad, 1916. Hearst’s, June 1916

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Columbia Records featuring Mary Garden and Alice Nielsen; Olive Fremstad listed in ad, Country Life in America, October 1916

 

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Columbia Records - You hear Fremstad, Garden..."1917

 

 

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Olive Fremstad

First records of Fremstad's voice ever made exclusively for Columbia, 1911

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Fremstad mentioned as one of opera's most brilliant stars singing for the Columbia Company because Columbia Records are truly "records of life."

The Literary Digest for January 13, 1917

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Ernestine Schumann-Heink

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Schumann-Heink Postcard, 1907

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Everybody's Magazine, 1910

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Life, September 9, 1915

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Schumann-Heink as “fashion editor” The Ladies’ Home Journal, 1914

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"Mme. Schumann-Heink has been heard by so many American audiences that unless her Victor Records were indeed her other self the discrepancy would be noted, not by the few but by the many." The Ladies' Home Journal, May 1925

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"Mme. Schumann-Heink uses the Steinway exclusively", Steinway Piano ad, 1927

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Mme. Schumann-Heink Radio Broadcast, Enna Jennick Shoes ad,The Saturday Evening Post, 1929

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Lucrezia Bori

Lucrezia Bori promoted as famous artist making records for the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph, newspaper ad in El Paso Morning Times, October 5, 1915

To listen to Ah! fors' e lui - La traviata performed by Lucrezia Bori, August 1910 Courtesy of NPS object catalog number EDIS 87690-a

 

 

 

Opera News, November 20, 1915

 

 

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Lucrezia Bori, The Ladies' Home Journal, April 1925

 

 

 

 

September 6, 1934 Morning Post

 

 

 

 

 

Phonographia