Vintage Portrait of Legendary Opera Singer Nellie Melba (1859-1931)

Dame Nellie Melba GBE (1861 – 1931) born Helen “Nellie” Porter Mitchell became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the early 20th century. She was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician.

She was an operatic soprano. She sang at Richmond (Australia) Public Hall at the age of six and was also a skilled pianist and organist, but she did not study singing until after her marriage to Charles Nesbitt Armstrong in 1882, with whom she had a son named George. In the 1890s she had an affair with Philippe, Duke of Orleans, that led to scandal and eventually divorce.

After the brief and unsuccessful marriage, she moved to Europe in search of a singing career. Failing to find engagements in London in 1886, she studied in Paris and soon made a great success there and in Brussels. Returning to London she quickly established herself as the leading lyric soprano at Covent Garden from 1888. She soon achieved further success in Paris and elsewhere in Europe, and later at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, debuting there in 1893. Her repertoire was small; in her whole career she sang no more than 25 roles and was closely identified with only ten.

Melba continued to sing until the last months of her life and made a legendary number of “farewell” appearances. Her death, in Australia, was news across the English-speaking world, and her funeral was a major national event.

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Drawing of the young Nellie Melba by Frank Haviland, published 1908 via

 

Jenny Lind CDV by Emilie Bieber (1860s)

Johanna Maria “Jenny” Lind (1820 – 1887) was a Swedish opera singer, often known as the “Swedish Nightingale”. One of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century, she performed in soprano roles in opera in Sweden and across Europe, and undertook an extraordinarily popular concert tour of America beginning in 1850. She was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music from 1840.

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Jenny Lind by Emilie Bieber albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s © National Portrait Gallery, London via

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Otto Moritz David Goldschmidt; Jenny Lind by Emilie Bieber albumen carte-de-visite, 1860s © National Portrait Gallery, London via

A Collection of Photos Feat. Soprano Rosa Ponselle (1897 – 1981)

Rosa Ponselle (1897 – 1981), was an American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.

During the early 1910s she hand her sister were a headlining act on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit, appearing in all the major Keith theaters and earning a substantial income in the process. The sisters’ act consisted of traditional ballads, popular Italian songs, and operatic arias and duets.

In 1918 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora in Verdi’s La forza del destino, opposite non other than Caruso. It was her first performance on any opera stage and she scored a tremendous success, both with the public and with the critics. Her professional career lasted 21 years. Her last operatic performance was as Carmen in1937, in a Met tour performance in Cleveland.

Ponselle later said that she never missed performing after she retired. She built a luxurious home with her husband near Baltimore, Maryland, the Villa Pace, where she lived the rest of her life.

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Rosa Ponselle via

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Rosa Ponselle via

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Rosa Ponsella as Violetta in Verdi´s La Traviata, 1935 via

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Marion Telva as Adalgisa and Rosa Ponselle in the title role of Bellini’s Norma, 1927 via

The Most Wonderful Hair in Europe! Vintage Photos of Cantatrice Aline Vallandri

Cantatrice Aline Vallandri (1878 – 1952) was born in Paris and made her debut in 1904 at the Opéra-Comique, where she thrived for nearly thirty years. However, her operatic successes were scarcely more renowned than the phenomenal beauty of her golden locks. The secret behind them she claimed was:

“It was when I was sent to a convent to finish my education that my hair began to grow luxuriantly. One of the nuns had a special lotion which she used for her hair. She gave me the recipe for it, and I have used it ever since. Unfortunately, I cannot make the recipe public, as I promised to keep it a secret. Every doctor, however, can give a prescription which, if persevered in, will make the hair grow” (Source)
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Aline Vallandri via
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A Collection of Photos featuring Curvy Beauty Lillian Russell

Lillian Russell (1860– 1922) became one of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.

For many years, Russell was the foremost singer of operettas in America. Her voice, stage presence and beauty were the subject of a great deal of fanfare in the news media, and she was extremely popular with audiences. Actress Marie Dressler observed,

“I can still recall the rush of pure awe that marked her entrance on the stage. And then the thunderous applause that swept from orchestra to gallery, to the very roof.”

When Alexander Graham Bell introduced long distance telephone service on May 8, 1890, Russell’s voice was the first carried over the line.

Russsel had a  flamboyant personal life and was married four times. She married composer Edward Solomon in 1884 and created roles in several of his operas in London, but in 1886 he was arrested for bigamy. Her longest relationship was with Diamond Jim Brady, who supported her extravagant lifestyle for four decades.

A 1940 film was made about Russell, although it presents a sanitized version of her life.

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Lillian Russell as fortune teller via

Photos of Opera’s Greatest Beauty: Lina Cavalieri (1874-1944)

Lina Cavalieri was born on Christmas Day at Viterbo, some eighty kilometers (50 miles) north of Rome. She lost her parents at the age of fifteen and became a ward of the state, sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. The vivacious young girl was unhappy under the strict discipline of the nuns, and at the first opportunity she ran away with a touring theatrical group.

At a young age, she made her way to Paris, France, where her appearance opened doors and she obtained work as a singer at one of the city’s café-concerts. From there she performed at a variety of music halls and other such venues around Europe, while still working to develop her voice. Lina took voice lessons and made her opera debut in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1900 (as Nedda in Pagliacci), the same year she married her first husband, the Russian Prince Alexandre Bariatinsky.

After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a cosmetic salon in Paris. In 1914, on the eve of her fortieth birthday — her beauty still spectacular — she wrote an advice column on make-up for women in Femina magazine and published a book, My Secrets of Beauty. In 1915, she returned to her native Italy to make motion pictures. When that country became involved in World War I, she went to the United States where she made four more silent films. The last three of her films were the product of her friend, the Belgian film director Edward José.

After marrying her fourth husband Paolo d’Arvanni, she returned to live with her husband in Italy. Well into her sixties when World War II began, she nevertheless worked as a volunteer nurse. Cavalieri was killed on February 7, 1944 during an Allied bombing raid that destroyed her home in the countryside of Fiesole, a small town near Florence.

In 1955, Gina Lollobrigida portrayed Cavalieri in the film Beautiful But Dangerous (also known as The World’s Most Beautiful Woman).

Piero Fornasetti was an Italian painter and sculptor who used the face of  Cavalieri as a motif on many items including sculpture, plates and vases.  Today her iconic image has become one of the best known ‘faces’ to feature in interiors.

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Lina Cavalieri via

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Lina Cavalieri by Aime Dupont via

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