Davis, Jessie Bartlett


Comic opera singer, whose name and fame are linked with the history of the Bostonians, with which company she was associated for ten years. She was born in Morris, Illinois, but came from New England stock, her parents having moved to the middle west from Keene, N. H. She began her musical career by singing in the church choir of the village when a young girl. At fifteen she joined a concert company that toured the small towns of the state, and a few years later secured a church position in Chicago. While thus engaged she studied music with Frederick Root of that city. John Haverley, who was making a tour of the churches for the purpose of engaging singers for his Pinafore Company, heard her sing and engaged her for the part of Little Buttercup, and in that role she made her debut. She married her manager, Will J. Davis, of Chicago. Mr. Davis took her to New York, where she was instructed by Signer Albites. Shortly after finishing her studies with him she was engaged by Mapleson to sing the part of Siebel in Faust, and sang this role several times with success. Soon after this Mrs. Davis went to Paris, where she studied under Mme. La Grange. On her return she sang for a time with W. T. Carleton's Company, and the next season became a member of the American Opera Company, with Theodore Thomas as director. Later she joined the Bostonians and sang in numerous operas, making her most striking success as Alan-a-Dale in Robin Hood in 1890.

In this opera, Dekoven's song, O Promise Me, was an interpolated number, and the name of Jessie Bartlett Davis has been identified with it ever since. For ten years she sang with the Bostonians, retiring from its ranks in 1899. In late years she frequently appeared in vaudeville, and in 1904 appeared with Francis Wilson in a revival of his old comic opera success, Erminie, singing the role of Captain Delaney. Mrs. Davis died suddenly in 1905, after a brief illness.