Nordica, Lillian



Lillian Norton, the daughter of Edwin and Amanda Elvira Norton, was born at Farmington, Maine, in 1859. The family moved to Boston in 1863, and here she was educated in the public schools and then entered the New England Conservatory of Boston, studying singing under John O'Neill. She graduated in 1875, and sang in a vocal quartet in Dr. Putnam's church. She also studied for a short time in New York with Madame Maretzek, and several years later with San Giovanni in Milan. Her first concert work was with the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, and then with the Thomas Orchestra on tours through America, appearing in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis and other large cities. In New York she took leading parts in the oratorios, Elijah, Creation and the Messiah. When nineteen years old she went to England with Gilmore's band as soprano soloist, appearing at Crystal Palace, London, in 1878.


After study in Milan she made her debut on the operatic stage at Brescia as Violetta in Traviata and assumed the name of Nordica. Her next great success was in St. Petersburg as Philine, Amalia and other roles, and in 1882 made her first appearance in Paris as Marguerite in Faust, and there, after studying the leading soprano parts under Gounod and Thomas, sang in Hamlet. She was enthusiastically received in Paris. In 1882 Nordica was married to Frederick Gower, an aeronaut, and for a time retired to private life. During the second year of her married life her husband met with a balloon accident while crossing the English Channel and he and his balloon were never found. In 1885 she returned to the stage, and then went on a tour under Colonel Mapleson through America and England, appearing as Violetta at Coyent Garden, then at the Philharmonic and at Drury Lane in the roles of Lucia, Donna Elvira and Valentine. The Prince and Princess of Wales personally thanked her at one of her performances, and she was commanded to sing before Queen Victoria, a compliment which greatly pleased her fellow countrymen. Her appearance in Berlin during the same year was an immense success. For five years she remained in London, singing each season at Covent Garden, and in 1893 sang in oratorio at St. James and Albert Halls and at Crystal Palace and various festivals. The next year at Bayreuth she assumed the role of Elsa in Lohengrin, which is perhaps the greatest she has ever portrayed. Her epth of feeling and artistic understanding, added to her beautiful voice, made her an ideal Elsa. Her success in this part led her to devote her attention to Wagnerian roles. For several seasons Madame Nordica was again in her own country as a member of the Abbey and Grau Opera Company. In England during the season of 1898 and for several years following at Covent Garden, she added to her already large repertory the roles of Donna Anna, Susanna, Isolde, Brunnhilde and others. As Isolde she won great applause. Madame Nordica was married in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1896 to Zoltan Dome, a Hungarian singer, but she was divorced from him, and in 1905 married Captain Joseph Raphael de la Mar. Madame Nordica is one of the foremost singers of the day, possessing a soprano voice of the purest quality.