Sembrich, Marcella



Remarkable coloratura soprano. One of the most attractive personalities, as well as one of the most gifted women on the operatic stage. Her real name was Marcelline Kadanska. She was born in the little Polish town of Wisnewcryth, near Lemberg, of a musical family, her father, Professor Kadanska being a teacher of the violin and piano, and a good all-round musician, who played several instruments. He taught the child Marcelline to play the piano at the age of six. Later he instructed her on the violin, so that she was at a very early age a talented performer on both instruments, long before it was discovered that she was the possessor of a voice. The family traveled through the provinces giving concerts, at which the future prima donna played the violin and piano.


M. Janowief, a friend of Marcelline's father, hearing her play, and believing her to be possessed of great talent, sent her to the Conservatory at Lemberg, where for eleven years she studied piano with Professor Wilhelm Stengl and the violin under other teachers. Just as she was finishing her studies her voice attracted the attention of her teachers, and she was sent to Vienna, where she studied violin with Hellmesberger, piano with Eppstein and voice with Rokitansk}'. It was Liszt, who decided the girl's career. He listened to her play, and then, after she had rendered one of the Polish folk-songs, he said to her: " My child, God has given you three pairs of wings with which to fly through the country of music. They are all equal. Give up none of them, but sing, my child, sing, for you have the voice of an angel." Shortly after finishing her studies in Vienna Professor Stengl took her to G. B. Lamperti at Milan, and with this teacher she studied two years. She became the wife of Professor Stengl, her first teacher, and with him removed to Vienna, where he became a professor at the Conservatory and she studied German Opera with Richard Lewy. Then as Marcella Sembrich (her mother's name), she began her operatic career. Her debut was made in 1877 at Athens as Elvira in I Puritani. She was then engaged for eighteen months at the Dresden Court Theatre, and from 1880 for five seasons in London, making tours on the Continent and in the United States, where she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company under Abbey. She returned to the United States in 1898, and although fourteen years had elapsed since her last visit she reestablished herself in popular favor and has ever since been one of the most popular of the singers who visit this country. Mme. Sembrich sang in the Lower Rhine Festival of 1880, and has appeared at many other festivals. In London and St. Petersburg she is extremely popular. The season of 1881 and 1882, she sang Dinorah for the first time in England  and also the role of Constance in a revival of Mozart's Entfuhrung. One of her greatest impersonations is Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and her Mimi in La Boheme, Lucia in the Donizetti opera, and Violetta in Traviata, are all highly spoken of. Other roles in which Mme. Sembrich has been heard to advantage are Marie, in The Daughter of the Regiment; The Countess, in The Marriage of Figaro; Zerlina, in Don Giovanni, and Susanna, in Marriage of Figaro. She sang in Donizetti's Don Pasquale in a revival of that opera in 1900, and as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute, being one of the few great exponents of the pure Italian style of singing. She has also sung Elsa in  Lohengrin and Eva in Die Meistersinger. Mme. Sembrich has a repertory of thirty-seven operas. Her voice is of great limpid purity, about two and one-half octaves in compass, and is very brilliant in the upper regjster. Time has as yet made no inroads upon it, and of it one critic has said: "Its passing would be a calamity, for there are few like it." She still gives much time to practise, spending three hours a day, one hour each to voice, piano and violin. No vocalist, except Patti has received so many decorations. Mme. Sembrich lives in Dresden, and is the mother of a son twenty-two years of age who is an art printer.