Personalities | Mary Garden | Turn of the Century | Opera
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Garden moved to America when she was six. She studied in Chicago and then Paris, where she debuted as Charpentier’s Louise at the Opéra-Comique. Perhaps her most historically significant role was creating Mélisande in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902. It was in this part that she made her American debut at the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1910. She spent 20 years there, as leading soprano. Garden herself was equivocal about her vocal abilities but she was regarded as a consummate actress who possessed great variety in colouration. Harold Schonberg, long-time music critic of the New York Times, described her as, ‘lively, indomitable, glamorous, witty, imperious, publicity-minded, capricious and a great artist on top of all that’.
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