Marcella Sembrich

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Marcella Sembrich

Death 11 Jan 1935 (aged 76)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Dresden, Stadtkreis Dresden, Saxony (Sachsen), Germany
Memorial ID 85556158 · View Source
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Opera Singer. A premier coloratura soprano of the late 19th century, she remains one of the legendary names in operatic history. Born Prakseda Marcelina Kochanska at Wisniewczyk, Polish Galicia in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, she was raised in a musical family and learned to play both the violin and the piano from a young age. Her vocal talent was not discovered until she entered the Vienna Conservatory in 1875; advised by no less than the great Franz Liszt to concentrate on voice study, she was sent to Milan the next year where she trained with Giovanni Battista Lamperti. Taking her mother's maiden name for the stage, she made her operatic bow at Athens on July 3, 1877 as Elvira from Vincenzo Bellini's "I Puritani" and while in the Greek capital also sang Amina in Bellini's "La Sonnambula" and the title leads of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Giacomo Meyerbeer's "Dinorah". Scheduled to bow in Vienna, her debut was cancelled by her first pregnancy, though she did use her downtime for further study. Marcella was to sing Lucia at Dresden in 1878 and and was to bow with the same role at London's Covent Garden on June 12, 1880 and at New York's Metropolitan Opera on October 24, 1883. While in New York Marcella astonished the audience at a benefit concert by playing portions of a de Beriot violin concerto and a Chopin mazurka for piano as well as by singing Rosina's arias from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville". During the 1883 season she sang Amina and Rosina as well as two Verdi roles, Violetta in "La Traviata" and the doomed Gilda of "Rigoletto", and while Marcella had great success the company's financial picture at that point was bleak, resulting in her return to Europe for the next several years. Over the coming seasons she was heard throughout the continent as well as in Russia and England, her roles including several of Mozart's ladies, among them Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro", Zerlina of "Don Giovanni", The Queen of the Night from "The Magic Flute", and Konstanze of "The Abduction from the Seraglio". Some of Marcella's other noted portrayals included Eva in Wagner's "Die Meistersinger", Mimi of Puccini's "La Boheme", Ophelia in Ambrose Thomas' "Hamlet", and Elsa of Wagner's "Lohengrin". Though she was called the "Polish Patti", the reference was to her repertoire and vocal prowess not to her personality, as she had none of Dame Adelina's unpleasant traits; indeed Marcella was almost unique for a prima donna in being a genuinely nice person who got along with everybody. Returning to the Metropolitan in 1898, she reigned supreme until her 1909 retirement, eventually logging 466 performances with the venerable company. In San Francisco on a Metropolitan tour at the time of the great earthquake of 1906, she headlined a Carnegie Hall concert to raise money for the victims. Marcella continued to give recitals until 1917, the year of her husband's death; by the time she left the stage she was well established as a teacher at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute and at New York's Juillard, numbering Alma Gluck and Queena Mario among her distinguished students and in addition catering to stars such as Maria Jeritza who were in need of a 'tune-up'. A staunch Polish patriot all her days, she was President of the Polish-American Relief Committee during World War I and raised large sums for her fellow countrymen. Marcella lived out her days in the Lake George region of New York and at her demise was returned to Germany for burial next to her husband. Today the Kosciuszko Fountation honors her memory with a Marcella Sembrich Vocal Competition and her Bolton Landing, New York home is run as a museum by the Marcella Sembrich Memorial Association. Her recordings made for Columbia and later for RCA Victor have never been out of print and remain available on CD.

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 22 Feb 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 85556158
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Marcella Sembrich (15 Feb 1858–11 Jan 1935), Find a Grave Memorial no. 85556158, citing Johannisfriedhof Tolkewitz Cemetery, Dresden, Stadtkreis Dresden, Saxony (Sachsen), Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .