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Digby Bell

Biography: 

(1849-1917)

One of the great talents of American comic opera, Digby Bell was born in Minnesota, educated in New York City, employed initially in the brokerage business, then as an agent for the White Star Line, which took him to Europe. During a sojourn in Italy he became enamored of singing, studied there, and made a debut in "La Somnambula" on the island of Malta. He appeared as an opera singer in second rank houses in Europe before discovering his fitness for Gilbert & Sullivan. His work in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Patience" was a landmark of comic characterization creating the stage type of the arch aesthete.

Bell returned to America and became a first-call male lead in comic operas, touring with the McCaull, Duff, and Lillian Russell Companies. The boon companion of bass-baritone DeWolf Hopper, Bell's usual adventuresomeness escalated to comic madness in that giant singer's company.

A number of recordings from the first decade of the 20th century survive of Bell reading. None of his silent movies are extant. David S. Shields/ALS