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Lillian Blauvelt

Biography: 

(1873-1947)

Initially trained as a violinist, Lillian Blauvelt when a girl was advised by Mme. Fursch-Madi to switch to vocal arts where her beauty might work more directly on her behalf. Enrolling in the National Conservatory of Music, she won notice in the entertainments staged in the school for her supple soprano voice and her enchanting appearance. Upon graduation she immediately enjoyed the favor of talent bookers as a concert singer and throughout the 1890s toured extensively in the United States and Europe as a soloist.

Contemporary critics attempted to define her charisma: "Lillian Blauvelt has that rare personal magnetism which wins every heart. She is a beautiful woman, whose grace of styule, shown in a thousand pretty allurements, compels admiration even before her voice is heard. Her naivete, her archness, are so spontaneous and natural as to be absolutely irresistable. Add to this the delight that comes from listening to a voice of unusual freshness, purity and sweetness, that has not its superior on the concert stage today, and one will understand the transports that always characterize a Blauvelt audience."

By 1900 she was generally regarded by Europeans as the favorite American soprano, and the desire to expand her powers prompted Blauvelt to seek stage roles. She performed Margritte in "Faust" and "Juliette" at Covent Garden in London. She appeared in Sir Arthur Sullivan's operetta "The Golden Legend" in 1900, but her ambition was to do comedy as well a dramatic soprano parts. In 1905 Fred C. Whitney hired her to become a comic opera lead for $504,000, launching her in Charles Emerson Cook & Lucius Hosmer's "The Rose of the Alhambra." Musically, the pinnacle of Blauvelt's career as a musical comedy lead, was the 1906 Victor Herbert twin bill of "Dream City" and "The Magic Knight."

After a spate of international awards in 1908 and a conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1909, Blauvelt's voice lost the luster of its top, and she ceased touring extensively. Her artistry before her vocal decline can be heard in several recordings made during the first decade of the 20th century preserved at the Library of Congress's "National Juke Box": http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/artists/detail/id/2029/.

NOTES: Oregonian, (Jan 29, 1904). "Lillian Blauvelt," New York Herald, 36 (Feb 3, 1893), 10. David S. Shields/ALS