Loading

26 Epic Lives Amazing Tidbits from DIVA Museum

26 Singers Who Surmounted All Barriers

Their Genius Made Them Immortal

La Maupin: By day a contralto in Paris Opèra; by night a sword-wielding bisexual lover and protector of women.
Francesca Cuzzoni: Handel threatened to throw her out the window when she balked at singing an aria written for another. Faustina Bordoni: Legendary fistfight onstage with “Rival Queen” Cuzzoni, with two women pulling each others’ “coiffs” and screaming Italian insults.
Sophie Arnould: Paris Opèra star whose intelligence and charm captured foremost Enlightenment minds: Rousseau, Beaumarchais, Franklin.
Zhemchugova: Serf soprano married master; their love story inspired Russian serf Emancipation.
Elizabeth Billington: Painted by Reynolds and Romney as St. Cecilia, patron saint of music.
Angelica Catalani: Superhuman crescendo across three octaves from mighty blast to just-audible whisper made her international idol.
Isabella Colbran: Created ten Rossini dramatic soprano roles and then married him.
Giuditta Pasta: Flexible voice sang both male and female roles; opera’s first dramatic actress.
Maria Malibran: First American diva; back in Europe, her youth, beauty and desperate intensity drove tens of thousands of fans wild.
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient: Inserting dramatically powerful spoken words into vocal line made her “Queen of Tears” and Wagner’s muse.
Henriette Sontag: Sang “Queen of the Night” aria on tabletops at 8; later toast of German opera world and ambassador’s wife.
Giulia Grisi: First modern use of word “diva” as hyberbolic superlative applied to her Norma in 1830.
Jenny Lind: Queen Victoria’s friend; 30,000 New Yorkers met “Barnum’s Bird” when her ship arrived from England; 5,000 attended her first concert.
Pauline Garcia Viardot: Artist of high-minded purpose immortalized as Romantic heroine in George Sand and George Eliot novels.
Elizabeth Greenfield: First African-American concert celebrity in US and abroad; command performance for Queen Victoria. Madame Selika: First African-American to sing at White House; successful European concert tour.
Adelina Patti: Supported her family from 7 to 15 touring America singing arias from "La Somnambula," "Norma," and "Il Barbiere;" wore special bodice of 3,700 diamonds in "La Traviata" ballroom scenes.
Lilli Lehmann: In first Bayreuth "Ring" 1876, under Wagner’s direction, played Rhinemaiden Woglinde, Forest Bird, and Valkyrie Helmwige; matchless range and repertoire: 170 roles in 119 different operas.
Lillian Nordica: Daughter of Maine farmers is first American to master, under Cosima Wagner, all Wagner’s heroic soprano roles; ardent suffragist.
Emma Calvé: Sang 4,000 Carmens, including for Sultan of Constantinople and his seraglio; learned secrets of breath control from Hindu monk Swami Vivi Kananda.
Sissieretta Jones: Most famous African-American woman of 1900 for leading Black Patti Troubadours in “Operatic Kaleidescope."
Nellie Melba: Crystalline voice enchanted Covent Garden for 40 years; Melba Toast and Peach Melba created for her.
Olive Fremstad: Minnesota pioneer woman; rehearsed for Met "Salome" with a real 12-pound severed head and JP Morgan banned Met show after one shocking performance.
Lina Cavalieri: Risqué café singer turned opera star and “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” collected diamonds, Russian princes, and 840 marriage proposals.
Geraldine Farrar: Sang alongside Caruso; adored by young female “Gerryflappers;” 1908 dress account at Bendel’s reportedly ran to $2 million (in today's dollars).

Text and collage images originally published in 2012 and 2013 by DIVA Museum in carte de visite or 19th-century celebrity postcard format in two 13-diva sets called A Diva's Dozen and A Dazzle of Divas. Republished in 2014 with all 26 divas as A Diva Story-Book. All content republished digitally here in 2018. ©Author and artist Kathleen McDermott, DIVA Museum. Please credit.

About DIVA Museum

Video: My artistic process and how I got started with the Divas.

Video: How Divas Changed the Cultural Dialogue

Credits:

Original art and text Kathleen McDermott

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.