Emma Abbott

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Emma Abbott (December 9, 1850 – January 5, 1891) was an American operatic soprano and impresario known for her pure, clear voice of great flexibility and volume.



Early life

Abbot was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of a struggling Chicago musician. As a child she studied singing, piano, and the guitar with her father. Her family suffered from financial problems, and in order to help she began performing professionally at the age of nine. She made her debut as a guitar player and singer in Peoria, Illinois in 1859 and was teaching guitar by age 13.[1]

Early career

In 1866 she joined an itinerant concert troup and toured the country. While performing on the road she met and befriended Clara Louise Kellogg. Upon hearing Abbott in a concert in Toledo, Kellogg made it a point to meet her and encourage her to pursue an opera career. Consequently, Abbott studied in New York City under Achille Errani, and made her concert début there in December 1871.[2]

In 1872 Abbott went abroad to study with Sangiovanni in Milan. This was followed by further studies with Pierre François Wartel, Delle Sedie and Mathilde Marchesi in Paris. She appeared in several productions in Paris, earning rave reviews for her fine soprano voice. She was awarded a contract with the Royal Opera in London and made her début at Covent Garden as Marie in La fille du régiment in 1876. However, her contract was cancelled shortly thereafter when she refused to sing Violetta from Verdi's La traviata on moral grounds. That same year she secretly married Eugene Wetherell (d. 1889) and they returned to the United States, where she remained for the rest of her life.[2]

Abbott English Opera Company

On February 23, 1877, Abbott made her American operatic début in New York, once again portraying Marie. The following year she and her husband organized an opera company known by her name (the Abbott English Opera Company), which toured extensively throughout the United States. Her husband ran the business end of the company and she managed the artistic side, often starring in the productions. The company garnered a reputation among the public for quality productions and was quite successful. Among the notable roles that Abbott sang with the company are Juliette in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Virginia in Paul and Virginia, Josephine in H. M. S. Pinafore, the title role in Flotow's Martha, Amina in Bellini's La Sonnambula, and Violetta in La Traviata, a role which apparently she no longer objected to,[2] however, instead of singing Addio del passato, she made Violeta expire with Nearer, my God, to Thee.[3]

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