Garden Mary

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Garden Mary

Garden, Mary , celebrated Scottish soprano; b. Aberdeen, Feb. 20, 1874; d. Inverurie, Jan. 3, 1967. She went to the U.S. as a child; studied violin and piano; in 1893 she began the study of singing with Mrs. Robinson Duff in Chicago; in 1895 she went to Paris, where she studied with Sbriglia, Bouhy, Trabadello, Mathilde Marchesi, and Lucien Fugere. Her funds, provided by a wealthy patron, were soon depleted, and Sybyl Sanderson introduced her to Albert Carre, director of the Opera-Comique. Her operatic debut was made under dramatic circumstances on April 10, 1900, when the singer who performed the title role of Charpentier’s Louise at the Opera-Comique was taken ill during the performance, and Garden took her place. She revealed herself not only as a singer of exceptional ability, but also as a skillful actress. She subsequently sang in several operas of the general repertoire; also created the role of Diane in Pierne’s La Fille de Tabarin (Opéra-Comique, Feb. 20, 1901). A historic turning point in her career was reached when she was selected to sing Melisande in the premiere of Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande (Opéra-Comique, April 30, 1902); she became the center of a raging controversy when Maurice Maeterlinck, the author of the drama, voiced his violent objection to her assignment (his choice for the role was Georgette Leblanc, his common-law wife) and pointedly refused to have any-thing to do with the production. Garden won warm praise from the critics for her musicianship, despite the handicap of her American-accented French. She remained a member of the Opéra-Comique; also sang at the Grand Opéra, and at Monte Carlo. She made her U.S. debut as Thai’s at the Manhattan Opéra House, N.Y. (Nov. 25, 1907), and sang Melisande there the first U.S. performance of Pelleas et Melisande (Feb. 19, 1908). In 1910 she joined the Chicago Opéra Co.; she was its general director for the 1921–22 season, during which the losses mounted to about $1,000,000. She continued to sing at the Chicago Opéra until 1931, and then made sporadic Opératic and concert appearances until giving her farewell performance at the Paris Opéra-Comique in 1934. In 1939 she settled in Scotland. With L. Biancolli, she publ. Mary Gardens Story (N.Y, 1951).


M. Turnbull, M. G. (Portland, Ore., 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire