Nordica(real name, Norton), Lillian

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Nordica(real name, Norton), Lillian

Nordica (real name, Norton), Lillian, distinguished American soprano; b. Farmington, Maine, Dec. 12, 1857; d. Batavia, Java, May 10, 1914. She studied with John O’Neill at the New England Cons, of Music in Boston (graduated, 1876), then with Marie Maretzek in N.Y. (1876), where she made her formal debut as soloist with Gilmore’s Grand Boston Band (Sept. 30, 1876); toured with it in the U.S. and later in Europe (1878). After coaching from Francois Delsarte and Emilio Belari in Paris, she studied with Antonio Sangiovanni at the Milan Cons., who suggested she adopt the stage name Nordica. It was under that name that she made her operatic debut as Donna Elvira at the Teatro Manzoni there (March 8, 1879). In St. Petersburg, she sang for Czar Alexander II a week before he was assassinated in March 1881. After making appearances in several German cities, she went to Paris to study with Giovanni Sbriglia (1881–82); she made her Paris debut on July 22, 1882, as Marguerite (Faust), at the Opéra. On Jan. 22, 1883, she married Frederick A. Gower. With him she returned to America and made her American debut as Marguerite with Mapleson’s company at N.Y.’s Academy of Music on Nov. 26, 1883. In 1884 she began proceedings for divorce from her first husband, but he mysteriously disappeared while attempting to cross the English Channel in a balloon. She made her debut at Covent Garden in London on March 12, 1887, as Violetta; sang there again in 1898, 1899, and 1902. She first sang at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Dec. 18, 1891, as Valentine in Les Huguenots. She was heard for the first time as Isolde at the Metropolitan on Nov. 27, 1895, scoring an overwhelming success. From then on she sang chiefly Wagnerian roles; she continued to appear off and on at the Metropolitan until 1909, when she began to make extended concert tours. Her farewell appearance was at a concert in Melbourne on Nov. 25, 1913. In 1896 she married the Hungarian tenor Zoltan Doeme, from whom she was divorced in 1904; in 1909 she married the banker George W. Young in London. She died while on a trip around the world.


I. Glackens, Yankee Diva: L. N. and the Golden Days of Opera (N.Y, 1963).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis Mclntire