Shaw, Mary (née Postans)

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Shaw, Mary (née Postans)

Shaw, Mary (née Postans), English contralto; b. Lea, Kent, 1814; d. Hadleigh Hall, Suffolk, Sept. 9, 1876. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1828–31), and then with Sir George Smart. Under the name Mary Postans, she made a successful debut in London (1834); the next year she married the painter Alfred Shaw and thereafter appeared as Mary Shaw. In 1838 she sang with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch. under Mendelssohn’s direction; her operatic debut followed as Imelda in the premiere of Verdi’s first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, at Milan’s La Scala (Nov. 17, 1839); in 1842 she sang at London’s Covent Garden and at Drury Lane. In 1844, at the height of her success, her husband went insane; the shock affected her vocal cords, so that she was unable to sing. Some time later she remarried and went to live in the country.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire