Fremstad, Olive, famous Swedish-born American soprano; b. Stockholm, March 14, 1871 (entered into the parish register as the daughter of an unmarried woman, Anna Peterson); d. Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y., April 21, 1951. She was adopted by an American couple of Scandinavian origin, who took her to Minn.; she studied piano in Minneapolis; went to N.Y. in 1890 and took singing lessons with E.F. Bristol. She then held several church positions; in 1892 she sang for the first time with an orch. (under C. Zerrahn) in Boston. In 1893 she went to Berlin to study with Lilli Lehmann; made her operatic debut in Cologne as Azucena (1895); sang contralto parts, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1896; in 1897 she made her London debut; also sang in Cologne, Vienna, Amsterdam, and Antwerp. From 1900 to 1903 she was at the Munich Court Opera. She made her American debut as Sieglinde at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Nov. 25, 1903. Subsequently she sang soprano parts in Wagnerian operas; at first she was criticized in the press for her lack of true soprano tones; however, she soon triumphed over these difficulties, and became known as a soprano singer to the exclusion of contralto parts. She sang Carmen with great success at the Metropolitan (March 5,1906) with Caruso; her performance of Isolde under Mahler (Jan. 1, 1908) produced a deep impression; until 1915 she was one of the brightest stars of the Metropolitan, specializing in Wagnerian roles, but she was also successful in Tosca and other Italian operas. She sang Salome at the first American performance of the Strauss opera (N.Y, Jan. 22, 1907) and in Paris (May 8, 1907). After her retirement from the Metropolitan, she appeared with the Manhattan Opera, the Boston Opera, and the Chicago Opera, and in concerts; presented her last song recital in N.Y on Jan. 19, 1920. In 1906 she married Edson Sutphen of N.Y. (divorced in 1911); in 1916 she married her accompanist, Harry Lewis Brainard (divorced in 1925). In Willa Gather’s novel The Song of the Lark, the principal character was modeled after Fremstad.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire