Calvé, Emma (1858–1942)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Calvé, Emma (1858–1942)

Spanish-born soprano who was considered the most vivid Carmen of her day. Name variations: Emma Calve. Born Emma de Roquer on August 15, 1858, in Décazeville, Spain; died on January 6, 1942, in Millau; daughter of a Spanish father and a French mother; trained in Paris, studying with Jules Puget, Mathilde Marchesi , and Rosina Laborde ; married tenor Galileo Gaspari.

Debuted as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust in Brussels (1881 or 1882); performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris (1880s); debuted at Teatro alla Scala (1887); created Suzel in Mascagni's L'amico Fritz in Rome (1891); debuted at Metropolitan Opera (1893); made debut in Boston (1912), Nice (1914).

"People do not go to the opera or the concert hall merely to hear sofeggios, trills and runs. They want to hear a human message from a human being who has experienced great things and trained the mind and soul in finer discipline than mere exercises. The singer must be a personality, must understand the bond of sympathy with mankind, which, even more than a beautiful voice, commands the attention and interest of the audience." This was Emma Calvé's guiding philosophy as an opera singer. Among the most accomplished sopranos, and perhaps the most inspired actress of her time, she despised the theatrical posturing so typical of the era. She was particularly influenced by Eleanora Duse (1858–1924), the brilliant tragedian, and like

Duse she paid close attention to every detail. Bernard Shaw who saw Calvé at Covent Garden described her Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana as "irresistibly moving and beautiful, and fully capable of sustaining the inevitable comparison with Duse's impersonation of the same part." Although Calvé performed the standard repertory as well as many contemporary works, she was particularly beloved for her portrayals of Santuzza and of Carmen, a role to which she remains inseparably linked. Calvé created the part of Bianca in Dubois' Aben Hamlet; Massenet's Navarraise and Sapho were written specially for her. Known as the "Singing Duse" for her dramatic powers, Emma Calvé was a superstar in her own era and is remembered for her great singing and her artistry on the opera stage.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia