Gauthier, Eva (1885–1958)

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Gauthier, Eva (1885–1958)

Canadian mezzo-soprano and modern recitalist whose historic performances of modern masters—Ravel, Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky—were her legacy. Born Ida Joséphine Phoebe Gauthier on September 20, 1885, in Ottawa, Canada; died on December 26, 1958, in New York; studied with Frank Buris, Auguste-Jean Dubulle, Sarah Bernhardt, and Jacques Bouhy; married Frans Knoote, in 1911 (divorced 1917).

Eva Gauthier, who began her career as an opera singer, was destined to have an influential career in modern music. A soloist at St. Patrick Church in Ottawa, she left for Europe in 1902 thanks to the sponsorship of Sir Wilfrid and Lady Zoe Laurier (1841–1921). At the Paris Conservatory, Gauthier studied singing with Auguste-Jean Dubulle and declamation with Sarah Bernhardt . A serious operation for nodules on the vocal cords interrupted her studies for several months. Her compatriot Emma Albani engaged Gauthier for a tour of the British Isles in 1905. She was invited to sing at Covent Garden in 1910 but her tenure on the opera stage was not happy. Gauthier decided to devote her career to recital and concert. On an extensive tour of the Orient, she stayed in Java where she met her husband Frans Knoote, to whom she was married from 1911 to 1917. When she returned to a New York recital debut in 1917, Gauthier devoted the program to modern masters like Ravel, Bartók, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. She gave the North American premieres of Stravinsky's Trois Poésies de la lyrique japonaise in 1917 and Pribaoutki in 1918. She also performed music of France's Les Six whom she met in 1920. On November 1, 1923, Gauthier performed a historic concert in Aeolian Hall singing the music of Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin with Gershwin at the piano. Paul Whiteman, the orchestra conductor, was in attendance and commissioned Gershwin to compose a work for piano and orchestra. Rhapsody in Blue was the result. Gauthier continued to perform premieres of modern works, and it is estimated that she gave some 700 during a career which also included recording. She was responsible for bringing much modern music to the concert stage.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia