Turner, Eva (1892–1990)

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Turner, Eva (1892–1990)

English soprano. Name variations: Dame Eva Turner. Born on March 10, 1892, in Oldham, England; died on June 16, 1990, in London; studied with Dan Rootham, Giglia Levy, Edgardo Levy, Mary Wilson, and Albert Richards-Broad.

Debuted in London (1916), at Teatro alla Scala (1924), at Covent Garden (1928); taught at the University of Oklahoma (1949–59); joined the faculty at the Royal Academy of Music (1959); made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1962).

Born in 1892 in Oldham, Lancashire, Eva Turner had to circumvent many odds to become an opera performer of note. Her father was a cotton mill engineer and her mother a housewife, but both considered music essential to their daughter's education. For her schooling, she went to Bristol, where she studied with Daniel Rootham, teacher of the renowned English singer Dame Clara Butt . After five years of study at the Royal Academy of Music, Turner sang in the chorus of the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1915. She continued singing lessons under Albert Richards-Broad and, with constant work, was able to establish herself as the prima donna of this provincial English touring company. One of Arturo Toscanini's assistants heard Turner sing in 1924 and urged her to audition at La Scala for the Maestro, who engaged her immediately. Turner was the only English opera singer to achieve international status during the interwar years.

Turner, who is especially remembered for her role of Turandot although her repertoire was enormous, used Richards-Broad as her manager, but he was not entirely a professional. In fact, many of her invitations to perform seem to have evolved from casual meetings rather than professional contacts. World War II curtailed Turner's career as she was confined to Great Britain, and after the war she was too old to continue in opera. She launched a successful teaching career at the University of Oklahoma, the Royal Academy, and as a private teacher; her students include Amy Shaurd, Rita Hunter , and Gwyneth Jones . Turner's recordings, recently remastered on compact disks, testify to her abilities. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1962 in recognition of her achievements.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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