Van Zandt, Marie (1858–1919)

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Van Zandt, Marie (1858–1919)

American opera singer. Born on October 8, 1858, in New York City; died on December 31, 1919, in Cannes, France; daughter of James Rose Van Zandt (a clerk) and Jennie Van Zandt (a concert singer); studied singing with her mother, Adelina Patti, and Francesco Lamperti; married Mikhail Petrovitch de Tscherinoff (a Russian state councilor and professor), on April 27, 1898.

Marie Van Zandt was born in New York City in 1858, to a father who was a clerk and a mother who was a successful concert singer in Brooklyn. Under the stage name Madame Vanzini, Jennie Van Zandt undertook an operatic career that took her to Paris, Milan, and London, and throughout America. Marie accompanied her mother to Europe, where she was briefly educated in a convent school. She was first coached in singing by her mother, who ended her public career in order to teach her. Later, Marie studied with Adelina Patti and Francesco Lamperti in Milan.

Van Zandt debuted in Turin in early 1879 at age 20, performing the role of Zerlina in Don Giovanni. In May 1879, she made her first appearance in London, singing Amina in La Sonnambula. The following year, she sang in Paris, and her performance in Mignon led to a five-year contract with the Opéra-Comique; with that company, she rapidly achieved fame. Van Zandt's best-known role, however, was the title character in Léo Delibes' Lakmé, an opera said to be written specifically for her.

In 1884, she experienced a disaster when she lost her voice during a performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and was unable to finish. She was replaced by Cécile Mézeray . Although her friends attributed the cause to over-work, others maintained incorrectly that she was drunk, and her reputation suffered. When she returned to the stage after three months, there were riots against her that were probably politically motivated. She requested to be released from her contract, and this was promptly granted.

Van Zandt then went to St. Petersburg, where she was welcomed by the Russians. She also sang at London's Covent Garden and in various venues in America, including the Metropolitan Opera House, before spending the remainder of her career in Europe. She enjoyed a successful season at the Opéra-Comique in 1896–97 before her 1898 marriage to Mikhail Petrovitch de Tscherinoff, a Russian state councilor and professor at the Imperial Academy of Moscow. She then retired from the stage and spent several years residing in Moscow. Following the Russian Revolution, she made her home in Cannes, France, where she died in 1919.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer