Mary Garden Poster

Biography

Opera soprano Mary Garden was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on February 20, 1874. Her family emigrated to the US in 1880, eventually settling in Chicago, Illinois. She showed an aptitude for music at an early age, studying the violin and piano and taking voice lessons while still a young girl. In 1895 she went to Paris, France, to further her voice training. She made her public debut five years later in Gustave Charpentier's "Louise" at the Opera-Comique in Paris. In 1902 composer Claude Debussy personally chose her to sing the female lead in his opera "Pelleas et Melisande", and this became her most famous and celebrated role. She was so highly regarded among composers that Jules Massenet specifically rewrote the lead part in his "Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame"--which he had originally written to be a man--for her.

She made her New York debut in 1907, in Massenet's "Thais". She was acclaimed by critics not only for her superb singing but for what many deemed her remarkable dramatic ability as well. She toured extensively in Europe and the US and joined the Chicago Civic Opera in 1910, being their featured singer until 1931. In addition, she served as general director of the Chicago Opera Association from 1921-1922.

Although she retired from the stage in 1934, she remained active in operatic circles, making many lecture and recital tours over the next 20 years and serving as audition judge for the National Arts Foundation.

She died in her birthplace of Aberdeen, Scotland, on January 3, 1967.