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Emma Calve (1858 - 1942)

Born into a poor family, Emma Calvé was taken to Spain as a baby and lived there until she was six. Returning to France she was educated to the age of fifteen at a convent, where she was taught the rudiments of music. In 1874 her mother took her to Paris to seek a voice teacher, settling upon Jules Puget, formerly of the Opéra-Comique, who agreed to teach Emma for two years without fee, as she was without financial means. Calvé made her operatic stage début in 1881 at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels as Marguerite/Faust, and began to take lessons from Mathilde Marchesi, one of the foremost singers of the time. She continued to sing at the Monnaie until 1884, when she was engaged by the Théâtre-Italien in Paris, moving to the Opéra-Comique the following year and remaining there until 1886, when she seems to have been released from her contract.

In 1887, now contracted by the Italian impresario and publisher Sonzogno, Calvé experienced failure at La Scala, Milan, in Samara’s forgotten opera  Flora mirabilis; but from 1886 to 1889 she was active throughout Italy, singing in Florence, Bologna, Genoa, Rome, Venice and Naples, where she appeared opposite de Lucia in the local première of Cavalleria rusticana. Her standard repertory during this period consisted of Hamlet, Faust, Mignon, Le Pardon de Ploërmel and La jolie Fille de Perth.




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