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Marcella Sembrich (1858 - 1935)

Sembrich’s father was a village musician and violinist who began to teach her the piano when she was four and the violin at the age of six. When she was twelve she entered the Lemberg (Lwów) Conservatory where she studied piano with Wilhelm Stengel (whom she was to marry in 1877) and violin with Sigismond Bruckmann. In 1874, Stengel took her to perform for Liszt, who advised Sembrich to develop her singing. The following year therefore she entered the Vienna Conservatory, where she studied piano with Julius Epstein, violin with Joseph Hellmesberger Sr and singing with Viktor Rokitansky. After a year in Vienna Sembrich decided to devote herself exclusively to singing and in the autumn of 1876 travelled to Milan to study with one of Europe’s then pre-eminent teachers, Giovanni Lamperti (son of another great teacher Francesco Lamperti, with whom she later studied in 1885).

After just a year with the younger Lamperti, Sembrich made her operatic stage debut in 1877 in Athens as Elvira / I puritani, followed by the title roles in Dinorah and Lucia di Lammermoor, Amina / La sonnambula and Isabelle / Robert le Diable. As a result of pregnancy she broke a contract to appear at the Vienna Court Opera, instead continuing her vocal studies with Marie Seebach and Richard Lewy in Vienna; and following a long search for a contract with an opera house, she joined the Dresden Court Opera in 1878, staying until 1880.




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