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January 10, 2015

Alice Nielsen, America's Opera Star, Raised in Warrensburg, Missouri

Alice Nielsen, Lived In Warrensburg Between the ages of 2 to 8.





(1873-1943)
Alice Nielsen traversed the path from vaudeville to grand opera in the course of her life, beginning as a street singing girl in Kansas City, Missouri, touring the Western vaudeville circuits as a teenage warbler, until adopted and trained by the Tivoli Opera Company in San Francisco. She achieved national popularity as a lyric soprano in The Bostonians, a beloved light opera company.

Nielsen, Alice: promotional poster
Shortly before the turn of the century she formed her own troupe, commissioned Victor Herbert for scores, and became a Broadway Star with "The Serenade" and "The Fortune Teller." (Herbert's third confection, "The Singing Girl" 1899 proved less popular.) A star, she plunged fully into the world of grand opera, signing with the San Carlo Opera Company for whom she became a fixture, first in Mozartian roles, then in the 19th-century Italian repertory. She sang with most of the greats of the Golden Age: Caruso, Calve, Antonio Scotti, Nordica. She enjoyed immense popularity as a recording artist, performing sentimental songs as well as arias.
The Alice Nielsen Opera Company

Nielsen's final appearance on Broadway would be in the role of Killy Bellairs in Rudolf Friml’s 1917 musical "Killy Darlin'." An ugly mixture of personalities doomed the produced after two weeks. At the dawn of the 20th century there was no bigger vocal talent on Broadway. But it would be the Met that would enjoy her best work. David S. Shields/ALS


Birth: Jun. 7, 1872
Nashville
Davidson County
Tennessee, USA
Death: Mar. 8, 1943
Far Rockaway
Queens County
New York, USA

Opera Singer. A lyric soprano, she had a long career on Broadway, operatic, and recital stages. Raised in Missouri from about age two, she was moved to Kansas City following the death of her father, an itinerant musician. Alice started singing for money on the city streets and while still a young girl was chosen to represent her state in a concert presented for Grover Cleveland at the White House. Returning home she appeared with the Julius Grau Opera Company and performed in church choirs. In the early 1890s Alice escaped a bad marriage by relocating to San Francisco where she played in vaudeville and took-on about 150 comprimaria roles with the Trivoli Opera Company. Moving on to New York City in 1896 she got her first taste of stardom on Broadway as the lead of Victor Herbert's "Serenade", a role written for her. She formed her own Alice Nielsen Opera Company and toured extensively; Alice first traveled to London in 1901 where she was a hit in Herbert's "The Fortune Teller". She soon disbanded her company to pursue further vocal training with Enrico Bevignani then signing with the San Carlo Opera Company, she was to be one of their major attractions, her staple roles including Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme", Norina of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale", and Violetta from Verdi's "La Traviata". She was to appear with the then popular ensemble at New York's Metropolitan Opera, and in New Orleans, Montreal, Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere; in 1905 she was to be an acclaimed Mimi at Covent Garden, London, in a "La Boheme" cast that headlined Enrico Caruso and Antonio Scotti. From about 1910 on she was a regular on the concert stage at Carnegie Hall and other top venues, frequently sharing the limelight with famed tenor John McCormack. Alice last appeared on Broadway in 1917's "Kitty Darlin'" and gave her final performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1922. She sang at a 1925 memorial concert for Victor Herbert and was to gradually reduce her schedule, though she did give occasional recitals almost until her death. Alice left a significant recorded legacy which covers most of her time before the public, though the best discs date from around 1910. (bio by: Bob Hufford) 

  1. Erasmus Varius Nielsen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, 
  2. Johnson County, MO  Father of Alice Nielsen
  1. Birth: Jan. 5, 1834, Denmark
    Death: Jun. 20, 1877

    Beloved husband of Sarah A Nielsen
Her father,  Erasmus Varius Nielsen, was a Danish troubadour from AarhusHer mother, Sara Kilroy, was an Irish musician from  Donegal. Rasmus and Sara met in South Bend, Indiana where Sara studied music at St. Mary's, now part of Notre Dame. After Rasmus was injured in the Civil War, the couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee where Alice was born. The Nielsens moved to Warrensburg, Missouri when Alice was two. Rasmus died a few years later. Sara moved to Kansas City with four surviving children.

Early career

Broadway    Alice Nielsen roamed downtown Kansas City as a child singing. Outside the Kansas City Club, she was heard by wealthy meat packer Jakob Dold and invited to sing at his daughter's birthday party. Alice was a hit. Dold sent her to represent Missouri at a musicale at the Grover Cleveland White House. On her return, she was cast in a regional tour with Jules Grau's opera company for a season. When it ended, Nielsen joined St. Patrick's Church choir. She married the church organist and had a son. When the marriage turned violent she left for San Francisco on the vaudeville circuit, joined by Arthur Pryor, performing with Burton Stanley and Pyke Opera. In San Francisco she became a soloist at the St. Patrick's, singing at The Wig-Wam and becoming a star in Balfe'sSatanella. Joining the Tivoli Opera Company, trained by Ida Valegra, Nielsen played 150 roles in two years. In 1895, Nielsen was hired by The Bostonians, a leading light opera company, which took her to New York City and national fame in 1896. In New York she became a pupil of Frederick Bristol.[1]
Opera     Alice Nielsen in 1900, age 28, was America's biggest box-office draw. "We love our Nielsen, and proud she is an American", said the press. Touring 40,000 miles a year in North America between 1896 and 1901, her shows were Standing Room Only. In New York City, Nielsen became a Broadway star in Victor Herbert'sThe Serenade. Herbert had written his sixth operetta for prima donna Alice Nielsen and her newly formed Alice Nielsen Opera Company. Nielsen toured North America for three years before reaching London in 1901 in The Fortune Teller. Pushed by business conflicts, Nielsen abandoned her Company and left to study grand opera, coached in the Italian repertoire by Enrico Bevignani, who had coached Swedish operatic soprano, Christine Nilsson.
In the Spring of 1905, Nielsen returned to London's Covent Garden to perform in several Mozart operas. She joined the roster of the San Carlo Opera Company (SCOC), at that time a touring arm of the Teatro di San Carlo of Naples led byHenry Russell, the following fall for their guest Fall season in residence at Covent Garden with Enrico Caruso and Antonio Scotti. Their La Bohème was regarded as a masterpiece of ensemble performance.[2] After the SCOC's Fall season in London ended, the company became its own separate entity under the direction of Russell, severing ties with the opera house in Naples and moving its base of operations to Boston. Nielsen went with the company back to America and was involved in the company's annual North American tours and performances in Boston for several years.
In summer 1906, Nielsen joined Eleonora Duse and Emma Calvé in a joint program of related operas and dramas to open the Shuberts' Waldorf Theatre. One night Duse would act Camille, the next evening Nielsen would sing Traviata. That fall, Nielsen toured America with the SCOC presenting opera concerts featuring a shortened version of Donizetti's Don Pasquale. After a difficult debut in New York City, she became a hit by springtime in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dallas.
In winter 1907, Nielsen returned to America with Lillian NordicaFlorencio Constantino and a full company for the SCOC's season at New OrleansFrench Opera House. During their subsequent North American tour, the group was considered by critics as superior to the touring Met Company, which had preceded Nielsen in LA, Chicago and Boston. Their Chicago season was sponsored by the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Association.
At the end of the tour, in Boston's Park Theatre during March 1908, the SCOC presented a week of nightly grand opera performances featuring Nielsen and Constantino. The renditions of La Bohème and Faust at the Park Theatre created such a sensation that Boston's music patron Eben Jordan offered to build a new opera house for the SCOC's director Henry Russell and his company. The plan was quickly realized, and the newly formed Boston Opera Company under Russell's leadership gave their first performance for the opening of the Boston Opera House on November 8, 1909 with a performance of La Gioconda with Nordica in the title role. Nielsen and Nordica were the company's two leading sopranos during its six years of operation from 1909-1915.
She also debuted at The Metropolitan Opera and Opéra de Montréal. Her artist allies for the project included Loie FullerJosef Urban and Anna Pavlova. Within six years, however, Boston Opera folded amid the turmoil of World War I. The magnificent building, designed by the team which created Symphony Hall, was located across from New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall and has since been demolished.

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