Friday, October 11, 2019

The Wild Woman Singer who became a Dame of the British Empire

By Jacqui Nelson

How far can talent and an adventurous spirit get a person? Sometimes you need to leave home to change not only yourself but the world.

Meet the historic opera singer whose pursuit of education and opportunity led her to become a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire plus Lucy Maud Montgomery's inspiration and more.

Dame Emma Albani 

( born Marie-Louise-Emma-Cécile Lajeunesse in 1847 
in the United Province of Canada, present-day Quebec ) 

When Marie-Louise-Emma-Cécile was five, her father started her on a regimen of up to four hours a day learning the harp and piano. In 1856 when her mother died, she continued her education in a Montreal convent-school (run by the Dames du Sacré-Coeur) where her father held the position of Music Master.

Emma - age 5
Nine years later in 1865, she moved to Albany, New York because she was unable to finance a musical education in Quebec–where singing was considered an unsavory career for a woman. 

In 1868, she traveled to Paris and then Italy where she studied opera singing. Under the guidance of her elocution instructor, she changed her name to the simpler and more European sounding name Emma Albani. In 1870, she made her Italian debut and in 1872 her London debut. 
Emma - in 1870
Her career at Covent Garden lasted twenty-four years. In the 1880s, she toured Europe and North America and finally sang professionally in her birthplace of Quebec. 

In 1897, she received the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society. 

Emma in 1899
In 1901 after Queen Victoria died, she sang the solo role at the Queen’s final service.

In Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908), the prima donna Madame Selitsky was inspired by Emma. Montgomery also included Emma in the non-fiction book Courageous Women (published in 1934). 

In 1925, Emma was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

In 1911, she released her own book, Forty Years of Song, a memoir about her youth and her career complete with advice on singing. 

In 1939, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada mounted a plaque at her birthplace. And in 1980, Canada Post commissioned a postage stamp honoring her everywhere in her birth country.

Not bad for a woman who was born in a place and time where…singing was considered an unsavory career for a woman.

Dame Emma Albani

In my new release, A Bride for Brynmor, my heroine was born in Canada then she became part of a traveling songbird troupe that took her to many places. But in Colorado 1878, she seizes an opportunity to reach for what she craves most. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned...

Can a sister who’s lived only for others find freedom with one man? Family has always come first—for both of them. He’s never forgiven himself for letting her go. She’s never forgiven herself for almost getting him killed.

When Lark and her songbird sisters are separated fleeing their cruel and controlling troupe manager, only Brynmor Llewellyn can help Lark save her sisters and escape to the far west. But Lark wants more. And so does Brynmor. When they’re stranded in a spot as difficult to guard as it is to leave—a rustic cabin at a train junction between Denver and the mountain town of Noelle, Colorado—they find themselves fighting not only for survival but for redemption, forgiveness, and a second chance for their love.

Will the frontier train stop of Songbird Junction be Lark and Brynmor’s salvation? Or their downfall when her manager, a con artist who calls himself her uncle but cherishes only his own fame and fortune—demands a debt no one can pay?

Welcome to Songbird Junction where Welsh meets West in Colorado 1878. The journey to find a forever home and more starts here. Brynmor, Heddwyn, and Griffin Llewellyn are three Welsh brothers bound by blood and a passion for hauling freight—in Denver where hard work pays. Lark, Oriole, and Wren are three Irish-Cree Métis sisters-of-the-heart bound by choice and a talent for singing—in any place that pays.

Read the opening of A Bride for Brynmor on my excerpt page

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Don't forget to download my FREE story Rescuing Raven (Raven & Charlie's story in Deadwood 1876) 


Alicia Haney said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading this article of the lady who sang opera, it is very interesting. Thank you for sharing it. Your book sounds like a very good read, I especially love the cover! Thank you for talking a little bit about your book, I would love to read it so I will be adding it to my TBR list. Have a Great weekend. God Bless you.

Jo-Ann said...

What a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing. I wush her biography was part of our school curriculum.

ptclayton said...

I loved this story as I love to hear about the ladies and what they did in that time. Also love that you mentioned your new book I sure hope it comes out in print as I would want to read and review it. Your write the best blogs they are always so interesting.

20Pat said...

I learn more about the history of women in the American West through your blog than I ever did at school. Somehow women didn't seem to be mentioned at all. The women in your worlds have sass and spunk and rise above a system seeingly stacked against them. I loved Lark and Brynmor and am sure many more readers will as well.