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Geraldine Farrar

Geraldine Farrar
Born (1882-02-28)February 28, 1882
Melrose, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died March 11, 1967(1967-03-11) (aged 85)
Ridgefield, Connecticut, U.S.
Occupation Opera singer, film actress
Years active 1901–1922
Farrar in Julien in 1914

Geraldine Farrar (February 28, 1882 – March 11, 1967) was an American soprano opera singer and film actress, noted for her beauty, acting ability, and "the intimate timbre of her voice."[1] She had a large following among young women, who were nicknamed "Gerry-flappers".[2][3]


  • Biography 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Filmography 3
  • Media 4
  • Fiction 5
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Farrar was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, the daughter of baseball player Sidney Farrar, and his wife, Henrietta Barnes. At 5 she began studying music in Boston and by 14 was giving recitals. Later she studied voice with the American soprano Emma Thursby in New York, in Paris, and finally with the Italian baritone Francesco Graziani in Berlin.[1] Farrar created a sensation at the Berlin Hofoper with her debut as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's Faust in 1901 and remained with the company for three years, during which time she continued her studies with famed German soprano Lilli Lehmann.[1] (She had been recommended to Lehmann by another famous soprano of the previous generation, Lillian Nordica.). She appeared in the title roles of Ambroise Thomas' Mignon and Jules Massenet's Manon, as well as Juliette in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. Her admirers in Berlin included Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, with whom she is believed to have had a relationship beginning in 1903.

After three years with the Monte Carlo Opera,[1] she made her debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera in Romeo et Juliette on November 26, 1906.[4] She appeared in the first Met performance of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly in 1907 and remained a member of the company until her retirement in 1922, singing 29 roles there in 672 performances.[5] She developed a great popular following, especially among New York's young female opera-goers, who were known as "Gerry-flappers".[3] Farrar created the title roles in Pietro Mascagni's Amica (Monte Carlo, 1905), Puccini's Suor Angelica (New York, 1918), Umberto Giordano's Madame Sans-Gêne (New York, 1915), as well as the Goosegirl in Engelbert Humperdinck's Königskinder (New York, 1910), for which Farrar trained her own flock of geese. According to a New York Tribune review of the first performance, "at the close of the opera Miss Farrar caused 'much amusement' by appearing before the curtain with a live goose under her arm."[6]

Geraldine Farrar as the Goosegirl, Metropolitan Opera, 1910. Farrar trained her own flock of live geese for the World Premiere, expressing hope that future performers would do the same.

She recorded extensively for the Carmen, for which she was extensively praised. "The resolution of Geraldine Farrar, the beautiful and gifted star, to employ her talents in the attaining of success in the films is one of the greatest steps in advancing the dignity of the motion pictures. Miss Farrar's 'Carmen' in the films is the greatest triumph the motion picture has yet achieved over the speaking stage," claimed the The San Francisco Call & Post.[7] For her performance, she came in fourth place in the 1916 "Screen Masterpiece" contest held by Motion Picture Magazine, ahead of any other actress. Theda Bara's performance of the same role received 9,150 votes.[8] One of her other notable screen roles was as Joan of Arc in the 1917 film Joan the Woman.

According to her biographer:

In 1960 Farrar was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the music and film categories. However, the Los Angeles Times, which has documented and photographed every star as part of its ongoing Hollywood Star Walk project, was unable to locate the star honoring her film career.[10] (Her stars are present and accounted for at 1620 & 1709 Vine Street.)

Personal life

Farrar as Manon

Farrar had a seven-year love affair with the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. Her ultimatum, that he leave his wife and children and marry her, resulted in Toscanini's abrupt resignation as principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in 1915. Farrar was close friends with the star tenor Enrico Caruso and there has been speculation that they too had a love affair, but no conclusive evidence of this has surfaced. It is said that Caruso coined her motto: Farrar fara ("Farrar will do it").[11]

Her marriage to cinema actor Lou Tellegen on February 8, 1916 was the source of considerable scandal. The marriage ended, as a result of her husband's numerous affairs, in a very public divorce in 1923. The circumstances of the divorce were brought again to public recollection by Tellegen's bizarre 1934 suicide in Hollywood. Farrar reportedly said "Why should that interest me?" when told of Tellegen's death.

Farrar retired from opera in 1922 at the age of 40. Her final performance was as Leoncavallo's Zazà. By this stage, her voice was in premature decline due to overwork. According to the American music critic Henry Pleasants, the author of The Great Singers from the Dawn of Opera to Our Own Time (first published 1967), she gave between 25 and 35 performances each season at the Met alone. They included 95 appearances as Madama Butterfly and 58 as Carmen in 16 seasons. The title role in Puccini's Tosca, which she had added to her repertoire in 1909, was another one of her favourite Met parts.

The headstone of Geraldine Farrar

Farrar quickly transitioned into concert recitals, and was signed (within several weeks of announcing her opera retirement) to an appearance at Hershey Park on Memorial Day 1922.[12] She continued to give recitals until 1931 and was briefly the intermission commentator for radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera during the 1934-35 season. Her autobiography, Such Sweet Compulsion, published in 1938, was written in alternating chapters purporting to be her own words and those of her mother, with Mrs. Farrar rather floridly recounting her daughter's many accomplishments.

Farrar died in Ridgefield, Connecticut of a heart attack in 1967, aged 85, and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. She had no children.


Advertisement for The Stronger Vow, a 1919 silent film starring Farrar.


Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar in a scene from Act II of Massenet's Manon.

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The American author Barbara Paul has written several murder mystery novels based on Geraldine Farrar, Enrico Caruso, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Ring Lardner has one of his characters attend a performance of Carmen starring Farrar in the short story 'Carmen' (Gullible's Travels, 1917). He remarks it stars 'Genevieve Farr'r, that was in the movies a w'ile till they found out she could sing,'. On the way home, his party (including a man named 'Hatch' who has no dress sense) discuss it:

Well, when we got on the car for home they wasn't only one vacant seat and, o' course, Hatch had to have that. So I and my Missus and Mrs. Hatch clubbed together on the straps and I got an earful o' the real dope.

"What do you think o' Farr'r's costumes?" says Mrs. Hatch.

"Heavenly!" says my Missus. "Specially the one in the second act. It was all colors o' the rainbow."

"Hatch is right in style then," I says.

"And her actin' is perfect," says Mrs. Hatch.

"Her voice too," says the Wife.

"I liked her actin' better," says Mrs. H. "I thought her voice yodeled in the up-stairs registers."

"What do you suppose killed her?" I says.

"She was stabbed by her lover," says the Missus.

"You wasn't lookin'," I says. "He never touched her. It was prob'ly tobacco heart."

"He stabs her in the book," says Mrs. Hatch.

"It never went through the bindin'," I says.



  1. ^ a b c d The New Encyclopædia Britannica 4: 689. Chicago. 1991. 
  2. ^ New York Times (April 23, 1922) p. 20
  3. ^ a b Rosenthal and Warrack (1979), p. 161
  4. ^ Geraldine Farrar's debut on November 26, 1906 at the Met Opera Archives.
  5. ^ Geraldine Farrar at the Met Opera Archives.
  6. ^ Metropolitan Opera Archives, review from the  , Met performance CID 49510, World Premiere, in the presence of the composer.
  7. ^ "Newspapers of the Nation Praise Production".  
  8. ^ "Screen Masterpieces".  
  9. ^ Nash (1981) p. 231
  10. ^ About Hollywood Star Walk. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  11. ^ Hart, Samantha. Hollywood Walk of Fame (Cry Baby Books, 2004), p. 140. ISBN 0-9665787-0-8
  12. ^ "Farrar To Be At Hershey". Harrisburg Telegraph. February 2, 1922. p. 8. ...Geraldine Farrar will open the Hershey Park season with a concert on Memorial Day afternoon. 
  • Nash, Elizabeth, Always First Class: The Career of Geraldine Farrar, University Press of America, 1981. ISBN 0-8191-1882-6
  • New York Times, "Hail Farrar Queen as She Sings Adieu", April 23, 1922, p. 20
  • Rosenthal, H. and Warrack, J., "Farrar, Geraldine", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 161. ISBN 0-19-311321-X
  • — (1916). Geraldine Farrar, the story of an American singer. Boston, New York:  
  • — (1938). The Autobiography of Geraldine Farrar: Such Aweet Compulsion (First ed.). New York, NY: The Greystone Press.  

External links

  • Works by Geraldine Farrar at Project Gutenberg
    • Farrar and her mother
    • Geraldine Farrar, The Story of an American Singer available in many formats at
  • Works by or about Geraldine Farrar at Internet Archive
  • Geraldine Farrar, the Story of an American Singer, the full text of Geraldine Farrar's autobiography published Houghton Mifflin Co. in 1916.
  • Geraldine Farrar at Flickr
  • Geraldine Farrar at the Internet Movie Database
  • Enrico Caruso & Geraldine Farrar - Vogliatemi Bene on YouTube Geraldine Farrar and tenor Enrico Caruso sing Giacomo Puccini's Vogliatemi Bene from Madama Butterfly
  • Discography of Geraldine Farrar on Victor Records from the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR)
  • Geraldine Farrar Memorabilia at the Newberry Library
  • Geraldine Farrar at Virtual History
  • Geraldine Farrar photo gallery(Univ. of Washington/Sayre Collection)
  • Geraldine Farrar at Find a Grave
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