Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

May 21, 2015

Eva Leoni (Soprano) (Berlin, Germany 1895 † New York, USA 1972)

She was the daughter of Hungarian parents. At the age of 16 she went to Milano where she studied with several Maestri. In 1913 she made her debut in Italy in the operetta ‘’The Geisha’’ of  S. Jones. In the 1913-1914 season she undertook a South America tour with the Marchetti Opera Company appearing among other things in "Lustigen Witwe", "Zigeunerbaron", "Fledermaus", "Boccacio" and in Offenbach’s "Schöner Helena". In 1913 she had her first success at the Teatro Victorio, then at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as Gilda in ‘’Rigoletto’’. In the 1913-1914 season she appeared in Italian theaters in operas and operettas, among other things in Rome, Turin, Genoa and Naples. In 1914 she was surprised in South America by the First World War and went to the USA. She went to New York for further studies with Gabriele Sibella and in 1918 she sang the part of Nedda in ‘’Pagliacci’’at the Academy of Music in New York. Then she appeared in the Stuyvesant Park of New York as Rosina in ‘’Il Barbiere di Siviglia’’. In 1922 she sang in the New York Broadway in the French opera ‘’Galathée’’ of Massé. She was known in North America by her concerts, her radiorecordings and sound recordings. In 1923 she appeared in the american premiere of of Schönberg’s "Herzgewächse". In 1924 she sang at the Manhattan Opera in New York the part of Oscar in ‘’Un Ballo in maschera’’. In 1926 she appeared in Montreal as Gilda. In 1929 as a member of the Franchetti Opera Company she appeared as Rosina. In  1931 in Los Angeles she sang in the operetta ''The Geisha''. In 1929 she gave a concert in New York. Then she took her residence in San Francisco, later in New York, where she arranged opera performances for children. In 1946 she married thr actor A. J . Herbert, worked as a pedagogue in Vienna, however, came in 1964 again to New York, where she devoted herself once more to the children's operas.

Chronology of some appearances

1913-1914 South America tour Marchetti Opera Company
1913 Buenos Aires Teatro Colón Rigoletto (Gilda)
1918 New York Academy of Music Pagliacci (Nedda)


Columbia, New York 1926-05-25
Parysatis (Saint-Saëns): Le rossignol et la rose L1988 W98267

Columbia, New York 1926-07-26
Lakmé (Delibes): Où va la jeune Hindoue L1988 98283

1 comment:

  1. 12/11/2015
    Dear Ashot,
    Your bio on Eva Leoni is, if I understood it correctly, is not quite accurate with respect to the mid foreties. She was a good friend of my parents and me and a house guest for dinner on several occasions in the mid forties when we lived in Jamaica, L.I., New York. My parents were French and my father, an actor by profession in France whose greatest desire was to be an operatic tenor only worked in the USA as an actor by moonlighting and doing voice-over and film dubbing work for what was then known as the O.W.I.

    When I knew Eva I was part of her Children's Opera Company in NY (around 1943-45. I was born in late 1932) her apartment-stidio was on west 58th street between Fifth and Sixth avenues just across from the side entrances of the Plaza Hotel. I was never interested in singing opera but was part of her twice a week classes (Wednesday afternoon and Saturday mornings) mainly to please my parents. The effort was not wasted as it developed my ear and I later became a proifessional musician. While she'd been in San Francisco she apparently had formed a similar children's group which included Ann Blyth who later became a film star. I remember seeing fliers about that group in her NY studio.

    I do remember her husband whom I knew as Mr. Herbert who was around occasionaly but I don't believe they were yet married at that time although I could be wrong. I also recall that he may have had a bit of a drinking problem but to what extent I don't know.

    My parents had known her since at least the thirties and I had met her then briefly as I and my dad were cast in "The Mountebanks" one of the yearly operetta productions she would put on but I chickened out (I was probably about seven or eight years old and not ready for the stage by any means) at a rehearsal and didn't return to the group 'till around 1943.

    She was obviously very creative as she would write a script for the company's yearly productions, often based upon an existing tale such as Snow White which we did at the Barbizon Plaza in NY in 1945 (in which I played the huntsman in a Prince Valiant wig that itched like crazy) and write original lyrics for it to familiar arias or classical pieces. She had a close associatio with conductor-pianist Rosario Bourdon whom she hired with a small strring group to accompany the productions.

    She also loaned out the children's group to the opera company that was headed by Fortune Gallo whose productions were performed at the (now long gone) Center Theater in NYC. We appeared in several operas that required children's groups, Carmen (1943) which starred Coe Glade, Pagliacci, La Boheme and possibly others that I can't recall. I remember well the backstahe hubbub with the many opera-types carrying on and vocalizing, etc. and my sheer panic at having to go on stage, march around iun Carmen with NO rehearsal other than learning out parts at her studio. I also remember the concuctor on one occasion having a conference with us before the start of the progtram. A very impressive looking European type in tails, etc. I believe it was George Schick but again, I can't be certain.
    I never knew if she was paid for these services other than the credit in the program hotes but iy was great that after our service we could go to ther rear of the theater in the SRO section and watch the resat of the opera. I ws very impressed with Boheme and Carmen and especially Coe Glade whom at that tender age (mine) I thought was the perfecT Carmen.
    And lastly, in addition to the music I also recall a short kid's radio drama we did (her script) at WNYC (circa 1944-45) where I had one line, again with NO studioi rehearsal. I was again terrified and would give my entire fortune to hear a playback of that.
    Jack Daney