The Corner

Yankee Divas

As I mentioned this morning, I have a piece today on Clive Babkirk, a Yankee in the South, an American original. His great-great-aunt was Lillian Nordica — Madame Nordica, the first American opera singer to gain international renown.

She was born Lillian Allen Norton, in Farmington, Maine. The year was 1857. At the beginning of Miss Norton’s career, an Italian conductor thought her name sounded a little too … white-bread, for European audiences. So she assumed the exotic “Nordica.” (This became Clive’s mother’s middle name.) Madame Nordica died in 1914, while on tour in the far Pacific. This was in the Dutch East Indies, in the town that would become Jakarta, Indonesia.

An amazing story, Lillian Nordica. And it was written up as Yankee Diva. By sheer coincidence, I have a post today at The New Criterion that involves a contemporary “Yankee Diva.” That is how Joyce DiDonato, the mezzo from Kansas, is often styled. Indeed, she once blogged under that name.

On Saturday night, she was the star of La donna del lago — i.e., The Lady of the Lake, by Rossini (after Scott) — at the Metropolitan Opera. So, in my life at least, it’s raining Yankee divas.

Derek Jeter’s kind of one, isn’t he? (And Billy Martin?) (And Steinbrenner?)

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