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Geraldine Farrar



American opera diva and silent film star, Geraldine Farrar was one of the most famous women in the world during the second decade of the 20th century. Beautiful, stylish, and possessed of enormous charisma, her presence mattered as much as her voice in her stardom. While the surviving sound recordings reveal an expressive and elegant lyric soprano voice that can sing in four languages idiomatically (a testament to her solid training by Emanuel Garcia), none of the performances have the drama or beauty of tone that compel fascination 90 years later. Her film roles, often in historical costume dramas or adaptations of operas, suffer from the odd amalgam of sentimentality and scenic antiquarianism that make silent costume dramas so artificial in modern eyes. It may be that only the photographic portraits capture some of the spectacular allure that made her the highest paid film star of her time. During the later part of her career she pursued stage and film careers simultaneously. Married to matinee idol Lou Tellegen, Geraldine Ferrar was photographed every time she stepped into a public venue. A literate, intelligent women, she composed two memoirs detailing her 29 operatic roles and her five-year stint before the cameras in fifteen films, including "Carmen" and "Joan the Woman": The Biography of An American Singer and Such Sweet Compulsion. David S. Shields/ALS