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Ilma de Murska



A soprano with a voice with nearly three octaves compass, Ilma de Murska was one of the great operatic and concert singers of the 1860s and 1870s in Europe and America. Born in Pest, Hungary, she trained in Vienna and Paris under the Marchesis. In 1863 she debuted in Florence at the Pergola. By 1865 she had sung in most of the European capitals. Utterly distinctive as a stylist, with an extraordinarily creative approach to characterization, de Murska became the Queen of the Night against which all others were judged in the latter half of the 19th century. She sang Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner with equal facility.

Her American premiere took place in 1874 when she sang "La Somnambula," and toured the United States for several years subsequently. She traveled with a menagerie of beloved exotic pets, hated rehearsals, and was irritatingly punctual in everything she did. In the late 1880s her voice fell apart, and during her final tour of America, presenting herself as a vocal instructor, her "voice was hopelessly worn and the singer's powers were sadly impaired."

NOTES: Obituary, New York Herald (Jan 19, 1889), 7. David S. Shields/ALS