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Lulu Glaser



Lulu Glaser embodied the 1890s ideal of the American girl--vibrant, pert, charming, abrupt, athletic, and bold. An amateur singer discovered by light opera impresario Francis Wilson, she was hired as a teenage chorister and won respect for her diligence, her quick memory, and her sure pitch. When the company's soubrette Marie Jansen fell ill, Wilson elevated Lulu from the chorus to the lead. Her success convinced Wilson that he need not meet Jansen's demands for higher play. When Jansen departed, Glaser made the most of her chance, throwing herself into "The Merry Monarch" and "Ermine." In the course of the 1894-95 season, she became the most energetic young woman on the American stage.

Glaser had the uncanny ability to seem more alive than anyone else in a scene. Her fluffy hair shivered. Her eyes scintillated. Her motions seemed impetuosity incarnate. When dancing, she pranced and vibrated. When singing, she throbbed. As long as she seemed unstudied and young, she seemed winsome. When the vehicles that she performed became perfunctory in plot and characterization, as they did during the first decade of the 20th century, her vivacity seemed contrived. Inevitably given her training and disposition, her dramatic career was restricted to comic opera, and the demands upon her vocal dramaturgy rarely ventured beyond being charming and mischievous. Yet for a decade no one in musical theater--not even Lillian Russell--better conveyed the fun of being female.

As the character portraits indicate, Lulu was cute rather than beautiful, forward and engaging rather than aloof and statuesque. Her stage career lasted well into the second decade of the 20th century, faltering finally in the operetta "The Girl and the Kaiser." Victor Herbert composed "Dolly Dollars" for her, one of his lesser efforts. The highlight of her career was the 1902 production of "Dolly Vardon" where her buoyancy suited the characterzation, the costumes and historic setting tempered her inclination toward slang and new woman sass, and the Julian Edwards songs didn't tax her vocal range.

For ten years, beginning in 1907, she appeared periodically in vaudeville before retiring to a comfortable life in the countryside of Connecticut in 1917. Her papers are housed at Princeton University.

NOTES: David S. Shields/ALS