Opera Scotland

Zélie de Lussan Suggest updates

Born New York, 21 December 1861.

Died London, 18 December 1949.

American soprano.

Born in New York of French parents, de Lussan studied privately with her mother, and made her concert debut at the age of 16. Her operatic debut, as Arline, was in Boston 1886. In 1888 she was engaged by Augustus Harris for his first Covent Garden season, when she sang Carmen. This became her signature role, with over 1000 performances. Certainly, in an interview after her retirement, she claimed she'd been murdered by fifty-seven different Don Josés.

de Lussan appeared at the New York Met in the 1894-5 season (her roles including Nannetta in the local premiere of Falstaff) and again from 1898 to 1900.

In Britain she worked with the Carl Rosa from 1889 to 1910 as well as singing with the Moody-Manners and O'Mara companies. Roles at Covent Garden included Carmen (1892, in Italian) and Musetta in La Bohème (in 1899, with Melba as Mimì). Her extensive touring made her a well-known figure on the operatic stage in Scotland. 

In addition to Carmen, she was noted for Marie, Zerlina, Mignon, Cherubino and Nedda. de Lussan sang Desdemona in 1892 when the Carl Rosa mounted Otello, and later in her career she was a successful Delilah. She seems to have performed light soprano and dramatic mezzo roles with equal ease. During the 1892 tour she sang Marie in the Command Performance of The Daughter of the Regiment at Balmoral, and the following year sang Carmen at Windsor. de Lussan also appeared extensively in concerts.

After her retiral from the stage, she lived near London.

The second picture shows her at the age of around thirty, when she first performed in Scotland.

Revised 27 April 2013

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