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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Frances Alda

1918
Herman Mishkin

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 20.2 cm x 15.2 cm, image: 19.2 cm x 14.0 cm)

Frances Alda (1879–1952) was one of the world's greatest sopranos. Born Fanny Jane Davis in Christchurch, New Zealand, she was raised in Melbourne, where she began singing operetta in 1897. In 1902 she went to Paris to study with Mathilde Marchesi, Nellie Melba's teacher, who gave her the name Alda. She made her European debut in 1904, and by 1908 she had appeared at the Monnaie, Brussels, Covent Garden and La Scala. That year she became a member of New York's Metropolitan Opera, staying with the company for 21 years. Noted especially for her lyrical roles, she enjoyed a successful recording career, making her debut with Enrico Caruso, who claimed that his voice and hers blended perfectly: 'I have never found that with any other woman singer.' Alda toured Australia and New Zealand in 1927, by which time she had reportedly come to 'disdain' Australia. Her colourful memoir, Men, Women and Tenors, was published in 1937. She died while on holiday in Venice, Italy.

This dramatic photo portrait of Alda was taken in New York in 1918 by the Metropolitan Opera's principal photographer, Herman Mishkin. From 1910 to 1932 Mishkin was the Met's photographer of choice, in the early years persuading operatic set painters to supply him with artful studio backdrops like this one.


Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Roger Neill 2006

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Herman Mishkin (age 47 in 1918)

Frances Alda (age 39 in 1918)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Roger Neill (3 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Frances Alda
Frances Alda
Frances Alda
Frances Alda

Bewitching

Magazine article by Roger Neill, 2006

Roger Neill delves into the life of a lesser-known Australian diva, Frances Alda.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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