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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.

Frances Alda, 1912

Herman Mishkin

gelatin silver photograph on paper (backing sheet: 37.5 cm x 29.0 cm, image: 19.8 cm x 14.5 cm)

Frances Alda (1879–1952), soprano, was born Fanny Jane Davis in New Zealand, but was raised in Melbourne, where she began singing professionally in 1897. In 1902 she left Australia to study with Mathilde Marchesi, Melba’s teacher, in Paris. Marchesi identified her as ‘la nouvelle Melba’ and 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, remaining with the company for 21 years. Her wartime fundraising efforts in support of the US Navy were so successful that she received a personal letter of thanks from President Woodrow Wilson. Noted for lyrical roles such as Manon Lescaut, Mimí and Desdemona, she also enjoyed a successful recording career, making her debut with Caruso, who claimed that his voice and hers blended perfectly: ‘I have never found that with any other woman singer’, he said. Alda toured Australia in 1927. Her memoirs, Men, Women and Tenors, were published in 1937.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2007

Accession number: 2007.11

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Herman Mishkin (age 41 in 1912)

Frances Alda (age 33 in 1912)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related portraits

1. Frances Alda, 1918. All Herman Mishkin.

Related information

The Companion

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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, 1918 Herman Mishkin
Frances Alda, 1918 Herman Mishkin
Frances Alda, 1918 Herman Mishkin
Frances Alda, 1918 Herman Mishkin

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 both past and present.

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