Emma Albani (1847–1930)

Celebrated Canadian soprano who performed to critical acclaim in some of the world’s most illustrious opera houses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and London’s Covent Garden. She performed in several of Dvořák’s oratorios at music festivals in England, with the composer conducting on various occasions: e.g. in Leeds on 15 October 1886 for the world premiere of Saint Ludmila, and in Birmingham on 27 August 1885 for the English premiere of the cantata The Spectre’s Bride. She later wrote about Dvořák in her memoirs: He was an immensely fascinating and distinguished man, but also an extremely humble musician. [...] I studied The Spectre’s Bride for four weeks. During rehearsals I was unpleasantly surprised that my interpretation of some of the solos differed from Dvořák’s conception, but we ultimately found a compromise and I sang it the way he wished without having to suppress my original ideas too much.” In her memoirs Albani, without justification, attributed the source of Dvořák’s inspiration for the Stabat mater to herself, claiming that the soprano part had been written expressly for her. Dvořák regarded her as a fine singer. After the premiere of Saint Ludmila he wrote the following in a letter to his friend Václav Juda Novotný: I was told that, after Albani had sung ‘I beg thee, on thy dusty feet my lips I would lay’, the audience was so moved that people were weeping and wiping the tears from their eyes. Albani’s performance was captivating indeed!! But I don’t need to tell you that.”