Gladys Swarthout
Opera Diva
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Galdys as Stephano
The Chicago Opera Company

Gladys joined the Chicago Civic Opera company after some of her friends arranged a surprise audition for her.  Learning twenty three parts in a matter of months, she had roles in fifty percent of the productions they performed for the next five seasons.

Left, Gladys as Stephano in Romeo and JulietRight, Gladys in Mignon.

Gladys as Mignon
The New York Metropolitan Opera

Gladys left Chicago and joined the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1929 where she sang for sixteen years.  Her first year with the Met, Gladys sang parts in fifty-six productions, more than any other individual. Along with Lily Pons, she did much to increase the glamour of the opera stars to the general public.  She was most famous as Carmen, but she only attempted it once she had reached the peak of her vocal powers.

Gladys as Carmine.

Right - Gladys the first to ever play part of Plentiful Tewes, in Howard Hanson's opera, Merry Mount

Gladys as Plentiful Tewes

She was well known as Mignon in the opera by Ambroise Thomas of the same name.  She performed the role for the Free Milk for Babies opera sponsored by Mrs. William Randolph Hearst. (Front Row) Mrs. Hearst, Lucrezia Bori, Lily Pons and Gladys. (Back Row) Beniamino Gigli, New York City Mayor James Walker and Leon Rothier.

April 1936 Program


Broadcast Operas

The New York Metropolitan Opera has been broadcasting on Saturday afternoons for decades.  The following is a listing of operas that Gladys had parts in as a mezzo-soprano for these broadcasts and came from the Opera House's historical section:

The first every radio broadcast from the New York Met was Hänsel und Gretel, broadcast on Christmas Day 1931.

Norma Roméo et Juliette  - January 26, 1935 
    Hasselmans: Norena, Swarthout, Wakefield; Hackett, De Luca, Rothier 

Mignon  - March 13, 1937 
    Pelletier: Swarthout, Antoine, Olheim; Hackett 

Pinza Acts III, IV - December 26, 1931
    Serafin: Ponselle, Swarthout; Lauri-Volpi, Pinza

Lakmé - February 27, 1932
    Hasselmans: Pons, Swarthout; Jagel, De Luca, Rothier

Peter Ibbetson (partial) - March 26, 1932
    Serafin: Bori, Swarthout, Bourskaya; Johnson, Tibbett, Rothier

Roméo et Juliette Acts II, III - April 9, 1932
    Hasselmans: Moore, Swarthout, Wakefield; Gigli, De Luca, Rothier

Gladys Swarthout as Nejata

Gladys Swarthout as
from the opera Sadko, 
probably in 1929.

Photo from The Victor Book of the Opera, 1945.

Mignon - December 30, 1933
    Hasselmans: Bori, Pons, Swarthout; Schipa, Rothier 

Merry Mount by Howard Hanson - February 10, 1934
    (World Stage Premiere - Hanson's opera had been presented in concert form at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on May 20, 1933.)
    Serafin: Ljungberg, Swarthout, Petina; Johnson, Tibbett

Faust - February 17, 1934
    Hasselmans: Norena, Swarthout, Wakefield; Martinelli, Tibbett, Pinza

Peter Ibbetson by Deems Taylor - March 17, 1934 
    Serafin: Bori, Swarthout, Bourskaya; Johnson, Tibbett, Rothier 

La Forza del Destino - January 19, 1935 
    Bellezza: Rethberg, Swarthout; Martinelli, Borgioli, Pinza, Gandolfi 

Opera was not a safe business! Gladys had many interesting encounters in her years on stage. TIME magazine reported the following items over her career.

Nov. 20, 1939

At a Chicago Civic Opera performance of Mignon, Tito Schipa, supposed to carry Gladys Swarthout off stage, let Désiré Defrère substitute in the job. Proxy Defrère stumbled, dropped her. Explained Slacker Schipa: "She is, you understand, a little heavy, I do not say she is fat, just a little heavy." Retorted Proxy Defrère, "I slipped on a tack. It was only natural I do the job. Schipa is too puny."

BERLIOZ: Romeo & Juliet--Dramatic Symphony, Op. 17; Scenes 6-7 from The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24

Gladys Swarthout, soprano
John Gaddis, tenor
Nicola Moscona, bass
Mack Harrell, baritone (The Damnation of Faust)
Arturo Toscanini conducts NBC Symphony and Chorus
Guild GHCD 2218/2220 79: 02; 77:43; 71:50 (Distrib. Albany)

February 9, 1947 and February 16, 1947

As early as 1896 Toscanini had expressed interest in the Romeo and Juliet Symphony, and he had already run into opposition to the mounting of a performance, due to the composer's lack of popularity. After numerous programs of Berlioz' overtures and the Queen Mab section of the Romeo score, Toscanini (along with Beecham and Mitropoulos) had instilled, by 1945, some healthy respect for Berlioz' oeuvre, and so the 1947 broadcast became feasible. Gladys Swarthout, who had suffered a broken knee prior to the 9 February performance, sings with a remarkable lightness and buoyancy.

Gladys As Mignon.
Click on photo for larger version,
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This page was created and is Copyright by Mark Swarthout 2005
The last update to the page was on January 30, 2006
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