Friday, August 25, 2023

Rockin' Operatic Style

Image of Jen de Rezke as Raoul in Meyerbeer's "The Huguenots"This week we stumbled upon a charming little photograph album in our Codex collection. The contents are very niche and extremely fabulous: signed publicity photos of opera singers who performed during the 1899 season for the Metropolitan Opera Company. The book was compiled by a young Edith Lauterbach, whose father, Edward Lauterbach, was legal counsel for the Met as well as a member of the Board of Directors. As such, Edith knew many of the world-famous performers personally. The book came to us through the generous donation of Edith's husband, Clarence "Mac" McDavitt, a member of the class of 1900.

Each photograph of a performer in the album, usually in costume, is accompanied by a brief biography along with their notable areas of expertise and, in some cases, their birth name. For example, the renowned American soprano Lillian Nordica, who slayed as Brunhilde, was born Lillian Norton and hailed from the rural hills of Farmington, Maine. Our favorite fashion statements from the season are Jean de Reek, a Polish tenor who is rocking the thigh-high boots with a pair of short shorts, and Andreas Dippel, a French tenor who somehow manages to project a convincing "legendary warrior" vibe despite his lace-up heels.

To explore the world of opera costumery at the Met in 1899, come to Special Collections and ask to see Codex 003337.