Queena Mario, Mario, Mario !

Queena Mario, Mario, Mario !

When abroad, there is hardly a greater pleasure imaginable than a visit to the local cemetery. One leaves the cemetery completely refreshed and full of zest for life! For years I rented a comfortable apartment in Paris on Avenue du Père Lachaise for a few months a year, until the comfortable floor was “split” into mini apartments for the Airbnb community. I wrote a flaming letter to the Mayor of Paris in 2016, a letter that apparently got lost, because the answer has been delayed until today. Them damned Frogs!

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I was in New York in 1990 (!) for an interview with the soprano Yoko Watanabe, an interview for the “Vriendenbulletin” (Opera Friends Newsletter) of the Netherlands Opera. The interview was published, but I’m still waiting for my fee. A minor detail.

Also in New York, there is a cosy cemetery, the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Easy to reach in half an hour by metro line 4 from Grand Central Station 42nd Street. Woodlawn was founded in 1863 and covers some 400 acres. An oasis of tranquillity, where the proverbial pushing up daisies is a combined effort of over 300,000 horizontal resting individuals.

Decorated with lavish memorials, Woodlawn, like the Parisian Père Lachaise, offers eternal hospitality to many dormant celebrities. We mention Irving Berlin, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington…

La rondine, een opera in drie bedrijven van Giacomo Puccini

No opera heroes? Yes, there are. Also buried here is Queena Mario, which probably isn’t well known to everyone. Queena Mario was a famous soprano in the 1920s and 1930s. Queena Mario. She was a famous soprano in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in 1896 as Queena Marian Tillotson, she grew up in New Jersey; she made her debut in 1918 with the San Carlo Opera Company. Her MET debut followed in 1922. She sang roles as Gilda, Mimi, Nedda, Sophie (Rosenkavalier), Micaela and Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel. She quit singing at the age of 42; a beautiful and timely end to her singing career from which many a contemporary, waning opera star could take an example. Queena Mario was appointed as a teacher at the Juilliard School in New York. She also turned out to be an excellent author of opera related murder mysteries, and wrote columns under the name ‘Florence Bryant’. A very versatile person, indeed.

To conclude, we would like to mention a little anecdote about that special name. [Warning: Put on sarcasm spectacles!] As you know, the opera world is one big family of singers. Solidarity and pleasure in each other’s success are guiding principles; in that respect it is like the world of opera critics. [Sarcasm glasses off.] A colleague of Queena Mario, Nina Morgana (1891-1986), protégée of Enrico Caruso, thought the name “Queena Mario” was ridiculous. According to Morgana, Mario’s birth name was “Helen Tillotson”, and that was good enough. Smiling falsely, Morgana asked Queena the question, “If you had a brother, would he be called Kinga?”

Olivier Keegel
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Olivier Keegel


Chief Editor since 2019. Does not need much more than Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti. Wishes to resuscitate Tito Schipa and Fritz Wunderlich. Certified unmasker of directors' humbug.

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