Emma Eames

Emma Eames

during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century.

The daughter of an international lawyer, Eames was born in Shanghai, China. (Her surname, incidentally, was pronounced "Ames" not "Eemes".) She attended school in Boston and later studied voice with the famous Paris-based teacher Mathilde Marchesi. In 1913 it was recorded, at the time of Marchesi's death, that Eames had praised this tuition [The Times, Wednesday, Nov 19, 1913; pg. 11] , but she would subsequently downplay that teacher's influence on her singing technique.

inging Career

Eames made her professional operatic debut in Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette" at the Paris Opéra in 1889. She would perform the role of Juliette many other times during the next two years, while adding other French operatic parts to her repertoire. As early as November 1889 the London Times called her "the favourite cantatrice of the Opera" [The Times, Thursday, Nov 07, 1889; pg. 5] . She finally left Paris in 1891 for personal reasons.

That same year, she debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, also as Juliette. The Met was where she would score her greatest triumphs, performing there in a range of operas until she departed from the company in 1909. Eames also made highly acclaimed appearances at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She sang intermittently in London from 1891 to 1901 and became regarded as a rival to Covent Garden's reigning diva, Nellie Melba.

Press notices included:

Paris Opera House:

"St Saens' Ascanio, 1890:" ""Mon coeur est sous la pierre", of Colombe... sung with exquisite taste and without accompaniment... a delightful Colombe... consummate art... evoking unanimous plaudits". [The Times, Monday, Mar 24, 1890; pg. 9]

Covent Garden:

"Gounod's Faust, April 7, 1891:" "debut... immediate and very great success... middle notes of the voice, which have a peculiarly beautiful quality... approaching the timbre of the mezzo-soprano... the organ as a whole, though exceedingly sweet, is not very powerful, but the singer's method leaves nothing to desire, and her execution of brilliant passages is neat and accurate... [and although] no very striking amount of tragic power... charming and sincerely artistic". [The Times, Monday, Apr 13, 1891; pg. 12]

"Wagner's Lohengrin, April 11, 1891:" " [as Elsa] a good deal of success... very great charm of her voice". [The Times, Monday, Apr 13, 1891; pg. 12] Indeed, Hatton ['Personality in Opera'; A. P. Hatton, Music & Letters, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Apr., 1931), pp. 164-169; Published by: Oxford University Press] was to claim in 1931 that "The supreme personality is the one who can monopolise a part without any change ever being called for or desired-- such as ... Emma Eames as Elsa".

"Massenet's Werther, 1894:" "Mme. Emma Eames sings and acts most charmingly as Charlotte... the beautiful quality of the singer's lower notes.. her performance was entirely successful". [The Times, Tuesday, Jun 12, 1894; pg. 8]

The Boston opera company was Eames' artistic home in 1911-12. She also undertook concert tours of the United States and retired from the stage in 1916. In 1929, she wrote an autobiography, "Some Memories and Reflections".


Eames possessed a beautiful, aristocratic and well-schooled voice although she was sometimes criticised for the aloofness of her acting. She was reportedly unhappy with the way that she sounded on the primitive gramophone recordings she had made prior to World War One. In 1939, however, she appeared on a radio show and picked out some her better records to play, speaking with little modesty about them.

Eames' voice was also captured live at the Met in 1903 on primitive recordings known as the Mapleson Cylinders. She sings fragments of "Tosca" on them. They are available on CD reissues, as are all the commercial gramophone records which she cut for the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1905-11.

In addition to "Tosca" and her debut opera "Romeo et Juliette", Eames performed in a comparatively wide array of works. They included, among others, "Aida", "Lohengrin", "Faust", "Cavalleria rusticana", "Le nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni".

Personal life

Eames was married twice, first to a painter, Julian Story, and then to the famous concert baritone Emilio de Gogorza, with whom she made some records. She was raised in Portland and Bath, Maine. Both marriages ended in divorce and much bitterness. She had no children, but in her autobiography admitted that she was pressured into a "medical procedure".

She relocated to New York in 1936, where she became a well-known vocal instructor. She was fond, too, of attending Broadway shows. Eames died in 1952 at the age of 86. She is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Bath, Maine. Her niece, Clare Eames, was the first wife of the noted playwright Sidney Howard.


* Michael Scott, "The Record of Singing", Volume 1, Duckworth, London, 1977
* Harold Rosenthal & John Warrack, "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera", Oxford University Press, Second Edition, London, 1980
* Henry Pleasants, "The Great Singers", Second Edition, Macmillan, London, 1983

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