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The Forrest Gump of Opera
March 14, 2012 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Whilst searching for more images of La Milo (mentioned in this post), I stumbled across the David Elliot theatrical postcard collection. In it were some pictures of Blanche Arral.

Arral led an extraordinary life:
Born in Belgium as Clara Lardinois, the youngest of 17 children, Blanche Arral was destined for a life wilder than fiction. During her travels, Arral befriended such legendary figures as Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Harry Houdini, Victor Hugo, Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saens and Jack London, who based a character on her in his book Smoke Bellew. In Russia she met Rasputin, and in Turkey, the sultan Abdulhamid II. She describes her recording sessions with Thomas Edison and her run-ins with the difficult Nellie Melba.

After becoming an opera star despite her family’s better intentions, she married a Russian Prince, held court in St. Petersburg, and lost her husband in a mysterious manner in the early stages of the Russian Revolution. While searching for him in Constantinople she was imprisoned by the Sultan and literally had to escape from the seraglio (does this sound familiar? Keep reading). Having resumed her career on the international opera circuit she was rescued from opera - loving rebels in Latin America, stole Melba’s concert audiences in Melbourne by virtue of superior marketing and escaped a tsunami in Thailand by clinging to a Louis Quinze chimney piece. She eventually found haven in the USA where, while singing Carmen, she was literally stabbed by her leading man who used a real knife instead of the one with the collapsible blade. After her hair was burned off in a freak accident she made some of Edison’s first voice recordings and took to wearing the loaf-like wig in which she concluded her "extraordinary" life in New Jersey. [source]
You can listen to some of her performances on YouTube | Bird Imitation Waltz | Air des Bijoux | Je suis Titania - and here's an interview with her on a 1933 radio broadcast. It seems that when she became the wife of a New Jersey dentist in the 1940s she took to breeding Royal Sacred Siamese cats [scroll down] from a pair that were presented to her by Royal King Chulalongkorn I of Siam after having sung a recital before him.
More pictures of Arral from her triumphant New Zealand tour.

Oh! and here are the pictures of La Milo.
posted by unliteral (5 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

I propose this series of awesome fractal post making be called a daisy chain.
posted by The Whelk at 8:08 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

that or a Blue Braid. I'm flexible.
posted by The Whelk at 8:09 PM on March 14, 2012

Love it. These ladies all seem to have lived stranger-than-fiction lives!

Also, the background art on those postcards of Arral is gorgeous. Love the swoopy frame-y thingies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 AM on March 15, 2012

I love this! I agree with Sidhedevil about the Art Nouveau swoops and swirls.

Whenever I think my musical life is tough, I'm going to look to Arral for kickass inspiration.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:43 PM on March 15, 2012

Seeing as how this thread has bombed comment-wise, I'll just stick a few of my picks from the collection here: posted by unliteral at 5:15 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

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