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Photographed on March 23, 1933




Born in Liverpool, England, to Peruvian parents, Marguerite d’Alvarez began her stage career when she was still a teenager. She made her first public performance, at a diplomatic affair in London, when she was just sixteen. Two years later, in 1904, d’Alverez made her operatic debut at the Rouen Opera House as Dalila in Samson et Dalila. Before the end of the decade, she was performing with Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera Company.

For her debut performance with the company, d’Alvarez sang the part of the mother in The Prophet. While rehearsing for the show, she met a young critic for the Times as she was leaving the opera house. “I found him very intelligent, with a wisdom beyond his years,” d’Alvarez wrote of the meeting, “and when we parted I said I would like to see him again and asked him his name. It was Carl Van Vechten.”1

A life-long opera lover and a leading opera critic of the 1910s, Carl Van Vechten admired Marguerite d’Alvarez’s rich voice and powerful performance style. In an April 22, 1920 advertisement for an d’Alvarez performance, he wrote:

  Marguerite d’Alvarez may be regarded as one of the most unique singers before the public. God, the good fairies, and the Fates have united to endow her with ten or a dozen qualities, any one of which would be sufficient to give her a notable position. . . . She is gifted with a most extraordinary contralto voice of great range and flexibility, and of a mellow and luscious quality.2

D’Alvarez was quite fond of Carl Van Vechten, too, and of his wife Fania Marinoff. Of meeting d’Alvarez, Anna May Wong wrote to Marinoff, “one person I simply adore and have only met this trip is Marguerite d’Alvarez. She is so fond of you and talks of you and Carl incessantly. Even if I had not had an instantaneous affection for her, I would have loved her for her devotion to you both.”3

During the early years of her career, d’Alvarez performed in operas at the London Opera House, Covent Garden, and with companies all over the world. Later, she primarily sang in concerts. She also made a number of recordings, the best known being Samson et Dalila. In 1939, she retired from performing after an impressive career, singing her last concert in London.

1 Marguerite d’Alvarez Forsaken Altars London: Rupert Hart-Davis 1954 p. 228
2 Van Vecthen Advertisement for Marguerite d’Alvarez Concert from Musical Courier 22 Apr. 1920
3 Anna May Wong to Fania Marinoff 19 Apr. 1937 Van Vechten Papers


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