Bispham, David S.


Acclaimed baritone, 1ST US-born international opera star noted for Wagner roles, championed opera in English



Autograph ID: 5969
Condition: Very good, slight toning at right
Description: “(1857-1921) Born in Philadelphia of Quaker parents, graduated from Haverford College 1876. He appeared in numerous musical performances in his childhood despite having no formal musical training. While employed by the Lehigh Valley railroad, Bispham spent his spare time singing with local clubs and a Philadelphia Episcopal church choir. At 28 he went to Europe to study singing in Milan and Bayreuth. In 1891 he was selected to perform the role of the Duc de Longueville in a London performance of Messager's "La Basoch", his professional debut. He was engaged by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to sing Beckmesser in Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg" in June 1892. When Jean De Reszke fell ill during rehearsals and the production cancelled, on the day of the cancellation, Bispham was asked to substitute on the following day as Kurwenal in Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" under Mahler's baton, his first Wagner role. His success there brought him a contract for Covent Garden, where he appeared primarily in Wagnerian roles, for all but 2 of the next 10 seasons. Bispham made his US debut at the Met, once again in Wagner, on Nov. 18, 1896, singing the role of Beckmesser in "Die Meistersinger." He remained with the company until 1903, singing mainly Wagnerian roles; he also appeared in the US premieres of Paderewski's "Manru" and Ethel Smyth's "Der Wald". Bispham was influential in establishing the career of Carrie Jacobs -Bond; in 1901 he gave a recital exclusively of her songs in Chicago's Studebaker Theatre. After 1903 he devoted most of his time to recitals, with much success. He made a point of singing English versions of songs by such composers as Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert. In 1916 he appeared in an English-language version of Mozart's "Der Schauspielddirektor" in New York. The performance was such a success that it led to the formation of the Society of American Singers; the company, with Bispham's inspiration, gave 3 seasons of light opera in English. His commitment to opera in English also led, after his death, to the creation of the Bispham Memorial Medal to be awarded to operas in English by US composers. Damrosch's setting of Kipling's poem "Danny Deever", as sung by Bispham, became a favorite of President Theodore Roosevelt. Bispham was the first singer to introduce Brahms's "Four Serious Songs" and "Magelone Lieder" to US audiences in the 1896-97 concert season.

Signed 1 3/4 x 3 1/2 card, undated but ca. 1902.”

Type: Signed Card

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