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Ellen Beach Yaw, American coloratura soprano, appears in London in the 1890s

January 13, 2014

Ellen Beach Yaw (1869-1947), American coloratura soprano
(photo: Sarony, New York, circa 1906)

‘A new American soprano, Miss Ellen Beach Yaw, has arrived in London. She has just finished a tour in the Great Republic after singing at one hundred and thirty concerts. Her compass is extraordinary, extending to three octaves, and American critics say Miss Yaw can ”go one butter” in the matter of top notes then any European soprano. Miss yaw states that she has come to study composition in London; but it is certain that, if her voice is as wonderful as reported, she will soon be heard in our concert rooms.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 6 July 1895, p. 9a)

‘Miss Ellen Beach Yaw, the ”record” high soprano of California, is in London, and Mr. Adlington is arranging some appearances for her. Miss Yaw claims to have a voice which reaches to E in altissimo, and it is hoped that those who hear it will be able to recognise the note. The highest recorded soprano note is, we believe, the C in altissimo, which Mozart heard Lucrezia Agujari sing at Parma in 1770. Mozart admits that this distinguished lady, who was then twenty-seven years old, has ”an incredibly high range.” Agujari just 113 years ago received for singing two songs at the Pantheon the then almost unheard-of fee of 100£. a night. A modern foreign prima donna would scarcely be able to support life upon starvation wage.’
(The Daily News, London, Friday, 9 November 1897, p. 6f)

The Grand Scottish Festival, Albert Hall, London, Wednesday, 31 November 1898
‘Miss Ellen Beach Yaw was much applauded after her delivery of Alabieff’s ”Russian Nightingale,” a song which suited her to perfection and enabled her to display her beautiful high notes to the best advantage.’
(The Morning Post, London, Thursday, 1 December 1898, p. 6f)

The Rose of Persia, comic opera, produced at the Savoy Theatre, London, Wednesday, 29 November 1899
‘There are several new and welcome additions to the [Savoy Theatre] cast, and amongst them Miss Ellen Beach Yaw, who is the possessor of an exceptionally fine soprano voice, over which she has wonderful command. Her rendering of ”Neath my lattice” quite captivated the audience, who listened in breathless silence.’
(The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Bristol, Thursday, 30 November 1899, p. 8e)

‘THE NEW OPERA AT THE SAVOY … the Sultana herself [in The Rose of Persia] is embodied by Miss Ellen Beach Yaw in a graceful if amateurish manner. This last-named lady is known to concert-goers by the exceptionally high compass of her voice, and these notes the composer [Sir Arthur Sullivan] has effectively provided for.’
(The Standard, London, Thursday, 30 November 1899, p. 5f)

‘An important change has been made in the cast of the Sullivan-Hood Savoy opera. The leading soprano, Miss Ellen Beach Yaw, whose top register has been the despair of every possible vocal rival, and whose extremely slender physique must have been remarked by everybody who saw her on the first night, has found herself compelled, for purely physical reasons, to abandon her part fro an indefinite period of time. She has been succeeded as Rose-in-bloon by Miss Isabel Jay, a really charming high soprano, for whom Sir Arthur Sullivan has made the one or two absolutely necessary alterations that such change entailed.’

* * * * *

Ellen Beach Yaw made a number of recordings, including a rendition of her own composition ”The Skylark, which she cut for Edison (Diamond Disc 82049) in New York City on 10 April 1913.

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