Geraldine Farrar was an American soprano, known for her beauty and dramatic talent and the intimate timbre of her voice.

Farrar displayed musical talent from early childhood, and although she eventually abandoned the piano she continued her voice lessons. In 1900 she traveled to Berlin, where in 1901 she made a sensational debut at the Royal Opera House in Charles Gounod’s Faust. After three years with the Royal Opera, Farrar spent three years (1904–07) with the Monte Carlo Opera, making her debut there opposite Enrico Caruso in La Bohème.

The excerpts given below are from the early 1900s. The closer to 1900 we get, the worse the sound. In some instances, these recordings have been “fixed”. Fixing usually entails removing the noise that one would find in recordings of this age. Fixing also, unfortunately, may remove noise but it also removes sound, in this case the mid-ranges and high-ranges of the singer(s). So, in a recording from 1912, for example, you are not hearing anything close to the true voices. You are hearing voices that have been diminished by the noise removal process. You will get an idea of what these singers sounded like, but unless I can find a recording that hasn’t been doctored, you will not hear the true voice.

Massenet: Manon: Act II: Manon! Avez-vous peur … On l’appelle Manon

L’appartement de Des Grieux et de Manon, rue Vivienne, à Paris.
Des Grieux est assis devant le bureau. Manon s’avance doucement derrière lui et cherche à lire ce qu’il écrit.

DES GRIEUX
Manon!

MANON
Avez-vous peur que mon visage frôle votre visage ?

DES GRIEUX
Indiscrète Manon!

MANON
Oui, je lisais sur votre épaule,
et j’ai souri, voyant passer mon nom!

DES GRIEUX
J’écris à mon père; et je tremble
que cette lettre où j’ai mis tout mon cœur
ne l’irrite.

MANON
Avez-vous peur ?

DES GRIEUX
Oui, Manon, j’ai très peur!

MANON
Eh bien! Il faut relire ensemble…

DES GRIEUX
Oui, c’est cela, ensemble, relisons!

MANON
lisant la lettre
On l’appelle Manon, elle eut hier seize ans;
en elle tout séduit, la beauté, la jeunesse, la grâce;
nulle voix n’a plus de doux accents,
nul regard plus de charme avec plus de tendresse!

DES GRIEUX
Nul regard plus de charme avec plus de tendresse!

MANON
Est-ce vrai?
Moi, je n’en sais rien…
Mais je sais que vous m’aimez bien!

DES GRIEUX
Vous aimer?… Vous aimer?…
Manon!… Je t’adore!

MANON
Allons, Monsieur! Lisons encore!

DES GRIEUX
Comme l’oiseau qui suit en tous lieux le printemps,
sa jeune âme a la vie, sa jeune âme est ouverte sans cesse;
sa lèvre en fleur sourit et parle
au zéphyr parfumé qui passe et la caresse!

MANON
Au zéphyr qui passe et la caresse!

DES GRIEUX
Au zéphyr parfumé qui passe et la caresse!

Manon: Act II: Manon! Avez-vous peur … On l’appelle Manon

Des Grieux’s and Manon’s apartment on the rue Vivienne in Paris.
Des Grieux is seated at a writing table. Manon comes up quietly from behind and tries to read what he is writing.

DES GRIEUX
Manon!

MANON
Are you afraid that my face might touch yours?

DES GRIEUX
Inquisitive Manon!

MANON
Yes, I was reading over your shoulder,
and I smiled, seeing my name!

DES GRIEUX
I am writing to my father; and I shudder at the thought
that this letter, into which I have put all my heart
may make him angry.

MANON
You are afraid?

DES GRIEUX
Yes, Manon, very afraid!

MANON
Well then! We must re-read it together…

DES GRIEUX
Yes, let’s do that, together!

MANON
reading the letter
Her name is Manon, she was just sixteen years old yesterday;
everything about her seduces one, her beauty, her youth, her grace;
no voice has a sweeter sound,
no glance has more charm with more tenderness!

DES GRIEUX
No glance has more charm with more tenderness.

MANON
Is it really true?
I don’t know a thing about it…
but I do know that you do love me very much!

DES GRIEUX
Love you very much?… Love you very much?…
Manon!… I adore you!

MANON
Come, Monsieur! Let’s read some more!

DES GRIEUX
Like the bird that follows the springtime everywhere
all of her young spirit is constantly responsive to life;
her blossoming lips smile and speak
to the sweet-scented wind that caresses her as it passes!

MANON
To the sweet-scented wind that caresses her as it passes!

DES GRIEUX
To the wind that caresses her as it passes.

Un bel di vedremo

Un bel di vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.
Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle
e aspetto, e aspetto gran tempo e non mi pesa
la lunga attesa.
E… uscito dalla folla cittadina
un uom, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? Chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto?
Che dirà? Che dirà?
Chiamera Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne staro nascosta
un po’ per celia e un po’ per non morire al primo incontro,
ed egli alquanto in pena chiamerà, chiamerà:
“Piccina mogliettina, olezzo di verbena,”
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.
Tutto questo avverà, te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura, – io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

One fine day we shall see

One fine day we shall see
a wisp smoke rising over the furthest edge of the sea.
And then the ship appears.
Then the white ship comes into the port,
thunders its salute.
Do you see? It has arrived!
I don’t go down to meet him. I don’t.
I stand there on the edge of the hill
and wait, and wait for a long time and
the long wait won’t be tiresome.
And… having left the city crowd
a man, a little dot
sets off up the hill.
Who can it be? Who can it be?
And when he has got close?
What will he say? What will he say?
He’ll call “Butterfly” from afar.
Without responding I
I will remain hidden
partly as a joke and partly so as not to die at the first meeting,
and he, somewhat distressed, will call, will call:
“sweet little bride, scent of verbena,”
the names he gave me when he first came.
All this will come true, I promise you.
Hold on to your fear. I wait for him with confident faith.

DON GIOVANNI
Là ci darem la mano,
Là mi dirai di sì.
Vedi, non è lontano;
Partiam, ben mio, da qui.

ZERLINA
(Vorrei e non vorrei,
Mi trema un poco il cor.
Felice, è ver, sarei,
Ma può burlarmi ancor.)

DON GIOVANNI
Vieni, mio bel diletto!

ZERLINA
(Mi fa pietà Masetto.)

DON GIOVANNI
Io cangierò tua sorte.

ZERLINA
Presto… non son più forte.

DON GIOVANNI
Andiam!

ZERLINA
Andiam!

A DUE
Andiam, andiam, mio bene.
A ristorar le pene
D’un innocente amor.

DON GIOVANNI
There we will give one another our hands,
There you will tell me “yes”.
See, it is not far,
Let’s leave, my darling, from here.

ZERLINA
(I would, and yet I would not,
My heart trembles a little,
Happy, it is true, I would be
But he still could be fooling me again.)

DON GIOVANNI
Come, my beloved.

ZERLINA
(I am sorry Masetto)

DON GIOVANNI
I will change your fate.

ZERLINA
Quickly . . I’m no longer strong.

DON GIOVANNI
Let’s go!

ZERLINA
Let’s go!

ZERLINA and DON GIOVANNI
Let’s go, let’s go, my darling.
To restore the pains
Of an innocent love.

Geraldine Farrar

Feb. 28, 1882 – March 11, 1967

American opera singer Geraldine Farrar (1882-1967) was a lyric soprano with great vocal skills and dramatic flair. Often paired with tenor Enrico Caruso at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, her career was relatively short-lived because her voice had given out by 1920.Farrar made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera (Met), New York City, in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette in 1906.

In February 1907 she sang Cio-Cio-San in the Met’s first performance of Madama Butterfly, a performance that also featured Louise Homer and Caruso and for which Giacomo Puccini himself was present. Farrar’s youth, beauty, and richly dramatic soprano voice made her a sensation in the role, which she repeated 95 times in her Metropolitan career. For the next 15 years she was a leading member of that company, appearing in some 30 roles; the most popular were Carmen, Thaïs, Gilda, Zerlina, Cherubino, Manon, Mignon, and Tosca. Her farewell performance came in 1922 in the title role of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Zaza.

After retiring from the Met, Farrar continued to perform in concert tours throughout the United States. While her voice had lost many vocal qualities, she retained her technical abilities, and she continued to perform in concert until November of 1931, when she took the stage at Carnegie Hall for her last concert. She remained connected to opera by serving as intermission commentator for the Met’s Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts during the 1934-35 season and was active in civic activities, charity work, the Republican party, and some public speaking. During World War II Farrar volunteered for the Red Cross and corresponded with serviceman. In addition to music, Farrar explored several forms of writing, including poetry and songs. In 1938 she expanded her 1916 autobiography into a second book, Such Sweet Compulsion, in which she credited the spirit of her now-deceased mother with inspiring her writing.