Alma Gluck Biography

(Romanian-American Opera Singer Who Was the First Musician to Sell a Million Record Copies)

Birthday: May 11, 1884 (Taurus)

Born In: Ias,i, Bucharest, Romania

The rags to riches story of the humble Alma Gluck is worth a read. A dutiful housewife, this simple woman became one of the greatest opera singers the world has ever witnessed. Though her talents were discovered much later in life, yet she managed to etch her name in the annals of music’s history. Originally from Romania, Gluck moved to the United States of America at a very early age. She inherited the knack for music from her father and an unparalleled voice from her mother. When a famous opera personality heard her for the first time, he was so impressed that he immediately arranged for her singing classes. She received great appreciation after her first performance and thus began her brilliant and successful seven-year long opera career. Gluck, however, was not much of an opera lover. When she became an established figure in the field of music, she began doing recitals and even carved a niche as a concert artist. Later, she devoted herself to recordings and concerts. But nonetheless, there have been very few singers of her caliber till today. Her clarity of pronunciation, splendid tone and precision in high ranges is flabbergasting. Gluck even initiated efforts at making music a whole lot more desirable a career for womenfolk.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 54


Spouse/Ex-: Bernard Glick, Efrem Zimbalist (m. ?–1938)

father: Leon Feinsohn

mother: Zara

children: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Marcia Davenport

Born Country: United States

Opera Singers American Women

Died on: October 27, 1938

place of death: New York City

City: Bucharest, Romania

Founder/Co-Founder: American Woman's Association

Childhood & Early Life
Alma Gluck was born as Reba Feinsohn, in an impoverished Jewsih family, on May 11, 1884, in Iasi, Romania, to Zara and Leon Feinsohn. The family moved to the United States when she was very young. Soon after, she began singing, a talent which she had inherited from her parents.
Following her high school graduation, Gluck enrolled in what is today known as Hunter College. She intended to work before marriage and therefore, learned stenography and typing.
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She married early and after the birth of her daughter Abigail Marcia (Marcia Davenport), Gluck assumed the role of a housewife and remained a devoted mother until one night in 1906 when her talents were discovered by an opera composer. This opera enthusiast, upon hearing her voice, arranged for her singing classes. However, since Alma Gluck could not afford to pay for her music classes, her benefactor arranged for Arturo Buzzi-Peccia, one of New York's finest vocal instructors, for her.
In 1909, when Gluck had become a well-trained vocalist Buzzi-Peccia arranged a meeting with Metropolitan opera's manager, Giulio Gatti-Casazza and music director, Arturo Toscanini. A formal audition took place, following which she signed a $700 contract with the Metropolitan on 29th of March.
On November 19, 1909 Gluck made her first stage appearance. She appeared on the stage and performed Massenet’s ‘Werther’, an opera. The crowd loved her performance and she gained immense critical acclaim.
Success followed and Gluck rose to fame. However, she was not much interested in opera singing. In less than a year, after her opera debut she sang her first recital. By 1911 she was an established concert artist.
She left Metropolitan in 1913 to study music in Berlin and Paris. The following year she became a popular concert singer in the United States. She had performed in all 48 states as a recitalist and orchestral soloist.
She recorded 124 recitals between 1911 and 1919 and became a best-selling artist between 1914 and 1918 with a recording royalty of $600,000.
In 1921 she performed approximately 100 recitals in a season and continued to perform until 1925.
Major Works
Her rendition of the song ‘Carry Me Back to Old Virginny’ became very popular and went on to become the first celebrity recording by a classical musician to sell one million copies. The song was written by James A. Bland as an adaptation of a traditional song frequently sung by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.
Even though she was ethnically Jewish, she was attracted to Christianity and sang several popular hymns. Her recording of the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’, written by the Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763 is well known. Other hymns recorded by her include ‘Whispering Hope’, ‘One Sweetly Solemn Thought’ and ‘Jesus, Lover of My Soul’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In May 1902 Alma got married to Bernard Glick, an insurance man, who was twelve years older to her. They had a daughter Abigail Marcia (later Marcia Davenport). The couple got divorced in 1912.
She married violinist, Efrem Zimbalist, in London, in 1914. The couple had two children, Maria Virginia Goelet and Efrem, Jr. the actor, writer and director.
A renowned figure in music, Gluck supported musical causes and also founded the American Guild of Musical Artists.
Gluck was diagnosed with a chronic liver ailment and died in New York on October 27, 1938, at the age of 54.

See the events in life of Alma Gluck in Chronological Order

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