Mary Garden; or, Can a Woman Love and Still Be Free?

By Carrie Wilson

Mary Garden

I’m very happy to have you know this important article by my colleague, Carrie Wilson, the esteemed singer, actor, and Aesthetic Realism consultant.  “Mary Garden; or, Can a Woman Love and Still Be Free?” has in it new understanding of one of the world’s great operatic performers–and of women today.   -Anne Fielding

Mary Garden, who lived from 1874 to 1967, and who introduced modern French opera to America, had a remarkable ability to give herself to a character. People felt she was the person she portrayed. The critic Merle Armitage writes of the audience’s wonder:

“…that the woman who sang Thaïs one night was the same body and mind which assumed such ethereal qualities as Melisande a few nights later.”

And in her autobiography Miss Garden herself says of the characters she played:

I had them all in me, in my very flesh and blood. If only someone could tell me about that. I must confess it has always been a mystery to me.

In an Aesthetic Realism lesson, Eli Siegel explained to an actress: “It is what you already are that enables you to take on somebody else….We are of everything.”  To see and welcome this oneness of self and world is, I have learned, the same as wisdom for oneself.

In his lecture “Mind and Intelligence,” Mr. Siegel has these sentences I wish Miss Garden could have heard:

Music, the arts, are intelligence, because when the arts are authentic they always are free and they always are precise, accurate. There is a beautiful mingling of limitation and the infinite.

As a singer, Mary Garden was able to put precision and freedom together. In 1902, the composer Claude Debussy chose her to create the role of Melisande in his opera Pelleas et Melisande….more


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