H I C A G O
R I B U T E
Candid and temperamental,
was the prima donna of Chicago opera for
more than 20 years.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland,
still a child when her family emigrated to
the U.S., eventually settling in Chicago.
When, at age 16, a wealthy merchant's
wife heard her sing in an amateur production,
she offered to pay for Garden to train in
Paris. Three years later, Garden made her professional singing debut at
the Opera Comiqué in Charpentier's Louise. Soon she was selling out
opera houses throughout the world.
Garden made her Chicago
debut in 1910 in the Chicago Grand Opera Company's Pelleas et Melisande.
Later that season, her lusty performance as Salome offended so many that,
after two sold-out performances,
the production was cancelled. "Miss Garden," protested Chicago's
chief of police Leroy T. Steward, "wallowed around like a cat in a
bed of catnip."
Garden continued performing and, in 1921, was named general director of
the Chicago Opera Association. Her tempestuous tenure lasted only one year,
but even critics admitted that it was a brilliant one. When the COA was
reorganized into the Chicago Civic Opera in 1922, Garden continued to perform
and please the crowds until her farewell performance in 1934.
During most of her professional
life in Chicago, Garden lived here at the former Blackstone Hotel, 636 South