Cultural Cocktail Hour

American opera singer Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding

Soprano Lillian Nordica’s Wacky Wedding

Crime of Passion or Fairly Typical Operatic Engagement? * You Decide.


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Lillian Nordica, the first American opera singer to perform at Bayreuth, gives a whole new meaning to the phrase shot gun wedding.

While performing in New York, Lillian attracted the attentions of an American suitor which vexed her beau in Hungary.

The gossipy hotel maid in the opera singer’s New York hotel suite reported the soprano’s every move to her boyfriend back home. Upon getting the scoop of the new suitor from the Chatty-Patty-cleaning-lady, Lilian’s Hungarian beau set sail for New York. As soon as he arrived in Manhattan, he showed up at the opera diva’s hotel room, not with a bouquet of freshly fragrant Magnolias for his lady, but brandishing the cold, steel barrel of a pistol.

He pointed the weapon at the opera star, threatening to shoot unless she became his wife. At the sight of the mad, gun-wielding Hungarian, did the fair Lillian shake in her dainty little 19th century booties? 

Did she call the police? Or pest control?


She immediately summoned her local clergyman.

According to Norman Lebrecht, Lillian actually got a wild Bonnie and Clyde-esque thrill out of the gun-toting behavior of her Hun:

“Influenced both by awe and admiration of so doughty** a lover, the fair Lillian went with him to a clergyman near by who married them.”  (Norman Lebrecht, The Book of Musical Anecdotes,  242)

What may seem to others as a crime of passion seemed rather like a day in the park to the Brünnhilde-singing soprano.

Perhaps the result of singing too much Wagner? Kids, don’t try this at home.                                                                                                                            

*Let’s Not Forget the Violent, Operatic Engagement of Strauss

** Doughty. Not pertaining to her paramour’s proclivity for munching Hungarian pastries or any dough in his wallet. An odd little Old English word meaning bold and brazen.

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