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Emma Albani was Canada's first international superstar. Born in Chambly, Quebec as Marie-Louise-Emma-Cécile Lajeunesse in 1847, this world-famous soprano changed her name when she began to perform opera, oratorio and concert repertoire. Emma's first engagement was at the Royal Italian Opera, making her the first Canadian woman to perform there. Young and attractive, Emma had a light voice, a strong stage presence and perfect technique. She could sing in French, English, Italian and German. Emma quickly made fans across North American and Europe who showered her with gifts. She became close friends with Queen Victoria and associated with the rich and famous. She performed for the common person and royalty alike, including Tsar Alexander II of Russia, the king of Hawaii, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and of course Queen Victoria.
Emma Albani continued to perform until after the age of 60; the audience at her farewell concert in London, England (numbering 10,000) was reduced to tears. She struggled financially as a result of the First World War and bad investments and in 1920 the British government voted her an annual pension of 100 pounds. Emma Albani died in London, England on April 3, 1930 having had a dazzling career that spanned almost 40 years.
"Albani, Dame Emma." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1985, p. 35.
Albani, Emma. Forty Years of Song. Toronto: Copp Clark, 1911.
Albani, Emma. Mémoires d'Emma Albani : l'éblouissante carrière de la plus grande cantatrice québécoise. Translated and annotated by Gilles Potvin. Montréal : Éditions du Jour, 1972.
"Lajeunesse, Emma." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
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Merritt, Susan E. Her Story III: Women from Canada's Past. St. Catharines, Ont.: Vanwell Publishing, 1999.