Knocking on the Door, Met Opera, NYC 1903

At the turn of the century the neighborhood around The Metropolitan Opera House was still fashionable -- photo Library of Congress

Turn of the century The Metropolitan Opera House- photo Library of Congress

On the morning of June 8, 1903 Edith Vail Ross entered the Metropolitan Opera House at 1411 Broadway with her friend Charlie, who introduced her to his acquaintance Mr. Dodd, an employee at the House. Edith made it clear to Mr. Dodd that she was interested in auditioning for “whoever is trying voices for Mr. Conried“. Evidently Mr. Dodd did not know off hand who this was but quickly promised Edith to find out who it was she needed to see.

Heinrich Conried had taken over at the Metropolitian Opera Company in 1903 and Edith, like hundreds of others, was trying to get a foot into the door. Edith wrote to her parents that Mr. Dodd speculated that Conried was expected to return to New York City the following month (July) and so he thought audition times would be completed before then.

Asking Edith if she would like to see more of the Opera House he led her out onto the stage which she described as “immense” in a letter home to her parents in Rutland, Vermont.  They wandered through the backstage areas including the dressing rooms of Opera superstars Sembrich and Nordica. Edith described with surprise that both dressing rooms could open directly onto the stage.  Only a few months earlier Edith had been in the audience, as she frequently was, for one of Nordica’s many performances as “Elsa” in Richard Wagner’s Opera Lohengrin in January 1903. At the time Edith had written to her Grandmother Eveline Beals (January 14, 1903) “I did enjoy the Opera so much last Saturday. I ‘ve had a fine Box and one so near that I could see beautifully. Nordica was a beautiful “Elsa”.

Listen to Birgit Nilsson, who was a celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano, in a clip in the role of “Elsa”

Further Info:
Learn more about Lillian (Norton) Nordica, who was born in Farmington, Maine, on this website link from the Maine Memory Network complete with vintage photos. Nordica is described there as selected by Cosima Wagner, wife of the composer, to create the role of Elsa in Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany in 1894. Her fame and success were immense and she remains an opera legend.

Learn more about the history of the original Metropolitan Opera House and of the demolition in January 1967 on this website link,

About Guenevere Crum

Guenevere Crum is an artist and a great granddaughter of Edith and Paul Eisler. She has been actively sleuthing her Eisler - Vail Ross heritage since 1999.
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