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Lillian Nordica (December 12, 1857 – May 10, 1914) was an American opera singer who had a major stage career in Europe and her native country.
Nordica established herself as one of the foremost dramatic sopranos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She had a powerful yet flexible voice and the ability to perform an unusually wide range of roles in the German, French and Italian operatic repertoires.
She was born Lillian Allen Norton in 1857 in a small Cape Cod style farmhouse built by her grandfather on a hill in Farmington, Maine.
In her youth, Norton is said to have possessed an inherent fondness for music and the sounds of singing birds and running brooks. When she was eight her family moved to Boston, Massachusetts to continue the musical education of her sister Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina died before her 18th birthday. Family hopes were then pinned on Lillian, and her musical education began soon thereafter. She trained as a singer in Boston, graduating from the New England Conservatory in that city at the age of 18. She made her public debut at the conservatory as a soloist with the Handel and Haydn Society.
Convinced that she could forge a successful career as a professional performer, Norton travelled to Italy and put a final bel canto polish on her vocalism through study in Milan. "Nordica", a stage name, was bestowed by an Italian maestro at the beginning of her operatic career. He convinced her that European opera-goers would not tolerate a diva with a plain sounding, Anglo-American name. The adopted name, Giglia Nordica, meant "Lily of the North", but she soon became known as "Madame Nordica" or simply as "Nordica".