Lillian Nordica

Recording Artist and Willa Cather Prototype


By Doug Boilesen, 2020

Lillian Nordica has been identified by scholars (1) as a prototype used by Cather in her opera related story The Diamond Mine, i.e., the prototype for Cressida Garnet.

Besides starring on the opera stage Nordica made phonograph records and was featured in advertisements which added her celebrity status, artistic reputation, and the prestige of opera to the promotion of the early phonograph.

This gallery provides examples focused on Lillian Nordica and her popular culture role as seen in advertisements and other ephemera.


Columbia advertisement courtesy of The Nordica Memorial Association



The Talking Machine World, February 15, 1907




Nordica, Fremstad, and Mary Garden

Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911





Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, The Saturday Evening Post 1911




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1911



Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1912




Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1912





Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1912




The Talking Machine World, Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, July 1913



Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, Garden Magazine, August 1913



Nordica, Fremstad and Mary Garden, 1913 (PM-2075)




Nordica 1902 endorsement of The Everett Piano




Nordica endorsement of The Aeolian (with Melba, Calvé and Eames), The Cosmopolitan, 1896 (date per ebay offering)





Nordica was featured on Coca-Cola calendars, trays and advertising posters in 1904 and 1905



Nordica endoreses the Everett Piano, Harper's 1909




Endorsements of "The Fowler" Bicycle includes Nordica's




Madame Nordica's Bath Powder




"In the advertising campaign for her weight-loss powder, Nordica even published a pamphlet with weight-loss tips, as well as pictures of other famous opera singers. The pamphlet was designed to equate the beauty and glamour of opera and opera singers with being thin—which could be achieved simply by soaking the pounds away in a bath laced with Nordica’s powder."

Madame Nordica's Bath Powder, Life 1913 (Text and advertisement courtesy of the Avid Listener)




Cleans and Protects finest homes in America including Mmd. Nordica, The Saturday Evening Post 1913 (Courtesy of the Avid Listener)





"Madame Nordica's Most Prized Bouquet," The Saturday Evening Post, October 31, 1903





Nordica enthusiastically supports Woman Suffrage cause, New York Times, June 26, 1910




Nordica posed as Columbia in a suffragette pageant. (Courtesy of The Nordica Memorial Association)



Visit the Phonographia gallery Willa Cather's Opera Prototypes who were Recording Artists for an overview of Cather's six opera related prototypes: FARRAR, FREMSTAD, NORDICA, GARDEN, SCHUMANN-HEINK and BORI.

For biographical notes, pictures, and comments related to Lillian Nordica and her recordings, see Andrea’s cantabile - subito, Lillian Nordica created by Andrea Suhm-Binder as part of her site for collectors of Great Singers of the Past.