The Famous Turkels [ index ]

Anna Turkel The Opera Star

Anna Turkel - The Providence Sunday Journal of November 25, 1934; picture enhanced by webmaster Anna Turkel - The Boston Sunday Globe(?) of November 11, 1934; picture enhanced by webmaster

Ken Opin of Madison WI wrote to David Bernard Turkel about Anna Turkel:

"My grandfather, whose name was Jacob Bartman, came to the United States from Warsaw, Poland in the early 1890's.  He settled in Providence, R. I., where my mother and uncle grew up.  My grandfather was very proud of a cousin named Anna Turkel, who was an opera singer in the 1930's.  He was so proud of her that he kept newsclips about her in a scrapbook, which I now have.  I am enclosing copies of them for you.  Turkel isn't a common name, so perhaps we are related.  My mother thinks that my grandfather's mother in Warsaw was a sister of Anna Turkel's mother, but we're not sure.  If this is the connection, and you or someone else you know is related to me, I have portraits of my greatgrandmother, greatgrandfather and a great-uncle.  My mother says she visited the Turkels on Riverside Drive in New York in the mid '20's.  Does any of this give you enough information to connect us to the Turkels?"

 

 The Boston Sunday Globe(?) from November 11, 1934

FROM CANDY GIRL TO OPERA STAR

Anna Turkel Neglected Customers to Watch
Performers; Now She's One Herself

NEW YORK - Anna Turkel, the candy girl whom chocolate-lovers at the
Metropolitan Opera House here six years ago will remember as the striking
blond they never could find during the acts, lives now in a fine, big
apartment commanding a sweeping view of the Hudson River.

Last evening the candy girl stepped out of her expensive apartment, in a manner of speaking and to the stage of the Chicago Opera House and sang the name part in "Aida." After that, there will be "Il Trovatore" and "La Juive"and six weeks of alternating in lead roles with some of the most glorious names in opera. On her own Ever Since It is a long step from candy girl to artiste and it took Miss Turkel from 1928 until now to make it. In an interview she consented to explain just how an opera star is made. "First," she said, "there was Mr. Christina Caya Cavedon. That was 17 years ago in Woonsocket where I was born. She put me through my first voice exercises And I remained with her for seven years, until I was 17. "Then Mrs. Cavedon told me I could learn no more from her and must go to New York. "I wanted a job in the opera and I got one. Emil Katz let me sell his candy and paid me $18 a week to do it. The money came in handy, because I was on my own. I've been on my own ever since, except for one year." "I sold candy on the main floor where most of the candy is sold. But as soon as the curtain went up I took my place along the side wall inside, as close to the stage as possible. That's the way I studied opera, and it was an invaluable way. It helped me enormously, but it didn't help Mr. Katz sell his candy. "Then," she continued ceasing to flash her blue eyes and soothing the fury of her voluminous voice, "there came Edward L. Dockray. Mr. Dockray is secretary of the Metropolitan club and a native Rhode Islander. He heard I came from Woonsocket and did not miss paying full attention to a single performance. I do not know which influenced him more, but he sent me to Cesare Sturani. "Can this girl sing?" he asked. No Overnight Sensation "A year later I made my professional debut in Town Hall, New York. I cried all night until the notices came out in the papers. Then I cried more. They were marvelous! Not a single 'adequate.' "Sturani told me; 'You are not for concerts; you are for opera. You must study. Another five years and then my Anna will be ready to accept one of these offers." "There were offers, of course. Barrels of them. Six weeks here. Ten weeks there. And the money they talked bout - you see, that was 1928 and, up to then the most I had ever made was $18 a week. They wanted to make me one of these overnight sensations. But I knew. An overnight sensation lasts overnight. "Some members of the Metropolitan Club - Otto Kahn, Neville Higham, the New York and London; Ludwig Vogelstein, president of the American Metals Corporation, and Mrs. Fredrick Brown - offered to become my backers and that helped me turn down the contracts. "I went to Italy in the Spring. Sturani continued coaching me in Italian and Albert Jeannotte taught me the French repertoire. In November I received a cablegram that my allowance would not come any more. Something about a stock market; I don't know. They sent me $500 to come home with. I put the $500 into the bank to live on until I could get a job. "The Italian Opera company offered me small roles. I was scenery, then in the chorus. When I felt I was ready, I told them: "Now I am an artiste. I sang lead roles in Genoa, Malta, Cairo, Alexandria. Question Only of Terms "When I was ready to come home, I came home. My manager met me at the pier. "You are mad," he said. "There is a depression here. There is no opera; there is only a depression.' "Depression, depression - that, I said, is silly. I sat down and wrote to Paul Langone, artistic director of the Chicago Opera Company. He had made me an offer after Town Hall. Four years ago he heard me in Genoa and he said, "It is fantastic that you should refuse a contract." I wrote him: "I am ready to talk business with you.' "He came to New York and gave me one audition. After I had finished, he said: "My dear, it is a question now only of the terms." He is a sweet man." Mrs Turkel came timidly into the room. "How does it feel to be the mother of an opera singer?" she was asked. "I don't know," Mrs Turkel replied, "I have heard my daughter sing from only one stage - Town Hall. But I will be in Chicago. I'll be right there and Anna and I - when the curtain goes down - well, we'll cry together like in the old days before she was an opera singer." (Copyright, 1934 by N.A.N.A., Inc.)
 

 The Providence Sunday Journal from November 25, 1934

More About Anna Turkel,
Candy-Girl Become Diva

And Especially About How Her First Music Teacher
Up in Woonsocket Saw the Possibilities in the Little 
Pupil and Encouraged Her Along the Hard Road Up

              BY WILFRED E. STONE

"SOME day you'll sing in the Metropolitan!" It was just under 20 years ago
that a Woonsocket music teacher, a bit more than half in earnest, made this
kindly jesting prophecy to a promising pupil. Now Anna Turkel, who was then
beginning her music in the studio of Mrs. Christiana Caya Cavedon, has
fulfilled her teacher's visions of stardom by singing in the Chicago Opera
House. Surely it is not too much to hope that the Metropolitan, America's
highest musical triumph, may be but a few steps ahead. And of all the
Woonsocket friends who are now sharing in the triumph of their idol, none is
more delighted than Mrs. Cavedon. None was more confident that Anna could do 
it.

In the same sunny studio, overlooking the pleasant Blackstone street section
of Woonsocket, and beside the same piano where Anna used to practice, Mrs.
Cavedon told the story of her favorite pupil.

There has been many a long hour of practice, many a day of study and effort,
between those simple days in Woonsocket, and Anna's recent triumphs in
Chicago. There have been days of self-denial, too, if not actual privation,
for a musical education costs a lot of money.  Anna was determined that she
would do it all for herself, if possible, and the story of her candy-selling
days in the Metropolitan in New York has now been frequently told. Her
recent debut at Chicago was an event heralded throughout the country.

SAW POSSIBILITIES IN THE SEVEN-YEAR-OLD

Anna was seven when she came to Mrs. Cavedon. She was a bright-faced, golden
haired little Jewess. Attractive, sprightly and sparkling, she was a miss to
win and to charm. She came to study piano and to sing. Very patiently she
sat on the stool of the concert grand in Mrs. Cavedon's room, faithfully
learning the "one, two, threes," holding pennies
on her wrists in order that her finger motion might be finger motion alone,
and not a flourish of the arms and
body.

When Mrs. Cavedon heard Anna sing, it didn't take her long to see that her
voice was most unusual. The future of a mezzo-soprano, coloratura, dramatic
soprano, seemed easily possible. With her talents, too, Anna was always a
sweet, mild-tempered girl, in every way attractive. Her face and figure were
no small asset, either. Her teacher used to say, "Anna, you will have to
look out you are too pretty."

And Anna would smile. You could see it made her happy to be told of her
possibilities, but she never "lost her head" - nor her heart.

Anna attended the Woonsocket public schools, and in due time reached the
high school. Teachers everywhere speak well of her, and say what a
first-rate pupil she was. Giving her soul to music didn't prevent her from
giving her head and
intellect, or a goodly portion of it, to plain everyday school work. She
sang in the school choruses, took part in school clubs and activities.
 
On Sabbaths and/other sacred days she accompanied her parents to the B'nai
Israel Synagogue where the strict religious customs of the orthodox Jews,
were kept up. The music of the synagogue is difficult, but she mastered it
well. She often sang in the synagogue choir.

WOONSOCKET DEBUT A SUCCESSFUL ONE

Years went by rapidly, as years will, and the lovable child became the
winsome young woman. Anna kept up her music, and progressed continually. In
speech she used excellent English. With the capacity that came to her,
perhaps, from her parents' race, she easily mastered French, German and
Italian. All these come useful in the career of a singer.

In due time she was able to give a recital. It was on Sept. 18, 1920 that
she appeared in this way as mezzo-soprano in the old Elks Hall, Woonsocket,
now called Federal Hall. She was assisted by Jacobus Bartman of Boston,
tenor, and her accompanist was her faithful friend and teacher, Mrs.
Cavedon. The debut was a complete success.

The time had now come when she must step outside of Woonsocket if she was to stride further along the road to her career. None knew better than her teacher that she must head for a bigger town. The vision of the Metropolitan was still before her. She went to New York and somehow managed to land the job of candy girl in the Metropolitan Opera House. A candy girl has to attend all the performances, evening and matinee, and her job is to sell candy between the acts, also before performances, and whenever the trade can be plied without interfering with the performance. But Anna was there more than to sell candy. She was there for the privilege of hearing the great singers of her day, and to fit herself to imitate them. Some day she hoped to be on the stage, in the centre of things, with the plaudits coming her way, while other candy girls, perhaps might stand around the walls and admire her voice. She used her money to support herself and to pay for singing lessons with good teachers. This is what meant self-denial, almost privation. She would write to Mrs. Cavedon, "Sometimes I have only one sandwich, for Oh, so long." It may have been because of her independence may have been because of her independence, for other friends in Woonsocket say here parents and relations were reasonably well-to-do and helped her with money. DELINQUENT AS CANDY GIRL Anna's Job was behind the candy counter, and there she was at all times when there was candy to be sold. When the program was on she became one of the audience at the concert, even though this meant a kind of desertion from her job. Emil Katz, in charge of Metropolitan refreshments, winked at her delinquency. In fact he encouraged it because he knew that she was in the Metropolitan, not because she liked sweets, but because she had made up her mind seriously to learn opera from all angles before starting on her musical career. Soon it became known around the opera house that Anna Turkel, the "candy girl," had a voice. The first artist to take an interest in the girl who was selling candy in order to hear opera, was Antonio Scotti. He referred her to Maestro Wilfrid Pelletier, assistant conductor, who offered to coach her in some roles, and made it possible for her to study voice seriously. Then some fashionable members of the Metropolitan Opera Club learned of her voice and her ambitions. The first to hear her was the club's secretary. Edward Dockray, a native Rhode Islander, by the way. He was so much impressed with her musical talent that he told other members. Soon she was able to give up her work behind the candy counter because 10 members of the club offered to pay for her lessons. Names that were mentioned in this connection were Mrs. Frederick Brown, Mrs. Ralph Jones, Jules Bache, Ludwig Vogelstein and Lewis Strauss of Newark, N.J. "COUNTRY BUMPKIN" IN GOTHAM AND CAIRO In 1921 her Parents moved from Woonsocket to New York in order that Anna might live at home. Her father had been a clothing merchant in Woonsocket. Some time after his removal to New York he died, and Anna continued to live with her mother, Mrs. Lena Turkel, and the seven brothers and sisters. She gives credit to every one of the nine other members of her family for their cooperation toward her success. In 1926 she gave a song recital in the Town Hall, New York, and wrote home to her old teacher, "you would have been proud of your country bumpkin." Then came the tour abroad and Anna's triumphs in Italy, where she sang in Genoa, have been many times told. From Italy she went on to Egypt, where she was still pursuing her studies in 1931. On Feb. 15 of that year she sang the title role of "Aida" in the Royal Opera House, Cairo. But news came to her that on account of the depression the financial support she had been receiving must be withdrawn. With money sent her to return to New York she stayed on, continuing her work and determined to succeed. In Cairo her success was such that the American Ambassador broke a rule of long standing to seek her out and give her personal congratulations. From Egypt she returned to New York, and continued her studies there, until her recent engagement with the Chicago Opera House. Anna's nearest relative who lives in Woonsocket is her mother's sister, Mrs. Nathan Falk of 266 Park Place. The Falks are as enthusiastic for their niece as Mrs. Cavedon is for her pupil. They speak with great pride of her. Mrs. Falk says Anna was born in the house at 26 Park Place, though the Turkels afterward moved to 59 Hamlet avenue. Anna's birthday was Nov. 19, 1905, so that her operatic triumphs come almost as an observance of her 20th birthday. Mrs. Falk speaks glowingly of Anna as a child. She loved her brothers and sisters and got plenty of chance to play at home making, what with the care of seven smaller than herself. She could cook many a dainty and tasty dish. She could wash and dress the little Turkels with all the skill of an accomplished mother. In fact the one regret the Falks express is that Anna did not grow up to be a wife and head of a happy little family, as some of the rest of the family have done. They do not grudge her success, but the regret is there, just the same. Mrs. Falk says her one wish is that Anna had married. But then, operative fame doesn't always go with home-making, and now that Anna has succeeded, perhaps they do not feel sorry.
Anna has been traced on our family trees!


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