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Confessions of a Metropolitan Opera Singer


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Kathleen Howard (1884-1956) was a Canadian-born opera singer (mezzo-soprano), magazine editor and US film character actress from the mid-1930s through the 1940s. She spent her childhood in Buffalo, NY and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery there. She created the role of Zita in Giacomo Puccini's Gianni Schicchi at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918. She was also particularly memorable as the nagging, shrewish wife of W.C. Fields in a film that many historians consider to be his best and funniest, It's a Gift (1934); she additionally appeared in two other films of W.C. Fields: You're Telling Me! (1934) and Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935) (playing his wife for a second time in the latter). She was part of the repertory system in the opera houses of Metz and Darmstadt previous to World War I. She told of her life as an opera singer in an autobiography, Confessions of an Opera Singer (Knopf 1918). Howard appears to have not made any opera recordings for the phonograph or Victrola companies of the acoustical era such as did her contemporaries Geraldine Farrar and Mary Garden. Kathleen Howard recorded the "Barcarolle" from LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN with Claudia Muzio.[citation needed] Her voice however survives in the many Hollywood comedies she made throughout the 1930s and 1940s. As with many stage-trained actors of that era, such as Margaret Dumont, Howard projected well and spoke with precise diction and a trilled "r". In 2009 she received The Al Boasberg Comedy Award, named after Al Boasberg (also from Buffalo, NY, in honor of her many comedy roles in motion pictures.

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