Today is the birthday of the American operatic baritone David Bispham (1857-1921). Bispham’s should be a heartening story for all late bloomers. The son of Philadelphia Quakers, Bishop spent most of his twenties working in the wool business and in the office of a railroad, honing his singing talents in amateur productions and church choirs. It wasn’t until he was 28 years old that he went to Florence to study seriously. He made his professional debut in 1891. His American debut at the Metropolitan Opera (in Die Meistersinger) was in 1896, when he was nearly 40. There followed two decades of international fame as an opera star.
Bispham was one of the first acts Martin Beck booked for vaudeville’s Palace Theatre in 1913, prompting to Variety to chide him for his high brow aspirations. It didn’t hurt the Palace any.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.