Like all the other opera singers on Travalanche, we treat of Alice Zeppilli (1885-1969) today strictly because she played vaudeville. After World War One, throughout the 1920s, as she was winding down her international grand opera career Zeppilli toured the big time Keith-Orpheum circuit periodically to great acclaim. It wasn’t La Scala but it was a convenient way of keeping a hand in while not incidentally making a buck.
As it happens, Milan was where Zeppilli was trained and made her professional debut. Her parents were Italian, both from musical families (her father conducted at the Théâtre du Casino in Monte Carlo). Alice herself was born in France, though she was popular with audiences in Monte Carlo, Paris, and London as well. She made her American debut at Oscar Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera House in 1907, and remained a member of his company through 1910. From 1910 through 1914 she sang with the Chicago Opera Company. Through both engagements she also performed in other cities, Philadelphia in particular. Operas she was associated with included Tales of Hoffman, Rigoletto, La traviata, The Marriage of Figaro, Falstaff, La boheme, and Faust.
She married Chicago cellist Giuseppe Alberghini in 1913. The pair spent World War One entertaining in France and Italy. After retiring in 1930, Zeppillli taught world class pupils like Lily Pons in private sessions. She moved to Pieve di Cento, Italy in 1954 after the death of her husband, and this is where she spent her last years.
For more on the history of vaudeville where opera stars like Alice Zeppilli performed, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous
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