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Marion TalleyMarion Nevada Talley

once the youngest prima donna in Met history

Marion Nevada Talley was born in Nevada, Missouri, on December 20, 1906, but was raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Her musical talents manifested at an early age, and by the time she was eight years old she had had studied both violin and piano and was the soprano soloist in her church choir. At the age of 15 she played the lead role in a Kansas City Grand Opera Company production of Mignon, and that performance was so well received that Kansas City music lovers held a concert that riased enough money for Talley to study professionally, including for a yaer in Italy.

Talley debuted at the New York Metropolitan Opera on February 17, 1926, as Gilda in Rigoletto; she was the youngest prima donna in Met history at that time. Her performance was broadcast over Kansas City radio, and she was featured on the cover of Time on March 1, 1926. That same year, she signed a recording contract with Victor, and sang "Caro nome" in the first ever Vitaphone talking picture program at Warner Brothers Theater on Broadway, August 6, 1926. She made one other Vitaphone short, Quartette from Rigoletto, the following year.

Talley's star had risen quickly, but it fell just as fast. She retired after only four seasons, but whether it was because Met did not renew her contract or because she desired retirement was never determined. She told fans and reporters that she was going to concentrate on her 1,600-acre wheat farm in Colby, Kansas. Although she did actually own a farm in Colby and did visit it at least twice, she never actually lived there. Instead of Colby, she actually moved to Hollywood, where she hoped to establish herself in film. She starred in Follow Your Heart in 1936, but the camera was not kind to her and she never made another movie. She spent the rest of her life in virtual seclusion in Los Angeles, making only ocasional concert appearances. She died on January 3, 1983, while undergoing surgery to treat blood clots in her legs.

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This page was last updated on 12/16/2014.

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