J. Ruby - Photographer
Brückenstr., 76, Trier, Germany
Little remembered today amongst the 19th and early 20th Century operatic greats. American born Helen Culver did find herself mentioned regularly in major newspapers such as the
Helen A. Culver was born in Iowa in November 1867 to Edward Culver, a confectionist and Sarah E. Culver. She was educated at Iowa Wesleyan College and graduated with a degree
in music in 1883.
Although details on here musical career are fragmentary at best she seems to have performed much in the United States as well as touring Europe. Culver was in Paris as early as
1897 as reported in the November 21 edition of the Chicago Tribune. In the article Mme. Gounod and Mme. Vaidort of Paris were quoted as being quite taken with Culver’s vocal
qualities: “You have a rare contralto voice without a vulgar tone in it.” and “Of the nine hundred American girls in Paris you are the one who will gain preeminence.” I have found
references describing Culver as both a Contralto and a Mezzo-soprano. In the June 1914 edition of The Arrow of Pi Beta Phi Culver is mentioned as having been with the Moody,
Manners English Grand Opera Company of London.
She seems to have made Denver, Colorado her home town and also taught music there being mentioned in the 1915 Denver city directory. A mention in the February 13, 1925 edition
of the Chicago Daily Tribune mentions the then 58 year old Mezzo-soprano Helen Culver performing at The Cliff Dwellers in Chicago. I have been unable to find any mention of her
after this date.
The cabinet photograph of Helen Culver was taken in Trier, Germany when she performed the secondary role of the Valkyrie Waltraute, sister of the much more well-known Valkyrie
Brünnhilde. The character appears in Act 3 of Wagner’s Die Walkure and Act 1 of Gotterdammerung. The photograph was dedicated to a Mr. & Mrs. Farmer in 1909.
|Above: The reverse side of the photograph showing Helen Culver's 1909 dedication to her friends Mr. and Mrs. Farmer.