Musical Training – Opera Appearances – Opera Reviews – Concerts – Oratorios – Early Concert Reviews – Radio Appearances – Television Appearances – The Desert Song – Night Club Act – Critical Controversies
By the late 1920’s, Nelson was appearing with the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company and had a repertoire of 28 operas. William von Wymetal was the group’s producer at this time, in association with Fritz Reiner who later directed the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
In 1927, Nelson borrowed some money and followed his current teacher, William Vilonat, to Dresden for European study which was then considered essential for serious American singers. Nelson was offered a job with a small German opera company, but he was homesick and returned to the U.S. There he decided to concentrate on a concert career, making only occasional opera appearances during the next seven years. His American concert career built steadily until the fateful night of February 28, 1933.
Here is a list of operas Nelson appeared in, followed by his rôles in parenthesis and some (but not all!) performance dates confirmed by newspaper reviews in the collection of Helen Crawford of Covina, CA and culled by Anita McCreery of Atherton, CA. (Scrapbooks of reviews of Nelson’s career, assembled by his mother, Isabel Eddy, are housed at the University of Southern California Cinema/Television Library in Los Angeles.)
Aida (Amonasro) 2/13/25, 2/1/27, 10/7/28, 10/18/27, 1/2/30, 4/4/30, 11/11/35 (final date was S.F. Opera, with Rethberg, Martinelli, and Pinza)
Ariadne auf Naxos (Wigmaker, Harlequin) 11/1/28 (American premiere)
La Bohême (Marcello) 3/10/27, 12/16/27, 11/8/28
Boris Gudunof concert version (Eddy sang the rôles of: Andrei Shchelkalof, Varlaam, Mitiukha, the Boyar in Attendance, and Boyar Khrushechof) 5/16/31
Elektra, semi-staged concert version (Orestes) 3/3/32
Faust (Valentin) 12/5/29
Feuersnot by Richard Strauss (Hämmerlein) 12/1/27 (American premiere)
Gianni Schicci (Gianni Schicci) 1/15/26, 1/9/27, 1/14/27, 12/2/31
Götterdämmerung (Gunther) 1/16/30
Hänsel und Gretel (Peter, the father) 12/29/29, 12/19/31
Iolanthe (Strephon) 5/26/22, 5/20/27
L’Elisir d’Amore (Sergeant Belcore) 2/27/30
Legend of the Invisible City of Kitesh and the Maiden Fevronia by Rimsky-Korsakoff, concert version (Feodor Poyarok) 5/21/32
(as Telramund) 4/24/27
(as Herald) 2/18/32
The Love of Three Kings (Manfredo) 1/13/28
Madame Butterfly (Sharpless) 11/16/26, 3/7/29
The Magic Flute (Papageno) 2/13/30
Manon Lescaut (Lescaut) 12/21/28
Maria Egiziaca, “Mary in Egypt” by Respighi, world premiere at Carnegie Hall, see note below.
(as Abbot Zosimo) 12/31
(as Abbot Zosimo and Pilgrim) 3/16/32.
The Marriage Tax (King of Greece) 1/21/22
The Marriage of Figaro (Count Almaviva) 3/21/29, 3/27/30
Die Meistersinger (Kother) 11/22/28, 4/3/30
Merry Mount by Howard Hanson, with Rose Bampton and John Charles Thomas (Second Puritan) 5/20/33
La Navarraise (Bustamente) 1/16/26
(as Tonio) 12/12/24, 6/22/32
(as Sylvio) 3/15/28, 12/10/28
Parsifal with Stokowski (Gurnemanz) 3/31/33
Pirates of Penzance (Major General) 6/6/23
(A reviewer commented that Nelson had previously performed the “romantic lead,” also a tenor rôle!)
Das Rheingold (Donner) 12/5/29
Roméo et Juliette (Mercutio) 12/17/26
Salome with Helen Jepson (Jochanahan) 11/26/32
Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns (Abimelech, High Priest Satrap) 4/19/29, 2/19/26, 1/30/30
Secret of Suzanne with Helen Jepson (Count Gil), 10/27/27, 3/10/32, 11/7/34
Tannhäuser (Wolfram) 3/26/26, 1/17/29, 12/8/34
Wozzeck, U.S. premiere conducted by Stokowski (Drum Major) 11/24/31
At Carnegie Hall in New York, 3/10/32, he sang in Maria Igiziaca (12/31), conducted by the composer Respighi himself when Toscanini fell ill at the last minute.
Eddy continued in occasional opera rôles until his film and concert work made it difficult to schedule appearances the requisite year or two in advance. These last opera performances included Parsifal with Rose Bampton and a concert version of Salome with Maria Jeritza.
At the San Francisco Opera House, he sang the rôle of Count Gil in The Secret of Suzanne with Doris Kenyon, Wolfram in Tannhäuser with Lauritz Melchior, and Radames in Aida, his final opera appearance.
NOTE: Nelson appears on the cover of the Spring 1997 issue of Opera Quarterly, Vol. 13, #3, which features a scholarly article on his career. To order a copy of the magazine, send $12, specifying the Spring 1997 issue, to:
Duke University Press
Durham, NC 27708-0660.