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Abbott, Emma (09 December 1850–05 January 1891), soprano and opera impresario, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Seth Abbott, an itinerant musician and music teacher, and Almira Palmer. Abbott’s father encouraged her and her brother George to develop the musical ability that they demonstrated at an early age. Emma, who sang constantly as a child, chose the guitar as her instrument; her brother studied the violin. In 1854 the family moved from Chicago to Peoria, Illinois, and their fortunes declined. To supplement the family income Seth Abbott and the two musical children began to give concerts in Peoria and elsewhere starting in 1859; according to contemporary biographical lexicographer F. O. Jones, the trio performed hundreds of concerts during this period....

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Barnabee, Henry Clay (14 November 1833–16 December 1917), singer and actor, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Willis Barnabee and Mary (maiden name unknown). His father was a stagecoach driver who became an innkeeper. Willis Barnabee’s wife was cook, and his adolescent son Henry was odd-jobs man and at times bartender....

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Bing, Rudolf (09 January 1902–02 September 1997), opera impresario, was born in Vienna, Austria, to Ernest Bing, an industrialist, and Stefanie Hoenigsvald Bing. Both parents encouraged their four children to share their interest in music, which included playing chamber music at home and regular attendance at the opera. Rudolf developed a particular love for both art and music and showed an inclination to pursue a musical career as a concert singer. After graduating from secondary school in Vienna, he studied voice with a private teacher, but his hopes of becoming a performer were dashed by the collapse of the Austrian economy following the country's defeat in World War I. He was forced to get a job quickly, and he found employment in a Vienna bookshop....

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Gallo, Fortune (09 May 1878–28 March 1970), opera impresario, was born Fortunato Gallo in Torre Maggiore, Italy, a town located a hundred miles east of Naples, the son of Tommaso Gallo and Zelinda Accetturo. He was encouraged as a boy by his father to become a musician, although his mother had hoped he would enter the priesthood. He learned to play the harmonica at age eight and at age fourteen became an apprentice drummer in the town band. When Gallo was seventeen the visit to Torre Maggiore of a man who had gone to the United States and prospered in the produce business suggested similar possibilities for the youth. At the visitor’s urging his family agreed to let him seek his own fortune in the New World....

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Guiliu Gatti-Casazza Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-2061).

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Gatti-Casazza, Giulio (03 February 1869–02 September 1940), opera impresario, was born in Udine, Italy, the son of Stefano Gatti, a military officer and later a member of the Italian Parliament, and Ernestina Casazza. After a childhood spent in military garrisons throughout central Italy while his father steadily advanced in rank, Giulio was sent to the National College in Milan, where he studied solfeggio and music theory. From there he was sent to the Arnaldi College, a Jesuit academy in Genoa, and subsequently to the Naval Academy in Leghorn in preparation for a career at sea. Failing to make the grade at the academy (“I studied quite carelessly, demonstrating no special aptitude for my chosen career,” he admitted in his memoirs), he transferred to the University of Ferrara, where his parents were then living. He received his naval engineering degree there in 1891. By this time his father had become chair of the governing board of the Teatro Communale, the local opera house, one of several civic responsibilities he assumed in Ferrara....

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Grau, Maurice (1849–14 March 1907), music and theater impresario, was born in Brno, Moravia, the son of Emmanuel Grau and Rosalie (maiden name unknown). In about 1854 he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where they ran a boardinghouse. Grau began working in the theater for his uncle Jacob Grau while studying at the College of the City of New York. Upon graduating in 1867, he enrolled at Columbia Law School. But, preferring his uncle’s profession, Grau left without graduating, instead holding “about every place that one can hold in the theater, except on the stage.” Other members of Grau’s family involved in theater management included a brother, two cousins, and a second uncle. Information regarding Grau’s marital status is sketchy. Biographical sources indicate that he married Marie Durand in 1883, but obituaries list his widow as Jeannette....

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Greenwall, Henry (1832?–27 November 1913), theater manager, was born in Germany and brought to New Orleans by his parents (names and occupations unknown) in 1837 at the age of five. Details of his family background and his childhood are almost entirely lacking.

Sometime around 1865 Henry and an older brother, Morris, moved to Galveston, Texas, and opened a brokerage firm. In 1867 they rented a theater in the hope that they could enable a stranded actress to recover enough money to repay a debt to the firm. The venture proved profitable and launched Greenwall on a lifelong career as a theater manager in Texas and the South. He acquired a building that had been the first in Galveston designed specifically as a theater, formed Greenwall’s Star Stock Company with actors and actresses he employed during a trip to New York, and opened the New Galveston Theatre on 21 November 1867. On 14 December 1868 he also leased the Perkins Theatre in Houston....

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Hammerstein, Oscar (08 May 1848–01 August 1919), inventor, operatic impresario, and theatrical manager, was born in Berlin, Germany (although his family lived in Stettin, Prussia), the son of Abraham Hammerstein, a well-to-do, German-Jewish merchant, and Bertha Valentine, from a musically oriented French Huguenot family. Hammerstein was educated by private tutors, but at age sixteen, after a severe and unwarranted punishment from his father, he ran away from home. He fled to England and then boarded a ship bound for America, paying for his passage by selling his violin. Arriving at New York, Hammerstein found employment filling rush orders for the U.S. Army at a Pearl Street cigar factory. Within two years he had mastered the process well enough to invent a machine that greatly improved cigar production. Patented in July 1865, the invention revolutionized cigar making but brought only about $6,000 to the young inventor. However, subsequent similar labor-saving inventions reportedly brought him more than $1 million. In 1884 he invested his first royalties in the ...

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Johnson, Edward (22 August 1878–20 April 1959), tenor and opera impresario, was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, the son of James Evans Johnson, a grain merchant, and Margaret O’Connel. His parents encouraged his musical development and he was singing solos in church by age seven. Ten years later he had become the leading oratorio and concert tenor in Ontario....