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Kellogg, Clara Louise (1842-1916)

Biographer, Singer

Clara Louise Kellogg was born in Sumterville, South Carolina to a musical family, particularly in her mother, father, and maternal grandmother. In her biography, Kellogg claims that her first musical efforts occurred at the age of ten months, when she attempted to sing in mimesis of her “negro mammy.” The family relocated to Birmingham, Connecticut, where Kellogg continued to demonstrate her interest and talent in singing and playing the piano. After her father, a “dignified scholar,” failed and moved the family to New York in 1857, Kellogg was discovered by Colonel Henry G. Stebbins of the Academy of Music. Though originally trained as a musician, Kellogg devoted herself to vocal lessons for four years, studying under Millet of the Conservatory of Paris and later under Manzocchi, Rivarde, Errani, and Muzio. Drawn to the stage, Kellogg performed for soldiers at West Point before making her debut in opera (Kellogg 1-10). The Civil War had a characteristic impact on Kellogg’s career, and she writes, “It has always been a matter of secret pride with me that, in my small way, I did something for the Union too. I heard that our patriotic and inartistic Daughter of the Regiment caused several lads to enlist” (Kellogg 58).

Linking Kellogg to the Pfaff’s scene, Albert Parry calls her "the diva" and describes her as "an American prima donna then at the sunset of her career but prosperous enough to be kind to the young art-gentry of New York and to go to Italy for her winters” (92). Kellogg also frequented Maria’s, "a New York restaurant popular among the "Bohemians" of the 1890s (92). Parry describes Kellogg’s gossip sessions in which she told “droll stories” about Ada Clare’s lover, Louis Gottschalk, and his “innumerable conquests of silly females…Madame said she had no dealings with Louis except professionally. The voluptuaries at Maria’s winked at each other behind Madame’s broad back" (92).

Making her first appearance as Gilda in “Rigoletto” at the Academy of Music in 1861, Kellogg gained widespread attention in 1864 as Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust.” Harriet Prescott Spofford contrasts Kellogg during her first performance, “a girl of seventeen, slight and pale, so nervous that she could hardly mover her rigid lips, so frightened that she could hardly command her young voice,” to her several years later “before a house crowded from floor to ceiling with the best culture of the British empire, with dukes and duchesses flinging her their flowers,… sure of herself and of her audience, mistress of her art and of the stage…” (359-60). She made her first trip to London in 1867, where she continued to gain repute before returning to the U.S. the following year. Appletons' Cyclopædia describes her as “the first American to win musical recognition for her country from the Old World” (506). Over the course of several European tours, Kellogg was gifted $250,000 worth of jewels by “royal personages and others” (Clara Kellogg’s Will.”) Kellogg organized two successful opera companies and would appear in forty-five operas throughout her life, first as a high soprano and later in lower, richer tones (Grant & Fiske, eds. 506).

In 1887 Kellogg married Carl Strakosch, her manager of several years who was seventeen years her junior (“Carl Strakosch Dead.”). The two settled in New Hartford, Connecticut, although Kellogg continued to perform until the year before her death. Kellogg suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of seventy-four (“Clara Louise Kellogg Ill.”), died shortly after in 1916, and was buried in New Hartford. According to a New York Times announcement of her funeral, “Many persons prominent in the musical world were present from New York, Boston, and elsewhere” (“Clara Louise Kellogg Buried.”)