Zaré Thalberg

Zaré Thalberg

A carte-de-visite portrait of the soprano Zaré Thalberg.

According to Grove and the DNB, she was born Ethel Western in Derbyshire [England] on 16 April 1858, and, contrary to popular belief, she was not the daughter of the pianist Sigismond Thalberg, but a pupil who adopted his name professionally. However, recent research seems to indicate that she was exactly who she – and just as importantly, who her grandmother – said she was, Thalberg’s illegitimate daughter.

What is beyond dispute is her short career in the limelight. After studying in Paris and Milan, she made her début at Covent Garden on 10 April 1875 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. During the five seasons that she appeared in London, she also sang Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Zerline in Fra Diavolo, Adina in L'elisir d'amore, Lady Harriet in Martha, Frau Fluth in Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor and Elvira in Ernani.

The story is that after this promising start to her career, at the age of 22 she lost her singing voice and became an actress under her real name of Ethel Western, touring the USA with Edwin Booth's Shakespearean company and ultimately dying in London in 1915. However, this now seems to be a commonly-held confusion, and in fact Thalberg and Western were two completely separate individuals. While Western did indeed have a career on the stage, Mlle Thalberg probably retired to Spain, where she remained for the rest of her life.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 125416
© Paul Frecker 2023