Lawrence, Marjorie | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Marjorie Lawrence (February 17, 1907 - January 13, 1979) was an Australian soprano, particularly noted as an interpreter of Richard Wagner's operas. She later served on the faculty of the School of Music at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Lawrence was born at Deans Marsh, south of Winchelsea, Victoria. She won a number of vocal competitions when aged in her teens. In 1932 she made her operatic debut in Monte Carlo as Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser. On 25 February 1933, she made her first appearance at the Opera Garnier in Paris, playing Ortrud in Lohengrin.
Lawrence's physicality and beauty made her popular with audiences and she danced the Dance of the Seven Veils in Richard Strauss's Salome more convincingly than most other sopranos.
On 29 March 1941, at New York City's City Hall, she married Dr. Thomas King, an osteopath and Christian Scientist.
In 1941, in Mexico, Lawrence discovered that she had polio, and was left in a wheelchair as a result. During World War II, she performed in charity concerts in Australia, seated in a chair. A performance as Amneris in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida in Paris in 1946 was well received, but Lawrence retreated from the stage, and instead began to work as a teacher. She retired to her ranch, Harmony Hills, in Hot Springs Arkansas where she taught international students until her death in 1979.
Although best known for her Wagnerian interpretations, Lawrence played in a range of other works, including Salome and Georges Bizet's Carmen. She made a number of excellent recordings, mainly of works by Wagner.
In 1949, Lawrence wrote her autobiography Interrupted Melody. In 1955, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a film based on her book, Interrupted Melody, starring Eleanor Parker as Lawrence; Parker mimed the voice of Eileen Farrell.