Collections Blog

Collections Blog

La chanteuse d’opéra: The Interrupted Melody of Marjorie Lawrence

Old State House Museum - Monday, January 23, 2017

This month we are featuring an opera gown worn by Marjorie Lawrence in her performance as leading soprano Delilah in Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah. Marjorie’s costume consists of a white satin floor length gown adorned with imitation diamonds along the bodice, sleeves, and skirt in multiple patterns that highlight the performers’ figure creating a beautiful silhouette. It also features an attachable bodice that has a wing like shape. It is made of a mesh material covered in imitation diamonds and has imitation diamonds that hang off of the tips located off the shoulders.

Marjorie Lawrence was born on Feb. 17, 1907, in Australia. She made her operatic debut in 1932 in Monte Carlo as Elisabeth, the leading soprano, in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser; on Dec. 18, 1935, she made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. During a rehearsal in June of 1941, Marjorie suddenly collapsed. Her husband led her to Hot Springs in hopes that the baths would help her, but she was soon diagnosed with polio. The couple decided to settle down outside of Hot Springs on 500 acres they named Harmony Hills. In time, Marjorie was able to return to performing, though it was limited due to her inability to stand. She spent time performing with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and in later years joined the faculty at Garland County Community College and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. During her time teaching, she would hold summer workshops at Harmony Hills which concluded with a student recital in the ballroom of the Arlington Hotel.

Marjorie passed away on Jan. 13, 1979, in Little Rock and is buried in Hot Springs. We here at the Old State House Museum are fortunate to have her gown as a part of our collection.