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Alma Gluck

Also Known As: "Reba Feinsohn", "Reba Fiersohn"
Birthplace: Iasi, Romania
Death: Died in New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Leon Feinsohn and Zara Feinsohn
Wife of Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. and Bernard Glick
Mother of Marie Virginia Zimbalist; Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Marcia Davenport
Half sister of <private> Feinsohn

Occupation: sopraan, klassiek zangeres
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Alma Gluck

Alma Gluck (May 11, 1884 – October 27, 1938) was a Romanian-born American soprano, one of the world's most famous female singers at the peak of her career (circa 1910).

Life and career

Gluck was born as Reba Feinsohn to a Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania, the daughter of Zara and Leon Feinsohn. Gluck moved to the United States at a young age. Although her initial success came at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Gluck later concertized widely in America and became an early recording artist. Her recording of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" for the Victor Talking Machine Co. was the first celebrity recording by a classical musician to sell one million copies. Gluck was a founder of the American Woman's Association.

Her daughter Marcia Davenport was the child of her first marriage (to Bernard Glick, a dentist - ???). Gluck later married violinist Efrem Zimbalist and had two children, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Maria. Gluck evidently adopted her professional surname as a variation of her first husband's surname ("Glick").

Gluck retired to New Hartford, Connecticut to raise her family in 1925. Although by background an assimilated and nonpracticing Jew who continued to consider herself ethnically Jewish, she found herself attracted, along with her husband Efrem, to Anglican Christianity, and they regularly attended the Episcopal Church in New Hartford. Efrem Jr. and Maria were both christened there, and the couple financed Efrem through an Episcopal boarding school in New Hampshire. Efrem Jr. later became active in evangelical circles and was one of the founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network. Gluck recorded several Christian hymns in duet with Louise Homer, among them "Rock of Ages", "Whispering Hope", "One Sweetly Solemn Thought",[8] and "Jesus, Lover of My Soul".


Alma Gluck died in 1938, aged 54, from liver failure in New York City.

Alma Gluck (Boekarest, 11 mei 1884 - New York, 27 oktober 1938) was een Roemeens-Amerikaanse sopraan die in de hoogtijdagen van haar loopbaan gold als een van de beste zangeressen ter wereld.

Zij werd als Reba Feinsohn geboren in het Joodse gezin van Leon und Zara Feinsohn. Op zesjarige leeftijd verhuisde ze met haar gezin naar de Verenigde Staten. Ze studeerde zang bij Arturo Buzzi-Peccia, Jean de Reszke en Marcella Sembrich. Uit haar eerste huwelijk, met Bernhard Glick kreeg ze een dochter, Abigail die later als schrijfster bekend zou worden onder de naam Marcia Davenport. In 1914 hertrouwde ze met de muziekpedagoog, violist en dirigent Efrem Zimbalist. Een zoon uit dit huwelijk, eveneens Efrem geheten, zou later een bekende toneelspeler worden. Zelf nam ze, als een kennelijke variatie op de achternaam van haar eerste man, de artiestennaam Gluck aan.

Haar eerste successen beleefde Gluck bij de New Yorkse Metropolitan Opera. Later werd ze vooral bekend als zangeres van christelijke liederen - zij was, hoewel Joods van achtergrond anglicaans - die op plaat werden opgenomen. Van haar uitvoering van Carry Me Back to Old Virginny werden een miljoen exemplaren verkocht.

Zij overleed aan leverfalen op de leeftijd van vierenvijftig jaar.

foto & bovenstaande tekst:

Alma Gluck, the soprano whose recording of “Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginny” sold almost two million copies, was born Reba Fiersohn on May 11, 1884, in Romania (variously reported as either Iasi or Bucharest). From an impoverished childhood, she rose to become not only one of the finest concert artists of the twentieth century but also one of the most popular.

Alma was the youngest of seven children, born when her mother (whose name is reported as Anna, Zara, and Edith Sarah) was nearly fifty. Of the six other children, three girls survived infancy. The eldest, Cecile (eighteen years older than Alma), ran the household and reared the others. Her father (reported as Israel, Leon, and Louis Saul), who died when Alma was two, was an opera buff: His older daughters told stories of his attending a performance after hauling produce all day and returning home to sing the entire score for his family.

By 1890, Cecile Fiersohn, who had paid her own passage to the United States, had saved enough from her sweatshop earnings to send for her mother and sisters. Alma attended public school through eighth grade on New York’s Lower East Side and subsequently worked as an office clerk. Although some accounts indicate that she attended the Normal School (later Hunter College) and Union College, an inspection of school records appears to show that this was not the case. On May 25, 1902, she married Bernard Gluck, an insurance agent (some sources record his name as Glick). They divorced in 1912. Their daughter, Abigail, became the writer Marcia Davenport.

Although she had a beautiful voice as a girl and learned to play piano, Gluck began vocal training only as an adult. In 1906, a business associate of her husband’s who had heard her sing arranged for her to take voice lessons. She also studied in Europe accompanied only by her daughter. An anecdote tells of Gluck’s serendipitous encounter with Arturo Toscanini. The conductor heard her sing when she arrived for a lesson at her teacher’s house while he and the manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera were dining there. Both men were skeptical of the teacher’s motives—Gluck was a beautiful woman—until they heard the soprano warming up. Toscanini then insisted on accompanying her himself. (Marcia Davenport writes that the meeting was no accident: Gluck’s teacher engineered it, and Gluck was aware of her listener’s identity.) After a formal audition, Gluck was hired. Toscanini conducted the performance in which she made her debut (under the name Alma Gluck), Massenet’s Werther. It was presented by the Metropolitan Opera but took place at the New Theatre on November 16, 1909. During Gluck’s first season with the company, she sang eleven minor roles in three languages.

Gluck, however, was not fond of opera’s theatrical nature. Less than a year after her operatic debut, she sang her first recital. By 1911, she had found her niche as a concert artist, a venue in which her charm and elegance were more readily apparent. After leaving the Metropolitan in 1913, she studied in Berlin and Paris. By the following year, Gluck was the most popular concert singer in the United States. She performed in all forty-eight states (traveling later in a private railway car) as a recitalist and orchestral soloist. Until 1921, she gave almost 100 recitals a season, and she continued to perform until 1925. Between 1911 and 1919, Gluck made 124 recordings. Although many were classical, she was famous for her renditions of American folk songs. She was a best-selling artist: Between 1914 and 1918 alone her recording royalties totaled $600,000.

On June 15, 1914, Gluck was married in London to violinist Efrem Zimbalist. They had two children, Maria Virginia Goelet (b. 1915), and Efrem, Jr. (b. 1918), the actor, writer, and director. Husband and wife often appeared together in concert, and several of Gluck’s recordings feature Zimbalist’s violin obbligatos. In her retirement, Gluck devoted herself to her family and to the artistic world: She was a founder of the American Guild of Musical Artists and was famous for her support of musical causes as well as for her soirées. In 1930, Alma Gluck was diagnosed with an incurable liver ailment. She died in New York on October 27, 1938.

If Gluck identified herself with the Jewish community as an adult, there appears to be no record of it, and she developed strong ties to the Episcopal church. She left bequests to Union Chapel on Fishers Island, New York, where she had a summer home, and to St. Thomas Church in New York City. In addition, all three of her children were baptized: Maria Virginia and Efrem, Jr. at St. Thomas (in 1921), and Marcia Davenport (in 1922) at the boarding school run by Episcopal nuns to which she had been sent, with her mother as one of her sponsors. Gluck herself, Davenport writes, “drifted on the agnostic sea-of-consent where so many barks float or founder or merely keep on circling, but she did not think that right for her children.”

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Alma Gluck's Timeline

May 11, 1884
Iasi, Romania
June 9, 1903
Age 19
Age 27
June 16, 1914
Age 30
November 30, 1918
Age 34
New York, New York, United States
October 27, 1938
Age 54
New York, New York, United States
Opera Singer