The Canadian Nightingale

The Canadian Nightingale: Bertha Crawford and the Dream of the Prima Donna. Victoria, CA: FriesenPress, 2017. ISBN 978-1-525517-41-9.  333 pages.

Ambition. Fame. Betrayal. The Canadian Nightingale vividly resurrects the forgotten life of Bertha Crawford (1886-1937), a determined Canadian singer who chased the celebrity dream of her time to find unprecedented success on the opera stages of Russia and Poland. Meticulous historical research and compelling dramatic vignettes restore Crawford and her era to life. After a roller coaster ride to celebrity that was ultimately derailed by broken trust, one big question remains: how was a Canadian story this fascinating left untold for more than eighty years.

Inspired by a passing reference in a 1924 family letter, six years of research and writing have resulted in a full cradle-to-grave biography which reconstructs the overlooked life of possibly the most successful Canadian opera star in Europe in the first quarter of the 20th century.

From a youthful start as the soprano soloist at Toronto’s Metropolitan Methodist Church, Bertha Crawford built a name for herself across Canada in the first decade of the last century. But she had to leave Canada to get the European training and experience she needed to be considered a really serious performer at home.

Ironically, Crawford became such an established star in Poland that she lost touch with her Canadian audience, and was forgotten in the land of her birth. And yet, while she was a well-loved performer across Poland, the ‘Canadian Nightingale’ was never considered Polish in her adopted home, and so has been forgotten there too. This new Canadian biography revives a singular voice, and reminds us how important it is to recognize Canadian talent and artistic contribution.

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