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Blanche Roosevelt Macchetta (1853-1898)

Blanche herself stands guard over her Great Circle grave.

The figure atop the handsome Italian marble memorial in the Great Circle bears the face of Blanche herself. Her classical dress and formal pose reflect a successful career as an opera singer.

Head and shoulders of Blanche figure Blanche’s monument is Grade II listed by Historic England for its sculptural and historic significance. It was renovated in 1933 (Credit: Greywolf)

Ohio-born Blanche was the first American woman to sing Italian opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and to be recognised for her writing by the French Academy. She trained as a soprano in France and Italy, sang in concerts at Covent Garden and around Europe, and later joined the famous D’Oyly Carte opera company.

Performance of Pirates of Penzance The first ever stage performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance – starring Blanche – was in New York on 31 December 1879. (Credit: Victrola Book of the Opera / Flickr)

She was a favourite of theatrical partners Gilbert & Sullivan, and a distant relative of US president Franklin D Roosevelt. Blanche cultivated a cultural circle, becoming friends with the American poet Henry Longfellow, Italian opera composer Guiseppe Verdi, English writer Wilkie Collins and French artist Gustave Doré. She married an Italian marquis, and later was mistress of famous French writer Guy de Maupassant.

Blanche Roosevelt cigarette card Blanche was so well-known that she featured in a series of cigarette cards called ‘The World’s Beauties’ in 1888. (Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons)

Blanche spent her later years living in France. In 1897 she was involved in a carriage accident in Monte Carlo. The driver was killed and Blanche was seriously hurt. She never recovered from her injuries, and died the following year, aged just 44.

Further information

Blanche’s memorial

Blanche’s memorial (credit: Greywolf)

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