09 June 2016

Anna Case: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation"

If there was any singer that could have used a few weeks at the Jersey Shore in the summer of 1916, it would have been Metropolitan Opera soprano Anna Case. The twenty-eight-year-old South Branch, NJ native had been working nearly continuously since the previous autumn  - embarking on her longest concert tour up to that time of the western US - with only a brief respite in Bermuda in February to recover from an operation for appendicitis. 


1910 postcard view of the cottages at Sea Bright, NJ

That she was able to return to the concert stage to participate in all of the important spring music festivals - especially considering that "appendicitis" was a common early 20th century euphemism for "abortion" - was really quite remarkable. She closed out the 1915-16 season with a one-off benefit concert in Canada for the Montreal Children's Hospital, and promptly rented a summer cottage on Rumson Road in Sea Bright.



The community between the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers was in no way a musicians' colony in 1916. In fact, Anna Case chose this location - a one hour and 15 minute sail on the Sandy Hook ferry followed by a ten minute train ride - to get away from the musical world of Manhattan


Anna Case is all smiles at her Sea Bright cottage in early September 1916.

Staying with her that summer was her close friend Helena Maaschmidt, her foreign language coach, a housekeeper, and her constant companion Boris - the prize-winning Russian wolfhound. 





Anns Case and friend Helena Maaschmidt

The secluded grounds around the home were surrounded by lush foliage and gardens which Miss Case enjoyed tending. When a reporter for the trade journal Musical America came for a visit in early September, she drove him out to the Monmouth Beach pool in her automobile and proceeded to show off her aquatic prowess.





You can just glimpse Anna Case's auto in this photo from the September 23, 1916 issue of Musical America

Apparently there was also time to practice her horsemanship - a skill that would come in handy two year later when she filmed the western scenes for her motion picture debut, The Hidden Truth.





It wasn't all play however, as her contract with Edison Records committed her to coming into the New York recording studio several times that summer. She was able to cut nine sides for Edison's Diamond Disc Records over six recording sessions between July and September.

Two visitors at the cottage that summer that may have inspired some mixed emotions were Mme. Ohrstrom-Renard and her husband Fred Renard - Anna Case's vocal teacher and manager respectively. While it must have felt wonderful to share some time with her two closest musical advisors, it must have also been a reminder that the demands of the concert hall were just around the corner, and the summer at the shore would soon be a memory.

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