Marjorie Lawrence 1907-1979

Marjorie Lawrence

Marjorie Lawrence

In 1944 Lawrence sang in concerts in Australia for J. & N. Tait and travelled 50,000 miles entertaining wounded and disabled troops in the South-West Pacific.

Lawrence retired from public performances in 1952.

Marjorie Florence Lawrence died on 13 January 1979 at Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

In 1944 Lawrence sang in concerts in Australia for J. & N. Tait and travelled 50,000 miles entertaining wounded and disabled troops in the South-West Pacific. She sang in occupied Europe in 1945 and 1948. The French Government awarded her the Diamond Cross of the Légion d’Honneur.

By 1947 Lawrence was able to sing from a standing position, albeit strapped to a contraption designed by her husband. With this supporting her she sang Elektra with the Chicago Symphony in December 1947. She toured Australia again for J. & N. Tait in 1949.

In 1951 Lawrence returned for the ABC. She sang in acclaimed concert versions of Richard Strauss’s Elektra and Salome under Eugene Goossens and, in Melbourne, made her only appearance in fully-staged opera in this country: she was a splendid but sedentary Amneris in the National Theatre Movement’s Victorian Centenary Arts Festival production of Aida at the Princess.

Lawrence retired from public performances in 1952. She was Professor of Voice at Tulane University, New Orleans (1957-60), and at Southern Illinois University (1960-73), where she was also the director of the Opera Workshop, opera productions, and established the Marjorie Lawrence Opera Theatre. In 1974 she joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and also ran opera workshops at her home in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In 1976 Lawrence visited Australia for the last time. She attended the season opening at Sydney Opera House and sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ at a Music for the People concert in Melbourne. She was appointed a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1977 for her services to performing arts.

Lawrence’s autobiography, Interrupted Melody, was published in 1949. It was filmed in 1955 with Eleanor Parker as Lawrence and Glenn Ford as her husband. Eileen Farrell provided Ms Parker’s singing voice.

Marjorie Florence Lawrence died on 13 January 1979 at Little Rock, Arkansas. Her papers are preserved in the Southern Illinois University and there are copies in the National Library at Canberra.

*quote courtesy of Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition, Opera Music Theater International, Washington DC; www.OMTI.org

Frank Van Straten, 2007

Media Gallery

Majorie on a bike

Biographical references

Helen Griffin: ‘Marjorie Lawrence’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10
Royston Gustavson: ‘Marjorie Lawrence’ in The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, Oxford University Press, 1997
Marjorie Lawrence: Interrupted Melody, Invincible Press, 1949