Eleanor Steber performing at the Virginia Theatre in Wheeling,
May 1, 1940

Eleanor Steber

Wheeling Intelligencer
May 2, 1940

Eleanor Steber In Triumphant Homecoming Concert

Distinguished Audience Of 1,400 Present At Event

Young Singer Gives Program From A Flower Bedecked Stage - Audience Stands In Tribute To Miss Steber

(By Zita Pizar)

An audience of 1,400 persons, which included the governor of the state and his wife, the Hon. Homer A. Holt and Mrs. Holt, filled all available space in the Virginia theatre Wednesday night to hear Eleanor Steber, newest and youngest recruit to the ranks of the Metropolitan Opera company, sing her "homecoming" concert.

The huge audience included in addition to state dignitaries, city officials, representatives of music and cultural groups in the Ohio Valley, friends of the young singer and literally hundreds of others who have watched with interest and pride the musical career of the Wheeling girl, whose successes in the past few years were crowned with the winning of the Metropolitan auditions award last Easter Sunday.

Tonight Miss Steber sings again in Madison auditorium on the Island to oblige additional hundreds who were unable to be accommodated at the premier, Wednesday. A civic reception on Madison stage will follow the concert.

Miss Steber's two Wheeling appearances have been sponsored by a Citizen's Committee appointed by Mayor John J. Mathison and headed by George Kossuth.

Last night Mr. Kossuth opened the civic prelude to the concert with a few words of appreciation to the citizens of the community for their part in the success of the civic celebrations. Following the reading of the many congratulatory messages received by the young artist, Mr. Kossuth introduced Mayor Mathison.

Presents Artist

The mayor, in welcoming Miss Steber to the stage, briefly and appropriately traced her musical career, commenting on the fact that though she had studied in the East for six years or more she had elected to claim Wheeling as her home.

With Miss Steber's appearance on the stage following the introduction by Mayor Mathison the audience rose in tribute and gave the youthful singer a tremendous ovation. The waves of applause finally subsiding, Miss Steber very graciously responded to Mayor Mathison and the audience.

Governor Holt, who was introduced to the audience by Mayor Mathison, presented his personal congratulations to Miss Steber from his box at the theatre. Governor Holt emphasized the honor and distinction which Miss Steber has brought not only to the city of Wheeling but to the state of West Virginia as well. Speaking on behalf of the West Virginia Commission for Participation in the New York World's Fair, Governor Holt invited Miss Steber to sing on the program which will mark West Virginia Day at the World's Fair.

Mrs. Holt was also presented to Wednesday night's audience by Mayor Mathison. Mrs. Holt acknowledged the introduction with a brief congratulatory address in honor of the singer.

Present Miss Hill

Miss Nancy Hill, Warwood girl who has also achieved fame in New York, having recently been selected for its "cover girl" by The American Magazine, was presented to Wednesday's audience, too. Her introduction was followed by a round of enthusiastic applause. Miss Hill, a school mate and close friend of Miss Steber, was a guest in the box occupied by the Steber family. Others in the box were Mr. and Mrs. William C. Steber, parents of the singer; her husband, Edwin Lee Bibly; and her brother and sister, William Steber, jr., and Miss Lucille Steber.

Governor and Mrs. Holt were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Paull of Woodsdale. Mayor Mathison and Mrs. Mathison were also seated in the Governor's box.

Miss Steber, who looked very lovely in a beautiful boufont gown of shell pink chiffon ornamented with wide bands of black lace, sang from a flower-decked stage.

The stage was made more attractive by the many gorgeous bouquets and flower filled baskets which the artist received at the close of the first half of her program.

Sings Four Arias

Miss Steber favored her audience with four arias last night. Three of these comprised her inaugural group True, one, the lovely and tender "Porgi, amor" (Love Thou Holy Impulse" [sic] from the Mozart opera "The Marriage of Figaro" is but forty bars long, but also included in the same group were the aria, "Non so piu cosa son," from the same opera, and the despairing recitative and aria, "Ernani, involami." (Ernani, Fly With Me) from Verdi's "Ernani." The last mentioned, a famous colorature number with a soaring climax, which provides much opportunity for vocal display, was interpreted with rare beauty and sympathy.

The Mozart arias, too, especially were pleasing. The exquisite pleas to Cupid, Porgi amor, was sung with ease and understanding by the youthful artist, and the proper emotional shading was bestowed on that simple, yet subtle work, "Non so piu cosa son," which is so replete with graceful melody.

Give German Group

Miss Steber's German group which was composed of Schubert's "Standchen" "Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht" (Mahler) and two songs by Marx, "Der bescheidene Schafer" and "Hat dich die Liebe beruhrt," was excellently done and most pleasing. Pleasing from both the viewpoint of artistic performance and program selection. The lovely Schubert composition was splendidly executed and the sparkling Malher work was done with delightful humor. The entire group was melodic, colorful and brilliant.

Aria From "Louise"

One of the particular high points of the evening was Miss Steber's singing of the enchanting Charpentier aria, "Depuis le jour" from "Louise." The ability of the singer to give an authentic rendition of this lovely work, one of the most impressive as well as popular compositions in all of modern opera, was evident from the opening note.

There was a very appropriate not somehow in Miss Steber's singing of the "Songs My Mother Taught Me" by Dverak, as her first encore of the evening. In compliance with the audience's desire she sang again, this time a very clever little song called "Two Little Magpies" which was given simply but charming dramatic emphasis.

For her French group, Miss Steber included Debussy's "Mandoline:; Chanson triate by Duparc; Le Moulin by iernce and Fourdrain's "Carnaval." Obliged to respond with another encore following this group, the artist sang "The Cuckoo" by Lehman.

Five English songs were the final offerings of the scheduled program. These were "At the Well" by Hageman; Rachmaninoff's "To the Children" which the singer announced was her mother's one request on the program; "Shadows" (Foote); Burleigh's "The Trees Have Grown So" and "Fulfillment" by Warren.

Miss Steber was brought back to the stage again and again at the conclusion of her program. So appreciative and demonstrative was the huge audience that the artist was required to sing several additional encores. These were Brahams' "Weigenlied", which the singer dedicated to her Grandmother Nolt; "The Heart That is Free" by Robyn; "Ave Marie" Bach-Gounod and finally "The Last Rose of Summer."

Elenor Steber is gifted with a natural voice of great potentialities. Aided by excellent training and a musical intelligence of a high order she is artistically well fortified for the difficult field of opera which lies before her. She sings with facility in Italian French and German.

James Quillian accompanied Miss Steber at the piano. Mr. Quillian is a most skillful pianist and is indeed quite perfect in the role of an accompanist.

"Wheeling's Own"

"Wheeling's Own Eleanor Steber", the theatre lights flashed last night. A fact no less. But not merely because she is a Wheeling girl did she receive the ovation of Wednesday night's assemblage. It was an ovation elicitated by the genuineness of her tal[ent] which has now brought her to the threshold of a great fulfillment.

All told it was an unforget[t]able night in several respects. Surely the memory of the flowers, the applause, the congratulatory addresses and letters, above all the fine feeling of cordiality between artist and audience, will ever remain fresh in the singer's memory no matter how many or how brilliant the musical triumphs in the future.

And the audience, too, will long remember the talent, the beauty, the personal charm of the youthful singer.

Similarly community stature is heightened. No longer is an industrial city amid the West Virginia hills relegated to the limbo of things cultural for is it not represented in one of the modern world's greatest musical organizations?

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