Scope and arrangement
The correspondence, personal and professional papers, photographs, sheet music, newspaper clippings, and concert programs represent the career and activities of Marcella Sembrich. The bulk of the collection falls between 1885 and 1925, and as a whole it covers Sembrich's musical career from her early student days in Poland to her death at age 75 in New York City. Series arrangements are primarily alphabetical or by subject. The collection has two indexes: one for photographs available in the photographic index files, and another for the rest of the material included in the following finding aid. The sheet music is currently being catalogued separately.
The files in the collection contain correspondence; professional and personal papers; concert programs; newspaper and journal clippings; an incomplete card index of performances and clippings from the Sembrich Memorial Studio; posters and concert advertisements; memorabilia-tributes, awards, and citations; books, notebooks, and catalogues; photographs; scrapbooks; and sheet music.
The correspondence files contain letters to and from Marcella Sembrich, Wilhelm Stengel, and Juliette de Coppet, and also many other musical figures of the time. The letters are arranged alphabetically in groupings by either writer, addressee, or subject of correspondence. The index to the bulk collection should definitely be used to locate letters in the correspondence. The letters are in English, German, Polish, and French. There is a selection of letters written by Sembrich to a girl friend and her family in Poland during the early years of her musical studies. These letters illustrate the plans, hopes, and concerns Sembrich had in her youth: they also include her developing relationship with Wilhelm Stengel, and personal concerns about her brother and mother. There are only two from Sembrich's surviving son Wilhelm, who separated from Juliette de Coppet under unknown circumstances and thereafter apparently had very little contact with his family. This son is referred to in the collection as Willy, Wilhelm, or Guillaume. Wilhelm Stengel Sr., the father, also is referred to as Guillaume during the World War I period. Letters from the son are indexed under Stengel, Guillaume/Willy, and Sembrich's husband under Stengel, Wilhelm. The collection also holds many letters from students, who continued to write to Sembrich after their student years. The letters are written in the period between 1856 and 1988, the majority from the 1900s to the 1920s.
The second series of professional and personal papers cover a number of subjects and types of documents. There are files of nineteenth and twentieth century legal documents in Polish and German; mostly wills, birth and death certificates, financial statements, property titles, naturalization papers, and estate documents. There are also concert contracts, repertoire lists and teaching material and related correspondence (much of it from Josef Hofmann of the Curtis Institute). Sembrich did extensive charity work, and there are papers and correspondence for such as activities as concerts given for the losses suffered by members of the Metropolitan Opera during the San Francisco earthquake, and the American Polish Relief Committee. Some biographical material, awards and citations for charitable work, and menus and speeches from tribute dinners for Marcella Sembrich are also included in this series. Additionally there is a handwritten essay by Richard Wagner on the art of Italian bel canto, which has been removed from the collection and placed in the Special Collections Locked Case. This case also holds a Beethoven autograph from the Marcella Sembrich Collection. The series covers from 1868 to 1942.
The Marcella Sembrich Collection holds a number of concert programs, mostly of Sembrich operas, concerts, and recitals. There are programs from performances given by her former students, and some collected by Sembrich's daughter-in-law Juliette de Coppet. The dates of the programs cover from 1874 to 1960, and are arranged chronologically.
The fourth series of material consists of posters and concert advertisements for (mostly) Sembrich performances. These range in date from 1877 to 1909, and are arranged primarily according to size. Some oversized posters have been removed from the collection and placed in the oversized cases (Press 0, Case 4, Drawer 3) in the Special Collections stacks.
Newspaper and journal clippings are also part of the Marcella Sembrich Collection: all clippings have been copied onto acid-free paper due to the deterioration of the originals. They are in a variety of languages such as English, German, French, Russian, and Italian. These clippings extensively cover Sembrich's career and charitable work, from 1870 to 1988. The clippings have been arranged chronologically within four categories: professional, Sembrich colleagues, Sembrich students, and miscellaneous.
The Sembrich Memorial Studio in Lake George, New York began a card file index to the Sembrich material they had in their keeping. These cards are color-coded; white for reviews of operas in which Sembrich appeared, pink for concerts and recitals in which Sembrich performed, buff for programs, green for reviews of operas in which Sembrich did not appear, blue for correspondence, and yellow for contracts. These card files are incomplete in both coverage and arrangement, yet have been retained as a supplemental research tool.
The seventh series in the Marcella Sembrich Collection consists of memorabilia, such as tributes, awards, and citations. Sembrich was honored all over Europe and the United States for both her musical talents and her generous charitable work, thereby garnering a number of formal recognitions from heads of state and organizations. Included also in this series is Sembrich's autograph album, which is full of signatures, dedications, pictures, and drawings by the talents of her day such as Brahms, Verdi, Paderewski, Caruso, Puccini, Mahler, and Hofmann. These are arranged by size.
A group of books, notebooks, and catalogues are also held in the collection, mostly written in English and Polish. There are catalogue lists of decorations at the Sembrich Memorial Studio, catalogues of music given to Juilliard from her collection, and books, some in Polish — poetry and biographies.
A major portion of the Marcella Sembrich Collection is the photographic collection. There are 2,284 photographs, arranged by size. Within each size category they are arranged by groups, such as original or individual pieces (such as autographed pictures); studio portraits of Sembrich; studio portraits of Sembrich in costume; snapshots; Sembrich with one other person; classes taught by Sembrich; group photographs; photographs of objects such as wreaths, furniture, etc.; other people; and locations. The principal subjects of the photographs are Marcella Sembrich, places she lived, places she sang, and people with whom she performed. This material is indexed separately from the rest of the collection. The inclusive dates are from 1851 to 1958, with the bulk of the material falling between the 1880s and 1930s.
In addition to the substantial newspaper and journal clippings in the collection are the scrapbooks, which cover Sembrich's career. Available to the public on microfilm due to acid paper deterioration, the scrapbook materials range in date from 1858 to 1935. The 28 volumes contain photographs, article clippings from newspapers and journals, programs, photocopies of correspondence and autographs, an index of sheet music and vocal scores from Marcella Sembrich's Lake George home, and concert reviews. The scrapbooks are not listed in the following finding aid. The call number for the five reels of scrapbook microfilm is *ZB-2379.
Another major category is Marcella Sembrich's collection of sheet music. This is currently undergoing separate processing and cataloging as of this writing: please see the Special Collections desk librarian for information about the current availability of this music.
The Marcella Sembrich Collection is a comprehensive history of her singing career. The scantiness of in-depth personal and family information is believed to be the work of Sembrich's daughter-in-law Juliette de Coppet, who seems to have purged the collection of all photographs of her husband, Sembrich's son Wilhelm (Guillaume/Willy) and removed other personal material as well. Some of this material has survived however, such as letters from Sembrich in her teens to a dear friend in Poland; letters from Sembrich's husband Wilhelm Stengel to Marcella Sembrich after the death of their son Marcel; a postcard, poem, and letter from their son Wilhelm, and a few brief references to his existence in letters from family and friends to Sembrich.
General personal information can be obtained from the newspaper and journal clipping series which has many articles about Sembrich's life. The collection's use for researchers will primarily be for those interested in her professional career, which is extensively represented in the Marcella Sembrich Collection.
The Marcella Sembrich papers are arranged in eight series: