Florida reverend donates Nordica items to museum

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FARMINGTON – The Nordica Memorial Museum has received a donation from a Florida reverend who wanted the pieces to have a good home.

The Rev. Steven Olds of Saint Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach visited the museum last year and has since decided to donate the Nordica pieces to the museum including a variety of miscellaneous programs, postcards, photos of the Farmington diva Lillian Nordica and a French bisque bust of Nordica in her role as Marguerite in “Faust,” or at least one inspired by her.

The collection of six beautifully framed items, bust and other original show programs were recently shipped to Thomas Sawyer, president of the museum’s board.

“I wanted them to be in a place where more people could appreciate them,” Olds said Monday. “I didn’t want to be selfish. Being in my mid-50s, I think it’s a good time to share the blessings that have come my way,” he said.

As a teenager, Olds was introduced to Lillian Norton when his parents shared a copy of her biography, “Yankee Diva,” by Ira Glackens, one of the best biographies of a singer, Olds said.

“I found it interesting that she came from this small town in Maine but was such a really important figure. We don’t have a sense of her importance,” he said. “Up to the time she died, she was a national figure.”

In giving the pieces, Olds said, perhaps some other young musician will visit the museum as they pass through Farmington and be inspired to be a good musician and citizen, he said, as he spoke of Nordica’s own late 19th century patriotism and her respect of women’s rights.

One of the donated programs was from her role as Kundry with a 1906 signature that places it in the year she sang “Parsifal,” for the first time at the Met, Olds wrote to Sawyer.

The framed pieces will be added to the collection of memorabilia found at the homestead off the Holley Road, Sawyer said.

The museum will be open for no charge for Lillian Nordica Day on Aug. 17, a day proclaimed in her honor by Gov. John Curtis, he said. Following the open house, the annual Nordica Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Nordica Auditorium at the University of Maine at Farmington, he said. This year’s vocalist, Sarah Mawn, from the University of Southern Maine will be awarded a scholarship given by the museum’s board for her performance.

The day is held in honor of her last performance in her hometown of Farmington on Aug. 17, 1911, Sawyer said.

“Somebody has done their homework. They’ve done a wonderful job on the house and display of her items,” said Olds as he related his experience here last year.

A Farmington resident, Ben Stinchfield, was acknowledged by Sawyer, as well as Emily Floyd, treasurer of the museum, for starting the renovation and restoration of the items. The homestead, he said, was purchased in 1928 and was in really bad shape.

Now, the home features items such as a table given to Nordica by the Empress of China and a huge chair from Diamond Jim Brady.

Many items, Sawyer said, were acquired when Stinchfield learned of a public auction being held in New York to auction her items held in storage to pay the storage fees. Stinchfield made arrangements to purchase the items, he said.

Stage jewelry and gowns adorn the front rooms with numerous photos of her and one of her Italian voice teachers, Antonio Sangiovanni, who gave her the stage name of Giglio Nordica, meaning Lily of the North, Sawyer said.

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