The Jewish Diva Who Played the Indian Princess


Gifted with one of those rare, true contralto voices—deep, rich, and haunting—Sophie Braslau was the beautiful daughter of a Russian émigré physician who was ranked with the most celebrated singers of her time. A musical prodigy, she made her professional singing debut at age 17 in 1909 and soon joined the Metropolitan Opera Company, where she received high praise for her performance as the Indian princess in Shanewisthe Robin Woman, which she stepped into on just a few days’ notice.

With her wide-ranging concert repertory, which included YiddishHebrew and Russian Jewish folk songs, Braslau delighted audiences and musical luminaries across Europe and America. In a 1917 interview,  Braslau described working with the famed conductor Toscanini, her fear of whom caused her to weep “many bitter tears for fear I would not come up to the mark.” Her career cut tragically short by cancer, she died in 1935 at the age of 43. But thanks to a few good recordings, her legacy lives on.

Listen to Braslau’s “I Love You, Truly”:

Recommended from JTA