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Local History

Willa Stewart

Concert Tomorrow Part of Comeback

“Willa Stewart, whose career as an operatic soprano was interrupted by a heart attack she suffered here in the summer of 1953, is back in her home town to demonstrate to an audience at tomorrow night’s concert of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra that she is well along on her comeback trail.

“Miss Stewart arrived here Saturday morning and is visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. G.[George] W. Stewart, of 619 North Jefferson. She will leave for her home at Denton, Texas, Wednesday night.

“Tomorrow night, the symphony audience will hear her sing La Luce Langue, Lady Macbeth’s aria from Guiseppe Verdi’s opera, ‘Macbeth’; Air de Lia from Claude Debussy's 'L'Enfant Prodigue,’ and a Franz Schubert song, ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen.’

“Since her illness, which struck suddenly as she carried a couple of heavy suitcases to the front door of her parents’ home in July, 1953, Miss Stewart has attempted only one grand opera role, that of Aida in the Verdi opera. She made it through two acts, she recalled today, but was not able to finish the difficult assignment. Since then, she had contented herself with concert work and with her post in the voice department at North Texas State College at Denton.

“Next month, she will appear with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in Honegger’s ‘Jeanne d'Arc,’ and in December, she plans a series of seven concerts in various Texas cities.

“During her career as a singer, which began in 1941 after her graduation from Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, she has sung in London’s Covent Garden, with Vienna’s Staatsoper, and with the Rome Opera Company, the Civic Center Opera in New York and the Chicago Civic Opera. Her biggest audience [was] at London’s Royal Albert Hall, where 14,000 heard her sing with the London Symphony.”

Leader-Press, October 21, 1957.

Willa Stewart returned several times to give concerts in Springfield. In 1941 she married Michael Setseck in New York. Ms. Stewart died in 2002 and is buried with her husband at Assumption Cemetery in Austin, Texas.

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