" She had a large
following among young women, who were nicknamed "Gerry-flappers".
Farrar was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, the daughter of
baseball player Sidney Farrar, and his wife, Henrietta Barnes. At 5 she began
studying music in Boston and by 14 was giving recitals. Later she studied voice
with the American soprano Emma Thursby in New York, in Paris, and finally with
the Italian baritone Francesco Graziani in Berlin. Farrar created a sensation
at the Berlin Hofoper with her debut as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's Faust in
1901 and remained with the company for three years, during which time she
continued her studies with famed German soprano Lilli Lehmann. (She had been
recommended to Lehmann by another famous soprano of the previous generation,
Lillian Nordica. ). She appeared in the title rôles of Ambroise Thomas' Mignon
and Jules Massenet's Manon, as well as Juliette in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.
Her admirers in Berlin included Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, with whom she
is believed to have had a relationship beginning in 1903.
She recorded extensively for the Victor Talking Machine
Company and was often featured prominently in that firm's advertisements. She
also appeared in silent movies, which were filmed between opera seasons. Farrar
starred in more than a dozen films from 1915 to 1920, including Cecil B. De
Mille's 1915 adaptation of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. One of her most
notable screen roles was as Joan of Arc in the 1917 film Joan the Woman.
Farrar retired from opera in 1922 at the age of 40. Her
final performance was as Leoncavallo's Zazà. By this stage, her voice was in
premature decline due to overwork. According to the American music critic Henry
Pleasants, the author of The Great Singers from the Dawn of Opera to Our Own
Time (first published 1967), she gave between 25 and 35 performances each
season at the Met alone. They included 95 appearances as Madama Butterfly and
58 as Carmen in 16 seasons. The title role in Puccini's Tosca, which she had
added to her repertoire in 1909, was another one of her favourite Met parts.
Farrar died in Ridgefield, Connecticut of a heart attack in
1967, aged 85, and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. She
had no children.