Bates County Museum Collection

Bates County Museum Collection


Madame Mathilde Marchesi was  the preeminent  vocal teacher of her day.  Her students included Emma Calve, Nellie Melba, and Emma Eames to name a few.  All were women who would go on to have illustrious careers in the world of opera. Marchesi only accepted students with inherent vocal ability and those that showed promise.  Elizabeth was one of those girls.  She’d arrived in Paris in 1899 and was accepted into Madame Marchesi’s school.

Elizabeth got off to a shaky start in Paris. After a couple of years of study, she had a debut in Marseilles, France with a minor company that ended in failure. She then had her debut in Paris in the title role of Lakme at the Opera Comique in 1902. She was eventually forced to resign from the Opera-Comique  “because of petty jealousies and disagreeable actions of her fellow singers” according to an account in The Globe and Commercial Advertiser New York printed on 16 December 1904. She then performed in private musicales where she attracted the attention of the great Nellie Melba.

San Francisco Call, Volume 98, Number 9, 9 June 1905

San Francisco Call, Volume 98, Number 9, 9 June 1905


Melba was a former student of Madame Marchesi and was one of opera’s star sopranos. She considered Elizabeth her protege; the one who would take her place on the world’s stages.  It was Melba who suggested that Elizabeth use the stage name of “Elizabeth Parkina” so that the Italians would be able to pronounce her name.  It was in Italy, after all, that everyone expected that Elizabeth would find her success.  But it was in England, not Italy,  that Elizabeth’s career took off.

A coat worn by Elizabeth Parkinson when she performed for Edward VI of England.  The coat is part of the Bates County Museum's permanent collection.

A coat worn by Elizabeth Parkinson when she performed for Edward VI of England. The coat is part of the Bates County Museum’s permanent collection.

With Melba’s help, Elizabeth got an audition at the Covent Garden Royal Opera in 1903. She would spend the next four years there.   On that stage she performed with Madame Melba and Enrico Caruso in La Boheme as Musette. Elizabeth had the opportunity to perform for King Alfonso of Spain and King Edward VI of England during  Alfonso’s state visit in 1905.  She would go on to perform for Edward VI a second time.  That same year she embarked on a highly successful tour of Melba’s native country of Australia. She also made a homecoming of sorts when she appeared with Melba at the Convention Hall in Kansas City, MO on 4 January of 1905.  Butler’s own Bessie Parkinson had become a star.Snippet of Elizabeth Parkinson programFinale

The fame and constant travel had taken a toll on Elizabeth.  She was forced to retire from performing due to ill health.  After 15 years of living in Europe and touring the world, she suffered a nervous breakdown.  She spent the rest of her life as an invalid in her home in Colorado Springs, CO.  In 1921 Elizabeth entered a sanitarium in Colorado Springs for treatment for tuberculosis.  She died there on 10 June 1922.  She was 44 years old.  Her brother Francis accompanied her body back to Missouri where she was layed to rest at Greenfield Cemetery in Greenfield, Dade, MO.

For more information on Nellie Melba and Madame Marchesi:

Elizabeth’s Find A Grave memorial:

Royal Academy of Music Entry:

Hear Elizabeth sing:


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