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Kidd, Mary Carson [Mary Carson] (unknown–1951)

Laurie E. Jasinski Biography Entry

Mary Carson, soprano, was born Mary Carson Kidd probably in the late 1800s in Millican, Texas. She was the daughter of George Kidd and Katherine Bledsoe Aldridge. She grew up in Houston, and both of her parents were trained musicians and singers. Mary exhibited promising vocal skills at a very early age and performed excerpts from operas with her brothers for neighborhood children. She received formal training in New York and the New England Conservatory before traveling abroad to study voice in Milan and Florence. Her teachers included Isadore Vraggiotti, Rafaele del Ponte, and Adolgesa Moffi.

She made her debut in Italy in 1912 as Amina in La Sonnambula. She would go on to sing in some thirty operas in Italian, German, French, and English. These included the roles of Gilda in Rigoletto, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Norina in Don Pasquale. She was highly praised for her pure soaring soprano and vocal stamina, even performing Il barbiere de Siviglia twice in one day. In Berlin, composer Richard Strauss often played as her accompanist. At some point during her European performances she dropped her surname, Kidd, the subject of various puns, and adopted the stage name of Mary Carson. She also performed in many cities across the United States and was a member of the Century Opera Company.

In the 1910s she became a featured recording artist of popular songs and ballads for Thomas Edison’s Blue Amberol and Diamond Disc labels. Her rendition of “Oh Dry Those Tears” in 1912 was an early favorite, along with “Kiss Waltz,” released in 1913. “Kiss Waltz” remained a popular choice in the Edison catalog throughout the 1920s. She also recorded under the name of Kathleen Kingston. In 1917 Carson sued Edison over the company’s refusal to pay her when she was not booked with its phonograph dealers on its Tone Test circuit. The company had also forbidden her to work for any other employer, thereby depriving her of making a living. Carson won her suit.

By the late 1920s and early 1930s Mary Carson worked as a music teacher in Houston. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church. She lived in Houston until her death on August 21, 1951. She was buried in Glenwood Cemetery. Throughout her life she received many accolades for her beautiful singing voice, but Carson commented that perhaps the best compliment came from a small boy in Devonshire, England, who likened her singing to “a thrush on the ground” and “a lark in the sky.”

Frank Hoffman, ed., and Howard Ferstler, technical ed., Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound (New York: Routledge, 2005). Houston Post, August 23, 1951. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Music and Musicians). 

Categories:

  • Music
  • Genres (Classical)
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Music and Drama
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression

Places:

  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Kidd, Mary Carson [Mary Carson],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kidd-mary-carson-mary-carson.

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