Novel by Willa Cather, published in 1915.
Thea Kronborg, daughter of a Swedish minister in Colorado, during her growth to adolescence develops an obsessive interest in music. Her ability on the piano is encouraged by her eccentric German music teacher, Professor Wunsch, and by Dr. Howard Archie, a kindly, educated physician whose unfortunate marriage taints his life. Set apart from the townspeople by her talents and ardent nature, she prefers such friends as “Spanish Johnny” Tellamantez and the railroad worker Ray Kennedy, who falls in love with her but dies in a train wreck, leaving her his insurance. With this sum she goes to Chicago, at 17, to study with the pianist Andor Harsanyi, who finds in her the same innate taste and artistic integrity that mark his own character. When he discovers that she is earning her way by singing in a church choir, he listens to her voice, and finds it has great possibilities. He sends her to study voice with Madison Bowers, whose chill, selfish attitude repels her, but through him she meets the wealthy young brewer Fred Ottenburg, who introduces her to such socially prominent friends and art patrons as the Nathanmeyers. After she becomes ill and discouraged, despite her progress, Ottenburg invites her to his father's Arizona ranch. They fall in love, and travel together in Mexico, but separate because Fred, already married, is unable to obtain a divorce. Dr. Archie advances her the money necessary for study in Europe, and after ten years she becomes a great Wagnerian soprano of the Metropolitan Opera. Although she later marries Ottenburg after his wife's death, her life is expressed and bound up in her career, in which she finds not happiness but the fulfillment of the driving artistic impulse that has always ruled her.
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Willa Cather (1873—1947) American novelist and short-story writer