This month we welcome a full slate of guests to talk about the life and significance of singer Marcella Craft, one of the first soloists of The Mother Church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts). Craft was an internationally renowned opera singer in the early decades of the twentieth century. She worked with celebrated composers like Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss, and shared the stage with Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. But before this, she served The Mother Church as soloist, at a time when the role itself was new. We’ll speak with Rivi Feinsilber, assistant archivist at The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Joining in are Bill Burden and Teddy Crecelius, two frequent Mother Church guest soloists with professional opera experience. And through her writing, we’ll also hear from Cindy Patton, author of a master’s thesis on Craft. They all provide insight into what it meant for this gifted soprano to have been an inaugural Mother Church soloist.
Access more on this topic:
- Women of History: Marcella Craft
- “Communion Service at the Mother Church” (Christian Science Sentinel, June 8, 1899)
- “Marcella Craft Describes Formulating Interpretation for Portrayal of Salome,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 1915. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)
Rivi Feinsilber is assistant archivist in The Mary Baker Eddy Library’s Research & Reference Services division and the author of the February 2021 website article on Marcella Craft, part ofthe Library’s “Women of History” series. She holds a master’s in library science with a concentration in archives management from Simmons University, as well as a master’s in history from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her current research work includes Jewish colonial religious history, with an emphasis in the British North American colonies and the plan to expand to the Caribbean in the same period.
William (Bill) Burden is an opera singer who has performed with distinguished opera companies in the United States and Europe—including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Teatro alla Scala, and the Bayerische Staatsoper. His many parts include the title roles in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Faust, and Pelléas et Mélisande, as well as Don José in Carmen, Loge in Das Rheingold, and Ferrando in Così fan tutte. Among other professional credits, Burden also served as artist-in-residence at the 2017 Glimmerglass Festival. He was co-soloist of The Mother Church from 2013 to 2015 and continues to be one of its regular guest soloists. He currently teaches at the Juilliard School and at the Mannes School of Music, The New School.
Teddy Crecelius is a performer and director/producer, whose work spans diverse artistic genres—among them opera and musical theater. From 2013 to 2015, he taught on the music theater faculty at Mahidol University College of Music in Bangkok, Thailand. He returned to the United States to participate in the 2015 Glimmerglass Opera Festival Young Artist Program. An experienced church soloist with regular guest appearances at The Mother Church, Crecelius has a repertoire that includes a variety of sacred music. He is group tours and visitor engagement coordinator for The Mother Church’s Plaza Activities department.
Cindy Patton is a retired physical therapist who earned her master’s in music history and literature in 2012 from the California State University, Fullerton. Her research and thesis on the international opera star Marcella Craft focused on Craft’s development of regional opera in Riverside, California, in the years following her retirement from the operatic and concert stage. Patton is a board member of the Riverside Historical Society, and her special interests include World War II history and learning more about her adopted hometown. She also serves in the music ministry, and as the congregational archivist, of her Riverside church.