June 24, 1909


Good Fairies in Forms of Kindly
Bishop and Celebrated Singing
Master Help Woman to
Rightful Place.


Hard fought battles, which resulted in many strainings of the heart-strings, have won at last fame and fortune for a former Kansas City girl. Mr. J. F. Von Herrlich, who made a splendid success of her debut in grand opera at Milan, Italy, a few weeks ago, and who, at her very first song as Violetta in "La Traviata," took her Italian audience by storm. But in order to make this wonderful success Mrs. Von Herrlich was forced to leave her home, her children, her husband and native land. The leaving was not made as easy for her as it might have been, and it was not without many misgivings that the young woman, now only 26 years of age, left her family and home ties four years ago to begin her vocal studies in Paris. The story of her studies and her final triumph reads like a fairy tale, with a bishop and the famous Puccini as the good fairies, who entered into the life of the ambitious young woman.


Born in St. Louis, Mo., Matilda Hossfeld was taken to Wichita, Kas., at the age of 10 years. There she entered the schools and her life was just that which usually befalls the school girl. She had a voice, a rich voice, but no one dreamed of the vast possibilities that were in store for her. She used her rich voice at the early age of 10 years, being wonderfully matured at that time, and within a few years she became the director of the choir at St. John's church in Wichita. Meanwhile she was attending high school in the town.

About this time Cupid crept into the game and caused the Rev. J. F. Von Herrlich, rector of the church, to be present at one of the choir rehearsals. He fell in love with Miss Hossfeld. The two were married when the girl was 17 years old. The husband saw only a few of the possibilities which might be developed by her voice; saw her and to him as a rector, in her beautiful singing of the hymnals from the old English masters, and soon he secured a charge in Kansas City, as Wichita offered few opportunities for vocal culture.


Shortly after their wedding, the couple came to Kansas City and lived at 726 Washington street. Mr. Von Herrlich was the pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal church in Kansas City, Kas. His wife was taught the use of her voice by Professor Farley. Still, she used it only for the rendition of the cloistral hymns and great crowds were attracted to St. Paul's church. Charity recitals were given and the gifted young woman sang at many of them, always for the good of the church. Finally the rector was called to New York. In that metropolis larger opportunities presented themselves, and the future prima donna took advantage of a few of them.

Fate willed it that someone who really knew music and who really understood what the world of art would miss if Mrs. Von Herrlich remained only in church choirs, suggested that she train her voice for grand opera. The idea was fascinating and foolish all at once. She, the wife of a minister, to go upon the stage? She would not tolerate it.

Yet the good was done. The word had been spoken and the seed was sown. She told her husband of the conversation she had with the music lover, and he almost rebuked her for entertaining the idea.

"No, you would do far better by remaining in the choir and singing at charity recitals. The magnificent anthems of the great old masters are enough for you and it is work for God. You must either work for God or for the world. If you go upon the stage it must be for the world."


The rector's wife, the tiny spark of ambition bursting into a sudden flame, argued with him that it was art, not fame or glory on this earth, that she cared for, but the husband was obdurate.

The fairy tale nearly came unto an end, but another and others heard her beautiful voice and urged her on to grand opera and art. Giving way to the importunities of those friends whom she met in her work, the rector's wife went to the bishop of her diocese and put the case to him.

"My dear, if you feel that you should go upon the stage with your voice, by all means go," responded the bishop. "You will be working for God by your singing. You will be working for Him when you fill people's hearts with the poetry and the good things of life. It is not wrong for you to go, it is a great right."

The rector's wife hurried home to her husband. She had a bishop's decision now and what was a curate beside a bishop? And so the husband consented. Within a few months she had sent her two children, Harold, 4, and Hilda, 6 years old, to her sister Hilda in Kansas City, and had set sail for Europe.

For a year she studied under Madame Marchesi and her advancement under such tutelage was exceedingly rapid. But it was not fast enough for the homesick woman, who longed to see her children and her husband.


It so happened that the Baroness Prepossiki heard her singing, and became enraptured. The baroness called upon the young woman and urged her to leave Paris and travel with her.

It was during these travels with the baroness that the second good fairy entered and made it possible for all Italy to listen to the voice of the little Western girl from America. This second good fairy was the famous singing master, Puccini.

Matilda Hossfeld Von Herrlich sang for Puccini and Puccini forthwith made her his protege. For three years Mrs. Von Herrlich lived in the home of Puccini as one of the family and the great master gave her his best efforts and made her what the Italian critics call the greatest of the prima donnas.

The name of Puccini and his training caused a large audience to greet the foreign prima donna upon the evening of her debut in Milan, and she was accorded the greatest ovation ever received by a singer upon the stage at Milan. For days the Italian papers were filled with praise for her and her singing. She was cartooned, her pictures appeared in all of the papers of the country, and she was named the "Most Beautiful Madonna."


All this was for the girl who was born to William Hossfeld and his wife, Augusta Weinreich Hossfeld, in St. Louis, twenty-six years ago. The mother is dead, having died the year of her daughter's marriage, but her father is living and is at his home, 2614 East Fifth street. He and his daughter, Hilda, younger than Matilda, are taking care of the children.

While living in Wichita and when she was yet unmarried, Miss Hossfeld was voted the prettiest girl in the city. Rival artists and photographers went to her in order to urge her to pose for pictures which might be exhibited at certain exhibitions. Besides that one little happening, and the romance of her marriage, Matilda Hossfeld Von Herrlich's life had been uneventful until the day she held the conference with the good bishop of New York.

Her marriage to the rector of St. John's church in Wichita was surprise to all of her friends, as the rector was many years her senior. Her parents alone knew that the marriage was to take place and the two were married by Archbishop Watkins. Mrs. Von Herrlich is now in Milan.