Early life and opera career
As Mlle. Rosavella, she made her singing debut at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1876 as Violetta in La Traviata. She was the first female American performer to sing Italian opera there. She went on to sing in concerts in Milan, Belgium, Holland, and Paris. She also worked as a special correspondent from Paris in 1875 for newspapers in Chicago and London.
Arthur Sullivan heard the soprano while on holiday in the south of France in the summer of 1879. In September 1879, Roosevelt joined the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and made her debut at the Opera Comique, as a replacement for Josephine during the original run of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore. She was then chosen by W. S. Gilbert, Sullivan, and Richard D'Oyly Carte to play Josephine for American audiences in the first authentic D’Oyly Carte Pinafore at New York’s Fifth Avenue Theatre, beginning on December 1, 1879. On December 31 of that year, in the same theatre, she created the role of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, playing the character in New York and on tour until March 1880, when she left the Company.
Later that year she formed her own opera company, appearing in unsuccessful productions of Alfred Cellier’s The Sultan of Mocha (Union Square Theatre, New York, September 1880) and B. C. Stephenson and Cellier’s grand opera adaptation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Masque of Pandora (Boston Theatre, January 1881). Through her personal friendship with Longfellow, Roosevelt was able to secure the poet's permission for the adaptation. Soon afterwards, Roosevelt retired from the stage, largely at behest of her husband, an Italian, Signor Macchetta, who had succeeded to the title of Marquis d’Alligri, and devoted herself instead to journalism and literature.
Roosevelt became acquainted with important figures in the world of literature and the arts, including (in addition to Wadsworth, Giuseppe Verdi, Victorien Sardou, Wilkie Collins, Gustave Dore, and Guy de Maupassant, whose mistress she became in 1884. Roosevelt's first books were The Home Life of Henry W. Longfellow, (1882), Stage-struck, or; She would be an Opera Singer (1884 - a novel), and The Life and Reminiscences of Gustave Dore (1885, for which she was reportedly the first American woman honored by the French Academy), and The Copper Queen (1886 - a novel).
She had earlier worked as a special correspondent from Paris in 1875 and later took up a similar assignment in Milan during the weeks surrounding the premiere of Verdi’s Otello in February 1887. Her dispatches were collected in book form as Verdi: Milan, and Othello, published later that year and dedicated to Collins: "... When I left England for Italy, you said, 'Do write me all about Verdi, Milan, and the new opera Othello.' I have taken you at your word; only the letters, like most feminine epistles, have stretched away into limitless pages, and from a few vagabond sheets have grown into a volume. I am sure you will never again ask a woman to write to you, even from Paradise; but in the mean time, here is the result of your amiability...."
Later books by Roosevelt, then referred to as the Marchesa (all published posthumously), included Elisabeth of Roumania - a study (1891), Hazel Fane (1891 - a novel), Familiar faces - Victorien Sardou: a personal study (1892), and a Riviera romance entitled Rien ne vaplus (1899).
Later life and fatal accident
Roosevelt spent the later years of her life in the south of France. In 1897, she was riding in a carriage in Monte Carlo that overturned when the horses bolted, killing the driver and seriously injuring the Marchesa. She never recovered from her injuries, dying the next year in London at the age of 45.
Roosevelt is buried in Brompton Cemetery, where there is a statue of her.
- Her memorial in Brompton Cemetery states that she was born in Virginia on 2 October 1858
- Metz, Charles, "Blanche Roosevelt", in the March 23, 1963, issue of Opera News.
- Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Londoners, Robson Books, London, 1991.
- Peters, Catherine, The King of Inventors, A Life of Wilkie Collins, Seeker & Warburg, London, 1991.
- Blanche Roosevelt at Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte
- Profile of Roosevelt
- Photo of Roosevelt
- another Cabinet photo of Roosevelt
- Profile of Roosevelt, including photos of her monument
- Photos of Roosevelt's monument at her tomb