Nadine Conner

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Nadine Conner
Nadine Conner 1937.JPG
Nadine Conner in 1937
Born Evelyn Nadine Henderson
February 20, 1907
Compton, California
Died March 1, 2003, age 96
Los Angeles, California
Other names Olga Bagdonova
Alma mater University of California
Occupation Singer
Spouse(s) ____ Conner (? - ?)
Dr Laurance Heacock (1939 - 1987, his death)
Children 1 daughter
1 son

Nadine Conner (February 20, 1907 - March 1, 2003) was an American operatic soprano, radio singer and music teacher.

Early years[edit]

She was born in Compton, California as Evelyn Nadine Henderson,[1] and was the descendent of some of the earliest non-Hispanic settlers in California.

Conner had six siblings, and all seven children sang. The family lived on a farm outside of Los Angeles, California. Her parents built their own theater, staging a variety of shows.[2]

Diagnosed as a teenager with pulmonary disease, her doctor suggested she try studying classical singing to strengthen her lungs, as was customary at the time. Following his instructions, she began studying privately with Hollywood-based tenor, Amado Fernandez, during high school. In a fluke of fate, a great voice and singing talent emerged. Her natural potential revealed, she went on to study more seriously with Horatio Cogswell, and later in New York City with Florence Easton.

Conner attended Compton High School in Compton, California, and studied music at the University of California,(Another source says the University of Southern California.)[1] where she was active in the Glee Club.[3]


Conner's radio debut came in 1933. After passing an audition, she was given a role on California Melodies.[3] On radio, she was the featured singer on Shell Chateau[4] and was a member of the cast of Showboat.[3] She also appeared on The Voice of Firestone and with stars such as Bing Crosby and Nelson Eddy. She did a musical tour with Gordon MacRae.

But by the end of 1939, she was embarking on a career in classical opera. She made her professional debut in 1940 as Marguerite in Vladimir Rosing's Los Angeles production of Gounod's Faust.[5] She sang with the Los Angeles Opera from 1939 to 1941. In 1941, she began her career at the Metropolitan Opera, making her debut as Pamina in The Magic Flute (sung in English).

Using the name Olga Bagdonova, Conner sang for more than a year and a half with a Russian musical group.[3]

In 1949 she appeared in a Camel commercial which shows her smoking in her dressing room just after the 10-minute call: "They're mild and they agree with my throat."[6] She was featured in similar advertising in print media, such as an ad in Life magazine's May 22, 1950, issue.[7]

She made numerous guest appearance in European opera houses, starting in 1953 and was also heard in a wide range of concert repertoire. She made a notable recording of the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem with conductor Bruno Walter.

She became an acclaimed performer, excelling not only in Mozart, but gathering acclaim for her interpretation of Mimi in La Boheme, and an especially thrilling Violetta in La Traviata. She was comfortable in both lyric and coloratura roles. In all, she performed 249 times at the Met, retiring in 1960.[1] She recorded with CBS, Cetra, Melodram, Discocorp, and Camden.

Personal life[edit]

While studying music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, she was married to a classmate for two years. His last name was Conner, which she took as her stage last name.[1] She later remarried in 1939 to Dr Laurance Heacock, a surgeon, with whom she moved to Southern California in 1970. They had two children, a daughter, Sue Lynn, and a son, Loren. They later settled in Cypress, California, where she taught singing. They were still married when he died in 1987.[1]


In her personal life following her musical career, she was a staunch Republican, and took pride in the fact that, when meeting actor Ronald Reagan socially, she urged him to run for public office.[citation needed]


She died in Los Angeles on March 1, 2003. Her New York Times obituary gave her year of birth as 1907[8] and her age at death as 96, as did other sources, most notably, Variety. Some sources have since incorrectly cited 1913 or 1914 as her year of birth. Widowed since 1987, Nadine Conner was survived by her two children, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.


  1. ^ a b c d e Pasles, Chris (March 5, 2003). "Nadine Conner, 96; Compton Native Was Lyric Soprano". Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2016-08-13. 
  2. ^ Villamil, Victoria Etnier (2004). From Johnson's Kids to Lemonade Opera: The American Classical Singer Comes of Age. UPNE. p. 110. ISBN 9781555536350. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d Reilly, William (July 11, 1937). "Nadine Conner's Fate Foretold at Age of Two". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. p. 57. Retrieved August 13, 2016 – via  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4. P. 302.
  5. ^ Forbes, Elizabeth (April 8, 2003). "Nadine Conner". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Commercial starts at 27.31
  7. ^ "(Camel advertisement)". Life. May 22, 1950. p. 170. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (2003-03-10). "Nadine Conner, Lyric Soprano With the Met, Dies at 96". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-07-25. 

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