Opera singer. Kellogg was born on July 12, 1842, in Sumter, the daughter of George Kellogg and Jane Elizabeth Crosby. Her uncle was the notable American physician and botanist Albert Kellogg. Shortly after her birth, the Kellogg family moved to Connecticut. Because both of her parents were gifted musically, Clara was exposed to music early in her childhood. By adolescence Clara was regarded as being skilled, especially as a singer.
In 1857 the Kellogg family moved to New York. After completing her general education at Ashland Seminary and Musical Institute at Catskill, New York, she commenced intensive vocal training in New York City. In 1861 she made her debut at the Academy of Music as Gilda in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. The outbreak of the Civil War forced a cancellation of her first major national tour. Within two years, however, she had gained further acclaim as Marguerite, the heroine of Charles Gounod’s Faust. Although strongly identified with that particular role, Kellogg would perform the majority of the lyric and dramatic soprano roles in the opera literature. By the height of her career, she had sung more than forty roles.
Kellogg made her European debut in 1867 at Covent Garden in London. During the next decade she toured extensively throughout Europe and North America, becoming one of the first American operatic singers to gain an international reputation. By 1873 she had formed her own touring company, the Clara Kellogg English Opera Company, which advertised itself with the slogan “opera for the people.” Kellogg sought to familiarize American audiences with the European opera repertoire. Consequently, her company’s performances were sung in English, rather than Italian, German, or French. The troupe disbanded in 1876 after enjoying only moderate success.
In 1887 Kellogg married Carl Strakosch, a well-known New York musical impresario. The couple had no children of their own but did adopt a child. They resided at Kellogg’s estate, Elpstone, in New Hartford, Connecticut. Following her marriage, Kellogg stopped touring, and she had ceased performing in public by 1890. She became a respected teacher to a series of gifted younger vocalists, frequently providing financial assistance to numerous struggling musical artists. In 1913 she published an autobiography, Memoirs of an American Prima Donna. Following a lengthy illness, Kellogg died at Elpstone on May 13, 1916.
Kellogg, Clara Louise. Memoirs of an American Prima Donna. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1913.