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An Opera Star is Born

James Carlton Gauld [W1922] was a local boy and possessed of many talents. He graduated from Crawfordsville High School in 1918 and came to Wabash to study. His father was a pharmacist and big supporter of Wabash publications as indicated by the ad below which ran in many issues of The Bachelor.

It seems that Carlton was not the only talented member of his family as there are records of his sister, Carolyn, a contralto singing at various campus activities, well into the 1940s.

Carolyn married and lived the remainder of her life here in Crawfordsville. Lucky for us as it drew her brother back to town on a regular basis.

For the alumni reunion of June, 1930 The Bachelor mentions his return and also that he “…just returned from a five month’s stay in France…returning there in a few days…” Gauld was studying with a master opera teacher in France.

So who was J. Carlton Gauld and why is there a mention of his return for the reunion? To put it mildly, Gauld was a pretty big man on campus. Here are a few clips from the Bachelor that illustrate the point.

Active in the Wabash theater, in 1919 Gauld was elected President of that group. In addition to his acting and singing, Gauld could also play the piano and the violin at an astonishingly high level. To fully appreciate his standing on campus, here is a brief snapshot of his Wabash career, the title says a lot.

Among his many accomplishments while a student were his oratorical skills, as highlighted in the following article from The Bachelor. Side note: unless specified, all articles here are from The Bachelor.

This win at the state oratorical contest propelled Gauld to the regional held in South Dakota.

Competing against speakers from all of the Midwest proved to be too tough for our man Gauld. Here is a summary of the competition.

Speechifying was just one of Gauld’s many talents. Stories abound in The Bachelor of his excellent work associated with the glee club. It was his voice that would, in time, take him to the top of the opera world.

He first studied with an opera master in Cannes, France and appeared on the French stage for several seasons. Here is an article with details of his path to the Met in New York City.

The 1930’s were a very good decade for Gauld.

In addition to this report from The Bachelor on Gauld’s Metropolitan performance we also have this review from the New York Times of February 20, 1938:

‘FAUST’ TURNS UP AT METROPOLITAN

Opera Stages Goundo Classic, Once Its Most Popular Work, in 12th Week of Season

GAULD REPLACES PINZA

Makes Return Appearance as Mephistopheles – Vina Bovy in Role of Marguerite

The change in operatic taste is in no way more surely indicated than by the fact that the Metropolitan Opera House, once dubbed the “Faustpielhaus,” just got around last night to Gounod’s masterpiece at the tail-end of its season’s twelfth week. Perhaps, in these days when men are selling their souls for power and empire, the spectacle of a man accepting a similar bargain for mere youth seems somewhat ridiculous. Nevertheless, the opera was attended by a packed house cordially responsive to its tale.

The novel elements of last night’s cast were Vina Bovy’s first assumption of the role of Marguerite and the Mephistopheles of Carlton Gauld, who replaced the indisposed Ezio Pinza. Miss Bovy’s Marguerite is well in the line of tradition ingratiating both to the eye and ear. Her “Jewel Song” was a brilliant, though sufficiently satisfying to have gained a warm reception.

Although he sang within a restricted vocal range, Mr. Gauld acted with smiling zest and made a pleasant enough Devil who, incidentally, used excellent French. This was really a return appearance for Mr. Gauld, for he sang with the Metropolitan in the season of 1931-32.

Charles Kullman’s Faust and Richard Bonelli’s Valentin cast healthy-voiced and well-appearing; both were especially enjoyed by the audience. The roles of Siebel, Marthe and Wagner were filled adequately by Helen Olheim, Thelma Votipka and Wilfred Engelman, respectively. Wilfred Pelletier conducted. G.G.

Here is another article from The Bachelor about a 1941 visit to Wabash by Gauld.

By 1941 Gauld is on another return visit, having left Paris where he was appearing in the Opera Comique. Living in Paris at the start of World War II must have been quite an experience. Happily Gauld made it out of Europe and returned to New York City.

By 1967 Gauld was teaching at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. His title as reported on an alumni questionnaire was Stage Director, Opera Theatre and Workshop. He married Becky Pearce who predeceased him. They had no children.

J. Carlton Gauld is yet another example of future excellence predicted by his many notable achievements while a student. He left Wabash and Crawfordsville behind, but never forgot either. He returned on a regular basis and often performed locally while here. Thus we can say that it was here at Wabash that a star was born!

All best,

Beth Swift

Archivist

Wabash College