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Collection Guide
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Tivoli / Valerga Collection
991.49  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
In 1849, Antoinetta Damonte and Bartolomeo Valerga left their native Genoa and eloped on a ship bound for Boston. After several years, during which they had four children, the couple decided to move to California, eventually settling in San Francisco in 1854. Music was a way of life in the Valerga home perched atop Russian Hill, and later on an Oakland ranch where the family had a theater constructed. All the children were taught to paint, sing opera, and play piano. Nine of their eleven children went on to dominate San Francisco playbills from 1870 until the 1930’s; the next generation, in turn, populated the ranks of the region’s composers, vocalists, actresses, screenwriters and artists. Many were stars at the Tivoli Opera House and Francis “Frank” Valerga (1854-1904) among others founded the Valerga Opera Company. This collection documents the lives and careers of various members of the Valerga Family from 1869 through 1939. The collection is divided into five different sections, the first four designated to materials relating to individual members of the family (Ida, Frank, Kate and Tillie) and the last to related materials. Materials in the collection include clippings, correspondence, photographs, programs, vocal scores, drawings, a scrapbook, photo albums, costumes, and miscellaneous ephemera.
Background
In 1849, Antoinetta Damonte and Bartolomeo Valerga left their native Genoa and eloped on a ship bound for Boston. After several years, during which they had four children, the couple was lured by tales of gold-filled rivers running through the California Mountains; they left Boston in 1853, tried their luck in the gold country and settled in San Francisco in 1854. Antoinetta taught each of her children (eleven in all) to paint, to sing opera, and to accompany each other on the piano, enabling them to become cultural assets to the burgeoning community. Music was a way of life in the Valerga home perched atop Russian Hill, and later on an Oakland ranch where the family had a theater constructed. Bartolomeo, the patriarch of the clan, died in 1906. Nine of their eleven children went on to dominate San Francisco playbills from 1870 until the 1930’s; the next generation, in turn, populated the ranks of the region’s composers, vocalists, actresses, screenwriters and artists. These include: Bartolomeo Valerga (1825-1906) patriarch of the Valerga Family, Domenico Riccardo “Dick” Valerga (b.1849), a leading baritone at the Tivoli Opera House, Ida Valerga (b.1851), the most famous member of the Valerga family who sang at La Scala when she was 22 and performed before the Tsar, for Kaiser Wilhelm and at Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee, Mathilde “Tillie” Valerga Apel (b.1853), a Tivoli Opera singer called “The Moon” due to her renowned beauty and lilting light opera voice, Francis “Frank” Valerga (1854-1904), a founder of the Valerga Opera Company who took members of his company to Africa to perform at diamond camps during the diamond rush (called “The Tenor of San Francisco”), Eda and Nina Valerga, sisters, both of whom performed at the Tivoli Opera House, Kate Valerga Marchi (b.1857), a fabled salon singer and Tivoli Opera performer, Robert Valerga (1872-1900), a French horn player and member of an early symphony orchestra in San Francisco, Johnny Valerga, a clarinetist who performed with both the orchestra and the Valerga Opera Company, Thomas Valerga (d.1955), a celebrated cornet player who played with the John Philip Sousa Band, the early symphony and the Valerga Opera Company, and Richard “Peter” Valerga (d. 1958), a pianist who performed with both the San Francisco Symphony and the Valerga Opera Company. This is not the entire roster of Valerga’s who have performed, but it does encompass the beginnings of the family whose presence had a major impact on the San Francisco arts community. Some descendants of the Valerga Family still live in the Bay Area and continue to play active roles in the arts.
Extent
16 Boxes. 13.3 linear feet.
Restrictions
Reproduction of these materials can occur only if the copying falls within the provisions of the doctrine of fair use. Copyright varies by item.
Availability
Entire Collection is open for research.