Gluck, Alma

Nee Riba Fiensohn. Opera Singer. Born Iasi, Romania, May 11, 1884. Immigrated to the US with her family around 1894. Her father Leon was a violinist and her mother Zara had a “beautiful singing voice,” although she never did any serious performing. Riba graduated from Hunter College and married Bernard Glick, an insurance executive many years her senior, in 1902. Although an unhappy marriage, Riba had a daughter, the author Marcia Davenport. In 1906, she began to study with Arturo Buzzi-Peccia, one of New York’s finest vocal instructors. Riba was signed to the Metropolitan Opera around 1909. When she signed with the Met, Riba took the stage name Alma Gluck with the encouragement of Arturo Toscanini. Her first stage appearance was as Sophie in Massenet’s Werther. During that season she sang 11 different roles, of which 9 had not been studied by her previously. She was one of the first America artists who gained recognition in opera and on the concert stage without European training. At the Met, she sang with Caruso, Alessandro Bonci and other greats. She was considered one of the most gifted voices of her day. She was one of the first American artists who gained recognition in opera and on the concert stage without European training. She left the opera after only a couple of years to become a concert singer and make recordings for homesick infantrymen during WWI. Her recording of “Carry Me Back to Old Virginie” became a million-selling record, possibly the first in history (RCA Red Seal). Riba eventually divorced her first husband and married the violinist, Efrom Zimbalist Sr. in 1914. She is the mother of Efrom Zimbalist Jr., an actor, as well as a daughter, Maria. While at the opera, her address was Harbor Head, Fishers Island, NY. She returned from singing to settle in West Hartford, CT, where she became something of a society matron. She died October 27, 1938. A website devoted to Gluck has many family photos at: