This is a very fictionalized version of the life of Olive Fremstad (Anna Olivia Rundquist), an opera star of the times – Cather was a good friend.
Born into a large Swedish immigrant family with a minister father, young Thea Kronberg discovers her musical ability quite early. She was assisted by some community residents she is able to leave the tiny Colorado town and study in Chicago – to start. This is the story of how a very ambitious young woman leaves the things most people want, is inspired by her own forces, and aims for the top rungs of her career and abilities, her passion, her art.
This is the third of Cather’s “Prairie novels,” and I think my preference is My Antonia, O Pioneers and then Song of the Lark. But my favorite Cather will always be Death Comes For the Archbishop.
Photos of Olive Fremstad
More info on Fremstad (the stories are really quite similar in some respects)