Frances Alda was born Fanny Jane Davis in Christchurch, New Zealand on 31 May 1879. Her parents divorced; her mother moved to Australia, then died, and meanwhile she sang in productions of Gilbert & Sullivan in Melbourne before leaving Australia for Europe at the age of 22 to study and pursue an international singing career like her future soprano rival Nellie Melba. After receiving lessons in Paris from the renowned teacher Mathilde Marchesi, who gave her her stage name, Alda made her debut at the Opéra Comique in 1904. She appeared at London’s Covent Garden in 1906, and at La Scala Milan, during the 1906-08 seasons. On 7 December 1908 Alda made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera where former La Scala impressario Giulio Gatti-Casazza had recently been appointed director (where he remained until 1940). On 4 April 1910, Alda and Gatti-Casazza married. She was his first wife; they divorced in 1928. At the Metropolitan Opera she formed a famous pairing with the celebrated tenor Enrico Caruso. She remarried in 1941 and retired to Long Island. She died on 18 September 1952 in Venice, Italy. She wrote an autobiography: Frances Alda, Men, Women and Tenors (1937).
According to American Art News, New York, March 19, 1910, Muller-Ury was painting Miss Frances Alda just before she married Mr. Gatti-Casazza on April 4, 1910. The portrait ‘…shows the singer in street costume. It is a graceful arrangement of drapery, and a nice bit of colour.’