Thea Kronborg, the daughter of the Swedish Methodist pastor in Moonstone, Colorado. She is a grave, shyly awkward girl in whom a few perceptive people see qualities of imagination and desire still without shape or direction. A down-at-the-heels German pianist finds in her the promise of great talent as a musician and tries to explain to her that beside the artist’s vision of fulfillment, the world and all life are petty and small. Dr. Howard Archie, a physician poorly adjusted to the community in which he practices, hopes that she will realize in her life the things he has missed in his. Her eccentric Aunt Tilly claims that the day is coming when Moonstone will be proud of Thea. Ray Kennedy, a young railroad conductor, has fallen in love with Thea and is waiting to marry her when she grows older. The German musician teaches her all he can before he leaves town after one of his drunken sprees. When Ray Kennedy is killed in a wreck, he leaves Thea six hundred dollars in life insurance. She uses that money to go to Chicago to study piano under Andor Harsanyi, who discovers that her true talent is in her voice. She then takes lessons from Madison Bowers, a celebrated voice teacher. He introduces her to Fred Ottenburg, the heir to a brewery fortune and an enthusiastic art amateur. The young beer baron takes an interest in Thea and arranges singing engagements for her. When she reaches a point of physical and spiritual exhaustion, he sends her to his father’s ranch in Arizona for a rest. There, exploring the ruins of an ancient civilization, she has an almost mystic vision of art as the discipline of form imposed on raw materials, as in Indian pottery. Accepting Ottenburg’s proposal of marriage, she goes to Mexico with him, only to learn that he already has a wife from whom he is estranged. With money borrowed from Dr. Archie, she goes to Germany to continue her studies. After her first success abroad, she returns to make a triumphant career as an opera star, and she marries Ottenburg after his wife’s death. Harsanyi declares that the secret of Thea’s success is passion. Thea’s story is based in part on the career of Olive Fremstad.
Herr A. Wunsch
Herr A. Wunsch, Thea Kronborg’s piano teacher in Moonstone. Formerly a distinguished musician and now ruined by drink, he drifts into Moonstone and is temporarily reclaimed from his sodden ways by Fritz Kohler, a German tailor, and his wife. They give Wunsch a home and look after him while he resumes his career as a teacher. He is the first to discover Thea’s musical talent. Eventually, he relapses into his old habits, goes on a wild drunken spree, and leaves town. His parting gift to Thea is the tattered score of Christoph Gluck’s Orpheus, which he had saved from his student days.
Dr. Howard Archie
Dr. Howard Archie, an imaginative, sympathetic doctor who becomes interested in Thea after he attends her during an attack of pneumonia. Hoping to save her from the mediocrity of Moonstone life in which he himself has been trapped, he suggests that she use the insurance money from Ray Kennedy to continue her musical studies. Later, his own affairs prosper from the development of some mining property, and he becomes active in business and political life in Denver. He follows Thea’s career with interest and lends her the money to study abroad. Better than anyone else, he understands the miracle of chance and endeavor that carries Thea from the crudeness and vulgarity of a Colorado mountain town to her great career as a singer.
Belle Archie, the doctor’s wife, a fanatical woman engaged in a constant campaign against dust. She dies as the result of her passion for cleanliness, when gasoline she is using to clean furniture explodes, burning her and the house.
Fritz Kohler, a German-born tailor, one of the first settlers in...
(The entire section is 1620 words.)