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Special Collections Online at UT

Margaret Graeme Canning Collection

Identifier: MS-2114

  • Staff Only

The eighteen boxes of the Margaret Graeme Canning collection contain a wealth of information about both Margaret Graeme herself and about her mother, Mary Margaret Hoskins Canning (Mary Margaret was usually called Margaret, and her daughter was known as Margaret Graeme in order to distinguish between them). Margaret Graeme's section of the collection is comprised primarily of opera programs and memorabilia pertaining to her various performances. These performances took place in multiple countries, including Germany, the United States, Bulgaria, and Belgium. Other items include reel-to-reel audio tapes of some of Margaret Graeme's performances, reviews of those performances, information about opera competitions, scrapbooks, correspondence, financial information, items from several educational institutions, and assorted other memorabilia. Margaret Hoskins Canning's portion of the collection contains University of Tennessee memorabilia, examples of her writing (dating primarily from her time at UT), genealogical information, scrapbooks dealing with several different phases of her life, and a wealth of correspondence.

In order to appreciate this collection, it is important to understand something of Margaret Graeme's voice. In the broadest possible terms, she was a soprano. The category of soprano, however, can be further subdivided into coloratura, lyric, spinto, and dramatic sopranos. Although she began her career as a spinto soprano, Margaret Graeme sang the majority of her performances as a dramatic soprano. The dramatic soprano (often associated with Wagner's operas) has the lowest, darkest, and most powerful voice among the sopranos, and so is able to make herself heard over large orchestras and other singers. Because of this ability, the dramatic soprano is often assigned to the most challenging roles, many of which are leads. As a spinto soprano, Margaret Graeme sang such parts as Cho-Cho San's mother in Madame Butterfly and Lenora in Il Trovatore. As a dramatic soprano, she sang such roles as Senta in Der fliegende Holländer, Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, Turnadot in Turnadot, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Judith in Herzog Blaubart's Burg, Tosca in Tosca, and Amelia in Maskenball. It should be noted that several of these roles, especially Amelia, Tosca, and Santuzza, can be sung by either dramatic or spinto sopranos, and there appears to be considerable disagreement as to exactly which type of voice each part is best suited to.


  • 1870-2001 (Bulk 1906-2001)

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


26.875 Linear Feet


The Margaret Graeme Canning Collection is composed of scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, opera programs, awards and certificates of achievement, reel-to-reel audio tapes, correspondence, publications, and photographs dealing with the lives of Margaret Graeme Canning and her mother, Mary Margaret Hoskins Canning.

Biographical/Historical Note

Margaret Graeme Canning, the second of three sisters, was born on August 19, 1941 in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1949, her family moved to Tucson, Arizona. Upon her graduation from Tucson High School in 1959, she began her career in opera at the University of Southern California. Here, she performed in such productions as Jenufa and Peter Grimes while studying in the University's excellent music program. She graduated (with honors) with her Bachelor's Degree in Music in 1963 and again in with her Master's Degree in 1970. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she went to Europe to pursue her operatic career. In 1964, she debuted as Santuzza in the Bayerische Staatsoper München's production of Cavalleria Rusticana. Because this large house offered few opportunities for a young and relatively inexperienced singer like Margaret Graeme, she went to work with the Landestheater Detmold, a small house in Northern Germany, as its lead soprano.

In 1966, while on vacation in Tucson, Margaret Graeme was struck by a car and sustained serious injuries to her back. Although the brace she had to wear as a result was very detrimental to her ability to perform, Margaret Graeme finished her contract in Detmold. Through the early 1970s, she sang guest roles with the Bulgarian and Belgian National Operas.

Margaret Graeme returned to Tucson permanently in 1973. That year, she made her American debut in one of her favorite roles, Tosca, in the Tucson Opera Company's production of Tosca. She stopped singing opera professionally a few years later and turned instead to producing and directing. Margaret Graeme was also active in the Tucson community, serving as a teacher's aide in the Tucson Unified School District and competing at local and state events. She died on August 6, 2001, leaving behind an important musical legacy.

Margaret Graeme's mother, Mary Margaret Hoskins Canning, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 22, 1904 to Lynn Wood and Bettie Lewis Ayres Hoskins. After her graduation from Knoxville High School, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee. She graduated with her bachelor's degree in History in 1927, and again with her Master's degree in 1929. Margaret was an avid writer during this period, writing for both the Knoxville Journal and various University of Tennessee publications, for example Mugwump and The Orange and White.

On June 22, 1931, Margaret Hoskins married Graeme Alexander Canning (October 05, 1900-March 14, 1987) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Although Margaret ceased writing professionally during this period, she was very active in Knoxville social groups, including the Ossoli Circle and the Junior League. In 1949, the Canning family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where Graeme Canning worked as a land developer. Margaret was active there as well, not only raising three daughters but also involving herself deeply in the Tucson community and becoming an avid golfer. Once her children were grown, Margaret began writing again and also taught classes at the Instituto Allende in Mexico during her family's annual summer vacations there. Margaret Hoskins Canning died on December 15, 1997 in Tucson, Arizona.


Collection consists of eighteen boxes divided into two series: Mary Margaret Hoskins Canning and Margaret Graeme Canning.

Acquisition Note

Margaret Graeme Canning left this collection to the University of Tennessee in her will, which was executed in 2001.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA