Emogene Marjorie Turtle performed with such groups as the San Francisco Opera.

Obituary: Ex-opera singer Emogene Turtle was devoted to music

Published: Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B

Emogene Marjorie Turtle, who taught music in Sacramento after an exciting but demanding career as an opera singer, died Aug. 13 of age-related complications, her family said. She was 90.

Mrs. Turtle settled in the Rosemont community in 1959. She taught voice, classical guitar and piano lessons in her home for many years and organized student recitals.

She started teaching after singing professionally for many years in venues ranging from clubs and meeting halls to churches, synagogues and opera houses. She performed under the names Emogene Hurd and Emogene Cornwell.

She started working in small clubs after graduating from Oakland High School in 1939. She performed in light opera, which led to contralto and mezzo-soprano roles with the San Francisco Opera and other opera companies. She was cast in major productions of "Tosca," "Madame Butterfly" and other popular works by Giacomo Puccini.

Behind the scenes, Mrs. Turtle struggled as a single mother. Although singing paid relatively little, she refused to give up her love of music for a more traditional job, said her daughter Mindy Cecchettini.

"She was basically eking out a living," her daughter said. "Back in the early 1950s, for most people, you didn't make a lot of money in opera. She worked really hard at it."

Mrs. Turtle was born Dec. 21, 1921, in Carlin, Nev., to Marvin and Malinda Hurd. Her father was a concert pianist, and her mother was a concert violinist.

She was predeceased by her husband, Walter Turtle, after about 50 years of marriage. She had a daughter from an earlier marriage that ended in divorce.

Mrs. Turtle traveled to many countries and enjoyed gardening. She moved several years ago to a residential care home in Citrus Heights, where she taught employees how to play the piano.

"The music was still there," Cecchittini said.

Besides her daughter, who lives in Sloughhouse, Mrs. Turtle is survived by a sister, Leona Guastavino of Jamestown, two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

No services are planned. Donations may be made to the San Francisco Opera Guild, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102, attn: Susan Malott, managing director.

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