Norwegian Opera Singer Sought Broadway Fame

 By Katie Knight Christian Christiansen had big American dreams. It wasn’t the American Dream — he had no desire to own his own plot of land and farm it or to raise cattle and work his way up through the social ladder. His dreams were far more expansive and a little more unique: Broadway theater. Christiansen, who would become my great-great-grandfather, was an aspiring opera singer. He had risen to some notoriety in his home country of Norway, but realized that to have a richer musical career, he’d have to go somewhere bigger to pursue his great dream. So, Christiansen packed up his belongings and convinced his soon-to-be wife Kristence to join him on a voyage to the United States. The couple, plus some of their extended family, boarded the RMS Saxonia in Britain and landed on the Boston shore in late November 1904. The couple moved to “Little Norway” in Brooklyn and were married in September 1905. Their neighborhood, full of Norwegians, was so packed with other families named Christiansen that the newlyweds decided to change their name and make the mailman’s job easier. Shortly after their wedding, they became Christian and Kristence Lanner, having chosen to name themselves after a their hometown on the Norwegian coast. Thus, Christian Lanner pursued a singing career in New York City. His days consisted of voice lessons and rehearsals in addition...

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