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Title: Great Singers, Second Series - Malibran To Titiens
Author: Ferris, George T. (George Titus), 1840-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Copyright, 1881, By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.


In the preparation of this companion volume of "Great Singers," the
same limitations of purpose have guided the author as in the case of
the earlier book, which sketched the lives of the greatest lyric artists
from Faustina Bordoni to Henrietta Sontag. It has been impossible to
include any but those who stand incontestably in the front rank of the
operatic profession, except so far as some account of the lesser lights
is essential to the study of those artistic lives whose names make the
captions of these sketches. So, too, it has been attempted to embody, in
several of the articles, intelligent, if not fully adequate, notice of
a few of the greatest men singers, who, if they have not aroused as
deep an enthusiasm as have those of the other sex, are perhaps justly
entitled to as much consideration on art grounds. It will be observed
that the great living vocalists have been excluded from this book,
except those who, having definitely retired from the stage, may be
considered as dead to their art. This plan has been pursued, not from
any undervaluation of the Pattis, the Nilssons, and the Luccas of the
present musical stage, but because, in obeying that necessity imposed by
limitation of space, it has seemed more desirable to exclude those whose
place in art is not yet finally settled, rather than those whose names
belong to history, and who may be seen in full perspective.

The material from which this little book is compiled has been drawn from
a variety of sources, among which may be mentioned the three works of
Henry F. Chorley, "Music and Manners in France and Germany," "Modern
German Music," and "Thirty Years' Musical Kecollections"; Sutherland
Edwards's "History of the Opera"; Fetis's "Biographie des Musiciens";
Ebers's "Seven Years of the King's Theatre"; Lumley's "Reminiscences";
Charles Hervey's "Theatres of Paris"; Arsène Houssaye's "Galerie
de Portraits"; Countess de Merlin's "Mémoires de Madame Malibran";
Ox-berry's "Dramatic Biography and Histrionic Anecdotes"; Crowest's
"Musical Anecdotes" and Mrs. Clayton's "Queens of Song."



The Childhood of Maria Garcia.--Her Father's Sternness and Severe
Discipline.--Her First Appearance as an Artist on the Operatic
Stage.--Her Genius and Power evident from the Beginning.--Anecdotes
of her Early Career.--Manuel Garcia's Operatic Enterprise in New
York.--Maria Garcia is inveigled into marrying M. Malibran.--Failure of
the Garcia Opera, and Maria's Separation from her Husband.--She
makes her _Début_ in Paris with Great Success.--Madame Malibran's
Characteristics as a Singer, a Genius, and a Woman.--Anecdotes of her
Generosity and Kindness.--She sings in a Great London Engagement.--Her
Eccentric and Daring Methods excite Severe Criticism.--Her Reckless
Expenditure of Strength in the Pursuit of her Profession or
Pleasures.--Madame Malibran's Attachment to De Bériot.--Anecdotes of
her Public and Private Career.--Malibran in Italy, where she becomes
the Popular Idol.--Her Last London Engagement.--Her Death at Manchester
during the Great Musical Festival


Mme. Schröder-Devrient the Daughter of a Woman of Genius.--Her Early
Appearance on the Dramatic Stage in Connection with her Mother.--She
studies Music and devotes herself to the Lyric Stage.--Her Operatic
_Début_ in Mozart's "Zauberflote."--Her Appearance and Voice.--Mlle.
Schröder makes her _Début_ in her most Celebrated Character,
_Fidelio_.--Her own Description of the First Performance.--A Wonderful
Dramatic Conception.--Henry Chorley's Judgment of her as a Singer and
Actress.--She marries Carl Devrient at Dresden.--Mme. Schröder-Devrient
makes herself celebrated as a Representative of Weber's Romantic
Heroines.--Dissolution of her Marriage.--She makes Successful
Appearances in Paris and London in both Italian and German
Opera.--English Opinions of the German Artist.--Anecdotes of her London
Engagement.--An Italian Tour and Reëngagements for the Paris and London
Stage.--Different Criticisms of her Artistic Style.--Retirement from the
Stage, and Second Marriage.--Her Death in 1860, and the Honors paid to
the Memory of her Genius


The Childhood of a Great Artist.--Giulietta Grisi's Early Musical
Training.--Giuditta Grisi's Pride in the Talents of her Young
Sister.--Her Italian _Début_ and Success.--She escapes from a Managerial
Taskmaster and takes Refuge in Paris.--Impression made on French
Audiences.--Production of Bellini's "Puritani."--Appearance before the
London Public.--Character of Grisi's Singing and Acting.--Anecdotes of
the Prima Donna.--Marriage of Mlle. Grisi.--Her Connection with
Other Distinguished Singers.--Kubini, his Character as an Artist, and
Incidents of his Life.--Tamburini, another Member of the First Great
"Puritani" Quartet.--Lablache, the King of Operatic Bassos.--His Career
as an Artist.--His Wonderful Genius as Singer and Actor.--Advent of
Mario on the Stage.--His Intimate Association with Mme. Grisi as
Woman and Artist.--Incidents of Mario's Life and Character as
an Artist.--Grisi's Long Hold on the Stage for more than a
Quarter-century.--Her American Tour.--Final Retirement from her
Profession.--The Elements of her Greatness as a Goddess of Song


Vicissitudes of the Garcia Family.--Pauline Viardot's Early
Training.--Indications of her Musical Genius.--She becomes a Pupil
of Liszt on the Piano.--Pauline Garcia practically self-trained as a
Vocalist.--Her Remarkable Accomplishments.--Her First Appearance before
the Public with De Bériot in Concert.--She makes her _Début_ in London
as _Desdemona_.--Contemporary Opinions of her Powers.--Description of
Pauline Garcia's Voice and the Character of her Art.--The Originality
of her Genius.--Pauline Garcia marries M. Viardot, a Well-known
_Litterateur_.--A Tour through Southern Europe.--She creates a Distinct
Place for herself in the Musical Art.--Great Enthusiasm in Germany
over her Singing.--The Richness of her Art Resources.--Sketches of the
Tenors, Nourrit and Duprez, and of the Great Barytone, Ronconi.--Mme.
Viardot and the Music of Meyerbeer.--Her Creation of the Part of _Fides_
in "Le Prophète," the Crowning Work of a Great Career.--Retirement from
the Stage.--High Position in Private Life.--Connection with the French


The Tenor Singer Tacchinardi.--An Exquisite Voice and Deformed
Physique.--Early Talent shown by his Daughter Fanny.--His Aversion to
her entering on the Stage Life.--Her Marriage to M. Persiani.--The
Incident which launched Fanny Persiani on the Stage.--Rapid Success as a
Singer.--Donizetti writes one of his Great Operas for her.--_Personnel_,
Voice, and Artistic Style of Mme. Persiani.--One of the Greatest
Executants who ever lived.--Anecdotes of her Italian Tours.--First
Appearance in Paris and London.--A Tour through Belgium with
Ru-bini.--Anecdote of Prince Metternich.--Further Studies of Persiani's
Characteristics as a Singer.--Donizetti composes Another Opera for
her.--Her Prosperous Career and retirement from the Stage.--Last
Appearance in Paris for Mario's Benefit


The Greatest of Contraltos.--Marietta Alboni's Early
Surroundings.--Rossini's Interest in her Career.--First Appearance on
the Operatic Stage.--Excitement produced in Germany by her Singing.--Her
Independence of Character.--Her Great Success in London.--Description
of her Voice and Person.--Concerts in Paris.--The Verdicts of the Great
French Critics.--Hector Berlioz on Alboni's Singing.--She appears in
Opera in Paris.--Strange Indifference of the Audience quickly turned to
Enthusiasm.--She competes favorably in London with Grisi, Persiani,
and Viardot.--Takes the Place of Jenny Lind as Prima Donna at Her
Majesty's.--She extends her Voice into the Soprano Register.--Performs
"Fides" in "Le Prophète."--Visit to America.--Retires from the Stage


The Childhood of the "Swedish Nightingale."--Her First Musical
Instruction.--The Loss and Return of her Voice.--Jenny Lind's
Pupilage in Paris under Manuel Garcia.--She makes the Acquaintance of
Meyerbeer.--Great Sue-cess in Stockholm in "Robert le Diable."--Fredrika
Bremer and Hans Christian Andersen on the Young Singer.--Her _Début_
in Berlin.--Becomes Prima Donna at the Royal Theatre.--Beginning of
the Lind Enthusiasm that overran Europe.--She appears in Dresden in
Meyerbeer's New Opera, "Feldlager in Schliesen."--Offers throng in from
all the Leading Theatres of Europe.--The Grand _Furore_ in Every Part
of Germany.--Description of Scenes in her Musical Progresses.--She makes
her _Début_ in London.--Extraordinary Excitement of the English Public,
such as had never before been known.--Descriptions of her Singing
by Contemporary Critics.--Her Quality as an Actress.--Jenny Lind's
_Personnel_.--Scenes and Incidents of the "Lind" Mania.--Her Second
London Season.--Her Place and Character as a Lyric Artist.--Mlle.
Lind's American Tour.--Extraordinary Enthusiasm in America.--Her
Lavish Generosity.--She marries Herr Otto Goldschmidt.--Present Life of
Retirement in London.--Jenny Lind as a Public Benefactor


The Daughter of an Obscure German Pastor.--She studies Music in
Paris.--Failure of her Voice.--Makes her _Début_ at La Fenice.--She
appears in London during the Lind Excitement.--Description of her
Voice and Person.--A Great Excitement over her Second Appearance
in Italy.--_Début_ in Paris.--Her Grand Impersonation in
"Fidelio."--Critical Estimates of her Genius.--Sophie Cruvelli's
Eccentricities.--Excitement in Paris over her _Valentine_ in "Les
Huguenots."--Different Performances in London and Paris.--She retires
from the Stage and marries Baron Vigier.--Her Professional Status.--One
of the Most Gifted Women of any Age


Born at Hamburg of an Hungarian Family.--Her Early Musical
Training.--First Appearance in Opera in "Lucrezia Borgia."--Romance of
her Youth.--Rapid Extension of her Fame.--Receives a _Congé_ from
Vienna to sing in England.--Description of Mlle. Titiens, her Voice,
and Artistic Style.--The Characters in which she was specially
eminent.--Opinions of the Critics.--Her Relative Standing in
the Operatic Profession.--Her Performances of _Semi-ramide_
and _Medea_.--Latter Years of her Career.--Her Artistic Tour in
America.--Her Death, and Estimate placed on her Genius



The Childhood of Maria Garcia.--Her Father's Sternness and Severe
Discipline.--Her First Appearance as an Artist on the Operatic
Stage.--Her Genius and Power evident from the Beginning.--Anecdotes
of her Early Career.--Manuel Garcia's Operatic Enterprise in New
York.--Maria Garcia is inveigled into marrying M. Malibran.--Failure of
the Garcia Opera, and Maria's Separation from her Husband.--She
makes her _Début_ in Paris with Great Success.--Madame Malibran's
Characteristics as a Singer, a Genius, and a Woman.--Anecdotes of her
Generosity and Kindness.--She sings in a Great London Engagement.--Her
Eccentric and Daring Methods excite Severe Criticism.--Her Reckless
Expenditure of Strength in the Pursuit of her Profession or
Pleasures.--Madame Malibran's Attachment to De Bériot.--Anecdotes of
her Public and Private Career.--Malibran in Italy, where she becomes
the Popular Idol.--Her Last London Engagement.--Her Death at Manchester
during the Great Musical Festival.


With the name of Malibran there is associated an interest, alike
personal and artistic, rarely equaled and certainly unsurpassed among
the traditions which make the records of the lyric stage so fascinating.
Daring originality stamped her life as a woman, her career as an artist,
and the brightness with which her star shone through a brief and stormy
history had something akin in it to the dazzling but capricious passage
of a meteor. If Pasta was the Siddons of the lyric drama, unapproachable
in its more severe and tragic phases, Malibran represented its Garrick.
Brilliant, creative, and versatile, she sang equally well in all styles
of music, and no strain on her resources seemed to overtax the power
of an artistic imagination which delighted in vanquishing obstacles and
transforming native defects into new beauties, an attribute of genius
which she shared in equal degree with Pasta, though it took on a
different manifestation.

This great singer belonged to a Spanish family of musicians, who have
been well characterized as "representative artists, whose power, genius,
and originality have impressed a permanent trace on the record of the
methods of vocal execution and ornament." Her father, Manuel Vicente
Garcia, at the age of seventeen, was already well known as composer,
singer, actor, and conductor. His pieces, short comic operas, had a
great popularity in Spain, and were not only bright and inventive,
but marked by thorough musical workmanship. A month after he made his
_début_ in Paris, in 1811, he had become the chief singer, and sang
for three years under the operatic _regime_ which shared the general
splendor of Napoleon's court. He was afterward appointed first tenor at
Naples by King Joachim Munit, and there produced his opera of "Califo di
Bagdad," which met with great success. It was here that the child Maria,
then only five years old, made her first public appearance in one of
Paer's operas, and here that she received her first lessons in music
from M. Panseron and the composer Hérold. When Garcia quitted Italy
in 1816, he sang with Catalani in Paris, but, as that jealous artist
admitted no bright star near her own, Garcia soon left the troupe, and
went to London in the spring of 1818. He oscillated between the two
countries for several years, and was the first brilliant exponent of the
Rossinian music in two great capitals, as his training and method were
peculiarly fitted to this school. The indomitable energy and ambition
which he transmitted to his daughters, who were to become such
distinguished ornaments of the stage, were not contented with making
their possessor a great executant, for he continued to produce operas,
several of which were put on the stage in Paris with notable success.
Garcia's name as a teacher commenced about the year 1823 to overshadow
his reputation as a singer. In the one he had rivals, in the other he
was peerless. His school of singing quickly became famous, though he
continued to appear on the stage, and to pour forth operas of more than
average merit.

The education of his daughter Maria, born at Paris, March 24, 1808, had
always been a matter of paternal solicitude. A delicate, sensitive, and
willful child, she had been so humored and petted at the convent-school
of Hammersmith, where she was first placed, that she developed a caprice
and a recklessness which made her return to the house of her stern and
imperious father doubly painful, lier experience was a severe one, and
Manuel Garcia was more pitiless to his daughter than to other pupils.
Already at this period Maria spoke with ease Spanish, Italian, French,
and English, to which she afterward added German. The Garcia household
was a strange one. The Spanish musician was a tyrant in his home, and
a savage temper, which had but few streaks of tenderness, frequently
vented itself in blows and brutality, in spite of the remarkable musical
facility with which Maria appropriated teaching, and the brilliant gifts
which would have flattered the pride and softened the sympathies of
a more gentle and complacent parent. The young girl, in spite of
her prodigious instinct for art and her splendid intelligence, had a
peculiarly intractable organ. The lower notes of the voice were very
imperfect, the upper tones thin, disagreeable, and hard, the middle
veiled, and her intonation so doubtful that it almost indicated an
imperfect ear. She would sometimes sing so badly that her father would
quit the piano precipitately and retreat to the farthest corner of the
house with his fingers thrust into his ears. But Garcia was resolved
that his daughter should become what Nature seemingly had resolved she
should not be, a great vocalist, and he bent all the energies of his
harsh and imperious temper to further this result. "One evening I
studied a duet with Maria," says the Countess Merlin, "in which Garcia
had written a passage, and he desired her to execute it. She tried, but
became discouraged, and said, 'I can not.' In an instant the Andalu-sian
blood of her father rose. He fixed his flashing eyes upon her: 'What
did you say?' Maria looked at him, trembled, and, clasping her hands,
murmured in a stifled voice, 'I will do it, papa;' and she executed the
passage perfectly. She told me afterward that she could not conceive how
she did it. 'Papa's glance,' added she, 'has such an influence upon
me that I am sure it would make me fling myself from the roof into the
street without doing myself any harm.'"

Maria Felicia Garcia was a wayward and willful child, but so generous
and placable that her fierce outbursts of rage were followed by the
most fascinating and winning contrition. Irresistibly charming, frank,
fearless, and original, she gave promise, even in her early youth, of
the remarkable qualities which afterward bestowed such a unique and
brilliant _cachet_ on her genius as an artist and her character as a
woman. Her father, with all his harshness, understood her truly, for
she inherited both her faults and her gifts from himself. "Her proud and
stubborn spirit requires an iron hand to control it," he said; "Maria
can never become great except at the price of much suffering." By the
time she had reached the age of fifteen her voice had greatly improved.
Her chest-notes had gained greatly in power, richness, and depth, though
the higher register of the vocal organ still remained crude and veiled.
Fetis says that it was on account of the sudden indisposition of
Madame Pasta that the first public appearance of Maria in opera was
unexpectedly made, but Lord Mount Edgcumbe and the impressario Ebers
both tell a different story. The former relates in his "Reminiscences"
that, shortly after the repair of the King's Theatre, "the great
favorite Pasta arrived for a limited number of nights. About the same
time Konzi fell ill and totally lost her voice, so that she was obliged
to throw up her engagement and return to Italy. Mme. Vestris having
seceded, and Caradori being for some time unable to perform, it became
necessary to engage a young singer, the daughter of the tenor Garcia,
who had sung here for several seasons.... Her extreme youth, her
prettiness, her pleasing voice, and sprightly, easy action as _Rosina_
in 'Il Barbiere,' in which part she made her _début_, gained her general
favor." Chor-ley recalls the impression she made on him at this time in
more precise and emphatic terms: "From the first hour when Maria Garcia
appeared on the stage, first in 'Il Barbiere' and subsequently in
'Il Crociato,' it was evident that a new artist, as original as
extraordinary, was come--one by nature fairly endowed, not merely with
physical powers, but also with that inventive, energetic, rapid genius,
before which obstacles become as nothing, and by the aid of which the
sharpest contradictions become reconciled." She made her _début_ on June
7, 1825, and was immediately engaged for the remaining six weeks of
the season at five hundred pounds. Her first success was followed by a
second in Meyerber's 'Il Crociato,' in which she sang with Velluti, the
last of that extraordinary _genre_ of artists, the male sopranos. Garcia
wrote several arias for her voice, which were interpolated in the opera,
much to Manager Ayrton's disgust, but much also to the young singer's
advantage, for the father knew every defect and every beauty of his
daughter's voice.

If her father was ambitious and daring, Maria was so likewise. She had
to sing with Velluti a duet in Zingarelli's "Romeo e Giulietta," and in
the morning they rehearsed it together, Velluti reserving his fioriture
for the evening, lest the young _débutante_ should endeavor to imitate
his ornaments. In the evening he sang his solo part, embroidering it
with the most florid decorations, and finishing with a new and beautiful
cadenza, which astonished and charmed the audience; Maria seized the
phrases, to which she imparted an additional grace, and crowned her
triumph with an audacious and superb improvisation. Thunders of applause
greeted her, and while trembling with excitement she felt her arm
grasped by a hand of iron. "Briccona!" hissed a voice in her ear, as
Velluti glared on her, gnashing his teeth with rage. After performing
in London, she appeared in the autumn with her father at the Manchester,
York, and Liverpool Festivals, where she sang some of the most difficult
pieces from the "Messiah" and the "Creation." Some said that she failed,
others that she sang with a degree of mingled brilliancy, delicacy, and
sweetness that drew down a storm of applause.


Garcia now conceived a project for establishing Italian opera in the
United States, and with characteristic daring he set sail for America
with a miserable company, of which the only talent consisted of his own
family, comprising himself, his son, daughter, and wife, Mme. Garcia
having been a fairly good artist in her youth. The first opera produced
was "Il Barbiere," on November 29, 1825, and this was speedily
followed by "Tancredi," "Otello," "Il Turco in Italia," "Don Giovanni,"
"Cenerentola," and two operas composed by Garcia himself--"L'Amante
Astuto," and "La Figlia dell' Aria," The young singer's success was of
extraordinary character, and New York, unaccustomed to Italian opera,
went into an ecstasy of admiration. Maria's charming voice and personal
fascination held the public spellbound, and her good nature in the
introduction of English songs, whenever called on by her admirers,
raised the delight of the opera-goers of the day to a wild enthusiasm.

The occurrence of the most unfortunate episode of her life at this time
was the fruitful source of much of the misery and eccentricity of her
after-career. M. François Eugène Malibran, a French merchant, engaged in
business in New York, fell passionately in love with the young singer,
and speedily laid his heart and fortune, which was supposed to be great,
at her feet. In spite of the fact that the suitor was fifty, and Maria
only seventeen, she was disposed to accept the offer, for she was sick
of her father's brutality, and the straits to which she was constantly
put by the exigencies of her dependent situation. Her heart had never
yet awakened to the sweetness of love, and the supposed great fortune
and lavish promises of M. Malibran dazzled her young imagination. Garcia
sternly refused his consent, and there were many violent scenes between
father and daughter. Such was the hostility of feeling between the two,
that Maria almost feared for her life. The following incident is an
expressive comment on the condition of her mind at this time: One
evening she was playing _Des-demona_ to her father's _Othello_, in
Rossini's opera. At the moment when _Othello_ approaches, his eyes
sparkling with rage, to stab _Desdemona_, Maria perceived that her
father's dagger was not a stage sham, but a genuine weapon. Frantic with
terror, she screamed "Papa, papa, for the love of God, do not kill me!"
Her terrors were groundless, for the substitution of the real for a
theatrical dagger was a mere accident. The audience knew no difference,
as they supposed Maria's Spanish exclamation to be good operatic
Italian, and they applauded at the fine dramatic point made by the young

At last the importunate suitor overcame Gar-cia's opposition by agreeing
to give him a hundred thousand francs in payment for the loss of his
daughter's services, and the sacrifice of the young and beautiful singer
was consummated on March 23, 1826. A few weeks later Malibran was a
bankrupt and imprisoned for debt, and his bride discovered how she had
been cheated and outraged by a cunning scoundrel, who had calculated
on saving himself from poverty by dependence on the stage-earnings of
a brilliant wife. The enraged Garcia, always a man of unbridled temper,
was only prevented from transforming one of those scenes of mimic
tragedy with which he was so familiar, into a criminal reality by
assassinating Malibran, through the resolute expostulations of his
friends. Mme. Malibran instantly resigned for the benefit of her
husband's creditors any claims which she might have made on the remnants
of his estate, and her New York admirers had as much occasion to applaud
the rectitude and honor of the woman as they had had the genius of the
artist. Garcia himself, hampered by pecuniary difficulties, set sail
for Mexico with his son and younger daughter, to retrieve his fortunes,
while Maria remained in New York, tied to a wretch whom she despised,
and who looked on her musical talents as the means of supplying him
with the luxuries of life. Mme. Malibran's energy soon found a vent in
English opera, and she made herself as popular on the vernacular as she
had on the Italian stage. But she soon wearied of her hard fate, which
compelled her to toil without ceasing for the support of the man who
had deceived her vilely, and for whom not one spark of love operated to
condone his faults. Five months utterly snapped her patience, and she
determined to return to Paris. She arrived there in September, 1826,
and took up her abode with M. Malibran's sister. Although she had become
isolated from all her old friends, she found in one of the companions of
her days of pupilage, the Countess Merlin, a most affectionate help and
counselor, who spared no effort to make her talents known to the musical
world of Paris, Mme. de Merlin sounded the praises of her friend so
successfully that she soon succeeded in evoking a great degree of public
curiosity, which finally resulted in an engagement.

Malibran's first appearance in the Grand Opéra at Paris was for the
benefit of Mme. Galli, in "Semiramide." It was a terrible ordeal, for
she had such great stars as Pasta and Sontag to compete with, and she
was treading a classic stage, with which the memories of all the great
names in the lyric art were connected. She felt that on the result of
that night all the future success of her life depended. Though her heart
was struck with such a chill that her knees quaked as she stepped on the
stage, her indomitable energy and courage came to her assistance, and
she produced an indescribable sensation. Her youth, beauty, and
noble air won the hearts of all. One difficult phrase proved such a
stumbling-block that, in the agitation of a first appearance, she failed
to surmount it, and there was an apprehension that the lovely singer was
about to fail. But in the grand aria, "Bel Raggio," she indicated such
resources of execution and daring of improvisation, and displayed such a
full and beautiful voice, that the house resounded with the most furious
applause. Mme. Malibran, encouraged by this warm reception, redoubled
the difficulties of her execution, and poured forth lavishness of
fioriture and brilliant cadenzas such as fairly dazzled her hearers.
Paris was conquered, and Mme. Malibran became the idol of the city, for
the novelty and richness of her style of execution set her apart from
all other singers as a woman of splendid inventive genius. She could
now make her own terms with the managers, and she finally gave the
preference to the Italiens over the Grand Opéra, at terms of eight
hundred francs per night, and a full benefit.

In voice, genius, and character Mme. Mali-bran was alike original.
Her organ was not naturally of first-rate quality. The voice was a
mezzo-soprano, naturally full of defects, especially in the middle
tones, which were hard and uneven, and to the very last she was obliged
to go through her exercises every day to keep it flexible. By the
tremendously severe discipline to which she had been subjected by her
father's teaching and method, the range of voice had been extended up
and down so that it finally reached a compass of three octaves from D
in alt to D on the third line in the base. Her high notes had an
indescribable sparkle and brilliancy, and her low tones were so soft,
sweet, and heart-searching that they thrilled with every varying phase
of her sensibilities. Her daring in the choice of ornaments was so great
that it was only justified by the success which invariably crowned her
flights of inventive fancy: To the facility and cultivation of voice,
which came from her father's training, she added a fertility of musical
inspiration which came from nature. A French critic wrote of her:
"Her passages were not only remarkable for extent, rapidity, and
complication, but were invariably marked by the most intense feeling and
sentiment. Her soul appeared in everything she did." Her extraordinary
flexibility enabled her to run with ease over passages of the most
difficult character. "In the tones of Malibran," says one of her English
admirers, "there would at times be developed a deep and trembling
pathos, that, rushing from the fountain of the heart, thrilled instantly
upon a responsive chord in the bosoms of all." She was the pupil of
nature. Her acting was full of genius, passion, and tenderness. She was
equally grand as _Semiramide_ and as _Arsace_, and sang the music of
both parts superbly. Touching, profoundly melancholy as _Desdemona_,
she was gay and graceful in _Rosina_; she drew tears as _Ninetta_, and,
throwing off the coquette, could produce roars of laughter as _Fidalma_.
She had never taken lessons in poses or in declamation, yet she was
essentially, innately graceful. Mme. Malibran was in person about
the middle height, and the contour of her figure was rounded to an
enchanting _embonpoint_, which yet preserved its youthful grace. Her
carriage was exceedingly noble, and the face more expressive than
handsome; her hair was black and glossy, and always worn in a simple
style. The eyes were dark and luminous, the teeth white and regular, and
the countenance, habitually pensive in expression, was mutable in the
extreme, and responsive to every emotion and feeling of the heart. To
quote from Mr. Chorley: "She may not have been beautiful, but she was
better than beautiful, insomuch as a speaking Spanish human countenance
is ten times more fascinating than many a faultless angel-face such as
Guido could paint. There was health of tint, with but a slight touch of
the yellow rose in her complexion; great mobility of expression in her
features; an honest, direct brightness of eye; a refinement in the form
of her head, and the set of it on her shoulders."

When she was reproached by Fetis for using _ad captandum_ effects too
lavishly in the admonition: "With the degree of elevation to which you
have attained, you should impose your opinion on the public, not submit
to theirs," she answered, with a laugh and a shrug of her charming
shoulders: "_Mon cher grognon_, there may perhaps be two or three
connoisseurs in the theatre, but it is not they who give success. When I
sing for you, I will sing very differently." Mme. Malibran, buoyed up
on the passionate enthusiasm of the French public, essayed the most
wonderful and daring flights in her song. She appeared as _Desdemona,
Rosina_, and as _Romeo_ in Zingarelli's opera--characters, of the most
opposing kind and two of them, indeed, among Pasta's masterpieces. It
was said that, "if Malibran must yield the palm to Pasta in point of
acting, yet she possessed a decided superiority in respect of song";
and, even in acting, Malibran's grace, originality, vivacity, piquancy,
spontaneity, feeling, and tenderness, won the heart of all spectators.
Such was her versatility, that the _Semi-ramide_ of one evening was the
_Cinderella_ of the next, the _Zerlina_ of another, and the _Desdemona_
of its successor; and in each the individuality of conception was
admirably preserved. On being asked by a friend which was her favorite
rôle, she answered, "The character I happen to be acting, whichever it
may be."

In spite, however, of the general testimony to her great dramatic
ability, so clever and capable a judge as Henry Chorley rated her
musical genius as far higher than that of dramatic conception. He
says: "Though creative as an executant, Malibran was not creative as
a dramatic artist. Though the fertility and audacity of her musical
invention had no limits, though she had the power and science of a
composer, she did not establish one new opera or character on the stage,
hardly even one first-class song in a concert-room." This criticism,
when closely examined, may perhaps indicate a high order of praise. Mme.
Malibran, as an artist, was so unique and original in her methods, so
incomparable in the invention and skill which required no master to
prompt or regulate her cadences, so complex in the ingenuity which
blended the resources of singing and acting, that other singers simply
despaired of imitating her effects, and what she did perished with her,
except as a brilliant tradition. In other words, her utter superiority
to the conventional made her artistic work phenomenal, and of a style
not to be perpetuated on the stage. The weight of testimony appears to
be that Mme. Malibran was, beyond all of her competitors, a singer of
most versatile and brilliant genius, in whom dramatic instincts reigned
with as dominant force as ability of musical expression. The fact,
however, that Mme. Malibran, with a voice weak and faulty in the extreme
in one whole octave of its range, and that the most important (between
F and F), was able by her matchless skill and audacity in the forms of
execution, modification, and ornament, to achieve the most brilliant
results, might well blind even a keen connoisseur by kindling his
admiration of her musical invention, at the expense of his recognition
of dramatic faculty.

It was characteristic of Mme. Malibran that she fired all her
fellow-artists with the ardor of her genius. Her resources and knowledge
were such that she could sing in any school and any language. The music
of Mozart and Cimarosa, Boïeldieu and Eossini, Cherubini and Bellini,
Donizetti and Meyerbeer, furnished in equal measure the mold into which
her great powers poured themselves with a sort of inspired fury, like
that of a Greek Pythoness. She had an artistic individuality powerful
to create types of its own, which were the despair of other singers, for
they were incapable of reproduction, inasmuch as they were partly forged
from her own defects, transformed by genius into beauties. In all those
accomplishments which have their root in the art temperament, she was a
sort of Admirable Crichton. She played the piano-forte with great skill,
and, with no special knowledge of drawing, possessed marked talent in
sketching caricatures, portraits, and scenes from nature. She composed
both the music and words of songs and romances with a felicitous ease.
She excelled in feminine works, such as embroidery, tapestry, and
dressmaking, and always modeled her own costumes. It was a saying with
her friends that she was as much the artist with her needle as with
her voice. She wrote and spoke five languages, and often used them with
different interlocutors with such readiness and accuracy that she
rarely confused them. Her wit and vivacity as a conversationalist were
celebrated, and her _mots_ had the point as well as the flash of the
diamond. Her retorts and sarcasms often wounded, but she was quick to
heal the stroke by a sweet and childlike contrition that made her doubly

Impassioned, ardent, the prey of an endless excitement, her restless
nature would quickly return from its flights to the every-day duties
and responsibilities of life, and her instincts were so strong and
noble that she was eager to repair any errors into which she might be
betrayed. Lavish in her generosity to others, she was personally frugal,
even penurious. A certain brusque and original frankness, and the
ingenuousness with which she betrayed every impression, often involved
her in compromising positions, which would have been fatal to a woman
in her position less pure and upright in her essential nature. Fond of
dolls, toys, and trifles, she was also devoted to athletic sports and
pastimes, riding, swimming, skating, shooting, and fencing. Sometimes
her return from a fatiguing night at the opera would be marked by an
exuberance of animal spirits, which would lead her to jump over chairs
and tables like a schoolboy. She was wont to say, "When I try to
restrain my flow of spirits, I feel as if I should be suffocated." Her
reckless gayety and unconventional manners led to strange rumors. She
would wander over the country attired in boy's clothes, and without an
escort, and a great variety of innocent escapades led a carping world to
believe that she indulged excessively in stimulants, but the truth was
that she never drank anything but a little wine-and-water.

Maria could not long endure the frowning tutelage of M. Malibran's
sister, whom she at first selected as her chaperon, and so one day she
decamped without warning, in a coach, and established her "household
gods" with Mme. Naldi, an old friend of her father, and a woman of
austere manners, whom she obeyed like a child. Her protector had charge
of all her money, and opened all her letters before Maria saw them.
When her fortune was at his height, Mme. Mali-bran showed her friend and
biographer, Countess do Merlin, a much-worn Cashmere shawl, saying: "I
use this in preference to any that I have. It was the first Cashmere
shawl I ever owned, and I have pleasure in remembering how hard I found
it to coax Mme. Naldi to let me buy it."

In 1828 the principal members of the operatic company at the Italiens
were Malibran, Sontag, Donzelli, Zuchelli, and Graziani. Malibran sang
in "Otello," "Matilda di Shabran," "La Cenerentola," and "La Gazza
Ladra." Jealous as she was by temperament, she always wept when
Madamoiselle Sontag achieved a great success, saying, naively, "Why does
she sing so divinely?" The coldness between the two great singers was
fomented by the malice of others, but at last a touching reconciliation
occurred, and the two rivals remained ever afterward sincere friends and
admirers of each other's talents. There are many charming anecdotes of
Madame Malibran's generosity and quick sympathy. At the house of one of
her friends she often met an aged widow, poor and unhappy, and strongly
desired to assist her; but the position and character of the lady
required delicate management. "Madame," she said at last, "I know that
your son makes very pretty verses." "Yes, madame, he sometimes amuses
himself in that way. But he is so young!" "No matter. Do you know that
I could propose a little partnership affair? Troupenas [the music
publisher] has asked me for a new set of romances. I have no words
ready. If your son will give them to me, we could share the profits."
Mme. Malibran received the verses, and gave in exchange six hundred
francs. The romances were never finished.

She performed all such acts of charity with so much refined delicacy,
such true generosity, that the kindness was doubled. Thus, at the end
of this season, a young female chorister, engaged for the opening of the
King's Theatre, found herself unable to quit Paris for want of funds.
Mme. Malibran promised to sing at a concert which some of the leading
vocalists gave for her benefit. The name of Malibran of course drew a
crowd, and the room was filled; but she did not appear, and at last they
were obliged to commence the concert. The entertainment was half over
when she came, and approached the young girl, saying to her in a low
voice: "I am a little late, my dear, but the public will lose nothing,
for I will sing all the pieces announced. In addition, as I promised you
all my evening, I will keep my word. I went to sing in a concert at the
house of the Duc d'Orléans, where I received three hundred francs. They
belong to you. Take them."


In April of the same year during which Mme. Malibran had established
herself so firmly in the admiration of the Parisian world, she accepted
an engagement for the summer months with La-porte of the King's Theatre
in London. She made her _début_ in the character of _Desdemona_, a part
which had already been firmly fixed in the notions of the musical public
by the two differing conceptions of Pasta and Sontag. The opera had been
originally written for Mme. Colbran, Rossini's wife, and when it was
revived for Pasta that great lyric tragedienne had embodied in it a
grand, stormy, passionate style, suited to the _genre_ of her genius.
Mme. Sontag, on the other hand, fashioned her impersonation from the
side of delicate sentiment and tenderness, and Malibran had a difficult
task in shaping the conception after an ideal which should escape the
reproach of imitation. Her version was full of electric touches
and rapid alternations of feeling, but at times it bordered on the
sensational and extravagant. Her fiery vehemence was often felt to be
inconsistent with the tenderness of the heroine. The critics, while
admitting the varied and original beauties of her reading, were yet
severe in their condemnation of some of its features. Mme. Malibran,
however, urged that her action was what she would have manifested in the
actual situations. "I remember once," says the Countess De Merlin, "a
friend advised her not to make _Otello_ pursue her so long when he was
about to kill her. Her answer was: 'You are right; it is not elegant, I
admit; but, when once I fairly enter into my character, I never think of
effects, but imagine myself actually the person I represent. I can
assure you that in the last scene of Desdemona I often feel as if I were
really about to be murdered, and act accordingly.' Donzelli used to be
much annoyed by Mme. Malibran not determining beforehand how he was to
seize her; she often gave him a regular chase. Though he was one of the
best-tempered men in the world, I recollect him one evening being
seriously angry. Desdemona had, according to custom, repeatedly escaped
from his grasp; in pursuing her, he stumbled, and slightly wounded
himself with the dagger he brandished. It was the only time I ever saw
him in a passion."

She next appeared successively as _Rosina, Ni-netta, and Tancredi_,
winning fresh laurels in them all, not only by her superb skill in
vocalizing, but by her versatility of dramatic conception and the ease
with which she entered into the most opposite phases of feeling
and motive. She covered Rossini's elaborate fioriture with a fresh
profusion of ornament, but always with a dexterity which saved it from
the reproach of being overladen. She performed _Semiramide_ with Mme.
Pisaroni, and played Zerlina to Sontag's _Donna Anna_. Her habit of
treating such dramatic parts as _Ninetta, Zerlina_, and _Amina_ was the
occasion of keen controversy among the critics of the time. Entirely
averse to the conventional method of idealizing the character of the
country girl out of all semblance to nature, Malibran was essentially
realistic in preserving the rusticity, awkwardness, and _naivete_ of
peasant-life. One critic argued: "It is by no means rare to discover in
the humblest walk of life an inborn grace and delicacy of Nature's own
implanting; and such assuredly is the model from which characters like
_Ninetta_ and _Zerlina_ ought to be copied." But there were others who
saw in the vigor, breadth, and verisimilitude of Mme. Malibran's stage
portraits of the peasant wench the truest and finest dramatic justice.
A great singer of our own age, Mme. Pauline Lucca, seems to have modeled
her performances of the operatic rustic after the same method. In such
characters as __Susanna in the "Nozze di Figaro," and _Fidalma_
in Cimarosa's "Il Matrimonio Segreto," her talent for lyric comedy
impressed the _cognoscenti_ of London with irresistible power. She was
fascinated by the ludicrous, and was wont to say that she was anxious
to play the _Duenna_ in "Il Barbiere" for the sake of the grotesque
costume. In playing _Fidalma_ the drollery of her tone and manner, the
richness and originality of her comic humor, were incomparable. Her
daring, however, prompted her to do strange things, which would have
been condemned in any other singer. For example, while _Fidalma_ is in
the midst of the most ludicrous drollery of the part, Malibran suddenly
took up one word and gave an extended series of the most brilliant and
difficult roulades of her own improvisation, through the whole range
of her voice. Her hearers were transported at this musical feat, but it
entirely interrupted the continuity of the humor.

On Mme. Malibran's return to Paris, she found her father, who had
unexpectedly returned from his Mexican tour, thoroughly bankrupted in
purse, and more embittered than ever by his train of misfortunes. He
announced his intention of giving some representations at the Theatre
Italien. This resolution caused much vexation to his daughter, but she
did not oppose it. Garcia had lost a part of his voice; his tenor had
become a barytone, and he could no longer reach the notes which had in
former times been written for him. She knew how much her father's voice
had become injured, and knowing equally well his intrepid courage,
feared, not without reason, that he would tarnish his brilliant
reputation. Garcia displayed even more than ever the great artist. A
hoarseness seized him at the moment of appearing on the stage. "This
is nothing," said he: "I shall do very well"; and, by sheer strength of
talent and of will, he arranged the music of his part (_Almaviva_) to
suit the condition of his voice, changing the passages, transposing them
an octave lower, and taking up notes adroitly where he found his voice
available; and all this instantly, with an admirable confidence.

Malibran's second season in Paris confirmed the estimate which had been
placed on her genius, but the incessant labors of her professional life
and the ardor with which she pursued the social enjoyments of life were
commencing to undermine her health. She never hesitated to sacrifice
herself and her time for the benefit of her friends, in spite of her own
physical debility. One night she had promised to sing at the house of
her friend, Mme. Merlin, and was amazed at the refusal of her manager to
permit her absence from the theatre on a benefit-night. She said to him:
"It does not signify; I sing at the theatre because it is my duty, but
afterward I sing at Mme. Merlin's because it is my pleasure." And so
after one o'clock in the morning, wearied from the arduous performance
of "Semiramide," she appeared at her friend's and sang, supped, and
waltzed till daybreak. This excess in living every moment of her life
and utter indifference to the requirements of health were characteristic
of her whole career. One night she fainted in her dressing-room
before going on the stage. In the hurry of applying restoratives, a
_vinaigrette_ containing some caustic acid was emptied over her lips,
and her mouth was covered with blisters. The manager was in despair; but
Mme. Malibran, quietly stepping to the mirror, cut off the blisters with
a pair of scissors, and sang as usual. Such was the indomitable courage
of the woman that she was always faithful to her obligations, come what
might; a conscientiousness which was afterward the immediate cause of
her death.


It was in Paris, in 1830, that Mme. Malibran's romantic attachment to M.
Charles de Bériot, the famous Belgian violinist, had its beginning. M.
de Bériot had been warmly and hopelessly enamored of Malibran's rival,
Mdlle. Sontag, in spite of the fact that the latter lady was known to
be the _fiancée_ of Count Rossi. The sympathies of Malibran's warm and
affectionate heart were called out by her friend's disappointment, for
gossip in the musical circles of Paris discussed De Bériot's unfortunate
love-affair very freely. With her usual impulsive candor she expressed
her interest in the brilliant young violinist without reserve, and it
was not long before De Bériot made Malibran his confidante, and found
consolation for his troubles in her soothing companionship. The result
was what might have been expected. Malibran's beauty, tenderness, and
genius speedily displaced the former idol in the heart of the Belgian
artist, while she learned that it was but a short step between pity and
love. This mutual affection was the cause of a dispute between Maria and
her friend Mme. Naldi, whose austere morality disapproved the intimacy,
and there was a separation, our singer moving into lodgings of her own.

It was during her London engagement of the same year that Mme. Malibran
became acquainted with the greatest of bassos, Lablache, who made his
_début_ before an English public in the rôle of _Geronimo_, in "Il
Matrimonio Segreto." The friendship between these two distinguished
artists became a very warm one, that only terminated with Malibran's
death. Lablache, who had sung with all the greatest artists of the age,
lamented her early taking off as one of the greatest misfortunes of the
lyric stage. One strong tie between them was their mutual benevolence.
On one occasion an unfortunate Italian importuned Lablache for
assistance to return to his native land. The next day, when all the
company were assembled for rehearsal, Lablache requested them to join
in succoring their unhappy compatriot; all responded to the call, Mme.
Lalande and Donzelli each contributing fifty francs. Malibran gave the
same as the others; but, the following day, seizing the opportunity of
being alone with Lablache, she desired him to add to her subscription of
fifty francs two hundred and fifty more; she had not liked to appear to
bestow more than her friends, so she had remained silent the preceding
day. Lablache hastened to seek his _protégé_, who, however, profiting
by the help afforded him, had already embarked; but, not discouraged,
Lablache hurried after him, and arrived just as the steamer was leaving
the Thames. Entering a boat, however, he reached the vessel, went
on board, and gave the money to the _émigré_, whose expressions of
gratitude amply repaid the trouble of the kind-hearted basso. Another
time Malibran aided a poor Italian who was destitute, telling him to say
nothing about it. "Ah, madame," he cried, "you have saved me for ever!"
"Hush!" she interrupted; "do not say that; only the Almighty could do
so. Pray to him."

The feverish activity of Mme. Malibran was shown at this time in a
profusion of labors and an ardor in amusement which alarmed all her
friends. When not engaged in opera, she was incessant in concert-giving,
for which her terms were eighty guineas per night. She would fly to
Calais and sing there, hurry back to England, thence hasten to Brussels,
where she would give a concert, and then cross the Channel again, giving
herself no rest. Night after night she would dance and sing at private
parties till dawn, and thus waste the precious candle of her life at
both ends. She was haunted by a fancy that, when she ceased to live
thus, she would suddenly die, for she was full of the superstition
of her Spanish race. Mme. Malibran about this time essayed the same
experiment which Pasta had tried, that of singing the rôle of the Moor
in "Otello." It was not very successful, though she sang the music and
acted the part with fire. The delicate figure of a woman was not fitted
for the strong and masculine personality of the Moorish warrior, and
the charm of her expression was completely veiled by the swarthy mask
of paint. Her versatility was so daring that she wished even to out-leap
the limits of nature.

The great _diva's_ horizon (since Sontag's retirement from the stage she
had been acknowledged the leading singer of the age) was now destined to
be clouded by a portentous event. M. Malibran arrived in Paris. He had
heard of his wife's brilliant success, and had come to assert his rights
over her. Maria declined to see him, and no persuasions of her friends
could induce her to grant the _soi-disant_ husband, for whose memory she
had nothing but rooted aversion, even an interview. Though she finally
arrived at a compromise with him (for his sole interest in resuming
relationship with his wife seemed to be the desire of sharing in the
emoluments of her profession), she determined not to sing again in the
French capital while M. Malibran remained there, and accordingly retired
to a chateau near Brussels. The whole musical world was interested in
settling this imbroglio, and there was a final settlement, by the terms
of which the singer was not to be troubled or interfered with by her
husband as long as he was paid a fixed stipend. She returned to Paris,
and reappeared at the Italiens as _Ninetta_, the great Rubini being in
the same cast. The two singers vied with each other "till," observed a
French critic, "it seemed as if talent, feeling, and enthusiasm could go
no further." This engagement, however, was cut short by her frequent and
alarming illnesses, and Mme. Malibran, though reckless and short-sighted
in regard to her own health, became seriously alarmed. She suddenly
departed from the city, leaving a letter for the director, Severini,
avowing a determination not to return, at least till her health was
fully reestablished. This threatened the ruin of the administration, for
Malibran was the all-powerful attraction. M. Viardot, a friend who
had her entire confidence (Mlle. Pauline Garcia afterward became Mme.
Viardot), was sent to Brussels as ambassador, and he represented the
ruin she would entail on the operatic season of the Italiens. This plea
appealed to her generosity, and she returned to fulfill her engagement.
Constant attacks of illness, however, continued to disturb her
performances, and the Parisian public chose to attribute this
interruption of their pleasures to the caprice of the _diva_. She
so resented this injustice that she determined, at the close of
the engagement, that she would never again sing in Paris. Her last
appearance, on January 8,1832, was as _Desdemona_, and the fervency of
her singing and acting made it a memorable night, as the rumor had crept
out that Mme. Malibran was then taking a lasting leave of them as an
artist, and the audience sought to repair their former injustice by
redoubled expressions of enthusiasm and pleasure.

An amusing instance of her eccentric and impulsive resolution was
her hasty tour with La-blache to Italy which occurred a few months
afterward. The great basso, passing through Brussels _en route_ to
Naples, called at her villa to pay his respects. Malibran declared her
intention, in spite of his laughing incredulity, of going with him.
Though he was to leave at dawn the next morning, she was waiting at the
door of his hotel when he came down the stairs. As she had no passport,
she was detained on the Lombardy frontier till Lablache obtained the
needed document. At Milan she only sang in private concerts, and pressed
on to Rome, where she engaged for a short season at the Teatro Valle,
and succeeded in offending the _amour propre_ of the Romans by singing
French romances of her own composition in the lesson-scene of "Il
Barbiere." She learned of the death of her father while in Rome, news
which plunged her in the deepest despondency, for the memory of his
sternness and cruelty had long been effaced by her appreciation of the
inestimable value his training had been to her. She had often remarked
to her friend, Mme. Merlin, that without just such a severe system her
voice would never have attained its possibilities.

From Rome she went to Naples to fulfill a _scrittura_ with Barbaja, the
celebrated _impressario_ of that city, to give twelve performances at
one thousand francs a night. An immense audience greeted her on the
opening night at the Fondo Theatre, August 6, 1832, at first with a cold
and critical indifference--a feeling, however, which quickly flamed
into all the unrestrained volcanic ardor of the Neapolitan temperament.
Thenceforward she sang at double prices, "notwithstanding the
subscribers' privileges were on most of these occasions suspended, and
although 'Otello,' 'La Gazza Ladra,' and operas of that description were
the only ones offered to a public long since tired even of the beauties
of Rossini, and proverbial for their love of novelty."

Her great triumph, however, was on the night when she took her leave,
in the character of _Ninetta_. "Nothing can be imagined finer than the
spectacle afforded by the immense Theatre of San Carlo, crowded to the
very ceiling, and ringing with acclamations," says a correspondent of
one of the English papers at the time. "Six times after the fall of
the curtain Mme. Mali-bran was called forward to receive the reiterated
plaudits and adieux of the assembled multitude, and indicate by graceful
and expressive gestures the degree to which she was overpowered by
fatigue and emotion. The scene did not end within the walls of the
theatre; for a crowd of the most enthusiastic rushed from all parts
of the house to the stage-door, and, as soon as her sedan came out,
escorted it with loud acclamations to the Palazzo Barbaja, and renewed
their salutations as the charming vocalist ascended the steps."

Mme. Malibran had now learned to dearly love Italy and its impulsive,
warm-hearted people, so congenial to her own nature. She sang in
different Italian cities, receiving everywhere the most enthusiastic
receptions. In Bologna they placed a bust of their adored songstress
in the peristyle of the theatre. Each city vied with its neighbor in
lavishing princely gifts on her. She had not long been in London, where
she returned to meet her spring engagement at the King's Theatre in
1833, when she concluded a contract with the Duke Visconti of Milan for
one hundred and eighty-five performances, seventy-five in the autumn and
carnival season of 1835-'36, seventy-five in the corresponding season of
1836-'37, and thirty-five in the autumn of 1836, at a salary of eighteen
thousand pounds. These were the highest terms which had then ever been
offered to a public singer, or in fact to any stage performer since the
days of imperial Rome.


Mme. Malibran's Italian experiences were in the highest sense gratifying
alike to her pride as a great artist and to her love of admiration as
a woman. Her popularity became a mania which infected all classes, and
her appearance on the streets was the signal for the most fervid shouts
of enthusiasm from the populace. For two years she alternated between
London and the sunny lands where she had become such an idol. She had
to struggle in Milan against the indelible impress made by Mme. Pasta,
whose admirers entertained an almost fanatical regard for her memory as
the greatest of lyric artists; but when Malibran appeared as _Norma_,
a part written by Bellini expressly for Pasta, she was proclaimed _la
cantante per eccelenza_. A medal, executed by the distinguished sculptor
Valerio Nesti, was struck in her honor. Her generosity of nature was
signally instanced during these golden Italian days in many acts of
beneficence, of which the following are instances: During her stay at
Sinigaglia in the summer of 1834, she heard an exquisite voice
singing beneath the windows of her hotel. On looking out she saw a wan
beggar-girl dressed in rags. Discovering by investigation that it was a
case of genuine want, she placed the girl in a position where she could
receive an excellent musical education and have all her needs amply
supplied. On the eve of her departure from Naples, the last engagement
she ever sang in that city, Gallo, proprietor of the Teatro Emeronnitio,
came to entreat her to sing once at his establishment. He had a wife and
several children, and was a very worthy man, on the verge of bankruptcy.
"I will sing," answered she, "on one condition--that not a word is
said about remuneration." She chose the part of _Amina_; the house was
crammed, and the poor man was saved from ruin. A vast multitude followed
her home, with an enthusiasm which amounted almost to a frenzy, and the
grateful manager named his theatre the Teatro Garcia. On Ash-Wednesday,
March 13, 1835, Mme. Malibran bade the Neapolitans adieu--an eternal
adieu. Radiant with glory, and crowned with flowers, she was conducted
by the Neapolitans to the faubourgs amid the _éclat_ of _vivats_ and

The Neapolitans adored Malibran, and she loved to sing to these
susceptible lovers of the divine art. On one occasion when she was
suffering from a severe accident, she appeared with her arm in a sling
rather then disappoint her audience. During all her Italian seasons,
especially in Naples, where perfection of climate and delightful scenery
combine to stimulate the animal spirits, she pursued the same wild
and reckless course which had so often threatened to cut off her frail
tenure of life. A daring horsewoman and swimmer, she alternated these
exercises with fatiguing studies and incessant social pleasures. She
practiced music five or six hours a day, spent several hours in violent
exercise, and in the evenings not engaged at the theatre would go
to parties, where she amused herself and her friends in a thousand
different ways--making caricatures, doggerel verses, riddles,
conundrums, _bouts-rimes_, dancing, jesting, laughing, and singing. Full
of exhaustless vivacity, she seemed more and more to disdain rest as her
physical powers grew weaker. The enthusiasm with which she was received
and followed everywhere was in itself a dangerous draught on her nervous
energies, which should have been husbanded, not lavishly wasted. One
night at Milan she was deluged with bouquets of which the leaves were of
gold and silver, and recalled by the frantic acclamations of her hearers
twenty times, at the close of which she fainted on the stage. It was
during this engagement at Milan that she heard of the death of the young
composer, Vincentio Bellini, on September 23, 1835, and she set on
foot a subscription for a tribute to his memory, leading the list with
four-hundred francs. It was a premonition of her own departure from the
world of art which she had so splendidly adorned, for exactly a year
from that day she breathed her last sigh.

Her arrival in Venice during this last triumphant tour of her life
was the occasion for an ovation not less flattering than those she had
received elsewhere. As her gondola entered the Grand Canal, she was
welcomed with a deafening _fanfare_ of trumpets, the crash of musical
bands, and the shouts of a vast multitude. It was as if some great
general had just returned from victories in the field, which had saved a
state. Mali-bran was frightened at this enthusiasm, and took refuge in a
church, which speedily became choke-full of people, and a passage had
to be opened for her exit to her hotel. Whenever she appeared, the
multitude so embarrassed her that a way had to be made by the gendarmes,
and her gondola was always pursued by a _cortege_ of other gondolas,
that crowded in her wake. When she departed, the city presented her with
a magnificent diamond and ruby diadem.

In March, 1835, the divorce which she had long been seeking was granted
by a French tribunal, and ten months later, at the expiration of the
limit fixed by French law, she married M. De Bériot, March 29, 1836,
thus legalizing the birth of their son, Wilfred de Bériot, who, with
one daughter, that did not live, had been the fruit of their passionate
attachment. On the day of her marriage she distributed a thousand francs
among the poor, and her friends showered costly gifts on her, among them
being an agraffe of pearls from the Queen of France.

During the season of 1835 Mme. Malibran appeared for Mr. Bunn at
Drury Lane and Covent Garden in twenty-six performances, for which she
received £3,463. Among other operas she appeared in Balfe's new work,
"The Maid of Artois," which, in spite of its beautiful melody, has never
kept its hold on the stage. Her _Leonora_ in Beethoven's "Fidelio"
was considered by many the peer of Mme. Schrôder-Devrient's grand
performance. Her labors during this season were gigantic. She would rise
at 5 a.m., and practice for several hours, rehearsing before a mirror
and inventing attitudes. It was in this way that she conceived the
"stage-business" which produced such an electric impression in "Gli
Orazi," when the news of her lover's death is announced to the heroine.
"While the rehearsals of 'The Maid of Artois' were going on from day to
day--and Mme. Malibran's rehearsals were not so many hours of sauntering
indifference--she would, immediately after they were finished, dart
to one or two concerts, and perhaps conclude the day by singing at an
evening party. She pursued the same course during her performance of
that arduous character," thus wrote one of the critics of the time, for
the interest which Malibran excited was so great that the public loved
to hear of all the details of her remarkable career.

Shortly after her marriage in the spring of 1836, Mme. de Bériot was
thrown from her horse while attending a hunting-party in England,
and sustained serious internal injury, which she neglected to provide
against by medical treatment, concealing it even from her husband.
Indeed, she sang on the same evening, and her prodigious facility in
_tours de force_ was the subject of special comment, for she seemed
spurred to outdo herself from consciousness of physical weakness. When
she returned to England again in the following September, her failing
health was painfully apparent to all. Yet her unconquerable energy
struggled against her sufferings, and she would permit herself
no relaxation. In vain her husband and her good friend Lablachc
remonstrated. A hectic, feverish excitement pervaded all her actions.
She was engaged to sing at the Manchester Musical Festival, and at the
rehearsals she would laugh and cry hysterically by turns.

At the first performance of the festival in the morning, she was carried
out of her dressing-room in a swoon, but the dying singer was bent on
doing what she considered her duty. She returned and delivered the air
of _Abraham_ by Cimarosa. Her thrilling tones and profound dejection
made a deep impression on the audience. The next day she rallied from
her sick-bed and insisted on being carried to the festival building,
where she was to sing a duet with Mme. Caradori-Allen. This was the
dying song of the swan, and it is recorded that her last effort was one
of the finest of her life. The assembly, entranced by the genius and
skill of the singer, forgot her precarious condition and demanded a
repetition. Malibran again sang with all the passionate fire of her
nature, and her wonderful voice died away in a prolonged shake on her
very topmost note. It was her last note on earth, for she was carried
thence to her deathbed.

Her sufferings were terrible. Convulsions and fainting-fits followed
each other in swift succession, and it was evident that her end was
near. The news of her fatal illness excited the deepest sympathy and
sorrow throughout England and France, and bulletins of her condition
were issued every day. Pending the arrival of her own physician, Dr.
Belluomini, from London, she had been bled while in a fainting-fit by
two local practitioners. When she recovered her senses, she said, "I am
a slain woman, for they have bled me!" She died on September 23, 1836,
and De Bériot's name was the last word that parted her pallid lips.

The death of this great and idolized singer produced a painful shock
throughout Europe, and was regarded as a public calamity, for she had
been as much admired and beloved as a woman as she was worshiped as
an artist. Her remains, first interred in Manchester, were afterward
removed by her husband to Brussels, where he raised a circular memorial
chapel to her memory at Lacken. Her statue, chiseled in white marble by
Geefs, represents her as _Norma_, and stands in the center, faintly lit
by a single sunbeam admitted from a dome, and surrounded by masses of
shadow. "It appears," says the Countess de Merlin, "like a fantastic
thought, the dream of a poet."

Maria Malibran was unquestionably one of the most gifted and remarkable
women who ever adorned the lyric stage. The charm of her singing
consisted in the peculiarity of the timbre and the remarkable range of
her voice, in her excitable temperament, which prompted her to execute
the most audacious improvisations, and in her strong musical feeling,
which kept her improvisations within the laws of good taste. Her voice,
a mezzo-soprano, with a high soprano range superadded by incessant work
and training, was in its middle register very defective, a fault which
she concealed by her profound musical knowledge and technical skill.
It was her mind that helped to enslave her hearers; for without mental
originality and a distinct sort of creative force her defective voice
would have failed to charm, where in fact it did provoke raptures. She
was, in the exact sense of a much-abused adjective, a phenomenal singer,
and it is the misfortune of the present generation that she died too
young for them to hear.


Mme. Schröder-Devrient the Daughter of a Woman of Genius.--Her Early
Appearance on the Dramatic Stage in Connection with her Mother.--She
studies Music and devotes herself to the Lyric Stage.--Her Operatic
_Début_ in Mozart's "Zauberflôte."--Her Appearance and Voice.--Mlle.
Schröder makes her _Début_ in her most Celebrated Character,
_Fidelio_.--Her own Description of the First Performance.--A Wonderful
Dramatic Conception.--Henry Chorley's Judgment of her as a Singer and
Actress.--She marries Carl Devrient at Dresden.--Mme. Schröder-Devrient
makes herself celebrated as a Representative of Weber's Romantic
Heroines.--Dissolution of her Marriage.--She makes Successful
Appearances in Paris and London in both Italian and German
Opera.--English Opinions of the German Artist.--Anecdotes of her London
Engagement.--An Italian Tour and Reëngagements for the Paris and London
Stage.--Different Criticisms of her Artistic Style.--Retirement from the
Stage, and Second Marriage.--Her Death in 1860, and the Honors paid to
the Memory of her Genius.


In the year 1832 German opera in its original form was introduced into
England for the first time, and London learned to recognize the grandeur
of Beethoven in opera, as it had already done in symphony and sonata.
"Fidelio" had been already presented in its Italian dress, without
making very much impression, for the score had been much mutilated, and
the departure from the spirit of the composer flagrant. The opera,
as given by artists "to the manner born," was a revelation to English
audiences. The intense musical vigor of Beethoven's great work was felt
to be a startling variety, wrought out as it was in its principal
part by the genius of a great lyric vocalist. This was Mme.
Schröder-Devrient, who, as an operatic tragedienne, stands foremost in
the annals of the German musical stage, though others have surpassed
her in merely vocal resources, and who never has been rivaled except by

She was the daughter of Sophia Schröder, the Siddons of Germany. This
distinguished actress for a long time reigned supreme in her art. Her
deep sensibilities and dramatic instincts, her noble elocution and
stately beauty, fitted her admirably for tragedy. In such parts as
_Phèdre, Medea, Lady Macbeth, Mérope, Sappho, Jeanne de Montfaucon,
and Isabella_ in "The Bride of Messina," she had no pere. Wilhelmina
Schröder was born in Hamburg, October 6, 1805, and was destined by her
mother for a stage career. In pursuance of this, the child appeared at
the age of five years as a little Cupid, and at ten danced in the ballet
at the Imperial Theatre of Vienna. With the gradual development of the
young girl's character came the ambition for a higher grade of artistic
work. So, when she arrived at the age of fifteen, her mother, who wished
her to appear in tragedy, secured for her a position at the Burgtheater
of Vienna, where she played in such parts as _Aricie_ in "Phèdre,"
and _Ophelia_ in "Hamlet." The impression she made was that of a great
nascent actress, who would one day worthily fill the place of her
mother. But the true scope of her genius was not yet defined, for she
had not studied music. At last she was able to study under an Italian
master of great repute, named Mazzatti, who resided in the Austrian

Her first appearance was as _Pamina_ in Mozart's "Zauberflote," at the
Vienna theatre, January 20, 1821. The _débutante_ was warmly welcomed by
an appreciative audience, and the terrors of the young girl of seventeen
were quickly assuaged by the generous recognition she received. The
beauty of her voice, her striking figure and port, and her dramatic
genius, combined to make her instantly successful. Wilhelmina Schröder
was tall and nobly molded, and her face, though not beautiful, was
sweet, frank, and fascinating--a face which became transfigured with
fire and passion under the influence of strong emotion. Her vocal organ
was a mellow soprano, which, though not specially flexible, united
softness with volume and compass. In intonation and phrasing, her art,
in spite of her youth and inexperience, showed itself to be singularly
perfect. Though she rapidly became a favorite, her highest triumph was
not achieved till she appeared as _Leonora_ in the "Fidelio." In this
she eclipsed all who had preceded her, and Germany soon rang with her
name as that of an artist of the highest genius. Her own account of her
first representation of this rôle is of much interest:

"When I was studying the character of _Leonora_ at Vienna, I could not
attain that which appeared to me the desired and natural expression at
the moment when _Leonora_, throwing herself before her husband, holds
out a pistol to the Governor, with the words, 'Kill first his wife!'
I studied and studied in vain, though I did all in my power to place
myself mentally in the situation of _Leonora_. I had pictured to myself
the situation, but I felt that it was incomplete, without knowing why or
wherefore. Well, the evening arrived; the audience knows not with what
feelings an artist, who enters seriously into a part, dresses for the
representation. The nearer the moment approached, the greater was my
alarm. When it did arrive, and as I ought to have sung the ominous
words and pointed the pistol at the Governor, I fell into such an utter
tremor at the thought of not being perfect in my character, that my
whole frame trembled, and I thought I should have fallen. Now only fancy
how I felt when the whole house broke forth with enthusiastic shouts of
applause, and what I thought when, after the curtain fell, I was
told that this moment was the most effective and powerful of my whole
representation! So, that which I could not attain with every effort
of mind and imagination, was produced at this decisive moment by my
unaffected terror and anxiety. This result and the effect it had upon
the public taught me how to seize and comprehend the incident, so,
that which at the first representation I had hit upon unconsciously, I
adopted in full consciousness ever afterward in this part."

Not even Malibran could equal her in the impersonation of this
character. Never was dramatic performance more completely, more
intensely affecting, more deeply pathetic, truthful, tender, and

Some critics regarded her as far more of the tragedian than the singer.
"Her voice, since I have known it," observes Mr. Chorley, in his "Modern
German Music," "was capable of conveying poignant or tender expression,
but it was harsh and torn--not so inflexible as incorrect. Mme.
Schröder-Devrient resolved to be _par excellence_ 'the German dramatic
singer.' Earnest and intense as was her assumption of the parts she
attempted, her desire of presenting herself first was little less
vehement: there is no possibility of an opera being performed by a
company, each of whom should be as resolute as she was never to rest,
never for an instant to allow the spectator to forget his presence.
She cared not whether she broke the flow of the composition by some cry
heard on any note or in any scale--by even speaking some word, for
which she would not trouble herself to study a right musical emphasis
or inflection--provided, only, she succeeded in continuing to arrest the
attention. Hence, in part, arose her extraordinary success in "Fidelio."
That opera contains, virtually, only one acting character, and with her
it rests to intimate the thrilling secret of the whole story, to develop
this link by link, in presence of the public, and to give the drama the
importance of terror, suspense, and rapture. When the spell is broken
by exhibiting the agony and the struggle of which she is the innocent
victim, if the devotion, the disguise, and the hope of Leonora, the
wife, were not for ever before us, the interest of the prison-opera
would flag and wane into a cheerless and incurable melancholy. This
Mme. Schröder-Devrient took care that it should never do. From her first
entry upon the stage, it might be seen that there was a purpose at her
heart, which could make the weak strong and the timid brave; quickening
every sense, nerving every fiber, arming its possessor with disguise
against curiosity, with persuasion more powerful than any obstacle, with
expedients equal to every emergency.... What Pasta would be in spite
of her uneven, rebellious voice, a most magnificent singer, Mme.
Schröder-Devrient did not care to be, though nature, as I have heard
from those who heard her sing as a girl, had blessed her with a fresh,
delicious soprano voice."


Her fame so increased that the Fräulein Schröder soon made an art-tour
through Germany. Her appearances at Cassel in the spring of 1823, in
such characters as _Pamina_ and _Agathe_, produced a great sensation.
At Dresden she also evoked a large share of popular enthusiasm, and her
name was favorably compared with the greatest lights of the German lyric
stage. While singing at this capital she met Carl Devrient, one of the
principal dramatic tenors of Germany, and, an attachment springing up
between the pair, they were married. The union did not prove a happy
one, and Mme. Schröder-Devrient had bitter occasion to regret that she
had tied her fortunes to a man utterly unworthy of love and respect.
She remained for several years at Dresden, and among other operas she
appeared in Weber's "_Euryanthe_," with Mme. Funk, Herr Berg-mann, and
Herr Meyer. She also made a powerful impression on the attention of
both the critics and the public in Cherubini's "Faniska," and Spohr's
"Jessonda," both of which operas are not much known out of Germany,
though "Faniska" was first produced at the Théâtre Feydeau, in Paris,
and contributed largely to the fame of its illustrious composer. The
austere, noble music is not of a character to please the multitude who
love what is sensational and easily understood. When "Faniska" was first
produced at the Austrian capital in the winter of 1805, both Haydn and
Beethoven were present. The former embraced Cherubini, and said to him,
"You are my son, worthy of my love"; while Beethoven cordially hailed
him as "the first dramatic composer of the age." The opera of "Faniska"
is based on a Polish legend of great dramatic beauty, and the unity of
idea and musical color between it and Beethoven's "Fidelio" has often
excited the attention of critics. It is perhaps owing to this dramatic
similarity that Mme. Schröder-De vrient made as much reputation by
her performance of it as she had already acquired in Beethoven's lyric

In 1828 she went to Prague, and thence to Berlin, where her marriage was
judicially dissolved, she retaining her guardianship of her son, then
four years old. Spontini, who was then the musical autocrat of Berlin,
conceived a violent dislike to her, and his bitter nature expressed
itself in severe and ungenerous sarcasms. But the genius of the singer
was proof against the hostility of the Franco-Italian composer, and the
immense audiences which gathered to hear her interpret the chef-d'ouvres
of Weber, whose fame as the great national composer of Germany was
then at its zenith, proved her strong hold on the hearts of the German
people. Spontini's prejudice was generally attributed to Mme. Devrient's
dislike of his music and her artistic identification with the heroines
of Weber, for whose memory Spontini entertained much the same envious
hate as Salieri felt for Mozart in Vienna at an earlier date.

Our singer's ambition sighed to conquer new worlds, and in 1830 she went
to Paris with a troupe of German singers, headed by Mme. Fischer, a
tall blonde beauty, with a fresh, charming voice, but utterly Mme.
Schrôder-Devrient's inferior in all the requirements of the great
artist. She made her _début_ in May at the Theatre Louvois, as _Agathe_
in "Der Freischutz," and, though excessively agitated, was so impressive
and powerful in the impersonation as to create a great _éclat_. The
critics were highly pleased with the beauty and finish of her style.
She produced the principal parts of her _répertoire_ in "Fidelio," "Don
Giovanni," Weber's "Oberon" and "Euryanthe," and Mozart's "Serail."
It was in "Fidelio," however, that she raised the enthusiasm of her
audiences to the highest pitch. On returning again to Germany she
appeared in opera with Scheckner and Sontag, in Berlin, winning laurels
even at the expense of Mme. Sontag, who was then just on the eve of
retiring from the stage, and who was inspired to her finest efforts as
she was departing from the field of her triumphs.

Two years later Mme. Schröder-Devrient accepted a proposition made to
her by the manager of the Théâtre Italiens to sing in a language and
a school for which she was not fully qualified. The season opened with
such a dazzling constellation of genius as has rarely, if ever, been
gathered on any one stage--Pasta, Malibran, Schröder-Devrient, Rubini,
Bordogni, and Lablache. Mme. Pasta's illness caused the substitution of
Schröder-Devrient in her place in the opera of "Anna Bolena," and the
result was disastrous to the German singer. But she retrieved herself
in the same composer's "Pirata," and her splendid performance cooperated
with that of Rubini to produce a sensation. It was observed that she
quickly accommodated herself to the usages and style of the Italian
stage, and soon appeared as if one "to the manner born." Toward the
close of the engagement Mme. Devrient appeared for Malibran's benefit
as _Desdemona_, Rubini being the Moor. Though the Rossinian music is a
_genre_ by itself, and peculiarly dangerous to a singer not trained in
its atmosphere and method, the German artist sang it with great skill
and finish, and showed certain moments of inspiration in its performance
which electrified her hearers.

Mme. Schrëder-Devrient's first appearance in England was under the
management of Mr. Monck Mason, who had leased the King's Theatre in
pursuance of a somewhat daring enterprise. A musical and theatrical
enthusiast, and himself a composer, though without any experience in
the practical knowledge of management, he projected novel and daring
improvements, and aspired to produce opera on the most extensive and
complete scale. He engaged an enormous company--not only of Italian
and German, but of French singers--and gave performances in all three
languages. Schröder-Devrient sang in all her favorite operas, and also
_Desdemona_, in Italian. Donzelli was the _Otello_, and the performance
made a strong impression on the critics, if not on the public. "We know
not," wrote one, "how to say enough of Mme. Schrëder-Devrient without
appearing extravagant, and yet the most extravagant eulogy we could
pen would not come up to our idea of her excellence. She is a woman
of first-rate genius; her acting skillful, various, impassioned, her
singing pure, scientific, and enthusiastic. Her whole soul is wrapped
in her subject, yet she never for a moment oversteps the modesty of
nature." It was during this season that Mr. Chorley first heard her.
He writes in his "Musical Recollections" a vivid description of her
appearance in "Fidelio": "She was a pale woman. Her face, a thoroughly
German one, though plain, was pleasing from the intensity of expression
which her large features and deep, tender eyes conveyed. She had profuse
fair hair, the value of which she thoroughly understood, delighting in
moments of great emotion to fling it loose with the wild vehemence of
a Mænad. Her figure was superb, though full, and she rejoiced in its
display." He also speaks of "the inherent expressiveness of her voice
which made it more attractive on the stage than a more faultless organ."
Mme. Schröder-Devrient met a warm social welcome in London from the
family of the great pianist, Moscheles, to whom she was known of old.
Mme. Moscheles writes in her diary: "Our interesting guests at dinner
were the Haizingers, he the admirable tenor singer of whom the German
opera company here may well be proud, she pretty and agreeable as
ever; we had, too, our great Schröder and our greater Mendelssohn. The
conversation, of course, was animated, and the two ladies were in such
spirits that they not only told anecdotes, but accompanied them with
dramatic gestures; Schröder, when telling us how he (the hero of her
anecdote) drew his sword, flourished her knife in a threatening manner
toward Haizinger, and Mendelssohn whispered to me, 'I wonder what John
[the footman] thinks of such an English vivacity? To see the brandishing
of knives, and not know what it is all about! Only think!'" A comic
episode which occurred during the first performance of "Fidelio" is
also related by the same authority: "In that deeply tragic scene where
Mme. Schröder (_Fidelio_) has to give Haizinger (_Florestan_) a piece of
bread which she has kept hidden for him three days in the folds of her
dress, he does not respond to the action. She whispers to him with a
rather coarse epithet: 'Why don't you take it? Do you want it buttered?'
All this time, the audience, ignorant of the by-play, was solely intent
on the pathetic situation." This is but one of many instances which
could be adduced from the annals of the stage showing how the exhibition
of the greatest dramatic passion is consistent with the existence of a
jocose, almost cynical, humor on the part of the actors.


In the following year (1833), Mme. Schröder-Devrient sang under Mr.
Bunn at the Covent Garden Theatre, appearing in several of Weber's and
Mozart's masterpieces. She was becoming more and more of a favorite with
the English public. The next season she devoted herself again to
the stage of Germany, where she was on the whole best understood and
appreciated, her faults more uniformly ignored. She appeared in twelve
operas by native composers in Berlin, and thence went to Vienna and St.
Petersburg. She proceeded to Italy in 1835, where she sang for eighteen
months in the principal cities and theatres of that country, and
succeeded in evoking from the critical Italians as warm a welcome as
she had commanded elsewhere. In one city the people were so enthusiastic
that they unharnessed her horses, and drew her carriage home from the
theatre after her closing performance. Although she never entirely
mastered the Italian school, she yet displayed so much intelligence,
knowledge, and faculty in her art-work, that all catholic lovers of
music recognized her great talents. She appeared again in Vienna in
1836, with Mme. Tadolini, Genaro, and Galli, singing in "L'Elisir
d'Amore," and works of a similar cast, operas unsuited, one would think,
to the peculiar _cachet_ of her genius, but her ability in comic and
romantic operas, though never so striking as in grand tragedy, seemed to
develop with practice.

Her last English engagement was in 1837, opening the season with
a performance of "Fidelio" in English. The whole performance was
lamentably inferior to that at the Opera-House in 1832. "Norma" was
produced, Schröder-Devrient being seconded by Wilson, Giubilei, and Miss
Betts. She was either very ill advised or overconfident, for her "massy"
style of singing was totally at variance with the light beauty of
Bellini's music. Her conception of the character, however, was in the
grandest style of histrionic art. "The sibyls of Michael Angelo are not
more grand," exclaimed one critic; "but the vocalization of Pasta
and Grisi is wholly foreign to her." During this engagement, Mme.
Schröder-Devrient was often unable to perform, from serious illness.
From England she went to the Lower Rhine.

In 1839 she was at Dresden with Herr Tichatschek, one of the first
tenors of Germany, a handsome man, with a powerful, sweet, and extensive
voice. In June, 1841, she gave a performance at Berlin, to assist the
Parisian subscription for a monument to Cherubini. The opera was "Les
Deux Journées," in which she took her favorite part of _Constance_. The
same year she sang at Dresden with the utmost success, in a new _rôle_
in Goethe's "Tasso," in which she was said to surpass her _Fidelio_. For
several years Mme. Schröder-Devrient resided in perfect seclusion in the
little town of Rochlitz, and appeared to have forgotten all her stage
ambition. Suddenly, however, she made her reappearance at Dresden in the
_rôle_ of _Romeo_ in Bellini's "I Montecchi ed i Capuletti." She had
lost a good deal of her vocal power and skill, yet her audiences seemed
to be moved by the same magic glamour as of old, in consequence of her
magnificent acting. Among other works in which she performed during this
closing operatic season of her life was Gluck's "Iphigenie en Aulis,"
which was especially revived for her. Johanna Wagner, the sister of
the great composer, was also in the cast, and a great enthusiasm
was created by a general stage presentation of almost unparalleled
completeness for that time.

Mme. Devrient retired permanently from the stage in the year 1849,
having amassed a considerable fortune by her professional efforts. She
made a second matrimonial venture with a rich Livonian proprietor named
Bock, with whom she retired to his estate. Her retirement occasioned
profound regret throughout Germany, where she was justly looked on as
one of the very greatest artists, if, indeed, even this reservation
could be made, who had ever shone on their lyric stage. The Emperor
Francis I. paid Mme. Schröder a compliment which had never before been
paid to a German singer. He ordered her portrait to be painted in all
her principal characters, and placed in the collection of the Imperial
Museum. Six years after her farewell from the stage, an Italian critic,
Scudo, heard her sing in a private house in Paris, and speaks very
disparagingly of her delivery of the melodies of Schubert in a weak,
thin voice. She, like Malibran, possessed one of those voices which
needed incessant work and practice to keep it in good order, though she
did not possess the consummate musical knowledge and skill of Malibran.
She was a woman of great intelligence and keen observation; an artist of
the most passionate ardor and impetuosity, always restrained, however,
by a well-studied control and reserve; in a word, a great lyric
tragedienne rather than a great singer in the exact sense of that word.
She must be classed with that group of dramatic singers who were the
interpreters of the school of music which arose in Germany after the
death of Mozart, and which found its most characteristic type in Carl
Maria von Weber, for Beethoven, who on one side belongs to this school,
rather belonged to the world, like Shakespeare in the drama, than to a
single nationality. Mme. Schröder-De-vrient died February 9, 1860,
at Cologne, and the following year her marble bust was placed in the
Opera-House at Berlin.


The Childhood of a Great Artist.--Giulietta Grisi's Early Musical
Training.--Giuditta Grisi's Pride in the Talents of her Young
Sister.--Her Italian _Début_ and Success.--She escapes from a Managerial
Taskmaster and takes Refuge in Paris.--Impression made on French
Audiences.--Production of Bellini's "Puritani."--Appearance before the
London Public.--Character of Grisi's Singing and Acting.--Anecdotes of
the Prima Donna.--Marriage of Mlle. Grisi.--Her Connection with
Other Distinguished Singers.--Rubini, his Character as an Artist, and
Incidents of his Life.--Tamburini, another Member of the First Great
"Puritani" Quartet.--Lablache, the King of Operatic Bassos.--His Career
as an Artist.--His Wonderful Genius as Singer and Actor.--Advent of
Mario on the Stage.--His Intimate Association with Mme. Grisi as
Woman and Artist.--Incidents of Mario's Life and Character as an
Artist.--Grisi's Long Hold on the Stage for more than a Quarter
Century.--Her American Tour.--Final Retirement from her Profession.--The
Elements of her Greatness as a Goddess of Song.


A quarter of a century is a long reign for any queen, a brilliant one
for an opera queen in these modern days, when the "wear and tear" of
stage-life is so exacting. For so long a time lasted the supremacy
of Mme. Grisi, and it was justified by a remarkable combination of
qualities, great physical loveliness, a noble voice, and dramatic
impulse, which, if not precisely inventive, was yet large and
sympathetic. A celebrated English critic sums up her great qualities
and her defects thus: "As an artist calculated to engage, and retain
the average public, without trick or affectation, and to satisfy by her
balance of charming attributes--by the assurance, moreover, that she was
giving the best she knew how to give--she satisfied even those who had
received much deeper pleasure and had been impressed with much deeper
emotion in the performances of others. I have never tired of Mme. Grisi
during five-and-twenty years; but I have never been in her case under
one of those spells of intense enjoyment and sensation which make an
epoch in life, and which leave a print on memory never to be effaced by
any later attraction, never to be forgotten so long as life and power to
receive shall endure."

Giulietta Grisi was the younger daughter of M. Gaetano Grisi, an Italian
officer of engineers, in the service of Napoleon, and was born at Milan,
July 2, 1812. Her mother's sister was the once celebrated Grassini, who,
as the contemporary of Mrs. Billington and Mme. Mara, had shared the
admiration of Europe with these great singers. Thence probably she and
her sister Giuditta, ten years her elder, inherited their gift of song.
Giuditta was for a good while regarded as a prodigy by her friends, and
acquired an excellent rank on the concert and operatic stage, but she
was so far outshone by her more gifted sister, that her name is now
only one of the traditions of that throng of talented and hard-working
artists who have contributed much to the stability of the lyric stage,
without adding to it any resplendent luster. Delicate health prevented
the little Giulia from receiving any early musical training, but her own
secret ambition caused her to learn the piano-forte, by her own efforts;
and her enthusiastic attention, and attempt to imitate, while her sister
was practicing _solfeggi_, clearly indicated the bent of her tastes. She
soon astonished her family by the fluency and correctness with which
she repeated the most difficult passages; and Giuditta, who appreciated
these evidences of vocal and mimetic talent, would listen with delight
to the lively efforts of her young sister, and then, clasping her fondly
in her arms, prophesy that she would be "the glory of her race." "Thou
shalt be more than thy sister, my Giuliettina," she would exclaim. "Thou
shalt be more than thy aunt! It is Giuditta tells thee so--believe
it." The only defect in Giulia's voice--certainly a serious one--was a
chronic hoarseness, which seemed a bar to her advancement as a vocalist.

Her parents resolved that Giulia should have regular lessons in singing;
and she entered the Conservatory of her native town, where her sister
had also obtained her musical training. The early talent she developed,
under the direction of the composer Marliani, was remarkable. That she
might continue her studies uninterruptedly, she was sent to Bologna,
to her uncle, Colonel Ragani, husband of Grassini, by whom she was put
under the care of the learned Giacomo Guglielmi, son of the celebrated
composer, who during three years devoted himself entirely to her
musical education. Gradually the lovely quality of her voice began to
be manifest, and its original blemishes disappeared, her tones acquiring
depth, power, and richness.

Giuditta was deeply interested in her young sister's budding talents,
and finally took her from the Conservatory, and placed her under the
tuition of Fillippo Celli, where she remained for three months, till the
_maestro_ was obliged to go to Rome to produce a new opera. Giulia
Grisi was remarkably apt and receptive, and gifted with great musical
intelligence, and she profited by her masters in an exceptional degree.
Industry cooperated with talent to so advance her attainments that her
sister Giuditta succeeded in the year 1828 in securing her _début_ in
Rossini's "Elmira," at Bologna. The part was a small one, but the youth,
loveliness, and freshness of voice displayed by the young singer
secured for her a decided triumph. Rossini, who was then at Bologna, was
delighted with Giulia Grisi, and predicted a great career for her, and
Giuditta shed tears of joy over her beloved _protégée_. The director of
the theatre engaged her immediately for the carnival season, and in
1829 she appeared as prima donna in many operas, among which were "Il
Barbiere," "Towaldo e Dorliska," and "La Sposa di Provincia," the latter
of which was expressly written for her by Millotatti.

Our young singer, like many another brilliant cantatrice, in the very
dawn of her great career fell into the nets of a shrewd and unprincipled
operatic speculator. Signor Lanari, an _impressario_ of Florence,
recognized the future success of the inexperienced young girl, and
decoyed her into an engagement for six years on terms shamefully low,
for Giulia's modesty did not appreciate her own remarkable powers.
Alone and without competent advisers, she fell an easy prey to the
sharp-witted farmer of other people's genius. Among the operas which she
sung in at this early period under Lanari's management were Bellini's "I
Montecchi ed i Capuletti," which the composer had just written for her
sister Giuditta at Venice; "Il Barbiere," and "Giulietta e Romeo,"
written by Vaccai. She was pronounced by the Italians the most
fascinating _Juliet_ ever seen on the stage. At Bologna her triumph
was no less great, and she became the general topic of discussion and
admiration. Lanari was so profiting by his stroke of sharp business
that he was making a little fortune, and he now transferred his musical
property for a large consideration to Signor Crevelli, the director of
La Scala at Milan. Here Julia Grisi met Pasta, whom she worshiped as a
model of all that was grand and noble in the lyric art. Pasta declared,
"I can honestly return to you the compliments paid me by your aunt, and
say that I believe you are worthy to succeed us." Here she enjoyed
the advantage of studying the great lyric tragedienne, with whom she
occasionally performed: not a look, a tone, a gesture of her great model
escaped her. She was given the part of _Jane Seymour_ in Donizetti's
"Anna Bolena," which she looked and acted to perfection, Pasta
personating the unfortunate Queen. Madame Pasta, struck with the genius
displayed by her young rival, exclaimed: "_Tu iras loin! tu prendras ma
place! tu seras Pasta!_" Bellini, who was then in Milan, engaged in
the composition of his "Norma," overwhelmed her with applause and
congratulations, intermingled with allusions to the part he had in
contemplation for her--that of _Adalgiza_.

In November, 1831, there was a strenuous rivalry between the two
theatres of Milan, La Scala and the Carcano. The vocal company at the
latter comprised Pasta, Lina Koser (now Mme. Balfe), Elisa Orlandi,
Eugénie Martinet, and other ladies; Kubini, Mariani, and Galli being
the leading male singers. The composers were Bellini, Donizetti, and
Majocchi. At the Scala, which was still under the direction of Crivelli,
then a very old man, were Giulietta Grisi, Amalia Schütz, and Pisaroni,
with Mari, Bonfigli, Pocchini, Anbaldi, etc. To this company Giuditta
Grisi was added, and a new opera by Coccia, entitled "Enrico di
Montfort," was produced, in which both the sisters appeared. The company
at the Scala received an accession from the rival theatre, the great
Pasta, and soon afterward Donzelli, who ranked among the foremost tenors
of the age.

Bellini had just completed "Norma," and it was to be produced at the
Scala. The part of the Druid priestess had been expressly written for
Pasta. This Bellini considered his masterpiece. It is related that a
beautiful Parisienne attempted to extract from his reluctant lips his
preference among his own works. The persistent fair one finally overcame
his evasions by asking, "But if you were out at sea, and should be
shipwrecked--" "Ah!" said the composer, impulsively, "I would leave all
the rest and save 'Norma'"! With Pasta were associated Giulia Grisi
in the _rôle_ of _Adalgiza_, and Donzelli in _Pollio_. The singers
rehearsed their parts _con amore_, and displayed so much intelligence
and enthusiasm that Bellini was quite delighted. The first performance
just escaped being a failure in spite of the anxious efforts of the
singers. Donzelli's suave and charming execution, even "Casta Diva,"
delivered by Pasta in her most magnificent style, failed to move the
cold audience. Pasta, at the end of the first act, declared the new
opera _a fiasco_. The second act was also coldly received till the great
duet between _Norma_ and _Adalgiza_, which was heartily applauded. This
unsealed the pent-up appreciation of the audience, and thenceforward
"Norma" was received with thunders of applause for forty nights.

Encouraged by Pasta, Giulia Grisi declared that she, too, would become a
great tragedienne. "How I should love to play _Norma!_" she exclaimed
to Bellini one night behind the scenes. "Wait twenty years, and we shall
see." "I will play _Norma_ in spite of you, and in less than twenty
years!" she retorted. The young man smiled incredulously, and muttered,
"_A poco! a poco!_" But Grisi kept her word.

Her genius was now fully appreciated, and she had obtained one of those
triumphs which form the basis of a great renown. With astonishing ease
she passed from _Semiramide_ to _Anna Bolena_, then to _Desdemona_, to
_Donna Anna_, to _Elena_ in the "Donna del Lago."

The young artiste had learned her true value, and was aware of the
injury she was suffering from remaining in the service to which she had
foolishly bound herself: she was now twenty-four, and time was passing
away. Her father's repeated endeavors to obtain more reasonable terms
for his daughter from Lanari proved fruitless. He urged that his
daughter, having entered into the contract without his knowledge, and
while she was a minor, it was illegal. "Then, if you knew absolutely
nothing of the matter, and it was altogether without your cognizance,"
retorted Lanari, imperturbably, "how did it happen that her salary was
always paid to you?"

But the high-spirited Giulietta had now become too conscious of her
own value to remain hampered by a contract which in its essence was
fraudulent. She determined to break her bonds by flight to Paris,
where her sister Giuditta and her aunt Mme. Grassini-Ragani were then
domiciled. She confided her proposed escapade to her father and her old
teacher Marliani, who assisted her to procure passports for herself
and maid. Her journey was long and tedious, but, spurred by fear and
eagerness, she disdained fatigue for seven days of post-riding over
bad roads and through mountain-gorges choked with snow, till she threw
herself into the arms of her loving friends in the French capital.


An engagement was procured for her without difficulty at the Opéra,
which was then controlled by the triumvirate, Rossini, Robert, and
Severini. Rossini remembered the beautiful _débutante_ for whom he had
predicted a splendid future, and secured a definite engagement for
her at the Favart to replace Mme. Malibran. That this young and
comparatively inexperienced girl, with a reputation hardly known out of
Italy, should have been chosen to take the place of the great Malibran,
was alike flattering testimony to her own rising genius and
Rossini's penetration. She appeared first before a French audience in
"_Semiramide_," and at once became a favorite. During the season of
six months she succeeded in establishing her place as one of the most
brilliant singers of the age. She sang in cooperation with many of the
foremost artists whose names are among the great traditions of the art.
In "Don Giovanni," Rubini and Tamburini appeared with her; in "Anna
Bolena," Mme. Tadolini, Santini, and Rubini. Even in Pasta's own great
characters, where Mlle. Grisi was measured against the greatest lyric
tragedienne of the age, the critics, keen to probe the weak spot of new
aspirants, found points of favorable comparison in Grisi's favor. During
this year, 1832, both Giuditta and Giulia Grisi retired from the stage,
the former to marry an Italian gentleman of wealth, and the latter to
devote a period to rest and study.

When Giulia reappeared on the French stage the following year, a
wonderful improvement in the breadth and finish of her art was noticed.
She had so improved her leisure that she had eradicated certain
minor faults of vocal delivery, and stood confessed a symmetrical and
splendidly equipped artist. Her performances during the year 1833 in
Paris embraced a great variety of characters, and in different styles
of music, in all of which she was the recipient of the most cordial

The production of Bellini's last opera, "I Puritani," in 1834, was one
of the great musical events of the age, not solely in virtue of the
beauty of the work, but on account of the very remarkable quartet
which embodied the principal characters--Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini, and
La-blache. This quartet continued in its perfection for many years,
with the after-substitution of Mario for Rubini, and was one of the
most notable and interesting facts in the history of operatic music.
Bellini's extraordinary skill in writing music for the voice was never
more noticeably shown than in this opera. In conducting the rehearsals,
he compelled the singers to execute after his style. It is recorded
that, while Rubini was rehearsing the tenor part, the composer cried out
in a rage: "You put no life into the music. Show some feeling. Don't you
know what love is?" Then, changing his voice: "Don't you know your
voice is a gold-mine that has never been explored? You are an excellent
artist, but that is not enough. You must forget yourself and try to
represent _Gualtiero_. Let's try again." Rubini, stung by the reproach,
then sang magnificently. "I Puritan!" made a great _furore_ in Paris,
and the composer received the Cross of the Legion of Honor, an honor
then less rarely bestowed than it was in after-years. He did not live
long to enjoy the fruits of his widening reputation, but died while
composing a new opera for the San Carlo, Naples. In the delirium of his
death-bed, he fancied he was at the Favart, conducting a performance of
"I Puritani." Mlle. Grisi's first appearance before the London public
occurred during the spring of the same year, and her great personal
loveliness and magnificent voice as _Ninetta_, in "La Gazza Ladra,"
instantly enslaved the English operatic world, a worship which lasted
unbroken for many years. Her _Desdemona_ in "Otello," which shortly
followed her first opera, was supported by Rubini as _Otello_, Tamburini
as _Iago_, and Ivanhoff as _Rodriguez_. It may be doubted whether any
singer ever leaped into such instant and exalted favor in London, where
the audiences are habitually cold.

Her appearance as _Norma_ in December, 1834, stamped this henceforth as
her greatest performance. "In this character, Grisi," says a writer in
the "Musical World," "is not to be approached, for all those attributes
which have given her her best distinction are displayed therein in their
fullest splendor. Her singing may be rivaled, but hardly her embodiment
of ungovernable and vindictive emotion. There are certain parts in the
lyric drama of Italy this fine artiste has made her own: this is one
of the most striking, and we have a faith in its unreachable
superiority--in its completeness as a whole--that is not to be
disturbed. Her delivery of 'Casta Diva' is a transcendent effort
of vocalization. In the scene where she discovers the treachery of
_Pollio_, and discharges upon his guilty head a torrent of withering and
indignant reproof, she exhibits a power, bordering on the sublime, which
belongs exclusively to her, giving to the character of the insulted
priestess a dramatic importance which would be remarkable even if
entirely separated from the vocal preeminence with which it is allied.
But, in all its aspects, the performance is as near perfection as rare
and exalted genius can make it, and the singing of the actress and the
acting of the singer are alike conspicuous for excellence and power.
Whether in depicting the quiet repose of love, the agony of abused
confidence, the infuriate resentment of jealousy, or the influence
of feminine piety, there is always the best reason for admiration,
accompanied in the more tragic moments with that sentiment of awe which
greatness of conception and vigor of execution could alone suggest."

Mr. Chorley writes, in his "Musical Reminiscences": "Though naturally
enough in some respects inexperienced on her first appearance in
England, Giulia Grisi was not incomplete. And what a soprano voice was
hers! rich, sweet; equal throughout its compass of two octaves (from
C to C), without a break or a note which had to be managed. Her voice
subdued the audience ere 'Dipiacer' was done.... In 1834 she commanded
an exactness of execution not always kept up by her during the
after-years of her reign. Her shake was clear and rapid; her scales were
certain; every interval was taken without hesitation by her. Nor has
any woman ever more thoroughly commanded every gradation of force than
she--in those early days especially; not using the contrast of loud
and soft too violently, but capable of any required violence, of any
advisable delicacy. In the singing of certain slow movements pianissimo,
such as the girl's prayer on the road to execution, in 'La Gazza,' or
as the cantabile in the last scene of 'Anna Bolena' (which we know as
'Home, Sweet Home'), the clear, penetrating beauty of her reduced tones
(different in quality from the whispering semi-ventriloquism which was
one of Mlle. Lind's most favorite effects) was so unique as to reconcile
the ear to a certain shallowness of expression in her rendering of the
words and the situation.

"At that time the beauty of sound was more remarkable (in such passages
as I have just spoken of) than the depth of feeling. When the passion
of the actress was roused--as in 'La Gazza,' during the scene with her
deserter father--with the villainous magistrate, or in the prison with
her lover, or on her trial before sentence was passed--her glorious
notes, produced without difficulty or stint, rang through the house like
a clarion, and were truer in their vehemence to the emotion of the scene
than were those wonderfully subdued sounds, in the penetrating tenuity
of which there might be more or less artifice. From the first, the vigor
always went more closely home to the heart than the tenderness in her
singing; and her acting and her vocal delivery--though the beauty of her
face and voice, the mouth that never distorted itself, the sounds that
never wavered, might well mislead an audience--were to be resisted by

Henceforward, Mlle. Grisi alternated between London and Paris for many
years, her great fame growing with the ripening years. Of course, she,
like other beautiful singers, was the object of passionate addresses,
and the ardent letters sent to her hotel and dressing-room at the
theatre occasioned her much annoyance. Many unpleasant episodes
occurred, of which the following is an illustration, as showing the
persecution to which stage celebrities are often subjected: While she
was in her stage-box at the Paris Opera one night, in the winter of
1836, she observed an unfortunate admirer, who had pursued her for
months, lying in ambuscade near the door, as if awaiting her exit. M.
Robert, one of the managers, requested the intruder to retire, and, as
the admonition was unheeded, Colonel Ragani, Grisi's uncle, somewhat
sternly remonstrated with him. The reckless lover drew a sword from a
cane, and would have run Colonel Ragani through, had it not been for the
coolness of a gentleman passing in the lobby, who seized and disarmed
the amorous maniac, who was a young author of some repute, named
Dupuzet. Anecdotes of a similar kind might be enumerated, for Grisi's
womanly fascinations made havoc among that large class who become easily
enamored of the goddesses of the theatre.

Like all the greatest singers, Grisi was lavishly generous. She had
often been known to sing in five concerts in one day for charitable
purposes. At one of the great York festivals in England, she refused, as
a matter of professional pride, to sing for less than had been given
to Malibran, but, to show that there was nothing ignoble in her
persistence, she donated all the money received to the poor. She
rendered so many services to the Westminster Hospital that she was made
an honorary governor of that institution, and in manifold ways proved
that the goodness of her heart was no whit less than the splendor of her
artistic genius.

The marriage of Mlle. Grisi, in the spring of 1830, to M. Auguste Gérard
de Melcy, a French gentleman of fortune, did not deprive the stage
of one of its greatest ornaments, for after a short retirement at the
beautiful château of Vaucresson, which she had recently purchased, she
again resumed the operatic career which had so many fascinations for one
of her temperament, as well as substantial rewards. Her first appearance
in London after her marriage was with Rubini and Tamburini in the opera
of "Semiramide," speedily followed by a performance of _Donna Anna_, in
"Don Giovanni." The excitement of the public in its eager anticipation
of the latter opera was wrought to the highest pitch. A great throng
pressed against both entrances of the theatre for hours before the
opening of the doors, and many ladies were severely bruised or fainted
in the crush. It was estimated that more than four thousand persons were
present on this occasion. The cast was a magnificent one. Mme. Grisi was
supported by Mmes. Persiani and Albertazzi, and Tamburini, Lablache, and
Rubini. This was hailed as one of the great gala nights in the musical
records of London, and it is said that only a few years ago old
connoisseurs still talked of it as something incomparable, in spite of
the gifted singers who had since illustrated the lyric art. Mme. Pasta,
who occupied a stage box, led the applause whenever her beautiful young
rival appeared, and Grisi, her eyes glowing with happy tears, went to
Pasta's box to thank the queen of lyric tragedy for her cordial homage.

"Don Giovanni" was performed with the same cast in January, 1838, at the
Théâtre Italiens. About an hour after the close of the performance the
building was discovered to be on fire, and it was soon reduced to a heap
of glowing ashes. Severini, one of the directors, leaped from an upper
story, and was instantly dashed to pieces, and Robert narrowly saved
himself by aid of a rope ladder. Rossini, who had an apartment in the
opera-house, was absent, but the whole of his musical library, valued at
two hundred thousand francs, was destroyed, with many rare manuscripts,
which no effort or expense could replace.


Mme. Grisi, more than any other prima donna who ever lived, was
habitually associated in her professional life with the greatest singers
of the other sex. Among those names which are inseparable from hers, are
those of Rubini, Tamburini, Lablache, and, _par excellence_, that of
Mario. Any satisfactory sketch of her life and artistic surroundings
would be incomplete without something more than a passing notice of
these shining lights of the lyric art. Giambattista Rubini, without
a shred of dramatic genius, raised himself to the very first place in
contemporary estimation by sheer genius as a singer, for his musical
skill was something more than the outcome of mere knowledge and
experience, and in this respect he bears a close analogy to Malibran.
Rubini's countenance was mean, his figure awkward, and lacking in
all dignity of carriage; he had no conception of taste, character, or
picturesque effect. As stolid as a wooden block in all that appertains
to impersonation of character, his vocal organ was so incomparable in
range and quality, his musical equipment and skill so great, that his
memory is one of the greatest traditions of the lyric art.

Rubini, born at Bergamo in the year 1795, made his _début_ in one of the
theatres of his native town, at the age of twelve, in a woman's part.
This curious prima donna afterward sat at the door of the theatre,
between two candles, holding a plate, in which the admiring public
deposited their offerings to the fair _bénéficiaire_. His next step was
playing on the violin in the orchestra between the acts of comedies, and
singing in the chorus during the operatic season. He seems to have been
unnoticed, except as one of the _hoi polloi_ of the musical rabble,
till an accident attracted attention to his talent. A drama was to be
produced in which a very difficult cavatina was introduced. The manager
was at a loss for any one to sing it till Rubini proffered his services.
The fee was a trifling one, but it paved the way for an engagement in
the minor parts of opera. The details of Rubini's early life seem to
be involved in some obscurity. He was engaged in several wandering
companies as second tenor, and in 1814, Rubini then being nineteen years
of age, we find him singing at Pavia for thirty-six shillings a month.
In the latter part of his career he was paid twenty thousand pounds
sterling a year for his services at the St. Petersburg Imperial
Opera. This singer acquired his vocal style, which his contemporaries
pronounced to be matchless, in the operas of Rossini, and was indebted
to no special technical training, except that which he received
through his own efforts, and the incessant practice of the lyric art in
provincial companies. A splendid musical intelligence, however, repaired
the lack of early teaching, though, perhaps, a voice less perfect in
itself would have fared badly through such desultory experiences. Like
so many of the great singers of the modern school, Rubini first gained
his reputation in the operas of Bellini and Donizetti, and many of the
tenor parts of these works were expressly composed for him. Rubini was
singing at the Scala, Milan, when Barbaja, the _impressario_, who had
heard Bellini's opera of "Bianca e Fernando," at Naples, commissioned
the young composer, then only twenty years old, to produce a new opera
for his theatre in the Tuscan capital. He gave him the libretto of
"Il Pirata," and Bellini, in company with Rubini (for they had become
intimate friends), retired to the country. Here the singer studied,
as they were produced, the simple, touching airs which he afterward
delivered on the stage with such admirable expression. With this
friendship began Rubini's art connection with the Italian composer,
which lasted till the latter's too early death. Rubini was such a great
singer, and possessed such admirable powers of expression, especially
in pathetic airs (for it was well said of him, "_qu'il avait des larmes
dans la voix_"), that he is to be regarded as the creator of that style
of singing which succeeded that of the Rossinian period. The florid
school of vocalization had been carried to an absurd excess, when Rubini
showed by his example what effect he could produce by singing melodies
of a simple emotional nature, without depending at all on mere
vocalization. It is remarkable that it was largely owing to Rubini's
suggestions and singing that Bellini made his first great success, and
that Donizetti's "Anna Bolena," also the work which laid the foundation
of this composer's greatness, should have been written and produced
under similar conditions.

The immense power, purity, and sweetness of his voice probably have
never been surpassed. The same praise may be awarded to his method of
producing his tones, and all that varied and complicated skill which
comes under the head of vocalization. Rubini had a chest of uncommon
bigness, and the strength of his lungs was so prodigious that on one
occasion he broke his clavicle in singing a B flat. The circumstances
were as follows: He was singing at La Scala, Milan, in Pacini's
"Talismano." In the recitative which accompanies the entrance of
the tenor in this opera, the singer has to attack B flat without
preparation, and hold it for a long time. Since Farinelli's celebrated
trumpet-song, no feat had ever attained such a success as this wonderful
note of Rubini's. It was received nightly with tremendous enthusiasm.
One night the tenor planted himself in his usual attitude, inflated his
chest, opened his mouth; but the note would not come. _Os liabet, sed
non clambit_. He made a second effort, and brought all the force of
his lungs into play. The note pealed out with tremendous power, but the
victorious tenor felt that some of the voice-making mechanism had given
way. He sang as usual through the opera, but discovered on examination
afterward that the clavicle was fractured. Rubini had so distended his
lungs that they had broken one of their natural barriers. Rubini's voice
was an organ of prodigious range by nature, to which his own skill had
added several highly effective notes. His chest range, it is asserted by
Fetis, covered two octaves from C to C, which was carried up to F in the
_voce di testa_. With such consummate skill was the transition to the
falsetto managed that the most delicate and alert ear could not detect
the change in the vocal method. The secret of this is believed to have
begun and died with Rubini. Perhaps, indeed, it was incommunicable, the
result of some peculiarity of vocal machinery.

From what has been said of Rubini's lack of dramatic talent, it may be
rightfully inferred, as was the fact, that he had but little power in
musical declamation. Rubini was always remembered by his songs, and
though the extravagance of embroidery, the roulades and cadenzas with
which he ornamented them, oftentimes raised a question as to his taste,
the exquisite pathos and simplicity with which he could sing when he
elected were incomparable. This artist was often tempted by his own
transcendant powers of execution to do things which true criticism
would condemn, but the ease with which he overcame the greatest vocal
difficulties excused for his admirers the superabundance of these
displays. In addition to the great finish of his art, his geniality
of expression was not to be resisted. He so thoroughly and intensely
enjoyed his own singing that he communicated this persuasion to his
audiences. Rubini would merely walk through a large portion of an opera
with indifference, but, when his chosen moment arrived, there were such
passion, fervor, and putting forth of consummate vocal art and emotion
that his hearers hung breathless on the notes of his voice. As the
singer of a song in opera, no one, according to his contemporaries, ever
equaled him. According to Chorley, his "songs did not so much create a
success for him as an ecstasy of delight in those that heard him. The
mixture of musical finish with excitement which they displayed has never
been equaled within such limits or on such conditions as the career
of Rubini afforded. He ruled the stage by the mere art of singing more
completely than any one--man or woman--has been able to do in my time."
Rubini died in 1852, and left behind him one of the largest fortunes
ever amassed on the stage.

Another member of the celebrated "Puritani" quartet was Signor
Tamburini. His voice was a bass in quality, with a barytone range of two
octaves, from F to F, rich, sweet, extensive, and even. His powers of
execution were great, and the flexibility with which he used his voice
could only be likened to the facility of a skillful 'cello performer. He
combined largeness of style, truth of accent, florid embellishment,
and solidity. His acting, alike in tragedy and comedy, was spirited
and judicious, though it lacked the irresistible strokes of spontaneous
genius, the flashes of passion, or rich drollery which made Lablache so
grand an actor, or, in a later time, redeemed the vocal imperfections of
Ronconi. An amusing instance of Taniburini's vocal skill and wealth of
artistic resources, displayed in his youth, was highly characteristic of
the man. He was engaged at Palermo during the Carnival season of 1822,
and on the last night the audience attended the theatre, inspired by the
most riotous spirit of carnivalesque revelry. Large numbers of them
came armed with drums, trumpets, shovels, tin pans, and other charivari
instruments. Tamburini, finding himself utterly unable to make his
ordinary _basso cantante_ tones heard amid this Saturnalian din,
determined to sing his music in the falsetto, and so he commenced in the
voice of a _soprano sfogato_. The audience were so amazed that they
laid aside their implements of musical torture, and began to listen with
amazement, which quickly changed to delight. Taniburini's falsetto was
of such purity, so flexible and precise in florid execution, that he was
soon applauded enthusiastically. The cream of the joke, though, was
yet to come. The poor prima donna was so enraged and disgusted by the
horse-play of the audience that she fled from the theatre, and the poor
manager was at his wit's end, for the humor of the people was such
that it was but a short step between rude humor and destructive rage.
Tamburini solved the problem ingeniously, for he donned the fugitive's
satin dress, clapped her bonnet over his wig, and appeared on the stage
with a mincing step, just as the rioters, impatient at the delay, were
about to carry the orchestral barricade by storm. Never was seen so
unique a soprano, such enormous hands and feet. He courtesied, one hand
on his heart, and pretended to wipe away tears of gratitude with the
other at the clamorous reception he got. He sang the soprano score
admirably, burlesquing it, of course, but with marvelous expression and
far greater powers of execution than the prima donna herself could have
shown. The difficult problem to solve, however, was the duet singing.
But this Tamburini, too, accomplished, singing the part of _Elisa_
in falsetto, and that of the _Count_ in his own natural tones. This
wonderful exhibition of artistic resources carried the opera to a
triumphant close, amid the wild cheers of the audience, and probably
saved the manager the loss of no little property.

But, greatest of all, perhaps the most wonderful artist among men that
ever appeared in opera, was Lablache. Position and training did much for
him, but an all-bounteous Nature had done more, for never in her most
lavish moods did she more richly endow an artistic organization. Luigi
Lablache was born at Naples, December 6, 1794, of mixed Irish and
French parentage, and probably this strain of Hibernian blood was partly
responsible for the rich drollery of his comic humor. Young Lablache was
placed betimes in the Conservatorio della San Sebastiano, and studied
the elements of music thoroughly, as his instruction covered not merely
singing, but the piano, the violin, and violoncello. It is believed
that, had his vocal endowments not been so great, he could have become
a leading _virtuoso_ on any instrument he might have selected. Having
at length completed his musical education, he was engaged at the age of
eighteen as _buffo_ at the San Carlino theatre at Naples. Shortly after
his _début_, Lablache married Teresa Pinotti, the daughter of an
eminent actor, and found in this auspicious union the most wholesome
and powerful influence of his life. The young wife recognized the great
genius of her husband, and speedily persuaded him to retire from such a
narrow sphere. Lablache devoted a year to the serious study of singing,
and to emancipating himself from the Neapolitan patois which up to
this time had clung to him, after which he became primo basso at the
Palermitan opera. He was now twenty, and his voice had become developed
into that suave and richly toned organ, such as was never bestowed on
another man, ranging two octaves from E flat below to E flat above the
bass stave. An offer from the manager of La Scala, Milan, gratified
his ambition, and he made his _début_ in 1817 as Dandini in "La
Cenerentola." His splendid singing and acting made him brilliantly
successful; but Lablache was not content with this. His industry
and attempts at improvement were incessant. In fact this singer was
remarkable through life, not merely for his professional ambition, but
the zeal with which he sought to enlarge his general stores of knowledge
and culture. M. Scudo, in his agreeable recollections of Italian
singers, informs us that at Naples Lablache had enjoyed the friendship
and teaching of Mme. Mericoffre (a rich banker's wife), known in Italy
as La Cottellini, one of the finest artists of the golden age of
Italian singing. Mme. Lablache, too, was a woman of genius in her way,
and her husband owed much to her intelligent and watchful criticism.
The fume of Lablache speedily spread through Europe. He sang in all the
leading Italian cities with equal success, and at Vienna, whither he
went in 1824, his admirers presented him with a magnificent gold medal
with a most flattering inscription.

He returned again to Naples after an absence of twelve years, and
created a grand sensation at the San Carlo by his singing of _Assur_,
in "Semiramide." The Neapolitans loaded him with honors, and sought to
retain him in his native city, but this "pent-up Utica" could not hold
a man to whom the most splendid rewards of his profession were offering
themselves. Lablache made his first appearance in London, in 1830, in
"Il Matrimonio Segreto," and almost from his first note and first step
he took an irresistible hold on the English public, which lasted for
nearly a quarter of a century. It perplexed his admirers whether he was
greater as a singer or as an actor. We are told that he "was gifted with
personal beauty to a rare degree. A grander head was never more grandly
set on human shoulders; and in his case time and the extraordinary and
unwieldy corpulence which came with time seemed only to improve the
Jupiter features, and to enhance their expression of majesty, or
sweetness, or sorrow, or humor as the scene demanded." His very tall
figure prevented his bulk from appearing too great. One of his boots
would have made a small portmanteau, and one could have clad a child
in one of his gloves. So great was his strength that as _Leporello_
he sometimes carried off under one arm a singer of large stature
representing _Masetto_, and in rehearsal would often for exercise
hold a double bass out at arm's length. The force of his voice was
so prodigious that he could make himself heard above any orchestral
thunders or chorus, however gigantic. This power was rarely put
forth, but at the right time and place it was made to peal out with a
resistless volume, and his portentous notes rang through the house
like the boom of a great bell. It was said that his wife was sometimes
aroused at night by what appeared to be the fire tocsin, only to
discover that it was her recumbent husband producing these bell-like
sounds in his sleep. The vibratory power of his full voice was so great
that it was dangerous for him to sing in a greenhouse.

Like so many of the foremost artists, Lablachc shone alike in comic and
tragic parts. Though he sang successfully in all styles of music
and covered a great dramatic versatility, the parts in which he was
peculiarly great were _Leporello_ in "Don Giovanni"; the _Podesta_ in
"La Gazza Ladra"; _Geronimo_ in "Il Matrimonio Segreto"; _Caliban_ in
Halévy's "Tempest"; _Gritzonko_ in "L'Etoile du Nord"; _Henry VIII_ in
"Anna Bolena"; the _Doge_ in "Marino Faliero"; _Oroveso_ in "Norma";
and _Assur_ in "Semiramide." In thus selecting certain characters as
those in which Lablache was unapproachably great, it must be understood
that he "touched nothing which he did not adorn." It has been frankly
conceded even among the members of his own profession, where envy,
calumny, and invidious sneers so often belittle the judgment, that
Lablache never performed a character which he did not make more
difficult for those that came after him, by elevating its ideal and
grasping new possibilities in its conception.

Lablache sang in London and Paris for many years successively, and his
fame grew to colonial proportions. In 1828 his terms were forty thousand
francs and a benefit, for four months. A few years later, Laporte, of
London, paid Robert, of Paris, as much money for the mere cession of his
services for a short season. In 1852 when Lablachc had reached an age
when most singers grow dull and mechanical, he created two new types,
_Caliban_, in Halévy's opera of "The Tempest," and _Gritzonko_, in
"L'Etoile du Nord," with a vivacity, a stage knowledge, and a brilliancy
of conception as rare as they were strongly marked. He was one of the
thirty-two torch-bearers who followed Beethoven's body to its interment,
and he sung the solo part in "Mozart's Requiem" at the funeral, as he
had when a child sung the contralto part in the same mass at Hadyn's
obsequies. He was the recipient of orders and medals from nearly every
sovereign in Europe. When he was thus honored by the Emperor of Russia
in 1856, he used the prophetic words, "These will do to ornament my
coffin." Two years afterward he died at Naples, January 23, 1858,
whither he had gone to try the effects of the balmy climate of his
native city on his failing health. His only daughter married Thalberg,
the pianist. He was the singing master of Queen Victoria, and he is
frequently mentioned in her published diaries and letters in terms of
the strongest esteem and admiration. His death drew out expressions
of profound sorrow from all parts of Europe, for it was felt that, in
Lablache, the world of song had lost one of the greatest lights which
had starred its brilliant record.


But of all the great men-singers with whom the Grisi was associated
no one was so intimately connected with her career as the tenor Mario.
Their art partnership was in later years followed by marriage, but
it was well known that a passionate and romantic attachment sprang up
between these two gifted singers long before a dissolution of Grisi's
earlier union permitted their affection to be consecrated by the Church.
Mario, Conte di Candia, the scion of a noble family, was born at Genoa
in 1812. His father had been a general in the army at Piedmont, and
he himself at the time of his first visit to Paris in 1836 carried
his sovereign's commission. The fascinating young Italian officer was
welcomed in the highest circles, for his splendid physical beauty,
and his art-talents as an amateur in music, painting, and sculpture,
separated him from all others, even in a throng of brilliant and
accomplished men. He had often been told that he had a fortune in his
voice, but his pride of birth had always restrained him from a career
to which his own secret tastes inclined him, in spite of the fact that
expensive tastes cooperated with a meager allowance from his father to
plunge him deeply in debt. At last the moment of successful temptation
came. Duponchel, the director of the Opera, made him a tempting offer,
for good tenors were very difficult to secure then as in the later days
of the stage.

The young Count Candia hesitated to sign his father's name to a
contract, but he finally compromised the matter at the house of the
Comtesse de Merlin, where he was dining one night in company with Prince
Belgiojoso and other musical amateurs, by signing only the Christian
name, under which he afterward became famous, Mario. He spent a short
season in studying under Michelet, Pouchard, and the great singing
master, Bordogni, but there is no doubt that his singing was very
imperfect when he made his _début_, November 30, 1838, in the part
of _Robert le Diable_. His princely beauty and delicious fresh voice,
however, took the musical public by storm, and the common cry was that
he would replace Kubini. For a year he remained at the Académie, but in
1840 passed to the Italian Opera, for which his qualities more specially
fitted him.

In the mean time he had made his first appearance before that public of
which he continued to be a favorite for so many years. London first
saw the new tenor in "Lucrezia Borgia," and was as cordial in its
appreciation as Paris had been. A critic of the period, writing of him
in later years, said: "The vocal command which he afterward gained was
unthought of; his acting then did not get beyond that of a southern man
with a strong feeling for the stage. But physical beauty and geniality,
such as have been bestowed on few, a certain artistic taste, a certain
distinction, not exclusively belonging to gentle birth, but sometimes
associated with it, made it clear from the first hour of Signor Mario's
stage life that a course of no common order of fascination had begun."
Mario sung after this each season in London and Paris for several
years, without its falling to his lot to create any new important
stage characters. When Donizetti produced "Don Pasquale" at the Theatre
Italiens in 1843, Mario had the slight part of the lover. The reception
at rehearsal was ominous, and, in spite of the beauty of the music,
everybody prophesied a failure. The two directors trembled with dread
of a financial disaster. The composer shrugged his shoulders, and taking
the arm of his friend, M. Dermoy, the music publisher, left the theatre.
"They know nothing about the matter," he laughingly said; "I know what
'Don Pasquale' needs. Come with me." On reaching his library at home,
Donizetti unearthed from a pile of dusty manuscript tumbled under the
piano what appeared to be a song. "Take that," he said to his friend,
"to Mario at once that he may learn it without delay." This song was
the far-famed "Com e gentil." The serenade was sung with a tambourine
accompaniment played by Lablache himself, concealed from the audience.
The opera was a great success, no little of which was due to the
neglected song which Donizetti had almost forgotten.

It was not till 1846 that Mario took the really exalted place by which
he is remembered in his art, and which even the decadence of his vocal
powers did not for a long time deprive him of. He never lost something
amateurish, but this gave him a certain distinction and fine breeding of
style, as of a gentleman who deigned to practice an art as a delightful
accomplishment. Personal charm and grace, borne out by a voice of
honeyed sweetness, fascinated the stern as well as the sentimental
critic into forgetting all his deficiencies, and no one was disposed to
reckon sharply with one so genially endowed with so much of the nobleman
in bearing, so much of the poet and painter in composition. To those who
for the first time saw Mario play such parts as _Almaviva, Gennaro_,
and _Raoul_, it was a new revelation, full of poetic feeling and
sentiment. Here his unique supremacy was manifest. He will live in the
world's memory as the best opera lover ever seen, one who out of the
insipidities and fustian of the average lyric drama could conjure up
a conception steeped in the richest colors of youth, passion, and
tenderness, and strengthened by the atmosphere of stage verity. In such
scenes as the fourth act of "Les Huguenots" and the last act of the
"Favorita" Signor Mario's singing and acting were never to be forgotten
by those that witnessed them. Intense passion and highly finished
vocal delicacy combined to make these pictures of melodious suffering

As a singer of romances Mario has never been equaled. He could not
execute those splendid songs of the Rossinian school, in which the
feeling of the theme is expressed in a dazzling parade of roulades and
fioriture, the songs in which Rubini was matchless. But in those songs
where music tells the story of passion in broad, intelligible, ardent
phrases, and presents itself primarily as the vehicle of vehement
emotion, Mario stood ahead of all others of his age, it may be said,
indeed, of all within the memory of his age. It was for this reason that
he attained such a supremacy also on the concert stage. The choicest
songs of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Gordigiano, and Meyerbeer were
interpreted by his art with an intelligence and poetry which gave them
a new and more vivid meaning. The refinements of his accent and
pronunciation created the finest possible effects, and were perhaps
partly due to the fact that before Mario became a public artist he was a
gentleman and a noble, permeated by the best asthetic and social culture
of his times.

Mario's power illustrated the value of tastes and pursuits collateral
to those of his profession. The painter's eye for color, the sculptor's
sense of form, as well as the lover's honeyed tenderness, entered into
the success of this charming tenor. His stage pictures looked as if
they had stepped out of the canvases of Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul
Veronese. In no way was the artistic completeness of his temperament
more happily shown than in the harmonious and beautiful figure he
presented in his various characters; for there was a touch of poetry and
proportion in them far beyond the possibilities of the stage costumer's
craft. Other singers had to sing for years, and overcome native defects
by assiduous labor, before reaching the goal of public favor, but
"Signor Mario was a Hyperian born, who had only to be seen and heard,
and the enchantment was complete." For a quarter of a century Mario
remained before the public of Paris, London, and St. Petersburg,
constantly associated with Mme. Grisi.


To return once more to the consideration of Grisi's splendid career.
The London season of 1839 was remarkable for the production of "Lucrezia
Borgia." The character of the "Borgia woman" afforded a sphere in which
our prima donna's talents shone with peculiar luster. The impassioned
tenderness of her _Desdemona_, the soft sweetness of "love in its
melancholy and in its regrets" of _Anna Bolena_, the fiery ardor and
vehemence of _Norma_, had been powerfully expressed by her, but the
mixture of savage cruelty and maternal intensity characteristic of
_Lucretia_ was embodied with a splendor of color and a subtilty of
ideal which deservedly raised her estimate as a tragedienne higher than
before. Without passing into unnecessary detail, it is enough to state
that Mme. Grisi was constantly before the publics of London and Paris
in her well-established characters for successive years, with an
ever-growing reputation. In 1847 the memorable operatic schism occurred
which led to the formation of the Royal Italian Opera at Convent Garden.
The principal members of the company who seceded from Her Majesty's
Theatre were Mmes. Grisi and Persiani, Signor Mario, and Signor
Tamburini. The new establishment was also strengthened by the accession
of several new performers, among whom was Mlle. Alboni, the great
contralto. "Her Majesty's" secured the possession of Jenny Lind, who
became the great support of the old house, as Grisi was of the new
one. The appearance of Mme. Grisi as the Assyrian Queen and Alboni as
_Arsace_ thronged the vast theatre to the very doors, and produced
a great excitement on the opening night. The subject of our sketch
remained faithful to this theatre to the very last, and was on its
boards when she took her farewell of the English public. The change
broke up the celebrated quartet. It struggled on in the shape of a trio
for some time without Lablache, and was finally diminished to Grisi and
Mario, who continued to sing the _duo concertante_ in "Don Pasquale," as
none others could. They were still the "rose and nightingale" whom Heine
immortalizes in his "Lutetia," "the rose the nightingale among flowers,
the nightingale the rose among birds." That airy dilettante, N. P.
Willis, in his "Pencilings by the Way," passes Grisi by with faint
praise, but the ardent admiration of Heine could well compensate her
wounded vanity, if, indeed, she felt the blunt arrow-point of the
American traveler.

A visit to St. Petersburg in 1851, in company with Mario, was the
occasion of a vast amount of enthusiasm among the music-loving Russians.
During her performance in "Lucrezia Borgia," on her benefit night, she
was recalled twenty times, and presented by the Czar with a magnificent
Cashmere shawl worth four thousand rubles, a tiara of diamonds and
pearls, and a ring of great value. From the year 1834, when she first
appeared in London, till 1861, when she finally retired, Grisi missed
but one season in London, and but three in Paris. Her splendid physique
enabled her to endure the exhaustive wear and friction of an operatic
life with but little deterioration of her powers. When she made her
artistic tour through the United States with Mario in 1854, her voice
had perhaps begun to show some slight indication of decadence, but her
powers were of still mature and mellow splendor. Prior to crossing the
ocean a series of "farewell performances" was given. The operas in which
she appeared included "Norma," "Lucrezia Borgia," "Don Pasquale," "Gli
Ugonotti," "La Favorita." The first was "Norma," Mme. Grisi performing
_Norma_; Mlle. Maria, _Adalgiza_; Tamberlik, _Pollio_; and La-blache,
_Oroveso_; the last performance consisted of the first act of "Norma,"
and the three first acts of "Gli Ugonotti," in which Mario sustained the
principal tenor part. "Rarely, in her best days," said one critic, "had
Grisi been heard with greater effect, and never were her talents as
an actress more conspicuously displayed." At the conclusion of the
performance the departing singer received an ovation. Bouquets were
flung in profusion, vociferous applause rang through the theatre, and
when she reappeared the whole house rose. The emotion which was evinced
by her admirers was evidently shared by herself.

The American engagement of Grisi and Mario under Mr. Hackett was very
successful, the first appearance occurring at Castle Garden, August 18,
1854. The seventy performances given throughout the leading cities are
still a delightful reminiscence among old amateurs, in spite of the
great singers who have since visited this country and the more stable
footing of Italian opera in later times. Mr. Hackett paid the two
artists eighty-five thousand dollars for a six months' tour, and
declared, at a public banquet he gave them at the close of the season,
that his own profits had been sixty thousand dollars. Mme. Grisi had
intended to retire permanently when she was still in the full strength
of her great powers, but she was persuaded to reappear before the London
public on her return from New York. It became evident that her voice was
beginning to fail rapidly, and that she supplied her vocal shortcomings
by dramatic energy. She continued to sing in opera in various parts of
Europe, but the public applause was evidently rather a struggle on the
part of her audiences to pay tribute to a great name than a spontaneous
expression of pleasure, and at Madrid she was even hissed in the
presence of the royal court, which gave a special significance to the
occasion. Mr. Gye, of the Royal Italian Opera in London, in 1861 made
a contract with her not to appear on the stage again for five years,
evidently assuming that five years were as good as fifty. But it was
hard for the great singer, who had been the idol of the public for more
than a quarter of a century, to quit the scene of her splendid triumphs.
So in 1866 she again essayed to tread the stage as a lyric queen, in the
_rôle_ of _Lucrezia_, but the result was a failure. It is not pleasant
to record these spasmodic struggles of a failing artist, tenacious of
that past which had now shut its gates on her for ever and a day. Her
career was ended, but she had left behind a name of imperishable luster
in the annals of her art. She died of inflammation of the lungs during a
visit to Berlin, November 25, 1869. Her husband, Mario, retired from
the stage in 1867, and suffered, it is said, at the last from pecuniary
reverses, in spite of the fact that he had earned such enormous sums
during his operatic career. His concert tour in the United States, under
the management of Max Strakosch, in 1871-'72. is remembered only with a
feeling of pain. It was the exhibition of a magnificent wreck. The touch
of the great artist was everywhere visible, but the voice was utterly
lost. Signor Mario is still living at Rome, and has resumed the rank
which he laid aside to enter a stage career.

Grisi united much of the nobleness and tragic inspiration of Pasta with
something of the fire and energy of Malibran, but in the minds of the
most capable judges she lacked the creative originality which stamped
each of the former two artists. She was remarkable for the cleverness
with which she adopted the effects and ideas of those more thoughtful
and inventive than herself. Her _Norma_ was ostentatiously modeled on
that of Pasta. Her acting showed less the exercise of reflection and
study than the rich, uncultivated, imperious nature of a most beautiful
and adroit southern woman. But her dramatic instincts were so strong and
vehement that they lent something of her own personality to the copy of
another's creation. When to this engrossing energy were added the most
dazzling personal charms and a voice which as nearly reached perfection
as any ever bestowed on a singer, it is no marvel that a continual
succession of brilliant rivals was unable to dispute her long reign over
the public heart.


Vicissitudes of the Garcia Family.--Pauline Viardot's Early
Training.--Indications of her Musical Genius.--She becomes a Pupil
of Liszt on the Piano.--Pauline Garcia practically self-trained as a
Vocalist.--Her Remarkable Accomplishments.--Her First Appearance before
the Public with De Beriot in Concert.--She makes her _Début_ in London
as _Desdemona_.--Contemporary Opinions of her Powers.--Description of
Pauline Garcia's Voice and the Character of her Art.--The Originality
of her Genius.--Pauline Garcia marries M. Viardot, a Well-known
_Litterateur_.--A Tour through Southern Europe.--She creates a Distinct
Place for herself in the Musical Art.--Great Enthusiasm in Germany
over her Singing.--The Richness of her Art Resources.--Sketches of the
Tenors, Nourrit and Duprez, and of the Great Barytone, Ronconi.--Mine.
Viardot and the Music of Meyerbeer.--Her Creation of the Part of _Fides_
in "Le Prophète," the Crowning Work of a Great Career.--Retirement from
the Stage.--High Position in Private Life.--Connection with the French


The genius of the Garcia family flowered not less in Mme. Malibran's
younger sister than in her own brilliant and admired self. Pauline, the
second daughter of Manuel Garcia, was thirteen years the junior of her
sister, and born at Paris, July 18, 1821. The child had for sponsors at
baptism the celebrated Ferdinand Paer, the composer, and the Princess
Pauline Prascovie Galitzin, a distinguished Russian lady, noted for her
musical amateurship, and the full name given was Michelle Ferdinandie
Pauline. The little girl was only three years old when her sister Maria
made her _début_ in London, and even then she lisped the airs she
heard sung by her sister and her father with something like musical
intelligence, and showed that the hereditary gift was deeply rooted in
her own organization.

Manuel Garcia's project for establishing Italian opera in America and
the disastrous crash in which it ended have already been described in
an earlier chapter. Maria, who had become Mme. Malibran, was left in New
York, while the rest of the Garcia family sailed for Mexico, to give
a series of operatic performances in that ancient city. The precocious
genius of Pauline developed rapidly. She learned in Mexico to play on
the organ and piano as if by instinct, with so much ease did she master
the difficulties of these instruments, and it was her father's
proud boast that never, except in the cases of a few of the greatest
composers, had aptitude for the musical art been so convincingly
displayed at her early years. At the age of six Pauline Garcia could
speak four languages, French, Spanish, Italian, and English, with
facility, and to these she afterward added German. Her passion for
acquirement was ardent and never lost its force, for she was not only
an indefatigable student in music, but extended her researches and
attainments in directions alien to the ordinary tastes of even
brilliant women. It is said that before she had reached the age of
eight-and-twenty, she had learned to read Latin and Greek with facility,
and made herself more than passably acquainted with various arts and
sciences. To the indomitable will and perseverance of her sister Maria,
she added a docility and gentleness to which the elder daughter of
Garcia had been a stranger. Pauline was a favorite of her father, who
had used pitiless severity in training the brilliant and willful Maria.
"Pauline can be guided by a thread of silk," he would say, "but Maria
needs a hand of iron."

Garcia's operatic performances in Mexico were very successful up to the
breaking out of the civil war consequent on revolt from Spain. Society
was so utterly disturbed by this catastrophe that residence in Mexico
became alike unsafe and profitless, and the Spanish musician resolved
to return to Europe. He turned his money into ingots of gold and silver,
and started, with his little family, across the mountains interposing
between the capital and the seaport of Vera Cruz, a region at that
period terribly infested with brigands. Garcia was not lucky enough
to escape these outlaws. They pounced on the little cavalcade, and the
hard-earned wealth of the singer, amounting to nearly a hundred thousand
dollars, passed out of his possession in a twinkling. The cruel humor
of the chief of the banditti bound Garcia to a tree, after he had
been stripped naked, and as it was known that he was a singer he was
commanded to display his art for the pleasure of these strange auditors.
For a while the despoiled man sternly refused, though threatened with
immediate death. At last he began an aria, but his voice was so choked
by his rage and agitation that he broke down, at which the robber
connoisseurs hissed. This stung Garcia's pride, and he began again with
a haughty gesture, breaking forth into a magnificent flight of song,
which delighted his hearers, and they shouted "_Bravissimo!_" with all
the _abandon_ of an enthusiastic Italian audience. A flash of chivalry
animated the rude hearts of the brigands, for they restored to Garcia
all his personal effects, and a liberal share of the wealth which they
had confiscated, and gave him an escort to the coast as a protection
against other knights of the road. The reader will hardly fail to recall
a similar adventure which befell Salvator Rosa, the great painter, who
not only earned immunity, but gained the enthusiastic admiration of a
band of brigands, by whom he had been captured, through a display of his

The talent of Pauline Garcia for the piano was so remarkable that it was
for some time the purpose of her father to devote her to this musical
specialty. She was barely more than seven on the return of the Garcias
to Europe, and she was placed, without delay, under the care of a
celebrated teacher, Meysenberg of Paris. Three years later she was
transferred to the instruction of Franz Liszt, of whom she became one of
the most distinguished pupils. Liszt believed that his young scholar had
the ability to become one of the greatest pianists of the age, and was
urgent that she should devote herself to this branch of the musical
art. Her health, however, was not equal to the unremitting sedentary
confinement of piano practice, though she attained a degree of skill
which enabled her to play with much success as a solo performer at the
concerts of her sister Maria. Her voice had also developed remarkable
quality during the time when she was devoting her energies in another
direction, and her proud father was wont to say, whenever a buzz of
ecstatic pleasure over the singing of Mme. Malibran met his ear, "There
is a younger sister who is a greater genius than she." It is more than
probable that Pauline Garcia, as a singer, owed an inestimable debt
to Pauline Garcia as a player, and that her accuracy and brilliancy of
musical method were, in large measure, the outcome of her training under
the king of modern pianists.

Manuel Garcia died when Pauline was but eleven years old, and the
question of her daughter's further musical education was left to Mme.
Garcia. The celebrated tenor singer, Adolphe Nourrit, one of the famous
lights of the French stage, who had been a favorite pupil of Garcia,
showed great kindness to the widow and her daughter. Anxious to promote
the interests of the young girl, he proposed that she should take
lessons from Eossini, and that great _maestro_ consented. Nourrit's
delight at this piece of good luck, however, was quickly checked. Mme.
Garcia firmly declined, and said that if her son Manuel could not
come to her from Rome for the purpose of training Pauline's voice,
she herself was equal to the task, knowing the principles on which
the Garcia school of the voice was founded. The systems of Rossini and
Garcia were radically different, the one stopping at florid grace of
vocalization, while the other aimed at a radical and profound culture of
all the resources of the voice.

It may be said, however, that Pauline Garcia was self-educated as a
vocalist. Her mother's removal to Brussels, her brother's absence in
Italy, and the wandering life of Mme. Malibran practically threw her on
her own resources. She was admirably fitted for self-culture. Ardent,
resolute, industrious, thoroughly grounded in the soundest of art
methods, and marvelously gifted in musical intelligence, she applied
herself to her vocal studies with abounding enthusiasm, without
instruction other than the judicious counsels of her mother. She had her
eyes fixed on a great goal, and this she pursued without rest or turning
from her path. She exhausted the _solfeggi_ which her father had written
out for her sister Maria, and when this laborious discipline was done
she determined to compose others for herself. She had already learned
harmony and counterpoint from Reicha at the Paris Conservatoire, and
these she now found occasion to put in practice. She copied all the
melodies of Schubert, of whom she was a passionate admirer, and thought
no toil too great which promoted her musical growth. Her labor was a
labor of love, and all the ardor of her nature was poured into it. Music
was not the sole accomplishment in which she became skilled. Unassisted
by teaching, she, like Malibran, learned to sketch and paint in oil and
water-colors, and found many spare moments in the midst of an incessant
art-training, which looked to the lyric stage, to devote to literature.
All this denotes a remarkable nature, fit to overcome every difficulty
and rise to the topmost shining peaks of artistic greatness. What she
did our sketch will further relate.


Pauline Garcia was just sixteen when, panting with an irrepressible
sense of her own powers, she exclaimed, "_Ed io anclû son cantatrice_."
Her first public appearance was worthy of the great name she afterward
won. It was at a concert given in Brussels, on December 15, 1837, for
the benefit of a charity, and De Bériot made his first appearance on
this occasion after the death of Mme. Malibran. The court and most
distinguished people of Belgium were present on this occasion, and so
great was the impression made on musicians that the Philharmonic Society
caused two medals to be struck for De Bériot and Mlle. Garcia, the mold
of which was broken immediately. Pauline Garcia, in company with De
Bériot, gave a series of concerts through Belgium and Germany, and it
soon became evident that a new star of the first magnitude was rising in
the musical firmament. In Germany many splendid gifts were showered on
her. The Queen of Prussia sent her a superb suite of emeralds, and Mme.
Sontag, with whom she sang at Frankfort, gave the young cantatrice a
valuable testimonial, which was alike an expression of her admiration
of Pauline Garcia and a memento of her regard for the name of the great
Malibran, whose passionate strains had hardly ceased lingering in the
ears of Europe. Paris first gathered its musical forces to hear the new
singer at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, December 15, 1838, eager to
compare her with Malibran. Among other numbers on the concert programme,
she gave a very difficult air by Costa, which had been a favorite song
of her sister's, an _aria bravura_ by De Bériot, and the "Cadence du
Diable," imitated from "Tartini's Dream," which she accompanied with
marvelous skill and delicacy. She shortly appeared again, and she
was supported by Rubini, Lablache, and Ivanhoff. The Parisian critics
recognized the precision, boldness, and brilliancy of her musical style
in the most unstinted expressions of praise. But England was the country
selected by her for the theatrical _début_ toward which her ambition
burned--England, which dearly loved the name of Garcia, so resplendent
in the art-career of Mme. Malibran.

Her appearance in the London world was under peculiar conditions, which,
while they would enhance the greatness of success, would be almost
certainly fatal to anything short of the highest order of ability. The
meteoric luster of Mali-bran's dazzling career was still fresh in the
eyes of the public. The Italian stage was filled by Mme. Grisi, who,
in personal beauty and voice, was held nearly matchless, and had
an established hold on the public favor. Another great singer, Mme.
Persiani, reigned through the incomparable finish of her vocalization,
and the musical world of London was full of distinguished artists,
whose names have stood firm as landmarks in the art. The new Garcia,
who dashed so boldly into the lists, was a young, untried, inexperienced
girl, who had never yet appeared in opera. One can fancy the excitement
and curiosity when Pauline stepped before the footlights of the King's
Theatre, May 9, 1839, as _Desdemona_ in "Otello," which had been the
vehicle of Malibran's first introduction to the English public. The
reminiscence of an eminent critic, who was present, will be interesting.
"Nothing stranger, more incomplete in its completeness, more unspeakably
indicating a new and masterful artist can be recorded than that first
appearance. She looked older than her years; her frame (then a mere
reed) quivered this way and that; her character dress seemed to puzzle
her, and the motion of her hands as much. Her voice was hardly settled
even within its own after conditions; and yet, juaradoxical as it may
seem, she was at ease on the stage; because she brought thither instinct
for acting, experience of music, knowledge how to sing, and consummate
intelligence. There could be no doubt, with any one who saw that
_Desdemona_ on that night, that another great career was begun.... All
the Malibran fire, courage, and accomplishment were in it, and (some of
us fancied) something more beside."

Pauline Garcia's voice was a rebel which she had had to subdue, not a
vassal to command, like the glorious organ of Mme. Grisi, but her harsh
and unmanageable notes had been tutored by a despotic drill into great
beauty and pliancy. Like that of her sister in quality, it combined the
two registers of contralto and soprano from low F to C above the lines,
but the upper part of an originally limited mezzo-soprano had been
literally fabricated by an iron discipline, conducted by the girl
herself with all the science of a master. Like Malibran, too, she had in
her voice the soul-stirring tone, the sympathetic and touching character
by which the heart is thrilled. Her singing was expressive, descriptive,
thrilling, full, equal and just, brilliant and vibrating, especially in
the medium and in the lower chords. Capable of every style of art, it
was adapted to all the feelings of nature, but particularly to outbursts
of grief, joy, or despair. "The dramatic coloring which her voice
imparts to the slightest shades of feeling and passion is a real
phenomenon of vocalization which can not be analyzed," says Escudier.
"No singer we ever heard, with the exception of Malibran," says another
critic, "could produce the same effect by means of a few simple notes.
It is neither by the peculiar power, the peculiar depth, nor the
peculiar sweetness of these tones that the sensation is created, but by
something indescribable in the quality which moves you to tears in the
very hearing."

Something of this impression moved the general mind of connoisseurs on
her first dramatic appearance. Her style, execution, voice, expression,
and manner so irresistibly reminded her fellow-performers of the
lamented Malibran, that tears rolled down their cheeks, yet there
was something radically different withal peculiar to the singer. This
singular resemblance led to a curious incident afterward in Paris. A
young lady was taking a music-lesson from Lablache, who had lodgings in
the same house with Mlle. Garcia. The basso was explaining the manner in
which Malibran gave the air they were practicing. Just then a voice was
heard in the adjoining room singing the cavatina--the voice of Mdlle.
Garcia. The young girl was struck with a fit of superstitious terror as
if she had seen a phantom, and fainted away on her seat.

Yet in person there was but a slight resemblance between the two
sisters. Pauline had a tall, slender figure in her youth, and her
physiognomy, Jewish in its cast, though noble and expressive, was so far
from being handsome that when at rest the features were almost harsh in
their irregularity. But, as in the case of many plain women, emotion and
sensibility would quickly transfigure her face into a marvelous beauty
and fascination, far beyond the loveliness of line and tint. Her
forehead was broad and intellectual, the hair jet-black, the complexion
pale, the large, black eyes ardent and full of fire. Her carriage was
singularly majestic and easy, and a conscious nobility gave her bearing
a loftiness which impressed all beholders.

Her singing and acting in _Desdemona_ made a marked sensation. Though
her powers were still immature, she flooded the house with a stream of
clear, sweet, rich melody, with the apparent ease of a bird. Undismayed
by the traditions of Mali-bran, Pasta, and Sontag in this character,
she gave the part a new reading, in which she put something of her own
intense individuality. "By the firmness of her step, and the general
confidence of her deportment," said a contemporary writer, "we were at
first induced to believe that she was not nervous; but the improvement
of every succeeding song, and the warmth with which she gave the latter
part of the opera, convinced us that her power must have been confined
by something like apprehension." Kubini was the _Otello_, Tamburini,
_Iago_, and Lablache, _Elmiro_. Her performance in "La Cenerentola"
confirmed the good opinion of the public. Her pure taste and perfect
facility of execution were splendidly exhibited. "She has," said a
critic, "more feeling than Mme. Cinti Da-moreau in the part in which
the greater portion of Europe has assigned to her the preeminence, and
execution even now in nearly equal perfection."

M. Viardot, a well-known French _littérateur_, was then director of the
Italian Opera in Paris, and he came to London to hear the new singer--in
whom he naturally felt a warm interest, as he had been an intimate
personal friend of Mme. Malibran. He was so delighted that he offered
her the position of prima donna for the approaching season, but
the timidity of the young girl of eighteen shrank from such a
responsibility, and she would only bind herself to appear for a few
nights. The French public felt a strong curiosity to hear the sister
of Mali-bran, and it was richly rewarded, for the magnificent style
in which she sang her parts in "Otello," "La Cenerentola," and "Il
Barbiere" stamped her position as that not only of a great singer, but a
woman of genius. The audacity and wealth of resource which she displayed
on the first representation of the latter-named opera wore worthy of
the daughter of Garcia and the sister of Malibran, Very imperfectly
acquainted with the music, she forgot an important part of the score.
Without any embarrassment, she instantly improvised not merely the
ornament, but the melody, pouring out a flood of dazzling vocalization
which elicited noisy enthusiasm. It was not Rossini's "Il Barbiere," but
it was successful in arousing a most flattering approbation. It may be
fancied, however, that, when she sang the _rôle_ of _Rosina_ a second
time, she knew the music as Rossini wrote it.


Mlle. Garcia was now fairly embarked on the hereditary profession of her
family, and with every prospect of a brilliant career, for never had a
singer at the very outset so signally impressed herself on the public
judgment, not only as a thoroughly equipped artist, but as a woman
of original genius. But she temporarily retired from the stage in
consequence of her marriage with M. Viardot, who had fallen deeply in
love with the fascinating cantatrice, shortly after his introduction to
her. The bridegroom resigned his position as manager of the Opera, and
the newly married couple, shortly after their nuptials in the spring of
1840, proceeded to Italy, M. Viardot being intrusted with an important
mission relative to the fine arts. Mme. Viardot did not return to the
stage till the spring of the following year. After a short season in
London, in which she made a deep and abiding impression, in the part of
_Orazia_ ("Gli Orazi ed i Curiazi"), and justified her right to wear the
crown of Pasta and Malibran, she was obliged by considerations of health
to return to the balmier climate of Southern Europe.

While traveling in Spain, the native land of her parents, she was
induced to sing in Madrid, where she was welcomed with all the warmth of
Spanish enthusiasm. Her amiability was displayed during her performance
of _Desdemona_, the second opera presented. Pleased with the
unrestrained expressions of delight by the audience, she voluntarily
sang the _rondo finale_ from "Cenerentola." There was such a magic spell
on the audience that they could not be prevailed upon to leave, though
Mme. Viardot sang again and again for them. At last the curtain fell and
the orchestra departed, but the crowd would not leave the theatre.
The obliging cantatrice, though fatigued, directed a piano-forte to be
wheeled to the front of the stage, and sang, to her own accompaniment,
two Spanish airs and a French romance, a crowning act of grace which
made her audience wild with admiration and pleasure. An immense throng
escorted her carriage from the theatre to the hotel, with a tumult of
_vivas_. During this Spanish tour she appeared in opera in several
towns outside of the capital, in the important pieces of her répertoire,
including "Il Barbiere" and "Norma," operas entirely opposed to each
other in style, but in both of which she was favorably judged in
comparison with the greatest representatives of these characters.

When this singer first appeared, every throne on the lyric stage seemed
to be filled by those who sat firm, and wore their crowns right regally
by the grace of divine gifts, as well as by the election of the people.
There seemed to be no manifest place for a new aspirant, no niche
unoccupied. But within three years' time Mme. Viardot's exalted rank
among the great singers of the age was no less assured than if she had
queened it over the public heart for a score of seasons, and in her
endowment as an artist was recognized a bounteous wealth of gifts to
which none of her rivals could aspire. Her resources appeared to be
without limit; she knew every language to which music is sung, every
style in which music can be written with equal fluency. All schools,
whether ancient or modern, severe or florid, sacred or profane,
severely composed or gayly fantastic, were easily within her grasp.
Like Malibran, she was a profoundly scientific musician, and possessed
creative genius. Several volumes of songs attest her inventive skill in
composition, and the instances of her musical improvisation on the stage
are alike curious and interesting. Such unique and lavish qualities as
these placed the younger daughter of Garcia apart from all others, even
as the other daughter had achieved a peculiarly original place in her
time. Like Lablache, in his basso _rôles_, Mme. Viardot, by her genius
completely revolutionized, both in dramatic conception and musical
rendering, many parts which had almost become stage traditions in
passing through the hands of a series of fine artists. But the fresher
insight of a vital originating imagination breathed a more robust
and subtile life into old forms, and the models thus set appear to be
imperishable. It has been more than hinted by friends of the composer
Meyerbeer, that, when his life is read between the lines, it will be
known that he owes a great debt to Pauline Viardot for suggestions and
criticism in one of his greatest operas, as it is well known that he
does to the tenor, Adolphe Nourrit, for some of the finest features of
"Robert le Diable" and "Les Huguenots."

In October, 1842, Mme. Viardot made her reappearance on the French stage
at the Théâtre Italien as _Arsace_ in "Semiramide," supported by Mme.
Grisi and Tamburini. There was at this time such a trio of singers as
is rarely found at any one theatre, Pauline Viardot, Giulia Grisi, and
Fanny Persiani, each one possessing voice and talent of the highest
character in her own peculiar sphere. Not the smallest share of the
honors gathered by these artists came to Mme. Viardot who had for
intelligent and thoughtful connoisseurs a charm more subtile and binding
than that exercised by any of her rivals. At the close of the Paris
season she proceeded to Vienna, where her artistic gifts were highly
appreciated, and thence to Berlin, where Meyerbeer was then engaged in
composing his "Prophète." The dramatic conception of _Fides_, it may
be said in passing, was expressly designed for Pauline Viardot by the
composer, who had the most exalted esteem for her genius, both as a
musician and tragedienne. She was always a great favorite in Germany,
and Berlin and Vienna vied with each other in their admiration of this
gifted woman. In 1844 she stirred the greatest enthusiasm by singing at
Vienna with Ilonconi, a singer afterward frequently associated with her.

Perhaps at no period of her life, though, did Mme. Viardot create a
stronger feeling than when she appeared in Berlin in the spring of 1847
as _Rachel_ in Halévy's "La Juive." It was a German version, but the
singer was perfect mistress of the language, and though the music of
the opera was by no means well suited to the character of her voice,
its power as a dramatic performance and the passion of the singing
established a complete supremacy over all classes of hearers. The
exhibition on the part of this staid and phlegmatic German community was
such as might only be predicated of the volcanic temperament of Rome or
Naples. The roar of the multitude in front of her lodgings continued
all night, and it was dawn before she was able to retire to rest.
The versatility and kind heart of Mme. Viardot were illustrated in an
occurrence during this Berlin engagement. She had been announced as
_Alice_ in "Robert le Diable," when the _Isabella_ of the evening, Mlle.
Tuezck, was taken ill. The _impressario_ tore his hair in despair, for
there was no singer who could be substituted, and a change of opera
seemed to be the only option. Mme. Viardot changed the gloom of the
manager to joy. Rather than disappoint the audience, she would sing
both characters. This she did, changing her costume with each change
of scene, and representing in one opera the opposite _rôles_ of princess
and peasant. One can imagine the effect of this great feat on that
crowded Berlin audience, who had already so warmly taken Pauline Viardot
to their hearts. Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg, Dresden, Frankfort, Leipsic,
and other German cities were the scenes of a series of triumphs, and
everywhere there was but one voice as to her greatness as an artist,
an excellence not only great, but unique of its kind. Her répertoire at
this time consisted of _Desdemona, Cenerentola, Rosina, Camilla (in "Gli
Orazi"), Arsace, Norma, Ninetta, Amina, Romeo, Lucia, Maria di Rohan,
Leonora ("La Favorita" ), Zerlina, Donna Anna, Iphigénie (Gluck), the
Rachel of Halévy, and the Alice and Valentine of Meyerbeer_.


Mme. Viardot's high position on the operatic stage of course brought her
into intimate association with the leading singers of her age, some of
whom have been mentioned in previous sketches. But there was one great
tenor of the French stage, Nourrit, who, though he died shortly after
Mme. Viardot's entrance on her lyric career, yet bore such relation
to the Garcia family as to make a brief account of this gifted artist
appropriate under this caption. Adolphe Nourrit, of whom the French
stage is deservedly proud, was the pupil of Manuel Garcia, the intimate
friend of Maria Malibran, and the judicious adviser of Pauline Viardot
in her earlier years. The son of a tenor singer, who united the business
of a diamond broker with the profession of music, young Nourrit received
a good classical education, and was then placed in the Conservatoire,
where he received a most thorough training in the science of music, as
well as in the art of singing. It was said of him in after-years that
he was able to write a libretto, compose the music to it, lead the
orchestra, and sing the tenor rôle in it, with equal facility. His first
appearance was in Gluck's "Iphigenie en Tauride," in 1821, his age then
being nineteen. Gifted with remarkable intelligence and ambition, he
worked indefatigably to overcome his defects of voice, and perfect his
equipment as an artist. Manuel Garcia, the most scientific and exacting
of singing teachers, was the _maestro_ under whom Nourrit acquired
that large and noble style for which he became eminent. He soon became
principal tenor at the Académie, and created all of the leading tenor
rôles of the operas produced in France for ten years. Among these may
be mentioned _Néoclès_ in "La Siège de Corinthe," _Masaniello_ in "La
Muette de Portici,"_Arnold_ in "Guillaume Tell," _Leonardo da Vinci_
in Ginestell's "François I," _Un Lnconnu_ in "Le Dieu et la Bayadere,"
_Robert le Diable, Edmond_ in "La Serment," _Nadir_ in Cherubini's "Ali
Baba," _Eleazar_ in "La Juive," _Raoul_ in "Les Huguenots," _Phobus_ in
Bertini's "La Esmeralda," and _Stradella_ in Niedermeyer's opera.

Nourrit gave a distinct stamp and a flavor to all the parts he created,
and his comedy was no less refined and pleasing than his tragedy
was pathetic and commanding. He was idolized by the public, and his
influence with them and with his brother artists was great. He was
consulted by managers, composers, and authors. He wrote the words for
Eleazar's fine air in "La Juive," and furnished the suggestions on which
Meyerbeer remodeled the second and third acts of "Robert le Diable" and
the last act of "Les Huguenots." The libretti for the ballets of "La
Sylphide," "La Tempête," "L'île des Pirates," "Le Diable Boiteux," etc.,
as danced by Taglioni and Fanny Elssler, were written by this versatile
man, and he composed many charming songs, which are still favorites
in French drawing-rooms. It was Nourrit who popularized the songs of
Schubert, and otherwise softened the French prejudice against modern
German music. In private life this great artist was so witty, genial,
and refined, that he was a favorite guest in the most distinguished and
exclusive _salons_. When Duprez was engaged at the opera it severely
mortified Nourrit, and, rather than divide the honors with a new singer,
he resigned his position as first tenor at the Académie, where he so
long had been a brilliant light. His farewell to the French public,
April 1, 1837, was the most flattering and enthusiastic ovation ever
accorded to a French artist, but he could not be induced to reconsider
his purpose. He was professor of lyric declamation at the Conservatoire,
but this position, too, he resigned, and went away with the design of
making a musical tour through France, Germany, and Italy. Nourrit, who
was subject to alternate fits of excitement and depression, was maddened
to such a degree by a series of articles praising Duprez at his expense,
that his friends feared for his sanity, a dread which was ominously
realized in Italy two years afterward, where Nourrit was then singing.
Though he was very warmly welcomed by the Italians, his morbid
sensibility took offense at Naples at what he fancied was an unfavorable
opinion of his _Pollio_ in "Norma." His excitement resulted in delirium,
and he threw himself from his bedroom window on the paved court-yard
below, which resulted in instant death. Nourrit was the intimate friend
of many of the most distinguished men of the age in music, literature,
and art, and his sad death caused sincere national grief.

As a singer and actor, Nourrit had one of the most creative and
originating minds of his age. He himself never visited the United
States, but his younger brother, Auguste, was a favorite tenor in New
York thirty years ago.

The part of _John of Leyden_ in "Le Prophète," whose gestation covered
many years of growth and change, was originally written for and in
consultation with Nourrit, just as that of Fides in the same opera was
remolded for and by suggestion of Pauline Viardot. Yet the opera did not
see the light until Nourrit's successor, Duprez, had vanished from the
stage, and his successor again, Roger, who, though a brilliant singer,
was far inferior to the other two in creative intellectuality, appeared
on the scene. Chorley asserts that Du-prez was the only artist he had
ever seen and heard whose peculiar qualities and excellences would
have enabled him to do entire musical and dramatic justice to the
arduous part of _John of Leyden_.... "I have never seen anything like a
complete conception of the character, so wide in its range of emotions;
and might have doubted its possibility, had I not remembered the
admirable, subtile, and riveting dramatic treatment of _Eleazar_ in 'La
Juive' (the _Shyloch_ of opera) by M. Duprez."

This artist may be also included as belonging largely to the sphere
of Pauline Viardot's art-life. Albert Duprez, the son of a French
performer, was born in 1806, and, like his predecessor Nourrit, was a
student at the Conservatoire. At first he did not succeed in operatic
singing, but, recognizing his own faults and studying the great models
of the day, among them Nourrit, whom he was destined to supplant, he
finally impressed himself on the public as the leading dramatic singer
of France. According to Fetis and Castil-Blaze, he never had a superior
in stage declamation, and the finest actors of the Comédie Française
might well have taken a lesson from him. His first great success, which
caused his engagement in grand opera, was the creation of _Edgardo_ in
"Lucia di Lammermoor" at Naples in 1835.

Two years later he made his _début_ at the Académie in "Guillaume
Tell," and his novel and striking reading of his part on this occasion
contributed largely to his fame. He was a leading figure at this theatre
for twelve years, and was the first representative of many important
tenor rôles, among which may be mentioned those of "Benvenuto Cellini,"
"Les Martyrs," "La Favorita," "Dom Sebastien," "Otello," and "Lucia."
Duprez was insignificant, even repellent in his appearance, but, in
spite of these defects, his tragic passion and the splendid intelligence
displayed in his vocal art gave him a deserved prominence. Duprez
composed many songs and romances, chamber-music, two masses, and eight
operas, and was the author of a highly esteemed musical method, which is
still used at the Conservatoire, where he was a professor of singing.

Another name linked with not a few of Mme. Viardot's triumphs is that
of Ronconi, a name full of pleasant recollections, too, for many of the
opera-goers of the last generation in the United States. There have been
only a few lyric actors more versatile and gifted than he, or who
have achieved their rank in the teeth of so many difficulties and
disadvantages. His voice was limited in compass, inferior in quality,
and habitually out of tune, his power of musical execution mediocre, his
physical appearance entirely without grace, picturesqueness, or dignity.
Yet Ronconi, by sheer force of a versatile dramatic genius, delighted
audiences in characters which had been made familiar to the public
through the splendid personalities of Tamburini and Lablache,
personalities which united all the attributes of success on the lyric
stage--noble physique, grand voice, the highest finish of musical
execution, and the actor's faculty. What more unique triumph can be
fancied than such a one violating all the laws of probability? Ronconi's
low stature and commonplace features could express a tragic passion
which could not be exceeded, or an exuberance of the wildest, quaintest,
most spontaneous comedy ever born of mirth's most airy and tameless
humor. Those who saw Ronconi's acting in this country saw the great
artist as a broken man, his powers partly wrecked by the habitual
dejection which came of domestic suffering and professional reverses,
but spasmodic gleams of his old energy still lent a deep interest to the
work of the artist, great even in his decadence. In giving some idea of
the impression made by Ronconi at his best, we can not do better than
quote the words of an able critic: "There have been few such examples
of terrible courtly tragedy in Italian opera as Signor Ronconi's
_Chevreuse_, the polished demeanor of his earlier scenes giving a
fearful force of contrast to the latter ones when the torrent of pent-up
passion nears the precipice. In spite of the discrepancy between all our
ideas of serious and sentimental music and the old French dresses, which
we are accustomed to associate with the _Dorantes_ and _Alcestes_ of
Molière's dramas, the terror of the last scene when (between his teeth
almost) the great artist uttered the line--'_Suir uscio tremendo lo
sguardo figgiamo_'--clutching the while the weak and guilty woman by
the wrist, as he dragged her to the door behind which her falsity was
screened, was something fearful, a sound to chill the blood, a sight to
stop the breath." This writer, in describing his performance of the part
of the _Doge_ in Verdi's "I Due Foscari," thus characterizes the last
act when the Venetian chief refuses to pardon his own son for the crime
of treason, faithful to Venice against his agonized affections as a
father: "He looked sad, weak, weary, leaned back as if himself ready to
give up the ghost, but, when the woman after the allotted bars of noise
began again her second-time agony, it was wondrous to see how the old
sovereign turned in his chair, with the regal endurance of one who says
'I must endure to the end,' and again gathered his own misery into his
old father's heart, and shut it up close till the woman ended. Unable to
grant her petition, unable to free his son, the old man when left alone
could only rave till his heart broke. Signor Ronconi's _Doge_ is not to
be forgotten by those who do not regard art as a toy, or the singer's
art as something entirely distinct from dramatic truth."

His performance of the quack doctor _Dulcamara_, in "L'Elisir d'Amore,"
was no less amazing as a piece of humorous acting, a creation matched
by that of the haggard, starveling poet in "Matilda di Shabran" and
_Papageno_ in Mozart's "Zauberflote." Anything more ridiculous and
mirthful than these comedy _chef-d'ouvres_ could hardly be fancied. The
same critic quoted above says: "One could write a page on his _Barber_
in Rossini's master-work; a paragraph on his _Duke_ in 'Lucrezia
Borgia,' an exhibition of dangerous, suspicious, sinister malice such as
the stage has rarely shown; another on his _Podesta_ in 'La Gazza Ladra'
(in these two characters bringing him into close rivalry with Lablache,
a rivalry from which he issued unharmed); and last, and almost best of
his creations, his _Masetto_." Ronconi is, we believe, still living,
though no longer on the stage; but his memory will remain one of the
great traditions of the lyric drama, so long as consummate histrionic
ability is regarded as worthy of respect by devotees of the opera.


Mme. Viardot's name is, perhaps, more closely associated with the music
of Meyerbeer than that of any other composer. Her _Alice_ in "Robert le
Diable," her _Valentine_ in "Les Huguenots," added fresh luster to her
fame. In the latter character no representative of opera, in spite of
the long bead-roll of eminent names interwoven with the record of this
musical work, is worthy to be compared with her. This part was for years
regarded as standing to her what _Medea_ was to Pasta, _Norma_ to Grisi,
_Fidelio_ to Malibran and Schröder-Devrient, and it was only when she
herself made a loftier flight as _Fides_ in "Le Prophète" that this
special connection of the part with the _artist_ ceased. Her genius
always found a more ardent sympathy with the higher forms of music. "The
florid graces and embellishments of the modern Italian school," says a
capable judge, "though mastered by her with perfect ease, do not appear
to be consonant with her genius. So great an artist must necessarily be
a perfect mistress of all styles of singing, but her intellect evidently
inclines her to the severer and loftier school." She was admitted to be
a "woman of genius, peculiar, inasmuch as it is universal."

Her English engagement at the Royal Italian Opera, in 1848, began with
the performance of _Amina_ in "La Sonnambula," and created a great
sensation, for she was about to contest the suffrages of the public with
a group of the foremost singers of the world, among whom were Grisi,
Alboni, and Persiani. Mme. Viardot's nervousness was apparent to all.
"She proved herself equal to Malibran," says a writer in the "Musical
World," speaking of this performance; "there was the same passionate
fervor, the same absorbing depth of feeling; we heard the same tones
whose naturalness and pathos stole into our very heart of hearts; we saw
the same abstraction, the same abandonment, the same rapturous awakening
to joy, to love, and to devotion. Such novel and extraordinary passages,
such daring nights into the region of fioriture, together with chromatic
runs ascending and descending, embracing the three registers of the
soprano, mezzo-soprano, and contralto, we have not heard since the days
of Malibran." Another critic made an accurate gauge of her peculiar
greatness in saying: "Mme. Viardot's voice grows unconsciously upon you,
until at last you are blind to its imperfections. The voice penetrates
to the heart by its sympathetic tones, and you forget everything in it
but its touching and affecting quality. You care little or nothing for
the mechanism, or rather, for the weakness of the organ. You are no
longer a critic, but spellbound by the hand of genius, moved by the
sway of enthusiasm that comes from the soul, abashed in the presence of

The most memorable event of this distinguished artist's life was her
performance, in 1849, of the character of _Fides_ in "Le Prophète." No
operatic creation ever made a greater sensation in Paris. Meyerbeer had
kept it in his portfolio for years, awaiting the time when Mme. Viardot
should be ready to interpret it, and many changes had been made from
time to time at the suggestion of the great singer, who united to her
executive skill an intellect of the first rank, and a musical knowledge
second to that of few composers. At the very last moment it is said that
one or more of the acts were entirely reconstructed, at the wish of the
representative of _Fides_, whose dramatic instincts were as unerring as
her musical judgment. No performance since that of Viardot, though the
most eminent singers have essayed the part, has equaled the first ideal
set by her creation from its possibilities.

In this opera the principal interest pivots on the _mother_. The
sensuous, sentimental, or malignant phases of love are replaced by
the purest maternal devotion. It was left for Mme. Viardot to add an
absolutely new type to the gallery of portraits on the lyric stage. We
are told by a competent critic, whose enthusiasm in the study of
this great impersonation did not yet quite run away with his judicial
faculty: "Her remarkable power of self-identification with the character
set before her was, in this case, aided by person and voice. The mature
burgher woman in her quaint costume; the pale, tear-worn devotee,
searching from city to city for traces of the lost one, and struck
with a pious horror at finding him a tool in the hands of hypocritical
blasphemy, was till then a being entirely beyond the pale of the
ordinary prima donna's comprehension--one to the presentation of which
there must go as much simplicity as subtile art, as much of tenderness
as of force, as much renunciation of woman's ordinary coquetries as
of skill to impress all hearts by the picture of homely love, desolate
grief, and religious enthusiasm." M. Roger sang with Mme. Viardot in
Paris, but, when the opera was shortly afterward reproduced in London,
he was replaced by Signor Mario, "whose appearance in his coronation
robes reminded one of some bishop-saint in a picture by Van Ryek or
Durer, and who could bring to bear a play of feature without grimace,
into scenes of false fascination, far beyond the reach of the clever
French artist, M. Roger." The production of "Le Prophète" saved the
fortunes of the struggling new Italian Opera House, which had been
floundering in pecuniary embarrassments.

The last season of Mme. Viardot in England was in 1858, during which she
sang to enthusiastic audiences in many of her principal characters,
and also contributed to the public pleasure in concert and the great
provincial festivals. The tour in Poland, Germany, and Russia which
followed was marked by a series of splendid ovations and the eagerness
with which her society was sought by the most patrician circles in

Her last public appearance in Paris was in 1862, and since that time
Mme. Viardot has occupied a professional chair at the Conservatoire. In
private life this great artist has always been loved and admired for
her brilliant mental accomplishments, her amiability, the suavity of her
manners, and her high principles, no less than she has been idolized by
the public for the splendor of her powers as musician and tragedienne.


The Tenor Singer Tacchinardi.--An Exquisite Voice and Deformed
Physique.--Early Talent shown by his Daughter Fanny.--His Aversion
to her entering on the Stage Life.--Her Marriage to M. Persiani.--The
Incident which launched Fanny Persiani on the Stage.--Rapid Success as a
Singer.--Donizetti writes one of his Great Operas for her.--_Personnel_,
Voice, and Artistic Style of Mme. Persiani.--One of the Greatest
Executants who ever lived.--Anecdotes of her Italian Tours.--
First Appearance in Paris and London.--A Tour through Belgium with
Rubini.--Anecdote of Prince Metternich.--Further Studies of Persiani's
Characteristics as a Singer.--Donizetti composes Another Opera for
her.--Her Prosperous Career and Retirement from the Stage.--Last
Appearance in Paris for Mario's Benefit.


Under the Napoleonic _régime_ the Odéon was the leading lyric theatre,
and the great star of that company was Nicholas Tacchinardi, a tenor in
whom nature had combined the most opposing characteristics. The
figure of a dwarf, a head sunk beneath the shoulders, hunchbacked, and
repulsive, he was hardly a man fitted by nature for a stage hero. Yet
his exquisite voice and irreproachable taste as a musician gave him a
long reign in the very front rank of his profession. He was so morbidly
conscious of his own stage defects that he would beg composers to write
for him with a view to his singing at the side scenes before entering
on the stage, that the public might form an impression of him by hearing
before his grotesque ugliness could be seen. Another expedient for
concealing some portion of his unfortunate figure was often practiced
by this musical Caliban, that of coming on the stage standing in a
triumphal car. But this only excited the further risibilities of his
hearers, and he was forced to be content with the chance of making his
vocal fascination condone the impression made by his ugliness.

At his first appearance on the boards of the Odéon, he was saluted with
the most insulting outbursts of laughter and smothered ejaculations
of "Why, he's a hunchback!" Being accustomed to this kind of greeting,
Tacchinardi tranquilly walked to the footlights and bowed. "Gentlemen,"
he said, addressing the pit, "I am not here to exhibit my person, but
to sing. Have the goodness to hear me." They did hear him, and when he
ceased the theatre rang with plaudits: there was no more laughter. His
personal disadvantages were redeemed by one of the finest and
purest tenor voices ever given by nature and refined by art, by his
extraordinary intelligence, by an admirable method of singing, an
exquisite taste in fioriture, and facility of execution.

Fanny Tacchinardi was the second daughter of the deformed tenor, born at
Rome, October 4, 1818, three years after Tacchinardi had returned again
to his native land. Fanny's passion for music betrayed itself in her
earliest lisps, and it was not ignored by Tacchinardi, who gave her
lessons on the piano and in singing. At nine she could play with
considerable intelligence and precision, and sing with grace her
father's ariettas and _duettini_ with her sister Elisa, who was not only
an excellent pianist, but a good general musician and composer. The girl
grew apace in her art feeling and capacity, for at eleven she took part
in an opera as prima donna at a little theatre which her father had
built near his country place, just out of Florence. Tacchinardi was,
however, very averse to a professional career for his daughter, in spite
of the powerful bent of her tastes and the girl's pleadings. He had been
_chanteur de chambre_ since 1822 for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and
in the many concerts and other public performances over which he was
director his daughter frequently appeared, to the great delight of
amateurs. Fanny even at this early age had a voice of immense compass,
though somewhat lacking in sweetness and flexibility, defects which she
subsequently overcame by study and practice. As the best antidote to
the sweet stage poison which already began to run riot in her veins,
her father brought about an early marriage for the immature girl, and
in 1830 she was united to Joseph Persiani, an operatic composer of some
merit, though not of much note. She resided with her husband in her
father's house for several years, carefully secluded as far as possible
from musical influences, but the hereditary passion and gifts could
not be altogether suppressed, and the youthful wife quietly pursued her
studies with unbroken perseverance.

The incident which irretrievably committed her energies and fortunes to
the stage was a singular one, yet it is not unreasonable to assume that,
had not this occurred, her ardent predilections would have found some
other outlet to the result to which she aspired. M. Fournier, a rich
French merchant, settled at Leghorn, was an excellent musician, and
carried this recreation of his leisure hours so far as to compose an
opera, "Francesca di Rimini," the subject drawn from the romance of
"Silvio Pellico." The wealthy merchant could find no manager who would
venture to produce the work of an amateur. But he was willing and able
to become his own _impressario_, and accordingly he set about forming an
operatic troupe and preparing the scenery for a public representation
of his dearly beloved musical labor. The first vocalists of Italy, Mmes.
Pisaroni and Rasallima Caradori, contralto and soprano, were engaged at
lavish salaries, and on the appointed day of the first rehearsal they
all appeared except Caradori, whose Florentine manager positively
forbade her singing as a violation of his contract. M. Fournier was in
despair, but at last some one remembered Mme. Persiani, who was known
as a charming dilettante. Her residence was not many miles away from
Leghorn, and it was determined to have recourse to this last resort,
for it was otherwise almost impossible to secure a vocalist of talent
at short notice. A deputation of M. Fournier's friends, among whom were
those well acquainted with the Tacchinardi family, formed an embassy to
represent the urgent need of the composer and implore the aid of Mme.
Persiani. With some difficulty the consent of husband and father was
obtained, and the young singer made her _début_ in the opera of the
merchant-musician. Mme. Persiani said in after-years that, had her
attempt been a successful one, it was very doubtful if she ever would
have pursued the profession of the stage. But her performance came
very near to being a failure. Her pride was so stung and her vanity
humiliated that she would not listen to the commands of husband and
father. She would become a great lyric artist, or else satisfy herself
that she _could_ not become one. The turning-point of her life had come.

She found an engagement at the La Scala, Milan, and she speedily laid a
good foundation for her future renown. She sang at Florence with
Duprez, and Donizetti, who was then in the city, composed his "Rosmonda
d'Inghilterra" for these artists. For two years there was nothing of
specially important note in Mme. Persiani's life except a swift and
steady progress. An engagement at Vienna made her the pet of that city,
which is fanatical in its musical enthusiasm, and we next find her back
again in Italy, singing greatly to the satisfaction of the public in
such operas as "Romeo e Giulietta," "Il Pirata," "La Gazza Ladra,"
and "L'Elisir d'Amore." Mme. Pasta was singing in Venice when Persiani
visited that city, and the latter did not hesitate to enter into
competition with her illustrious rival. Indeed, the complimentary
Venetians called her "la petite Pasta," though the character of her
talent was entirely alien to that of the great tragedienne of music.
Milan and Rome reechoed the voice of other cities, and during her stay
in Rome she appeared in two new operas, "Misantropia e Pentimento" and
"I Promessi Sposi." Among the artists associated with her during the
Roman engagement was Ronconi, who was then just beginning to establish
his great reputation. One of the most important events of her early
career was her association, in 1834, at the San Carlo, Naples, with
Duprez, Caselli, and La-blache. The composer Donizetti had always been
charmed with her voice as suiting the peculiar style of music in
which he excelled, and he determined to compose an opera for her. His
marvelous facility of composition was happily illustrated in this case.
The novel of "The Bride of Lammermoor" was turned into a libretto for
him by a Neapolitan poet, Donizetti himself, it is said, having written
the last act in his eagerness to save time and get it completed that
he might enter on the musical composition. The opera of "Lucia di
Lammermoor," one of the most beautiful of the composer's works, was
finished in little more than five weeks. The music of _Edgardo_ was
designed for the voice of M. Duprez, that of _Lucia_ for Mme. Persiani,
and the result was brilliantly successful, not only as suiting the
styles of those singers, but in making a powerful impression on the
public mind. Mme. Persiani never entered into any rivalry with those
singers who were celebrated for their dramatic power, for this talent
did not peculiarly stamp her art-work. But her impersonation of _Lucia_
in Donizetti's opera was sentimental, impassioned, and pathetic to a
degree which saved her from the reproach which was sometimes directed
against her other performances--lack of unction and abandon.


The _personnel_ of Mme. Persiani could not be considered highly
attractive. She was small, thin, with a long, colorless face, and looked
older than her years. Her eyes were, however, soft and dreamy, her smile
piquant, her hair like gold-colored silk, and exquisitely long. Her
manner and carriage both on and off the stage were so refined and
charming, that of all the singers of the day she best expressed that
thorough-bred look which is independent of all beauty and physical
grace. "Never was there woman less vulgar, in physiognomy or in manner,
than she," says Mr. Chorley, describing Mme. Persiani; "but never was
there one whose appearance on the stage was less distinguished. She was
not precisely insignificant to see, so much as pale, plain, and anxious.
She gave the impression of one who had left sorrow or sickness at
home, and who therefore (unlike those wonderful deluders, the French
actresses, who, because they will not be ugly, rarely _look_ so) had
resigned every question of personal attraction as a hopeless one. She
was singularly tasteless in her dress. Her one good point was her hair,
which was splendidly profuse, and of an agreeable color."

As a vocalist, it was agreed that her singing had the volubility,
ease, and musical sweetness of a bird: her execution was remarkable
for velocity. Her voice was rather thin, but its tones were clear as a
silver bell, brilliant and sparkling as a diamond; it embraced a range
of two octaves and a half (or about eighteen notes, from B to F in alt),
the highest and lowest notes of which she touched with equal ease and
sweetness. She had thus an organ of the most extensive compass known in
the register of the true soprano. Her facility was extraordinary;
her voice was implicitly under her command, and capable not only of
executing the greatest difficulties, but also of obeying the most daring
caprices--scales, shakes, trills, divisions, fioriture the most dazzling
and inconceivable. She only acquired this command by indefatigable
labor. Study had enabled her to execute with fluency and correctness
the chromatic scales, ascending and descending, and it was by sheer hard
practice that she learned to swell and diminish her accents; to emit
tones full, large, and free from nasal or guttural sounds, to manage
her respiration skillfully, and to seize the delicate shades of
vocalization. In fioriture and vocal effects her taste was faultless,
and she had an agreeable manner of uniting her tones by the happiest
transitions, and diminishing with insensible gradations. She excelled
in the effects of vocal embroidery, and her passion for ornamentation
tempted her to disregard the dramatic situation in order to give way
to a torrent of splendid fioriture, which dazzled the audience without
always satisfying them.

The characters expressing placidity, softness, and feminine grace, like
_Lucia, Amina,_ and _Zerli-na_, involving the sentimental rather than
the passionate, were best fitted to Mme. Persiani's powers as artist.
She belonged to the same school as Sontag, not only in character
of voice, but in all her sympathies and affinities; yet she was not
incapable of a high order of tragic emotion, as her performance of the
mad scene of "Lucia di Lammermoor" gave ample proof, but this form of
artistic expression was not spontaneous and unforced. It was only well
accomplished under high pressure. Escudin said of her, "It is not only
the nature of her voice which limits her--it is also the expression
of her acting, we had almost said the ensemble of her physical
organization. She knows her own powers perfectly. She is not ambitious,
she knows exactly what will suit her, and is aware precisely of the
nature of her talent." Although she attained a high reputation in some
of Mozart's characters, as, for example, _Zerlina_, the Mozart music was
not well fitted to her voice and tastes. The brilliancy and flexibility
of her organ and her airy style were far more suited to the modern
Italian than to the severe German school.

A charming compliment was paid by Malibran, who knew how to do such
things with infinite taste and delicacy, to Persiani, when the latter
lady was singing at Naples in 1835: while the representative of
_Lucia_ was changing her costume between the acts, a lady entered her
dressing-room, and complimented her in warmest terms on the excellence
of her singing. The visitor then took the long golden tresses floating
over Persiani's shoulders, and asked, "Is it all your own?" On being
laughingly answered in the affirmative, Malibran, for it was she, said,
"Allow me, signora, since I have no wreath of flowers to offer you, to
twine you one with your own beautiful hair." Mme. Persiani's artistic
tour through Italy, in 1835, culminated in Florence with one of those
exhibitions of popular tyranny and exaction which so often alternate
with enthusiasm in the case of audiences naturally ardent and
impressible, and consequently capricious. When the singer arrived at the
Tuscan capital, she was in such a weak and exhausted state that she did
not deem it prudent to sing. Her manager was, however, unbending,
and insisted on the exact fulfillment of her contract. After vain
remonstrances she yielded to her taskmaster, and appeared in "I
Puritani," trusting to the forbearance and kindness of her audience.
But a few notes had escaped her pale and quivering lips when the angry
audience broke out into loud hisses, marks of disapprobation which were
kept up during the performance. Mme. Persiani could not forgive this,
and, when she completely recovered her voice and energy a few weeks
after, she treated the lavish demonstrations of the public with the most
cutting disdain and indifference. At the close of her engagement, she
publicly announced her determination never again to sing in Florence, on
account of the selfish cruelty to which she had been subjected both by
the manager and the public. Persiani's fame grew rapidly in every part
of Europe. At Vienna, she was named chamber singer to the Austrian
sovereign, and splendid gifts were lavished on her by the imperial
family, and in the leading cities of Germany, as in St. Petersburg and
Moscow, the highest recognition of her talents was shown alike by court
and people.

It was not till 1837 that Mme. Persiani ventured to make her first
appearance in Paris, a step which she took with much apprehension, for
she had an exaggerated notion of the captious-ness and coldness of the
French public. When she stepped on the stage, November 7th, the night of
her _début_ in "Sonnambula," she was so violently shaken by her emotions
that she could scarcely stand. The other singers were Rubini, Tamburini,
and Mlle. Allessandri, and the audience was of the utmost distinction,
including the foremost people in the art, literary, and social circles
of Paris. The _debutante_ was well received, but it was not until
she appeared in Cimarosa's "Il Matrimonio Segreto" that she was fully
appreciated. Rubini and Tamburini were with her in the cast, and the
same great artists participated also with her in the performance of
"Lucia," which set the final seal of her artistic won h in the
public estimate. She also appeared in London in the following year in
"Sonnambula." "It is no small risk to any vocalist to follow Malibran
and Grisi in a part which they both played so well," was the observation
of one critic, "and it is no small compliment to Persiani to say that
she succeeded in it." She had completely established herself as a
favorite with the London public before the end of the season, and
thereafter she continued to sing alternately in London and Paris for a
succession of years, sharing the applause of audiences with such artists
as Grisi, Viardot, Lablache, Tamburini, Rubini, and Mario.

A tour through Belgium and the Rhenish provinces, partly operatic,
partly concertizing, which she took with Rubini in the summer and fall
of 1841, was highly successful from the artistic point of view, and
replete with pleasant incidents, among which may be mentioned their
meeting at Wiesbaden with Prince Metternich, who had come with a crowd
of princes, ministers, and diplomats from the château of Johannisberg
to be present at the concert. At the conclusion of the performance, the
Prince took Rubini by the arm, and walked up and down the salon with him
for some time. They had become acquainted at Vienna. "My dear
Rubini," said Metternich, "it is impossible that you can come so near
Johannisberg without paying me a visit there. I hope you and your
friends will come and dine with me to-morrow." The following day,
therefore, Rubini, Mme. Persiani, etc., went to the château, so
celebrated for the produce of its vineyards, where M. Metternich and his
princess did the honors with the utmost affability and cordiality. After
dinner, Rubini, unasked, sang two of his most admired airs; and
the Prince, to testify his gratification, offered him a basket of
Johannisberg, "to drink my health," he laughingly said, "when you reach
your château of Bergamo." Rubini accepted the friendly offering, and
begged permission to bring Mme. Rubini, before quitting the north of
Europe, to visit the fine château. Metternich immediately summoned his
major-domo, and said to him, "Remember that, if ever M. Rubini visits
Johannisberg during my absence, he is to be received as if he were its
master. You will place the whole of the château at his disposal so long
as he may please to remain." "And the cellar, also?" asked Rubini. "The
cellar, also," added the Prince, smiling: "the cellar at discretion."


The characteristics of Mme. Persiani's voice and art have already been
generally described sufficiently to convey some distinct impression of
her personality as a singer, but it is worth while to enter into some
more detailed account of the peculiar qualities which for many years
gave her so great a place on the operatic stage. Her acute soprano,
mounting to E flat _altissimo_, had in it many acrid and piercing notes,
and was utterly without the caressing, honeyed sweetness which, for
example, gave such a sensuous charm to the voice of Mme. Grisi. But she
was an incomparable mistress over the difficulties of vocalization. From
her father, Tacchinardi, who knew every secret of his art, she received
a full bequest of his knowledge. Her voice was developed to its utmost
capacity, and it was said of her that every fiber in her frame seemed
to have a part in her singing; there was nothing left out, nothing kept
back, nothing careless, nothing unfinished. So sedulous was she in the
employment of her vast and varied resources that she frequently rose
to an animation which, if not sympathetic, as warmth kindling warmth,
amounted to that display of conscious power which is resistless.
The perfection with which she wrought up certain scenes, such as the
"Sonnambula" _finale_ and the mad scene in "Lucia," judged from the
standard of musical style, was not surpassed in any of the dazzling
displays of the stage. She had the finest possible sense of accent,
which enabled her to give every phrase its fullest measure.

Groups of notes were divided and expressed by her with all the precision
which the best violinists put into their bowing. The bird-like case with
which she executed the most florid, rapid, and difficult music was so
securely easy and unfailing as to excite something of the same kind of
wonder with which one would watch some matchless display of legerdemain.

Another great musical quality in which she surpassed her contemporaries
was her taste and extraordinary facility in ornament. Always refined and
true in style, she showed a variety and brilliancy in her changes and
cadenzas which made her the envy of other singers. In this form of
accomplishment she was first among Italians, who, again, are first among
the singers of the world. Every passage was finished to perfection; and,
though there were other singers not inferior to her in the use of the
shake or the trill, yet in the attack of intervals distant from each
other, in the climbing up a series of groups of notes, ascending to the
highest in the scale, there was no singer of her own time or since who
could compete with her. Mr. Chorley tells us how convincingly these rare
and remarkable merits impressed themselves on him, "when, after a few
years' absence from our stage, Mme. Persiani reappeared in London, how,
in comparison with her, her younger successors sounded like so many
immature scholars of the second class." On her gala nights the spirit
and splendor of her execution were daring, triumphant, and irresistible,
if we can trust those who heard her in her days of greatness.
Moschcles, in his diary, speaks of the incredible difficulties which
she overcame, and compares her performance with that of a violinist,
while Mendelssohn, who did not love Italian music or the Italian
vocalization, said: "Well, I do like Mme. Persiani dearly. She is such
a thorough artist, and she sings so earnestly, and there is such a
pleasant _bitter_ tone in her voice."

Donizetti met Mme. Persiani again in Vienna in 1842, and composed for
her his charming opera, "Linda di Chamouni," which, with the exception
of the "Favorita" and "Lucia," is generally admitted to be his best.
In this opera our singer made an impression nearly equal to that in
"Lucia," and it remained afterward a great favorite with her, and one in
which she was highly esteemed by the European public.

The transformation of Covent Garden Theatre into a spacious and noble
opera-house in 1847, and the secession of the principal artists from Her
Majesty's Theatre, were the principal themes of musical gossip in the
English capital at that time. The artists who went over to the Royal
Italian Opera were Mines, Grisi and Persiani, Mlle. Alboni (then a
novelty on the English stage), and Signors Mario, Tamburini, Salvi,
Ronconi, Hovere, and Marini. M. Persiani was the director, and Signor
Costa the _chef d'orchestre_. Although the company of singers was a
magnificent combination of musical talent, and the presentation of opera
in every way admirable, the enterprise had a sickly existence for a
time, and it was not until it had passed through various vicissitudes,
and came finally into the hands of the astute Lumley, that the
enterprise was settled on a stable foundation.

From 1850 to 1858 Mme. Persiani sang with her usual brilliant success in
all the principal cities of Europe, receiving, for special performances
in which she was a great favorite, the then remarkable sum of two
hundred pounds per night. Her last appearance in England was in the
spring of 1858, when she performed in "I Puritani," "Don Pasquale,"
"Linda di Chamouni," and "Don Giovanni." In the following winter she
established her residence in Paris, with the view of training pupils for
the stage. Only once did she depart from her resolution of not singing
again in opera. This was when Signor Mario was about to take his benefit
in the spring of 1859. The director of the Theatre Italiens entreated
Persiani to sing _Zerlina_ to the _Don Giovanni_ of Mario, to which she
at last consented. "My career," she said, "began almost in lisping the
divine music of 'Don Giovanni'; it will be appropriately closed by the
interpretation of this _chef-d'ouvre_ of the master of masters, the
immortal Mozart." Mme. Persiani died in June, 1867, and her funeral
was attended by a host of operatic celebrities, who contributed to the
musical exercises of a most impressive funeral. Mme. Persiani, aside
from her having possessed a wonderful executive art in what may be
called the technique of singing, will long be remembered by students
of musical history as having, perhaps, contributed more than any other
singer to making the music of Donizetti popular throughout Europe.


The Greatest of Contraltos.--Marietta Alboni's Early
Surroundings.--Rossini's Interest in her Career.--First Appearance on
the Operatic Stage.--Excitement produced in Germany by her Singing.--Her
Independence of Character.--Her Great Success in London.--Description
of her Voice and Person.--Concerts in Taris.--The Verdicts of the Great
French Critics.--Hector Berlioz on Alboni's Singing.--She appears in
Opera in Paris.--Strange Indifference of the Audience quickly turned to
Enthusiasm.--She competes favorably in London with Grisi, Persiani,
and Viardot.--Takes the Place of Jenny Lind as Prima Donna at Her
Majesty's.--She extends her Voice into the Soprano Register.--Performs
_Fides_ in "Le Prophète."--Visit to America.--Retires from the Stage.


There was a time early in the century when the voice of Rosamunda
Pisaroni was believed to be the most perfect and delightful, not only
of all contraltos of the age, but to have reached the absolute ideal of
what this voice should be. She even for a time disputed the supremacy
of Henrietta Sontag as the idol of the Paris public, though the latter
great singer possessed the purest of soprano voices, and won no less
by her personal loveliness than by the charm of her singing. Pisaroni
excelled as much in her dramatic power as in the beauty of her voice,
and up to the advent of Marietta Alboni on the stage was unquestionably
without a rival in the estimate of critics as the artist who surpassed
all the traditions of the operatic stage in this peculiar line of
singing. But her memory was dethroned from its pedestal when the
gorgeous Alboni became known to the European public.

Thomas Noon Talfourd applied to a well-known actress of half a century
since the expression that she had "corn, wine, and oil" in her looks.
A similar characterization would well apply both to the appearance
and voice of Mlle. Alboni, when she burst on the European world in the
splendid heyday of her youth and charms--the face, with its broad, sunny
Italian beauty, incapable of frown; the figure, wrought in lines
of voluptuous symmetry, though the _embonpoint_ became finally too
pronounced; the voice, a rich, deep, genuine contralto of more than
two octaves, as sweet as honey, and "with that tremulous quality which
reminds fanciful spectators of the quiver in the air of the calm,
blazing summer's noon"; a voice luscious beyond description. To this
singer has been accorded without dissent the title of the "greatest
contralto of the nineteenth century."

The father of Marietta Alboni was an officer of the customs, who lived
at Casena in the Romagna, and possessed enough income to bestow an
excellent education on all his family. Marietta, born March 10, 1822,
evinced an early passion for music, and a great facility in learning
languages. She was accordingly placed with Signor Bagioli, a local
music-teacher, under whom she so prospered that at eleven she could read
music at sight, and vocalize with considerable fluency. Having studied
her solfeggi with Bagioli, she was transferred to the tuition of Mme.
Bertoletti, at Bologna. Here she had the good fortune to make the
acquaintance of Rossini, in whom she excited interest. Rossini gave
her some lessons, and expressed a high opinion of her prospects. "At
present," he said to some one inquiring about the young girl's talents,
"her voice is like that of an itinerant ballad singer, but the town
will be at her feet before she is a year older." It was chiefly through
Rossini's cordial admiration of her voice that Morelli, one of the
great _entrepreneurs_ of Italy, engaged her for the Teatro Communale
of Bologna. Here she made her first appearance as _Maffeo Orsini_, in
"Lucrezia Borgia," in 1842, Marietta then having reached the age of
twenty. She was then transferred to the La Scala, at Milan, where she
performed with marked success in "La Favorita." Rossini himself signed
her contract, saying, "I am the subscribing witness to your union with
renown. May success and happiness attend the union!" Her engagement was
renewed at the La Scala for four successive seasons. A tempting offer
from Vienna carried her to that musical capital, and during the three
years she remained there she won brilliant laurels and a fame which had
swiftly coursed through Europe; for musical connoisseurs visiting Vienna
carried away with them the most glowing accounts of the new contralto.
Her triumphs were renewed in Russia, Belgium, Holland, and Prussia,
where her glorious voice created a genuine _furore_, not less flattering
to her pride than the excitement produced at an earlier date by Pasta,
Sontag, and Malibran. An interesting proof of her independence and
dignity of character occurred on her first arrival in Berlin, before she
had made her _début_ in that city.

She was asked by an officious friend "if she had waited on M------."
"No! who is this M------," was the reply. "Oh!" answered her inquisitor,
"he is the most influential journalist in Prussia." "Well, how does
this concern me?" "Why," rejoined the other, "if you do not contrive
to insure his favorable report, you are ruined." The young Italian drew
herself up disdainfully. "Indeed!" she said, coldly; "well, let it be as
Heaven directs; but I wish it to be understood that in _my_ breast the
woman is superior to the artist, and, though failure were the result,
I would never degrade myself by purchasing success at so humiliating a
price." The anecdote was repeated in the fashionable saloons of
Berlin, and, so far from injuring her, the noble sentiment of the young
_debutante_ was appreciated. The king invited her to sing at his court,
where she received the well-merited applause of an admiring audience;
and afterward his Majesty bestowed more tangible evidences of his

It was not till 1847 that Marietta Alboni appeared in England. Mr.
Beale, the manager of the Royal Italian Opera, the new enterprise which
had just been organized in the revolutionized Covent Garden Theatre,
heard her at Milan and was charmed with her voice. Rumors had reached
England, of course, concerning the beauty of the new singer's voice, but
there was little interest felt when her engagement was announced. The
"Jenny Lind" mania was at its height, and in the company in which
Alboni herself was to sing there were two brilliant stars of the first
luster, Grisi and Persiani. So, when she made her bow to the London
public as _Arsace_, in "Semiramide," the audience gazed at her with a
sort of languid and unexpectant curiosity. But Alboni found herself the
next morning a famous woman. People were astounded by this wonderful
voice, combining luscious sweetness with great volume and capacity. It
was no timid _débutante_, but a finished singer whose voice rolled out
in a swelling flood of melody such as no English opera-house had heard
since the palmiest days of Pisaroni. Musical London was electrified,
and Grisi, who sang in "Semiramide," sulked, because in the great
duet, "Giorno d'orrore," the thunders of applause evidently concerned
themselves with her young rival rather than with herself. Another
convincing proof of her power was that she dared to restore the
beautiful aria "In si barbara," which had been hitherto suppressed for
lack of a contralto of sufficient greatness to give it full effect. In
one night she had established herself as a trump card in the manager's
hand against the rival house, an accession which he so appreciated that,
unsolicited, he raised her salary from five hundred to two thousand

Mlle. Alboni's voice covered nearly three octaves, from E flat to C
sharp, with tones uniformly rich, full, mellow, and liquid. The quality
of the voice was perfectly pure and sympathetic, the articulation so
clear and fluent, even in the most difficult and rapid passages, that
it was like a performance on a well-played instrument. The rapidity
and certainty of her execution could only be compared to the dazzling
character of Mme. Persiani's vocalization. Her style and method were
considered models. Although her facility and taste in ornamentation were
of the highest order, Alboni had so much reverence for the intentions of
the composer, that she would rarely add anything to the music which she
interpreted, and even in the operas of Rossini, where most singers
take such extraordinary liberties with the score, it was Alboni's pride
neither to add nor omit a note. Perhaps her audiences most wondered at
her singular ease. An enchanting smile lit up her face as she ran the
most difficult scales, and the extreme feats of musical execution gave
the idea of being spontaneous, not the fruit of art or labor. Her
whole appearance, when she was singing, as was said by one enthusiastic
amateur, conveyed the impression of exquisite music even when the sense
of hearing was stopped.

Alboni's figure, although large, was perfect in symmetry, graceful and
commanding, and her features regularly beautiful, though better fitted
for the expression of comedy than of tragedy. The expression of her
countenance was singularly genial, vivacious, and kindly, and her
eyes, when animated in conversation or in singing, flashed with great
brilliancy. Her smile was bewitching, and her laugh so infectious that
no one could resist its influence.

Fresh triumphs marked Mlle. Alboni's London season to its close. In
"La Donna del Lago," "Lucrezia Borgia," "Maria de Rohan," and "La
Gazza Ladra" she was pronounced inimitable by the London critics. Mme.
Persiani's part in "Il Barbiere" was assumed without rehearsal and at
a moment's notice, and given in a way which satisfied the most exacting
judges. It sparkled from the first to the last note with enchanting
gayety and humor.


M. Duponchel, the manager of the Opéra in Paris, hastened to London to
hear Alboni sing, and immediately offered her an engagement. In October,
1847, she made her Parisian _début_. Her first appearance in concert was
with Alizard and Barroilhet. "Many persons, artists and amateurs," said
Fiorentino, "absolutely asked on the morning of her _début_, Who is
this Alboni? Whence does she come? What can she do?" And their
interrogatories were answered by some fragments of those trifling and
illusory biographies which always accompany young vocalists. There was,
however, intense curiosity to hear and see this redoubtable singer who
had held the citadel of the Royal Italian Opera against the attraction
of Jenny Lind, and the theatre was crowded to suffocation by rank,
fashion, beauty, and notabilities on the night of her first concert,
October 9th. When she stepped quietly on the stage, dressed in black
velvet, a brooch of brilliants on her bosom, and her hair cut _à la
Titus_, with a music-paper in her hand, there was just one thunder-clap
of applause, followed by a silence of some seconds. She had not one
acknowledged advocate in the house; but, when Arsace's cavatina, "Ah!
quel giorno," gushed from her lips in a rich stream of melodious sound,
the entire audience was at her feet, and the critics could not command
language sufficiently glowing to express their admiration.

"What exquisite quality of sound, what purity of intonation, what
precision in the scales!" wrote the critic of the "Revue et Gazette
Musicale." "What _finesse_ in the manner of the breaks of the voice!
What amplitude and mastery of voice she exhibits in the 'Brindisi'; what
incomparable clearness and accuracy in the air from 'L'ltaliana' and the
duo from 'Il Barbiere!' There is no instrument capable of rendering with
more certain and more faultless intonation the groups of rapid notes
which Rossini wrote, and which Alboni sings with the same facility and
same celerity. The only fault the critic has in his power to charge
the wondrous artist with is, that, when she repeats a morceau, we hear
exactly the same traits, the same turns, the same fioriture, which was
never the case with Malibran or Cinti-Damoreau."

"This vocal scale," says Scudo, speaking of her voice, "is divided into
three parts or registers, which follow in complete order. The first
register commences at F in the base, and reaches F in the _medium_. This
is the true body of the voice, whose admirable timbre characterizes and
colors all the rest. The second extends from G in the _medium_ to F on
the fifth line; and the upper part, which forms the third register, is
no more than an elegant superfluity of Nature. It is necessary next
to understand with what incredible skill the artist manages this
instrument; it is the pearly, light, and florid vocalization of
Persiani joined to the resonance, pomp, and amplitude of Pisaroni. No
words can convey an idea of the exquisite purity of this voice, always
mellow, always equable, which vibrates without effort, and each note of
which expands itself like the bud of a rose--sheds a balm on the ear,
as some exquisite fruit perfumes the palate. No scream, no affected
dramatic contortion of sound, attacks the sense of hearing, under the
pretense of softening the feelings."

"But that which we admire above all in the artist," observes Fiorentino,
"is the pervading soul, the sentiment, the perfect taste, the inimitable
method. Then, what body in the voice! What largeness! What simplicity of
style! What facility of vocalization! What genius in the contrasts! What
color in the phrases! What charm! What expression! Mlle. Alboni sings as
she smiles--without effort, without fatigue, without audible and broken
respiration. Here is art in its fidelity! here is the model and example
which every one who would become an artist should copy."

"It is such a pleasure to hear real singing," wrote Hector Berlioz. "It
is so rare; and voices at once beautiful, natural, expressive, flexible,
and _in time_, are so very uncommon! The voice of Mlle. Alboni possesses
these excellent qualities in the highest degree of perfection. It is
a magnificent contralto of immense range (two octaves and six notes,
nearly three octaves, from low E to C in alt), the quality perfect
throughout, even in the lowest notes of the lowest register, which
are generally so disastrous to the majority of singers, who fancy they
possess a contralto, and the emission of which resembles nearly always
a rattle, hideous in such cases and revolting to the ear. Mlle.
Alboni's vocalization is wonderfully easy, and few sopranos possess such
facility. The registers of her voice are so perfectly united, that in
her scales you do not feel sensible of the passage from one to another;
the tone is unctuous, caressing, velvety, melancholy, like that of
all pure sopranos, though less somber than that of Pisaroni, and
incomparably more pure and limpid. As the notes are produced without
effort, the voice yields itself to every shade of intensity, and
thus Mlle. Alboni can sing from the most mysterious piano to the most
brilliant forte. And this alone is what I call singing humanly, that
is to say, in a fashion which declares the presence of a human heart,
a human soul, a human intelligence. Singers not possessed of these
indispensable qualities should in my judgment be ranked in the category
of mechanical instruments. Mlle. Alboni is an artist entirely devoted to
her art, and has not up to this moment been tempted to make a trade
of it; she has never heretofore given a thought to what her delicious
notes--precious pearls, which she lavishes with such happy bounty--might
bring her in per annum. Different from the majority of contemporary
singers, money questions are the last with which she occupies herself;
her demands have hitherto been extremely modest. Added to this, the
sincerity and trustworthiness of her character, which amounts almost to
singularity, are acknowledged by all who have any dealings with her."

After the greatness of the artist had fairly-been made known to the
public, the excitement in Paris was extraordinary. At some of the later
concerts more than a thousand applications for admission had to be
refused, and it was said that two theatres might have been thronged.
Alboni was nearly smothered night after night with roses and camellias,
and the stage was literally transformed into a huge bed of flowers,
over which the prima donna was obliged to walk in making her exits.
An amusing example of the _naïveté_ and simplicity of her character is
narrated. On the morning after her second performance, she was seated
in her hotel on the Boulevard des Italiens, reading the _feuilletons_
of Berlioz and Fiorentino with a kind of childish pleasure, unconscious
that she was the absorbing theme of Paris talk. A friend came in, when
she asked with unaffected sincerity whether she had really sung "_assez
bien_" on Monday night, and broke into a fit of the merriest laughter
when she received the answer, "_Très bien pour une petite fille_."
"Alboni," writes this friend, "is assuredly for a great artist the most
unpretending and simple creature in the world. She hasn't the slightest
notion of her position in her art in the eyes of the public and musical


Mme. Alboni's great success, it is said, made M. Vatel, the manager of
the Italiens, almost frantic with disappointment, for, acting on the
advice of Lablache, he had refused to engage her when he could have done
so at a merely nominal sum, and had thus left the grand prize open to
his rival. Her concert engagement being terminated, our prima donna made
a short tour through Austria, and returned to Paris again to make her
_début_ in opera on December 2d, in "Semiramide," with Mme. Grisi,
Coletti, Cellini, and Tagliafico, in the cast. The caprice of audiences
was never more significantly shown than on this occasion. Alboni, on
the concert stage, had recently achieved an unmistakable and brilliant
recognition as a great vocalist, and on the night of her first lyric
appearance before a French audience a great throng had assembled.
All the celebrities of the fashionable, artistic, and literary world,
princes, Government officials, foreign ministers, dilettanti, poets,
critics, women of wit and fashion, swelled the gathering of intent
listeners, through whom there ran a subdued murmur, a low buzz of
whispering, betraying the lively interest felt. Grisi came on after the
rising of the curtain and received a most cordial burst of applause.
At length the great audience was hushed to silence, and the orchestra
played the symphonic prelude which introduces the contralto air "Eccomi
alfin in Babilonia." Alboni glided from the side and walked slowly
to the footlights. Let an eye-witness complete the story: "There was a
sudden pause," says one who was present; "a feather might almost have
been heard to move. The orchestra, the symphony finished, refrained from
proceeding, as though to give time for the enthusiastic reception which
was Alboni's right, and which it was natural to suppose Alboni would
receive. But you may imagine my surprise and the feelings of the
renowned contralto when not a hand or a voice was raised to acknowledge
her! I could see Alboni tremble, but it was only for an instant. What
was the reason of this unanimous disdain or this unanimous doubt? call
it what you will. She might perhaps guess, but she did not suffer it
to perplex her for more than a few moments. Throwing aside the extreme
diffidence that marked her _entrée_, and the perturbation that resulted
from the frigidity of the spectators, she wound herself up to the
condition of fearless independence for which she is constitutionally and
morally remarkable, and with a look of superb indifference and conscious
power she commenced the opening of her aria. In one minute the crowd,
that but an instant before seemed to disdain her, was at her feet! The
effect of those luscious tones had never yet failed to touch the heart
and rouse the ardor of an audience, educated or uneducated." Alboni's
triumph was instantaneous and complete; it was the greater from the
moment of anxious uncertainty that preceded it, and made the certainty
which succeeded more welcome and delightful. From this instant to the
end of the opera, Alboni's success grew into a triumph. During the first
act she was twice recalled; during the second act, thrice; and she was
encored in the air "In si barbara," which she delivered with pathos, and
in the cabaletta of the second duet with _Semiramide_. She followed
in "La Cenerentola," and it may easily he fancied that her hearers
compensated in boisterous warmth of reception for the phlegmatic
indifference shown on the first night.

The English engagement of Mlle. Alboni the following year at Covent
Garden was at a salary of four thousand pounds, and the popularity she
had accomplished in England made her one of the most attractive features
of the operatic season. Her delicious singing and utter freedom from
aught that savored of mannerism or affectation made her power of
captivation complete in spite of her lack of dramatic energy. She sang
in the same company with Grisi, Persiani, and Viardot, while Mario and
Tamburini added their magnificent voices to this fine constellation of
lyric stars. When she returned to London in 1849, Jenny Lind had retired
from the stage where she had so thoroughly bewitched the public, and
Mlle. Alboni became the leading attraction of Her Majesty's Theatre,
thus arraying herself against the opera organization with which she had
been previously identified. Among the other members of the company were
Lablache and Ronconi. Mlle. Alboni seemed to be stung by a feverish
ambition at this time to depart from her own musical genre, and shine in
such parts as _Rosina, Ninetta, Zerlina_ ("Don Giovanni ") and _Norina_
("Don Pasquale"). The general public applauded her as vehemently as
ever, but the judicious grieved that the greatest of contraltos should
forsake a realm in which she blazed with such undivided luster.

It is difficult to fancy why Alboni should have ventured on so dangerous
an experiment. It may be that she feared the public would tire of her
luscious voice, unperturbed as it was by the resistless passion and
sentiment which in such singers as Malibran, Pasta, and Viardot, had
overcome all defects of voice, and given an infinite freshness and
variety to their tones. It may be that the higher value of a soprano
voice in the music market stirred a feeling in Alboni which had been
singularly lacking to her earlier career. Whatever the reason might have
been, it is a notorious fact that Mlle. Alboni deliberately forced the
register upward, and in doing so injured the texture of her voice,
and lost something both of luscious tone and power. In later years she
repented this artistic sin, and recovered the matchless tones of her
youth in great measure, but, as long as she persevered in her ambition
to be a _soprano_, the result was felt by her most judicious friends to
be an unfortunate one.

A pleasant incident, illustrating Alboni's kindness of heart, occurred
on the eve of her departure for Italy, whither she was called by family
reasons. Her leave-taking was so abrupt that she had almost forgotten
her promise to sing in Paris on a certain date for the annual benefit of
Filippo Galli, a superannuated musician. The suspense and anxiety of the
unfortunate Filippo were to be more easily imagined than described when,
asked if Alboni would sing, he could not answer definitively--"Perhaps
yes, perhaps no." He sold very few tickets, and the rooms (in the Salle
Hera) were thinly occupied. She, however, had not forgotten her promise;
at the very moment when the matinée was commencing she arrived, in time
to redeem her word and reward those who had attended, but too late to be
of any service to the veteran. Galli was in despair, and was buried
in reflections neither exhilarating nor profitable, when, some minutes
after the concert, the comely face and portly figure of Alboni appeared
at the door of his room. "How much are the expenses of your
concert?" she kindly inquired. "_Mia cara_," dolorously responded the
bénéficiaire, "_cinque centifranci_ [five hundred francs]." "Well,
then, to repair the loss that I may have caused you," said the generous
cantatrice, "here is a banknote for a thousand francs. Do me the favor
to accept it." This was only one of the many kind actions she performed.

Mlle. Alboni's Paris engagement, in the spring of 1850, was marked by a
daring step on her part, which excited much curiosity at the time,
and might easily have ended in a most humiliating reverse, though its
outcome proved fortunate, that undertaking being the _rôle_ of _Fides_
in "Le Prophète," which had become so completely identified with the
name of Viardot. It was owing as much, perhaps, to the insistance of the
managers of the Grand Opéra as to the deliberate choice of the singer
that this experiment was attempted. Meyerbeer perhaps smiled in his
sleeve at the project, but he interposed no objection, and indeed went
behind the scenes to congratulate her on her success during the night of
the first performance. Alboni's achievement was gratifying to her pride,
but it need not be said that her interpretation of _Fides_ was
radically different from that of Mme. Viardot, which was a grand
tragic conception, akin to those created by the genius of Pasta and
Schröder-Devrient. The music of "Le Prophète" had never been well fitted
to Viardot's voice, and it was in this better adaptation of Alboni to
the vocal score that it may be fancied her success, such as it was,
found its root. It was significant that the critics refrained from
enlarging on the dramatic quality of the performance. Mlle. Alboni
continued her grasp of this varied range of lyric character during her
seasons in France, Spain, and England for several years, now assuming
_Fides_, now _Amino_, in "Sonnambula," now _Leonora_ in "Favorita,"
and never failing, however the critics might murmur, in pleasing the
ultimate, and, on the whole, more satisfactory bench of judges,
the public. It was no new thing to have proved that the mass of
theatre-goers, however eccentric and unjustifiable the vagaries of a
favorite might be, are inclined to be swayed by the cumulative force
of long years of approval. In the spring of 1851, Mlle. Alboni, among
several of her well-established personations, was enabled to appear in a
new opera by Auber, "Corbeille d'Oranges," a work which attained only
a brief success. It became painfully apparent about this time that the
greatest of contralto singers was losing the delicious quality of her
voice, and that her method was becoming more and more conventional. Her
ornaments and fioriture never varied, and this monotony, owing to the
indolence and _insouciance_ of the singer, was never inspired by that
resistless fire and geniality which made the same cadenzas, repeated
night after night by such a singer as Pasta, appear fresh to the

Mlle. Alboni's visit to the United States in 1852 was the occasion of a
cordial and enthusiastic welcome, which, though lacking in the fury and
excitement of the "Jenny Lind" mania, was yet highly gratifying to the
singer's _amour propre_. There was a universal feeling of regret that
her tour was necessarily a short one. Her final concert was given at
Metropolitan Hall, New York, on May 2, 1852, the special occasion
being the benefit of Signor Arditi, who had been the conductor of
her performances in America. The audience was immense, the applause

The marriage of Alboni to the Compte de Pepoli in 1853 caused a rumor
that she was about to retire from the stage. But, though she gave
herself a furlough from her arduous operatic duties for nearly a year,
she appeared again in Paris in 1854 in "La Donna del Lago" and other of
the Rossinian operas. Her London admirers, too, recognized in the newly
married prima donna all the charm of her youth.

In July, 1855, she was at the Grand Opéra, in Paris, performing in "Le
Prophète," etc., with Roger, having contracted an engagement for three
years. In 1856 she was at Her Majesty's Theatre with Piccolomini,
and made her first appearance in the character of _Azucena_ in "Il
Trovatore." Her performances were not confined to the opera-house; she
sang at the Crystal Palace and in the Surrey Music Hall. In October she
was again at the Italiens, commencing with "La Cenerentola." She then, in
conjunction with Mario, Graziani, and Mme. Frezzolini, began performing
in the works of Verdi. "Il Trovatore" was performed in January, 1857,
and was followed by "Rigoletto," which was produced in defiance of the
protestations of Victor Hugo, from whose play, "Le Roi s'amuse," the
libretto had been taken. Victor Hugo declared that the representation of
the opera was an infringement of his rights, as being simply a piracy of
his drama, and he claimed that the Theatre Italiens should be restrained
from performing it. The decision of the court was, however, against the
irascible poet, and he had to pay the costs of the action.

But why should the reader be interested in a yearly record of the
engagements of a great singer, after the narrative of the early
struggles by which success is reached and the means by which success
is perpetuated has come to an end? The significance of such a recital
is that of ardent endeavor, persistent self-culture, and unflagging
resolution. Mme. Alboni continued to sing in the principal musical
centers of Western Europe till 1864, when she definitely retired from
the stage, and settled at her fine residence in Paris, midst the ease
and luxury which the large fortune she had acquired by professional
exertion enabled her to maintain. She occasionally appeared in opera and
concert to the great delight of her old admirers, who declared that the
youthful beauty and freshness of her voice had returned to her. Since
the death of her husband she has only sung in public once, and then in
Rossini's Mass, in London in 1871.

Both the husband and the brothers of Alboni were gallant soldiers in the
Italian war of independence, and received medals and other distinctions
from Victor Emanuel. Mme. Alboni in private life is said to be one of
the most amiable, warm-hearted, and fascinating of women, and to take
the deepest interest in helping the careers of young singers by advice,
influence, and pecuniary aid. In social life she is quite as much the
idol of her friends as she was for so many years of an admiring public.


The Childhood of the "Swedish Nightingale."--Her First Musical
Instruction.--The Loss and Return of her Voice.--Jenny Lind's
Pupilage in Paris under Manuel Garcia.--She makes the Acquaintance of
Meyerbeer.--Great Success in Stockholm in "Robert le Diable."--Fredrika
Bremer and Hans Christian Andersen on the Young Singer.--Her _Début_
in Berlin.--Becomes Prima Donna at the Royal Theatre.--Beginning of
the Lind Enthusiasm that overran Europe.--She appears in Dresden in
Meyerbeer's New Opera, "Feldlager in Schliesen."--Offers throng in from
all the Leading Theatres of Europe.--The Grand _Furore_ in Every Part
of Germany.--Description of Scenes in her Musical Progresses.--She makes
her _Début_ in London.--Extraordinary Excitement of the English Public,
such as had never before been known.--Descriptions of her Singing
by Contemporary Critics.--Her Quality as an Actress.--Jenny Lind's
_Personnel_.--Scenes and Incidents of the "Lind" Mania.--Her Second
London Season.--Her Place and Character as a Lyric Artist.--Mlle.
Lind's American Tour.--Extraordinary Enthusiasm in America.--Her
Lavish Generosity.--She marries Herr Otto Goldschmidt.--Present Life of
Retirement in London.--Jenny Lind as a Public Benefactor.


The name of Jenny Lind shines among the very brightest in the Golden
Book of Singers, and her career has been one of the most interesting
among the many striking personal chapters in the history of lyric music.
It was not that the "Swedish Nightingale" was supremely great in any
chief quality of the lyric artist. Others have surpassed her in natural
gifts of voice, in dramatic fervor, in versatility, in perfect vocal
finish. But to Jenny Lind were granted all these factors of power in
sufficiently large measure, and that power of balance and coordination
by which such powers are made to yield their highest results. An
exquisitely serene and cheerful temperament, a high ambition, great
energy and industry, and such a sense of loyalty to her engagements that
she always gave her audience the very best there was in her--these were
some of the moral phases of the art-nature which in her case proved of
immense service in achieving her great place as a singer, and in holding
that place secure against competition for so many years.

The parents of Jenny Lind were poor, struggling folk in the city of
Stockholm, who lived precariously by school-teaching. Jenny, born
October 6, 1821, was a sickly child, whose only delight in her long,
lonely hours was singing, the faculty for which was so strong that at
the age of three years she could repeat with unfailing accuracy any song
she once heard. Jenny shot up into an awkward, plain-featured girl, with
but little prospect of lifting herself above her humble station,
till she happened, when she was about nine years old, to attract the
attention of Frau Lundburg, a well-known actress, who was delighted with
the silvery sweetness of her tones. It was with some difficulty that the
prejudices of the Linds could be overcome, but at last they reluctantly
consented that she should be educated with a view to the stage.
The little Jenny was placed by her kind patroness under the care of
Croelius, a well-known music-master of Stockholm, and her abilities were
not long in making their mark. The old master was proud of his pupil,
and took her to see the manager of the Court theatre, Count Pücke,
hoping that this stage potentate's favor would help to push the fortune
of his _protégée_. The Count, a rough, imperious man, who mayhap had
been irritated by numerous other appeals of the same kind, looked coldly
on the plainly clad, insignificant-looking girl, and said: "What shall
we do with such an ugly creature? See what feet she has! and then her
face! She will never be presentable. Certainly, we can't take such a
scarecrow." The effect of such a salutation on a timid, shrinking child
may be imagined. Croelius replied, with honest indignation, "If you will
not take her, I, poor as I am, will myself have her educated for the
stage." Count Pücke, who under a rough husk had some kindness of heart,
then directed Jenny to sing, and he was so pleased with the quality and
sentiment of her simple song that he admitted her into the theatrical
school, and put her under the special tuition of Herr Albert Berg,
the director of the operatic class, who was assisted by the well-known
Swedish composer, Lindblad.

In two years' time the young Jenny Lind had created for herself the
reputation of being a prodigy. It was not only that she possessed an
exquisite voice, but a precocious conception and originality of style.
Her dramatic talent also showed promising glimpses of what was to come,
and everything appeared to point to a shining stage career, when there
came a crushing calamity. She lost her voice. She was now twelve years
old, and in her childish perspective of life this disaster seemed
irretrievable, the sunshine of happiness for ever clouded. To become a
singer in grand opera had been the great aspiration of her heart. Her
voice gone, she was soon forgotten by the fickle public who had looked
on this young girl as a chrysalis soon to burst into the glory of a
fuller life. It showed the resolute stuff which nature had put into this
young girl, that, in spite of this crushing downfall of her ambition,
she continued her instrumental and theoretical studies with unremitting
zeal for nearly four years. At the end of this period the recovery of
her voice occurred as abruptly as her loss of it had done.

A grand concert was to be given at the Court theatre, in which the
fourth act of "Robert le Diable" was to be a principal feature. No one
of the singers cared for the part of _Alice_, as it had but one solo,
and in the emergency Herr Berg thought of his unlucky young _élève_,
Jenny Lind, who might be trusted with such a minor responsibility. The
girl meekly consented, though, when she appeared on the stage, she shook
with such evident trepidation and nervousness that her little remaining
power of voice threatened to be destroyed. Perhaps the passion and
anxiety under which she was laboring wrought the miracle. She sang the
aria allotted her with such power and precision, and the notes of
her voice burst forth with such beauty and fullness of tone, that the
audience were carried away with admiration. The recently despised young
vocalist became the heroine of the evening. Berg, the director of the
music, was amazed, and on the next day acquainted Jenny Lind that he
had selected her to undertake the _rôle_ of _Agatha_ in Weber's "Der

This was the first character which had awakened our young singer's
artistic sympathies, and toward it her secret ambition had long set.
She studied with the labor of love, and all the Maytide of her young
enthusiasm poured itself into her impersonation of Weber's beautiful
creation. At the last rehearsal before performance, she sang with such
intense ardor and feeling that the members of the orchestra laid aside
their instruments and broke into the most cordial applause. "I saw her
at the evening representation," says Fredrika Bremer. "She was then
in the spring of life--fresh, bright, and serene as a morning in May;
perfect in form; her hands and her arms peculiarly graceful, and lovely
in her whole appearance. She seemed to move, speak, and sing without
effort or art. All was nature and harmony. Her singing was distinguished
especially by its purity and the power of soul which seemed to swell in
her tones. Her 'mezzo voice' was delightful. In the night-scene where
_Agatha_, seeing her lover coming, breathes out her joy in rapturous
song, our young singer, on turning from the window at the back of
the stage to the spectators again, was pale for joy; and in that pale
joyousness she sang with a burst of outflowing love and life that called
forth not the mirth, but the tears of the auditors."

Jenny Lind has always regarded the character of _Agatha_ as the keystone
of her fame. From the night of this performance she was the declared
favorite of the Swedish public, and continued for a year and a half the
star of the opera of Stockholm, performing in "Euryanthe," "Robert
le Diable," "La Vestale," of Spontini, and other operas. She labored
meanwhile with indefatigable industry to remedy certain natural
deficiencies in her voice. Always pure and melodious in tone, it was
originally wanting in elasticity. She could neither hold her notes to
any considerable extent, nor increase nor diminish their volume with
sufficient effect; and she could scarcely utter the slightest cadence.
But, undaunted by difficulties, she persevered, and ultimately achieved
that brilliant and facile execution which, it is difficult to believe,
was partially denied her by nature.

Jenny Lind's tribulations, however, were not yet over. She had
overstrained an organ which had not gained its full strength, and it was
discovered that her tones were losing their freshness. The public began
to lose its interest, and the opera was nearly deserted, for Jenny Lind
had been the singer on whom main dependence was placed. She felt a deep
conviction that she had need of further teaching, and that of a quality
and method not to be attained in her native city. Manuel Garcia had
formed more famous prima donnas than any other master, and it was Jenny
Lind's dream by night and day to go to this magician of the schools,
whose genius and knowledge had been successfully imparted to so many
great singers. But to do this required no small amount of funds, and to
raise a sufficient sum was a grave problem. There were not in Stockholm
a large number of wealthy and generous connoisseurs, such as have
been found in richer capitals, eager to discover genius and lavish
in supplying the means of its cultivation. No! she must earn the
wherewithal herself. So, during the operatic recess, the plucky maiden
started out under the guardianship of her father, and gave concerts in
the principal towns of Sweden and Norway, through which she managed
to amass a considerable sum. She then bade farewell to her parents and
started for Paris, her heart again all aflame with hope and confidence.


Manuel Garcia received Jenny Lind kindly, who was fluttered with
anxiety. The master's verdict was not very encouraging. When he had
heard her sing, "My good girl," he said, "you have no voice; or, I
should rather say, you had a voice, but are now on the verge of losing
it. Your organ is strained and worn out, and the only advice I can offer
you is to recommend you not to sing a note for three months. At the end
of that time come to me, and I'll see what I can do for you." This was
heart-breaking, but there was no appeal, and so, at the end of three
wearisome months, Jenny Lind returned to Garcia. He pronounced her voice
greatly strengthened by its rest. Under the Garcia method the young
Swedish singer's voice improved immensely, and, what is more, her
conception and grasp of musical method. The cadences and ornaments
composed by Jenny were in many cases considered worthy by the master of
being copied, and her progress in every way pleased Garcia, though he
never fancied she would achieve any great musical distinction. Another
pupil of Garcia's was a Mlle. Nissen, who, without much intellectuality,
had a robust, full-toned voice. Jenny Lind often said that it reduced
her to despair at times to hear the master hold up this lady as an
example, all the while she felt her own great superiority, the more
lofty quality of her ambition. Garcia would say: "If Jenny Lind had the
voice of Nissen, or the latter Lind's brains, one of them would become
the greatest singer in Europe. If Lind had more voice at her disposal,
nothing would prevent her from becoming the greatest of modern singers;
but, as it is, she must be content with singing second to many who will
not have half her genius." It is quite amusing to note how quickly this
dogmatic prophecy of the great maestro disproved itself.

After nearly a year under Garcia's tuition she was summoned home. The
Swedish musician who brought her the order to return to her duties
at the Stockholm Court Theatre, from which she had been absent by
permission, was a friend of Meyerbeer, and through him Jenny Lind
was introduced to the composer. Meyerbeer, unlike Garcia, promptly
recognized in her voice "one of the finest pearls in the world's chaplet
of song," and was determined to hear her under conditions which would
fully test the power and quality of so delicious an organ. He arranged
a full orchestral rehearsal, and Jenny Lind sang in the _salon_ of the
Grand Opéra the three great scenes from "Robert le Diable," "Norma," and
"Der Freischutz." The experiment vindicated Meyerbeer's judgment, and
Jenny Lind could then and there have signed a contract with the manager,
whom Meyerbeer had taken care to have present, had it not been for the
spiteful opposition of a distinguished prima donna, who had an undue
influence over the managerial mind.

The young singer returned to Stockholm a new being, assured of her
powers, self-centered in her ambition, and with a right to expect a
successful career for herself. Her preparation had been accompanied with
much travail of spirit, disappointment, and suffering, but the harvest
was now ripening for the reaper. The people of Stockholm, though they
had let her depart with indifference, received her back right cordially,
and, when she made her first reappearance as _Alice_, in "Robert le
Diable," the welcome had all the fury of a great popular excitement. Her
voice had gained remarkable flexibility and power, the quality of it
was of a bell-like richness, purity, and clearness; her execution
was admirable, and her dramatic power excellent. The good people of
Stockholm discovered that they had been entertaining an angel unawares.
Though Jenny Lind was but little known out of Sweden, she soon received
an offer from the Copenhagen opera, but she dreaded to accept the offer
of the Danish manager. "I have never made my appearance out of Sweden,"
she observed; "everybody in mv native land is so affectionate and kind
to me, and if I made my appearance in Copenhagen and should be hissed!
I dare not venture on it!" However, the temptations held out to her, and
the entreaties of Burnonville, the ballet-master of Copenhagen, who had
married a Swedish friend of Jenny Lind's, at last prevailed over the
nervous apprehensions of the young singer, and Jenny made her first
appearance in Copenhagen as _Alice_, in "Robert le Diable." "It was
like a new revelation in the realms of art," says Andersen ("Story of my
Life"); "the youthful, fresh voice forced itself into every heart;
here reigned truth and nature, and everything was full of meaning and
intelligence. At one concert she sang her Swedish songs. There was
something so peculiar in this, so bewitching, people thought nothing
about the concert-room; the popular melodies uttered by a being so
purely feminine, and bearing the universal stamp of genius, exercised
the omnipotent sway--the whole of Copenhagen was in a rapture." Jenny
Lind was the first singer to whom the Danish students gave a serenade;
torches blazed around the hospitable villa where the serenade was
given, and she expressed her thanks by again singing some Swedish airs
impromptu. "I saw her hasten into a dark corner and weep for emotion,"
says Andersen. "'Yes, yes! said she, 'I will exert myself; I will
endeavor; I will be better qualified than I now am when I again come to

"On the stage," adds Andersen, "she was the great artist who rose above
all those around her; at home, in her own chamber, a sensitive young
girl with all the humility and piety of a child. Her appearance in
Copenhagen made an epoch in the history of our opera; it showed me art
in its sanctity: I had beheld one of its vestals."

Jenny Lind was one of the few who regard art as a sacred vocation.
"Speak to her of her art," says Frederika Bremer, "and you will wonder
at the expansion of her mind, and will see her countenance beaming
with inspiration. Converse then with her of God, and of the holiness of
religion, and you will see tears in those innocent eyes: she is great as
an artist, but she is still greater in her pure human existence!"

"She loves art with her whole soul," observes Andersen, "and feels her
vocation in it. A noble, pious disposition like hers can not be spoiled
by homage. On one occasion only did I hear her express her joy in her
talent and her self-consciousness. It was during her last residence in
Copenhagen. Almost every evening she appeared either in the opera or
at concerts; every hour was in requisition. She heard of a society, the
object of which was to assist unfortunate children, and to take them out
of the hands of their parents, by whom they were misused and compelled
either to beg or steal, and to place them in other and better
circumstances. Benevolent people subscribed annually a small sum each
for their support; nevertheless, the means for this excellent purpose
were very limited. 'But have I not still a disengaged evening?' said
she; 'let me give a night's performance for the benefit of those poor
children; but we will have double prices!' Such a performance was given,
and returned large proceeds. When she was informed of this, and that by
this means a number of poor people would be benefited for several years,
her countenance beamed, and the tears filled her eyes. 'It is, however,
beautiful,' she said, 'that I can sing so.'"

Every effort was made by Jenny Lind's friends and admirers to keep her
in Sweden, but her genius spoke to her with too clamorous and exacting
a voice to be pent up in such a provincial field. There had been some
correspondence with Meyerbeer on the subject of her securing a Berlin
engagement, and the composer showed his deep interest in the singer by
exerting his powerful influence with such good effect that she was
soon offered the position of second singer of the Royal Theatre. Her
departure from Stockholm was a most flattering and touching display of
the public admiration, for the streets were thronged with thousands of
people to bid her godspeed and a quick return.

The prima donna of the Berlin opera was Mlle. Nissen, who had been with
herself under Garcia's instruction, and it was a little humiliating
that she should be obliged to sing second to one whom she knew to be her
inferior. But she could be patient, and bide her time. In the mean while
the sapient critics regarded her with good-natured indifference, and
threw her a few crumbs of praise from time to time to appease her
hunger. At last she had her revenge. One night at a charity concert,
the fourth act of "Robert le Diable" was given, and the solo of _Alice_
assigned to Jenny Lind. She had barely sung the first few bars when the
audience were electrified. The passion, fervor, novelty of treatment,
and glorious breadth of voice and style completely enthralled them.
They broke into a tempest of applause, and that was the beginning of
the "Lind madness," which, commencing in Berlin, ran through Europe with
such infectious enthusiasm. During the remaining three months of the
Berlin season, she was the musical idol of the Berlinese, and poor Mlle.
Nissen found herself hurled irretrievably from her throne. It was about
this time, near the close of 1843, that Mlle. Lind received her first
offer of an English engagement from Mr. Lumley, who had sent an agent to
Berlin to hear her sing, and make a report to him on this new prodigy.
No contract, however, was then entered into, Jenny Lind going to
Dresden instead, where her friend Meyerbeer was engaged in composing his
"Feldlager in Schliesen," the first part of which, _Vielka_, was offered
to her and accepted. She acquired the German language sufficiently
well in two months to sing in it, but it is rather a strange fact that,
though Mlle. Lind during her life learned not less than five languages
besides her own, she never spoke any of them with precision and purity,
not even Italian.


After an operatic campaign in Dresden, in the highest degree pleasant to
herself and satisfactory to the public, in which she sang, in addition
to _Vielka_, the parts of _Norma, Amina_, and _Maria_ in "La Figlia
del Reggimento," Jenny Lind returned to Stockholm to take part in the
coronation of the King of Sweden. Her fame spread throughout the musical
world with signal swiftness, and offers came pouring in on her from
London, Paris, Florence, Milan, and Naples. This northern songstress was
becoming a world's wonder, not because people had heard, but because the
few carried far and wide such wonderful reports of her genius. Her tour
in the summer of 1844 through the cities of Scandinavia and Germany
was almost like the progress of a royal personage, to which events had
attached some special splendor. Costly gifts were lavished on her, her
journeys through the streets were besieged by thousands of admiring
followers, her society was sought by the most distinguished people in
the land. The Countess of Rossi (Henrietta Sontag) paid her the tribute
of calling her "the first singer of the world." After a five months'
engagement in Berlin, the Swedish singer made her _début_ in "Norma," at
Vienna, on April 22, 1845. The Lind enthusiasm had been rising to
fever heat from the first announcement of her coming, and the prices of
admission had been doubled, much to the discomfort of poor Jenny Lind,
who feared that the over-wrought anticipation of the public would be
disappointed. But when she ascended the steps of the Druid altar and
began to sing, then the storm of applause which interrupted the opera
for several minutes decided the question unmistakably.

After a brief return to her native city, she reappeared in Berlin, which
had a special claim on her regard, for it was there that her genius
had been first fully recognized and trumpeted forth in tones which rang
through the civilized world. She again received a liberal offer from
England, this time from Mr. Bunn, of the Drury Lane Theatre, and an
agreement was signed, with the names of Lord Westmoreland, the British
minister, and Meyerbeer as witnesses. The singer, however, was not
altogether satisfied with the contract, a feeling which increased when
she again was approached by Mr. Lumley's agent. There were many strong
personal and professional reasons why she preferred to sing under Mr.
Lumley's management, and the result was that she wrote to Mr. Bunn,
asking to break the contract, and offering to pay two thousand
pounds forfeit. This was refused, and the matter went into the courts
afterward, resulting in twenty-five hundred pounds damages awarded to
the disappointed manager.

Berlin enthusiasm ran so high that the manager was compelled to reengage
her at the rate of four thousand pounds per year, with two months'
_congé_. The difficulty of gaining admission into the theatre, even when
she had appeared upward of a hundred nights, was so great, that it was
found necessary, in order to prevent the practice of jobbing in tickets,
which was becoming very prevalent, to issue them according to the
following directions, which were put forth by the manager: "Tickets must
be applied for on the day preceding that for which they are required,
by letter, signed with the applicant's proper and Christian name,
profession, and place of abode, and sealed with wax, bearing the
writer's initials with his arms. No more than one ticket can be
granted to the same person; and no person is entitled to apply for two
consecutive nights of the enchantress's performance." Her reputation and
the public admiration swelled month by month. Mendelssohn engaged her
for the musical festival at Aix-La-Chapelle, where he was the conductor,
and was so delighted with her singing that he said, "There will not be
born in a whole century another being so largely gifted as Jenny Lind."
The Emperor of Russia offered her fifty-six thousand francs a month for
five months (fifty-six thousand dollars), a sum then rarely equaled in
musical annals.

The correspondent of the "London Athenaeum" gave an interesting sketch
of the feeling she created in Frankfort:

"Dine where you would, you heard of Jenny Lind, when she was coming,
what she would sing, how much she was to be paid, who had got places,
and the like; so that, what with the _exigeant_ English dilettanti
flying at puzzled German landlords with all manner of Babylonish
protestations of disappointment and uncertainty, and native High
Ponderosities ready to trot in the train of the enchantress where she
might please to lead, with here and there a dark-browed Italian prima
donna lowering, Medea-like, in the background, and looking daggers
whenever the name of 'Questa Linda!' was uttered--nothing, I repeat, can
be compared to the universal excitement, save certain passages ('green
spots' in the memory of many a dowager Berliner) when enthusiasts rushed
to drink Champagne out of Sontag's shoe.... In 'La Figlia del
Reggimento,' compared with the exhibitions of her sister songstresses
now on the German stage, Mlle. Lind's personation was like a piece of
porcelain beside tawdry daubings on crockery."

Jenny Lind's last appearance in Vienna before departing for England was
again a lighted match set to a mass of tinder, it raised such a
commotion in that music-loving city. The imperial family paid her the
most marked attention, and the people were inclined to go to any
extravagances to show their admiration. During these performances, the
stalls, which were ordinarily two florins, rose to fifty, and sometimes
there would be thousands of people unable to secure admission. On the
last night, after such a scene as had rarely been witnessed in any
opera-house, the audience joined the immense throng which escorted her
carriage home. Thirty times they summoned her to the window with cries
which would not be ignored, shouting, "Jenny Lind, say you will come
back again to us!" The tender heart of the Swedish singer was so
affected that she stood sobbing like a child at the window, and threw
flowers from the mass of bouquets piled on her table to her frenzied
admirers, who eagerly snatched them and carried them home as treasures.

On her departure from Stockholm for London, the demonstration was most
affecting, and showed how deep the love of their great singer was rooted
in the hearts of the Swedes. Twenty thousand people assembled on the
quay, military bands had been stationed at intervals on the route, and
her progress through the streets was like that of a queen. She embarked
amid cheers, music, and tears, and, as she sailed out of the harbor, the
rigging of the vessels was decorated with flags, and manned, while the
artillery from the war vessels thundered salutes. All this sounds like
exaggeration to us now, but those who remember the enthusiasm kindled
by Jenny Lind in America can well believe the accounts of the feeling
called out by the "Swedish Nightingale" everywhere she went in Europe.

When Mlle. Lind arrived in London, she was received by her friend Mrs.
Grote, wife of the great historian, and for several weeks was her guest,
the most distinguished men and women calling to pay their respects to
the gifted singer. She secluded herself, however, as much as possible
from general society, and it may be said, during the larger part of her
London engagement, lived in seclusion, much to the disgust of the social
celebrities who were eager to lionize her. Lablache, the basso, was one
of the first to hear Jenny sing. His pleasant criticism, "Every note was
like a perfect pearl," got to her ears. The _naïve_ and charming jest by
which she made her acknowledgment is quite worth the repeating. Stepping
to the side of Lablache one morning at rehearsal, she made a courtesy,
and borrowed his hat from the smiling basso. She then placed her lips to
the edge and sang into its capacious depths a beautiful French romance.
At the conclusion of the song, she ordered Lablache, who was bewildered
by this fantastic performance, to kneel before her, as she had a
valuable present for him, declaring that on his own showing she was
giving him a hatful of "pearls." Lablache was so delighted by this
simple and innocent gayety that he avowed he could not be more pleased
if she had given him a hatful of diamonds.


Mr. Lumley had prepared the English public for the coming of Mlle. Lind
with consummate skill. The game of suspense was artfully managed to stir
curiosity to the uttermost. The provocations of doubt and disappointment
had been made to stimulate the musical appetite. There was a powerful
opposition to Lumley at the other theatre--Grisi, Persiani, Alboni,
Mario, and Tamburini--and the shrewd _impressario_ played all the cards
in his hand for their full value. It had been asserted that Mlle. Lind
would not come to England, and that no argument could prevail on her
to change her resolution, and this, too, after the contract was
signed, sealed, and delivered. The opera world was kept fevered by such
artifices as stories of broken pledges, long diplomatic _pour parlera_,
special messengers, hesitation, and vacillation, kept up during many
months. Lumley in his "Reminiscences" has described how no stone was
left unturned, not a trait of the young singer's character, public or
private, left un-_exploité_, by which sympathy and admiration could be
aroused. After appearing as the heroine of one of Miss Bremer's novels,
"The Home," the splendors of her succeeding career were glowingly set
forth. The panegyrics of the two great German composers, Mendelssohn and
Meyerbeer, were swollen into the most flowing language. All the secrets
of Jenny Land's life were made the subjects of innumerable puffs by the
paragraph makers, and her numerous deeds of charity were trumpeted in
clarion tones, as if she, a member of a profession famous for its deeds
of unostentatious kindness, were the only one who had the right to
wear the lovely crown of mercy and beneficence. All this machinery of
advertisement, though wofully opposed to all the instincts of Jenny
Lind's modest and timid nature, had the effect of fixing the popular
belief into a firm faith that what had cost so much trouble to secure
must indeed be unspeakably precious.

The interest and curiosity of the public were, therefore, wrought up
to an extraordinary pitch. Her first appearance was on May 4, 1847, as
_Alice_, in "Robert le Diable," a part so signally identified with
her great successes. "The curtain went up, the opera began, the cheers
resounded, deep silence followed," wrote the critic of the "Musical
World," "and the cause of all the excitement was before us. It opened
its mouth and emitted sound. The sounds it emitted were right pleasing,
honey-sweet, and silver-toned. With all this, there was, besides, a
quietude that we had not marked before, and a something that hovered
about the object, as an unseen grace that was attired in a robe of
innocence, transparent as the thin surface of a bubble, disclosing
all, and making itself rather felt than seen." Chorley tells us that
Mendelssohn, who was sitting by him, and whose attachment to Jenny
Lind's genius was unbounded, turned round, watched the audience as
the notes of the singer swelled and filled the house, and smiled
with delight as he saw how completely every one in the audience
was magnetized. The delicious sustained notes which began the first
cavatina died away into a faint whisper, and thunders of applause went
up as with one breath, the stentorian voice of Lablache, who was sitting
in his box, booming like a great bell amid the din. The excitement
of the audience at the close of the opera almost baffles description.
Lumley's hopes were not in vain. Jenny Lind was securely throned as the
operatic goddess of the town, and no rivalry had power to shake her from
her place.

The judgment of the musical critics, though not intemperate in praise,
had something more than a touch of the public enthusiasm. "It is wanting
in that roundness and mellowness which belongs to organs of the South,"
observed a very able musical connoisseur. "When forced, it has by no
means an agreeable sound, and falls hard and grating on the ears. It
is evident that, in the greater part of its range, acquired by much
perseverance and study, nature has not been bountiful to the Swedish
Nightingale in an extraordinary degree. But art and energy have supplied
the defects of nature. Perhaps no artist, if we except Pasta, ever
deserved more praise than Jenny Lind for what she has worked out of bad
materials. From an organ neither naturally sweet nor powerful, she has
elaborated a voice capable of producing the most vivid sensations.
In her mezzo-voce singing, scarcely any vocalist we ever heard can be
compared to her. The most delicate notes, given with the most perfect
intonation, captivate the hearers, and throw them into ecstasies of
delight. This is undoubtedly the great charm of Jenny Lind's singing,
and in this respect we subscribe ourselves among her most enthusiastic
admirers.... She sustains a C or D in alt with unerring intonation and
surprising power. These are attained without an effort, and constitute
another charm of the Nightingale's singing.

"In pathetic music Jenny Lind's voice is heard to much advantage.
Indeed, her vocal powers seem best adapted to demonstrate the more
gentle and touching emotions. For this reason her solo singing is almost
that alone in which she makes any extraordinary impression. In ensemble
singing, excepting in the piano, her voice, being forced beyond its
natural powers, loses all its beauty and peculiar charm, and becomes,
in short, often disagreeable.... Her voice, with all its charm, is of
a special quality, and in its best essays is restricted to a particular
class of lyrical compositions.... As a vocalist, Jenny Lind is entitled
to a very high, if not the highest, commendation. Her perseverance and
indomitable energy, joined to her musical ability, have tended to
render her voice as capable and flexible as a violin. Although she never
indulges in the brilliant flights of fancy of Persiani, nor soars
into the loftiest regions of fioriture with that most wonderful of all
singers, her powers of execution are very great, and the delicate taste
with which the most florid passages are given, the perfect intonation of
the voice, and its general charm, have already produced a most decided
impression on the public mind. By the musician, Persiani will be always
more admired, but Jenny Lind will strike the general hearer more."

Another contemporaneous judgment of Jenny Lind's voice will be of
interest to our readers: "Her voice is a pure soprano, of the fullest
compass belonging to voices of this class, and of such evenness of
tone that the nicest ear can discover no difference of quality from the
bottom to the summit of the scale. In the great extent between A below
the lines and D in alt, she executes every description of passage,
whether consisting of notes 'in linked sweetness long drawn out,' or
of the most rapid flights and fioriture, with equal facility and
perfection. Her lowest notes come out as clear and ringing as the
highest, and her highest are as soft and sweet as the lowest. Her tones
are never muffled or indistinct, nor do they ever offend the ear by
the slightest tinge of shrillness; mellow roundness distinguishes every
sound she utters. As she never strains her voice, it never seems to be
loud; and hence some one who busied himself in anticipatory depreciation
said that it would be found to fail in power, a mistake of which
everybody was convinced who observed how it filled the ear, and how
distinctly every inflection was heard through the fullest harmony of the
orchestra. The same clearness was observable in her pianissimo. When, in
lier beautiful closes, she prolonged a tone, attenuated it by degrees,
and falling gently upon the final note, the sound, though as ethereal
as the sighing of a breeze, reached, like Mrs. Siddons's whisper in Lady
Macbeth, every part of the immense theatre. Much of the effect of this
unrivaled voice is derived from the physical beauty of its sound, but
still more from the exquisite skill and taste with which it is used, and
the intelligence and sensibility of which it is the organ. Mlle. Lind's
execution is that of a complete musician. Every passage is as highly
finished, as perfect in tone, tune, and articulation, as if it proceeded
from the violin of a Paganini or a Sivori, with the additional charm
which lies in the human _voice_ divine. Her embellishments show
the richest fancy and boundless facility, but they show still more
remarkably a well-regulated judgment and taste."

Mlle. Lind could never have been a great actress, and risen into that
stormy world of dramatic power, where the passion and imagination of
Pasta, Schröder-Devrient, Malibran, Viardot, or even Grisi, wrought
such effects, but, within the sphere of her temperament, she was easy,
natural, and original. One of her eulogists remarked: "Following her own
bland conceptions, she rises to regions whence, like Schiller's maid,
she descends to refresh the heart and soul of her audience with gifts
beautiful and wondrous"; but, as she never attempted the delineation of
the more stormy and vehement passions, it is probable that she was more
cognizant of her own limitations, than were her critics.

She was not handsome, but of pleasing aspect. A face of placid
sweetness, expressive features, soft, dove-like-blue eyes, and very
abundant, wavy, flaxen hair, made up a highly agreeable _ensemble_,
while the slender figure was full of grace. There was an air of virginal
simplicity and modesty in every movement which set her apart among her
stage sisters. To this her character answered in every line; for, moving
in the midst of a world which had watched every action, not the faintest
breath of scandal ever shaded the fair fame of this Northern lily.

The struggle for admission after the first night made the attempt to
get a seat except by long préarrangement an experience of purgatory.
Twenty-five pounds were paid for single boxes, while four or five
guineas were gladly given for common stalls. Hours were spent before the
doors of the opera-house on the chance of a place in the pit. It is said
that three gentlemen came up from Liverpool with the express purpose of
hearing the new _diva_ sing, spent a week in trying to obtain seats, and
returned without success. No such mania for a singer had ever fired the
phlegmatic blood of the English public. Articles of furniture and dress
were called by her name; portraits and memoirs innumerable of her were

During the season she appeared in "Robert le Diable," "Sonnambula,"
"Lucia" "La Figlia del Reggimento," and "Norma," as well as in a new
opera by Verdi, "I Masnadieri," which even Jenny Lind's genius and
popularity could not keep on the surface. At the close of the season,
her manager, Lumley, presented her a magnificent testimonial of pure
silver, three feet in height, representing a pillar wreathed with
laurel, at the feet of which wore seated three draped figures, Tragedy,
Comedy, and Music. Her tour through the provinces repeated the sensation
and excitement of London. Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and
Dundee vied with the great capital in the most extravagant excesses
of admiration, and fifteen guineas were not infrequently paid for the
privilege of hearing her. For two concerts in Edinburgh Mlle. Lind
received one thousand pounds for her services, and the management made
twelve hundred pounds. Such figures are referred to simply as affording
the most tangible estimate of the extent and violence of the Lind fever.


Yet with all this flattery and admiration, which would have fed the
conceit of a weaker woman to madness, Jenny Lind remained the same
quiet, simple-hearted, almost diffident woman as of yore. The great
pianist and composer Moscheles writes: "What shall I say of Jenny Lind?
I can find no words adequate to give you any idea of the impression she
has made.... This is no short-lived fit of public enthusiasm. I wanted
to know her off the stage as well as on; but, as she lives at some
distance from me, I asked her in a letter to fix upon an hour for me to
call. Simple and unceremonious as she is, she came the next day herself,
bringing the answer verbally. So much modesty and so much greatness
united are seldom if ever to be met with; and, although her intimate
friend Mendelssohn had given me an insight into the noble qualities of
her character, I was surprised to find them so apparent."

From a variety of accounts we are justified in concluding that never had
there been such a musical enthusiasm in London. Since the days when the
world fought for hours at the pit-door to see the seventh farewell of
Siddons, nothing had been seen in the least approaching the scenes
at the entrance of the theatre on the "Lind" nights. Of her various
impersonations during the season of 1847, her _Amina_ in "Sonnambula"
made the deepest impression on the town, as it was marked by several
original features, both in the acting and singing, which were remarkably
effective. Her performance of _Norma_ was afterward held by judicious
critics to be far inferior to that of Grisi in its dramatic aspect; but,
when the mania was at its height, those who dared to impeach the ideal
perfection of everything done by the idol of the hour were consigned
to perdition as idiotic slanderers. Chorley wrote with satirical
bitterness, though himself a warm admirer of the "Swedish Nightingale":
"It was a curious experience to sit and to wait for what should come
next, and to wonder whether it really was the case that music never had
been heard till the year 1847."

Mlle. Lind passed the winter at Stockholm, and it is needless to speak
of the pride and delight of her townspeople in the singer who had
created such an unprecedented sensation in the musical world. All the
places at the theatre when she sang fetched immense premiums, especially
as it was known that the professional gains of Jenny Lind during this
engagement were to be devoted to the endowment of an asylum for the
support of decayed artists, and a school for young girls studying
music. When she left Stockholm again for London, the scene was even
more brilliant and impressive than that which had marked her previous
departure for England.

The "Lind" mania in the English capital during the spring of 1848 raged
without diminution. The anecdotes of her munificent charity, piety,
and goodness filled the public prints and fed the popular idolatry. She
added to her repertoire this season the _rôles_ of _Susanna_ in
Mozart's great comic opera, _Elvira_ in "Puritani," _Adina_ in "L'Elisir
d'Amore," and _Giulia_ in Spontini's "Vestale." As _Giulia_ she reached
her high-water mark in tragedy, and as _Adina_ in "L'Elisir" she was
deliciously arch and fascinating. After the opera had closed, she
remained in England during the summer and winter, owing to the
disturbed state of the Continent, and gave extended concert tours in the
provinces, for which she received immense sums of money. Many concerts
she also devoted to charitable purposes, and splendid acknowledgments
were made as gifts to her by corporations and private individuals in
recognition of her lavish benevolence. Jenny Lind had now determined to
take leave of the lyric stage, and in the April season of 1849 she gave
a limited season of farewell performances at Her Majesty's Theatre. The
last appearance was on May 10th in her original character of _Alice_.
The opera-house presented on that night of final adieu one of those
striking scenes which words can hardly depict without seeming to be
extravagant. The crowd was dense in every nook and corner of the house,
including all the great personages of the realm. The whole royal family
were present, the Houses of Parliament had emptied themselves to swell
the throng, and everybody distinguished in art, letters, science, or
fashion contributed to the splendor of the audience. When the curtain
fell, and the deafening roar of applause, renewed again and again, had
ceased, Jenny Lind came forward, led by the tenor Gardoni. She
retired, but was called again in front of the curtain, and bowed her
acknowledgments. A third time she was summoned, and this time she stood,
her eyes streaming with tears, while the audience shouted themselves
hoarse, so prolonged and irrepressible was the enthusiasm.

Now that the "Lind" fever is a thing of the past, it is possible to
survey her genius as a lyric artist in the right perspective. Her voice
was of bright, thrilling, and sympathetic quality, with greater strength
and purity in the upper register, but somewhat defective in the other.
These two portions of her voice she united, however, with great artistic
dexterity, so that the power of the upper notes was not allowed to
outshine the lower. Her execution was great, though inferior to that of
Persiani and the older and still greater singer, Catalani. It appeared,
perhaps, still greater than it was, on account of the natural reluctance
of the voice. Her taste in ornamentation was original and brilliant,
but always judicious, a moderation not often found among great executive
singers. She composed all her own cadenzas, and many of them were of
a character and performance such as to have evoked the strongest
admiration of such musical authorities as Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, and
Moscheles for their creative science. Her pianissimo tones were so fined
down that they had almost the effect of ventriloquism, so exquisitely
were they attenuated; and yet they never lost their peculiarly musical
quality. As an actress Jenny Lind had no very startling power, and but
little versatility, as her very limited opera repertory proved; but
into what she did she infused a grace, sympathy, and tenderness, which,
combined with the greatness of her singing and some indescribable
quality in the voice itself, produced an effect on audiences with but
few parallels in the annals of the opera. It is a little strange that
Jenny Lind would never sing in Paris, but obstinately refused the most
tempting offers. Perhaps she never forgot the circumstances of her first
experience with a Parisian _impressario_.

It was at Lubeck, Germany, where she was singing in concert in 1849,
that she concluded a treaty with Mr. Barnum for a series of one hundred
and fifty concerts in America under his auspices. The terms were
one thousand dollars per night for each of the performances, and the
expenses of the whole troupe, which consisted of Sig. Belletti and
Julius Benedict (since Sir Julius Benedict). The period intervening
before her American tour was occupied in concert-giving on the continent
and in England. The proceeds of these entertainments were given to
charity, and the demonstrations of the public everywhere proved how
firmly fixed in the heart of the music-loving public the great Swedish
singer remained. Her last appearance before crossing the ocean was at
Liverpool, before an audience of more than three thousand people, when
the English people gave their idol a most affecting display of their


Mr. Barnum, no mean adept himself in the science of advertising, took
a lesson from the ingenious trickery of Mr. Lumley in whetting the
appetite of the American public for the coming of the Swedish _diva_.
He took good care that the newspapers should be flooded with the most
exaggerated and sensational anecdotes of her life and career, and day
after day the people were kept on the alert by columns of fulsome praise
and exciting gossip. On her arrival in New York, in September, 1850,
both the wharf and adjacent streets were packed with people eager to
catch a glimpse of the great singer. Her hotel, the Irving House, was
surrounded at midnight by not less than thirty thousand people, and she
was serenaded by a band of one hundred and thirty musicians, who had
marched up, led by several hundreds of red-shirted firemen. The American
furore instantly took on the proportions of that which had crazed the
English public. The newspapers published the names of those who had
bought tickets, and printed a fac-simile of the card which admitted the
owner to the concert building. The anxiety to see Mlle. Lind, when she
was driving, was a serious embarrassment to her, and at the "public
reception" days, arranged for her, throngs of ladies filled her
drawing-rooms. Costly presents were sent to her anonymously, and in
every way the public displayed similar extravagance. On the day of the
first concert, in spite of the fierce downpour of rain, there were five
thousand persons buying tickets; and the price paid for the first ticket
to the first concert, six hundred dollars, constitutes the sole title to
remembrance of the enterprising tradesman who thus sought to advertise
his wares.

Nothing was talked of except Jenny Lind, and on the night of the first
appearance, September 11th, seven thousand throats burst forth in
frantic shouts of applause and welcome, as the Swedish Nightingale
stepped on the Castle Garden stage in a simple dress of white, and as
pallid with agitation as the gown she wore. She sang "Casta Diva," a
duo with Belletti, from Rossini's "Il Turco in Italia," and the Trio
Concertante, with two flutes, from Meyerbeer's "Feldlager in Schliesen,"
of which Moscheles had said that "it was, perhaps, the most astonishing
piece of bravura singing which could possibly be heard." These pieces,
with two Swedish national songs, were received with the loudest salvos
of applause. The proceeds of this first concert were twenty-six
thousand dollars, of which Jenny Lind gave her share to the charitable
institutions of New York, and, on learning that some of the members of
the New York orchestra were in indigent circumstances, she generously
made them a substantial gift. Her beneficent actions during her entire
stay in America are too numerous to detail. Frequently would she flit
away from her house quietly, as if about to pay a visit, and then she
might be seen disappearing down back lanes or into the cottages of
the poor. She was warned to avoid so much liberality, as many unworthy
persons took unfair advantage of her bounty; but she invariably replied,
"Never mind; if I relieve ten, and one is worthy, I am satisfied." She
had distributed thirty thousand florins in Germany; she gave away in
England nearly sixty thousand pounds; and in America she scattered in
charity no less than fifty thousand dollars.

To record the experiences of the Swedish Nightingale in the different
cities of America would be to repeat the story of boundless enthusiasm
on the part of the public, and lavish munificence on the part of the
singer, which makes her record nobly monotonous. There seemed to be no
bounds to the popular appreciation and interest, as was instanced one
night in Baltimore. While standing on the balcony of her hotel bowing to
the shouting multitude, her shawl dropped among them, and instantly it
was torn into a thousand strips, to be preserved as precious souvenirs.

Jenny Lind did not remain under Mr. Barnum's management during the
whole of the season. A difficulty having risen, she availed herself of a
clause in the contract, and by paying thirty thousand dollars broke the
engagement. The last sixty nights of the concert series she gave under
her own management. In Boston, February 5, 1852, the charming singer
married Mr. Otto Goldschmidt, the pianist, who had latterly been
connected with her concert company. The son of a wealthy Hamburg
merchant, Mr. Goldschmidt had taken an excellent rank as a pianist,
and made some reputation as a minor composer. Mme. Goldschmidt and her
husband returned to Europe in 1852, this great artist having made about
one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in her American tour, aside
from the large sums lavished in charity. After several years spent in
Germany, M. and Mme. Goldschmidt settled permanently in London, where
they are still residing. She has frequently appeared in concert and
oratorio till within a year or two, and, as the mother of an interesting
family and a woman of the most charming personal character, is warmly
welcomed in the best London society. It must be recorded that the
whole of her American earnings was devoted to founding and endowing art
scholarships and other charities in her native Sweden; while in England,
the country of her adoption, among other charities, she has given
a whole hospital to Liverpool, and a wing of another to London.
The scholarship founded by her friend Felix Mendelssohn has largely
benefited by her help, and it may be truly said that her sympathy has
never been appealed to in vain, by those who have any reasonable claim.
Competent judges have estimated that the total amount given away by
Jenny Lind in charity and to benevolent institutions will reach at least
half a million of dollars.


The Daughter of an Obscure German Pastor.--She studies Music in
Paris.--Failure of her Voice.--Makes her _Début_ at La Fenice.--She
appears in London during the Lind Excitement.--Description of her
Voice and Person.--A Great Excitement over her Second Appearance
in Italy.--_Début_ in Paris.--Her Grand Impersonation in
"Fidelio."--Critical Estimates of her Genius.--Sophie Cruvelli's
Eccentricities.--Excitement in Paris over her _Valentine_ in "Les
Huguenots."--Different Performances in London and Paris.--She retires
from the Stage and marries Baron Vigier.--Her Professional Status.--One
of the Most Gifted Women of any Age.


The great cantatrice of whom we shall now give a sketch attained a
European reputation hardly inferior to the greatest, though she retired
from the stage when in the very golden prime of her powers. Like
Catalani, Persiani, and other distinguished singers, she was severely
criticised toward the last of her operatic career for sacrificing good
taste and dramatic truth to the technique of vocalization, but this
is an extravagance so tempting that but few singers have been entirely
exempt from it. Perhaps, in these examples of artistic austerity,
one may find the cause as much in vocal limitations as in deliberate

Sophie Cruvelli was the daughter of a Protestant clergyman named
Cruwell, and was born at Bielefeld, in Prussia, in the year 1830. She
displayed noticeable aptitude for music at an early age, and a moderate
independence with which the family was endowed enabled Mme. Cruwell
to take Sophie, at the age of fourteen, to Paris that she might obtain
finishing lessons. Permarini and Bordogni were the masters selected, and
the latter, who perceived the latent greatness of his pupil, spared no
efforts, nor did he spare Sophie, for he was a somewhat stern, austere
teacher. For two years he would permit her to sing nothing but vocal
scales, and composed for her the most difficult _solfeggi_. Mme.
Cruwell then returned to Paris, and insisted that her daughter had made
sufficient progress in the study of French and music, and might very
well return home. Bordogni indignantly replied that it would be criminal
to rob the musical world of such a treasure as the Fraulein Cruwell
would prove after a few years of study. The mother yielded, saying: "If
my daughter devotes herself to the stage and fully embraces an artistic
career, we may endeavor to submit to further sacrifices; but, if
merely destined to bring up a family, she has learned quite enough of
_solfeggi_; her little fortune will all be swallowed up by her music
lessons." It was thus settled that Sophie should become a singer, and,
in accordance with Bordogni's advice, she proceeded to Milan, Italy, to
complete her musical studies.

But a dreadful discovery threw her into despair when she arrived at her
new quarters--she had lost her voice. Not a sound could be forced from
her throat. Sophie was in despair, for this was, indeed, annihilation to
her hopes, and there seemed nothing in fate for her but to settle
down to the average life of the German housewife, "to suckle fools and
chronicle small beer," when, on the eve of departure for Bielefeld,
Signor Lamperti, the famous teacher, announced himself. The experienced
maestro advised them to wait, reasoning that the loss of voice was
rather the result of fatigue and nervousness than of any more radical
defect. It was true, for a few days only had passed when Sophie's voice
returned again in all its power. Lamperti devoted himself assiduously
to preparing the young German singer for her _début_, and at the end of
1847 she was enabled to appear at La Fenice, under the Italianized name
of Cruvelli, in the part of _Dona Sol_ in "Ernani." This was followed
by a performance of _Norma_, and in both she made a strong impression
of great powers, which only needed experience to shine with brilliant
luster. The fact that her instructor permitted her to appear,
handicapped as she was by inexperience and stage ignorance, in _rôles_
not only marked by great musical difficulty, but full of dramatic
energy, indicates what a high estimate was placed on her powers.

Mr. Lumley, the English _impressario_, was at this time scouring Italy
for fresh voices, and, hearing Mlle. Cru veil i, secured her for his
company, which when completed consisted of Mmes. Persiani and Viardot,
Miles. Alboni and Cruvelli, Signori Cuzzani, Belletti, Gardoni, and
Polonini. Mlle. Cruvelli was now eighteen, and in spite of the Lind
mania, which was raging at white heat, the young German cantatrice made
a strong impression on the London public. Her first appearance was in
"Ernani," on February 19, 1848. The performance was full of enthusiasm
and fire, though disfigured by certain crudities and the violence of
unrestrained passion. Her voice, in compass from F to F, was a clear,
silvery soprano, and possessed in its low notes something of the
delicious quality of the contralto, that bell-like freshness and
sonority which is one of the most delightful characteristics of the
human voice. Her appearance was highly attractive, for she possessed a
finely molded figure of middle height, and a face expressive, winning,
and strongly marked. She further appeared as _Odabella_ in "Attila," and
as _Lucrezia_ in "I Due Foscari," both of which performances were very
warmly received. During the season she also sang in "Nino," "Lucrezia
Borgia," "Il Barbiere," and "Nozze di Figaro." Her _Rosina_ in Rossini's
great comic opera was a piquant and attractive performance.


The prevalence of the Lind fever, which seemed to know no abatement,
however, made a London engagement at this period not highly flattering
to other singers, and Mlle. Cruvelli beat a retreat to Germany, where
she made a musical tour. She was compelled to leave Berlin by the
breaking out of the Revolution, and she made, an engagement for the
Carnival season at Trieste, during which time she gave performances in
"Attila," "Norma," "Don Pasquale," and "Macbeth," and other operas
of minor importance, covering a wide field of characters, serious and
comic. In 1850 we hear of Mlle. Cruvelli creating a very great sensation
at Milan at La Scala. Genoa was no less enthusiastic in its welcome of
the young singer, who had left Italy only two years before, and returned
a great artist. No stall could be obtained without an order at least a
week in advance.

In April, 1850, she made her first Parisian appearance at the Théâtre
Italien in Paris, under Mr. Lumley's management, as _Elvira_ to Mr. Sims
Reeves's _Ernani_, and the French critics were highly eulogistic over
this fresh candidate for lyric honors. She did not highly strike
the perfect key-note of her genius till she appeared as _Leonora_ in
"Fidelio," at Her Majesty's Theatre, in London, on May 20, 1851, Sims
Reeves being the _Florestan_. Her improvement since her first London
engagement had been marvelous. Though scarcely twenty, Mlle. Cruvelli
had become a great actress, and her physical beauty had flowered
into striking loveliness, though of a lofty and antique type. Her
sculpturesque face and figure, her great dramatic passion, and the
brilliancy of her voice produced a profound sensation in London. Her
_Leonora_ was a symmetrical and noble performance, raised to tragic
heights by dramatic genius, and elaborated with a vocal excellence which
would bear comparison with the most notable representations of that
great _rôle_: "From the shuddering expression given to the words, 'How
cold it is in this subterranean vault!' spoken on entering _Florestan's_
dungeon," said one critic, "to the joyous and energetic duet, in
which the reunited pair gave vent to their rapturous feelings, all was
inimitable. Each transition of feeling was faithfully conveyed, and the
suspicion, growing by degrees into certainty, that the wretched prisoner
is _Florestan_, was depicted with heart-searching truth. The internal
struggle was perfectly expressed."

"With Mlle. Cruvelli," says this writer, "_Fidelio_ is governed
throughout by one purpose, to which everything is rendered subservient.
Determination to discover and liberate her husband is the mainspring not
only of all her actions, and the theme of all her soliloquies, but,
even when others likely to annunce her design in any way are acting or
speaking, we read in the anxious gaze, the breathless anxiety, the head
bent to catch the slightest word, a continuation of the same train of
thought and an ever-living ardor in the pursuit of the one cherished
object. In such positions as these, where one gifted artist follows
nature with so delicate an appreciation of its most subtile truths,
it is not easy for a character occupying the background of the stage
picture to maintain (although by gesture only) a constant commentary
upon the words of others without becoming intrusive or attracting an
undue share of attention. Yet Cruvelli does this throughout the first
scene (especially during the duet betwixt _Rocco_ and _Pizarro_, in
which _Fidelio_ overhears the plan to assassinate her husband) with a
perfection akin to that realized by Rachel in the last scene of 'Les
Horaces,' where Camille listens to the recital of her brother's victory
over her lover; and the result, like that of the chorus in a Greek
drama, is to heighten rather than lessen the effect. These may be
considered minor points, but, as necessary parts of a great conception,
they are as important, and afford as much evidence of the master mind,
as the artist's delivery of the grandest speeches or scenes."

"Mlle. Cruvelli," observes another critic, "has the power of expressing
joy and despair, hope and anxiety, hatred and love, fear and resolution,
with equal facility. She has voice and execution sufficient to master
with ease all the trying difficulties of the most trying and difficult
of parts."

_Norma_ was Sophie's second performance. "Before the first act was over,
Sophie Cruvelli demonstrated that she was as profound a mistress of the
grand as of the romantic school of acting, as perfect an interpreter
of the brilliant as of the classical school of music." She represented
_Fidelio_ five times and _Norma_ thrice.

Her features were most expressive, and well adapted to the lyric stage;
her manner also was dramatic and energetic. She was highly original,
and always thought for herself. Possessing a profound insight into
character, her conception was always true and just, while her execution
continually varied. "The one proceeds from a judgment that never errs,
the other from impulse, which may possibly lead her astray. Thus,
while her _Fidelio_ and her _Norma_ are never precisely the same on
two consecutive evenings, they are, nevertheless, always _Fidelio_ and
_Norma_.... She does not calculate. She sings and acts on the impulse of
the moment; but her performance must always be impressive, because it
is always true to one idea, always bearing upon one object--the vivid
realization of the character she impersonates to the apprehension of her
audience." So much was she the creature of impulse that, even when she
would spend a day, a week, a month, in elaborating a certain passage--a
certain dramatic effect--perhaps on the night of performance she would
improvise something perfectly different from her preconceived idea.

Her sister Marie made her _début_ in Thalberg's _Florinda_, in July,
with Sophie. She was a graceful and charming contralto; but her timidity
and an over-delicacy of expression did not permit her then to display
her talents to the greatest advantage. The brother of the sisters
Cruvelli was a fine barytone.


At the close of 1851 Sophie went again to the Théâtre Italien, and the
following year she again returned to London to sing with Lablache
and Gardoni. During this season she performed in "La Sonnambula," "Il
Barbiere," and other operas of the florid Italian school, charming
the public by her lyric comedy, as she had inspired them by her tragic
impersonations. Cruvelli had always been remarkable for impulsive and
eccentric ways, and no engagement ever operated as a check on these
caprices. One of these whims seized the young lady in the very height of
a brilliantly successful engagement, and one day she took French leave
without a word of warning. The next that was heard of Sophie Cruvelli
was that she was singing at Wiesbaden, and then that she had appeared
as _Fides_ in "Le Prophète" at Aix-La-Chapelle. Cruel rumors were
circulated at her expense; but she showed herself as independent of
scandal as she had been of professional loyalty to a contract.

Sophie Cruvelli's engagement at the Grand Opéra in Paris in January,
1854, filled Paris with the deepest excitement, for she was to make
her appearance in the part of _Valentine_ in "Les Huguenots." The terms
given were one hundred thousand francs for six months. Meyerbeer, who
entertained a great admiration for Sophie's talents, set to work
on "L'Africaine" with redoubled zeal, for he destined the _rôle_ of
_Selika_ for her. A fortnight ahead orchestra stalls were sold for two
hundred francs, and boxes could not be obtained. The house was crowded
to the ceiling, and the Emperor and Empress arrived some time before
the hour of beginning on the night of "Les Huguenots." Everywhere
the lorgnette was turned could be seen the faces of notabilities like
Meyerbeer, Auber, Benedict, Berlioz, Alboni, Mme. Viardot, Mario,
Tamburini, Vivire, Théophile Gautier, Fiorentino, and others. The
verdict was that Cruvelli was one of the greatest of _Valentines_, and
Meyerbeer, who was morbidly sensitive over the performance of his
own works, expressed his admiration of the great singer in the most
enthusiastic words.

Soon after this, she appeared as _Julia_ in Spontini's "Vestale," and,
as a long time had elapsed since its production, there was aroused the
most alert curiosity to hear Cruvelli in a great part, in which but few
singers had been able to make a distinguished impression. She acted the
_rôle_ with a vehement passion which aroused the deepest feeling in the
Parisian mind, for it was a long time since they had heard an artist who
was alike so great an actress and so brilliant a vocalist. One writer
said, "She is the only cantatrice who acts as well as sings"; said one
critic, "She would have made a grand tragedienne." Fickle Paris had
forgotten Pasta, Malibran, and even Mme. Viardot, who was then in the
very flush of her splendid powers.


From Paris Mlle. Cruvelli went to London, where she sang an engagement
at the Royal Italian Opera, making her opening appearance as
_Desdemona_, in the same cast with Tamburini and Ronconi. Her terms
during the season were two hundred and fifty pounds a night. Her other
parts were _Leonora_ ("Fidelio"), and _Donna Anna_ ("Don Giovanni"), and
the performances were estimated by the most competent judges to be on
a plan of artistic excellence not surpassed, and rarely equaled, in
operatic annals. Mlle. Cruvelli revived the Parisian excitement of the
previous season by her appearance at the Grand Opéra, as _Alice_ in
"Robert le Diable." The audience was a most brilliant one, and their
reception of the artist was one of the most prolonged and enthusiastic
applause. She continued to sing in Paris during the summer months and
early autumn, and was the reigning goddess of the stage. All Paris was
looking forward to the production of "Les Huguenots" in October with a
great flutter of expectation, when Sophie suddenly disappeared from the
public view and knowledge. The expected night of the production of "Les
Huguenots" on a scale of almost unequaled magnificence arrived, and
still the representative of _Valentine_ could not be found. Sophie had
treated the public in a similar fashion more than once before, and
it may be fancied that the Parisians were in a state of furious
indignation. Great surprise was felt that she should have forfeited so
profitable an engagement--four thousand pounds for the season, with
the obligation of singing only two nights a week. She had abandoned
everything, injured her manager, M. Fould, and insulted the public for
the gratification of a whim. No adequate reason could be guessed at for
such eccentricity, not even the excuse of an _affaire de coeur_, which
would go further in the minds of Frenchmen than any other justification
of capricious courses. Her furniture and the money at her banker's were
seized as security for the forfeit of four thousand pounds stipulated by
her contract in case of breach of engagement, and her private papers and
letters were opened and read.

About a month after her sudden flight, M. Fould received a letter from
the errant _diva_, in which she demanded permission to return and
fill her contract. M. Fould consented, and accepted her plea of "a
misunderstanding," but the public were not so easily placated, and
when she appeared on the stage as _Valentine_ the audience hissed her
violently. Sophie was not a whit daunted, but, confident in her power to
charm, put all the fullness of her powers into her performance, and she
soon had the satisfaction of learning by the enthusiasm of the plaudits
that the Parisians had forgiven their favorite.

Sophie Cruvelli continued on the stage till 1855, and, although her
faults of violence and exaggeration continued to call out severe
criticism, she disarmed even the attacks of her enemies by the
unquestionable vigor of her genius as well as by the magnificence of a
voice which had never been surpassed in native excellence, though many
had been far greater in the art of vocalization. Her last performance,
and perhaps one of the grandest efforts of her life, was the character
of _Helene_ in Verdi's "Les Vêpres Siciliennes," the active principal
parts having been taken by Bonnehée, Gueymard, and Obin. The production
of the work was on a splendid scale, and the opera a great success. "The
audience was electrified by the tones of her magnificent voice, which
realized with equal effect those high inspirations that demand passion,
force, and impulse, and those tender passages that require delicacy,
taste, and a thorough knowledge of the art of singing. No one could
reproach Mlle. Cruvelli with exaggeration, so well did she know how
to restrain her ardent nature." "Cruvelli is the Rachel of the Grand
Opéra!" exclaimed a French critic. From these estimates it may be
supposed that, just as she was on the eve of passing out of the
profession in which she had already achieved such a splendid place at
the age of twenty-five, a great future, to which hardly any limits could
be set, was opening the most fascinating inducements to her. The faults
which had marred the full blaze of her genius had begun to be mellowed
and softened by experience, and there was scarcely any pitch of artistic
greatness to which she might not aspire.

Rumors of her approaching marriage had already begun to circulate, and
it soon became known that Sophie Cruvelli was about to quit the stage.
On January 5, 1856, she married Baron Vigier, a wealthy young Parisian,
the son of Count Vigier, whose father had endowed the city of Paris with
the immense bathing establishments on the Seine which bear his name,
and who, in the time of the Citizen King, was a member of the Chamber of
Deputies, and afterward a peer of France. Mme. Vigier resides with her
husband in their splendid mansion at Nice, and, though she has sung on
many occasions in the salons of the fashionable world and for charity,
she has been steadfast in her retirement from professional life. She
has composed many songs, and even some piano-forte works, though her
compositions are as unique and defiant of rules as was her eccentric

Sophie Cruvelli was only eight years on the operatic stage, but during
that period she impressed herself on the world as one of the great
singers not only of her own age, but of any age; yet far greater in her
possibilities than in her attainment. She had by no means reached
the zenith of her professional ability when she suddenly retired into
private life. There have been many singers who have filled a more
active and varied place in the operatic world; never one who was more
munificently endowed with the diverse gifts which enter into the highest
power for lyric drama. She had queenly beauty of face and form, the most
vehement dramatic passion, a voice alike powerful, sweet, and flexible,
and an energy of temperament which scorned difficulties. Had her
operatic career extended itself to the time, surely foreshadowed in her
last performances, when a finer art should have subdued her grand gifts
into that symmetry and correlation so essential to the best attainment,
it can hardly be questioned that her name would not have been surpassed,
perhaps not equaled, in lyric annals. A star of the first magnitude was
quenched when the passion of love subdued her professional ambition.
Sophie Cruvelli, though her artistic life was far briefer than those
of other great singers, has been deemed worthy of a place among these
sketches, as an example of what may be called the supreme endowment of
nature in the gifts of dramatic song.


Born at Hamburg of an Hungarian Family.--Her Early Musical
Training.--First Appearance in Opera in "Lucrezia Borgia."--Romance of
her Youth.--Rapid Extension of her Fame.--Receives a _Congé_ from
Vienna to sing in England.--Description of Mlle. Titiens, her Voice,
and Artistic Style.--The Characters in which she was specially
eminent.--Opinions of the Critics.--Her Relative Standing in
the Operatic Profession.--Her Performances of _Semiramide_ and
_Medea_--Latter Years of her Career.--Her Artistic Tour in America.--Her
Death, and Estimate placed on her Genius.


Theresa Titiens was the offshoot of an ancient and noble Hungarian
family, who emigrated to Hamburg, Germany, on account of political
difficulties. Born in June, 1834, she displayed, like other
distinguished singers, an unmistakable talent for music at an early
period, and her parents lost no time in obtaining the best instruction
for her by placing her under the charge of an eminent master, when she
was only twelve years of age. At the age of fourteen, her voice had
developed into an organ of great power and sweetness. It was a high
soprano of extensive register, ranging from C below the line to D in
alt, and of admirable quality, clear, resonant, and perfectly pure. The
young girl possessed powers which only needed culture to lift her to a
high artistic place, and every one who heard her predicted a commanding
career. She was sent to Vienna to study under the best German masters,
and she devoted herself to preparation for her life-work with an ardor
and enthusiasm which were the best earnest of her future success.

On returning to Hamburg in 1849, she easily obtained an engagement, and
with the daring confidence of genius she selected the splendid _rôle_
of _Lucrezia Borgia_ as the vehicle of her _début_. Mme. Grisi had fixed
the ideal of this personation by investing it with an Oriental
passion and luxury of style; but this did not stay the ambition of the
_débutante_ of fifteen years. Theresa at this time was very girlish in
aspect, though tall and commanding in figure, and it may be fancied did
not suit the ripe and voluptuous beauty, the sinister fascination of
the Borgia woman, whose name has become traditional for all that is
physically lovely and morally depraved. If the immature Titiens did not
adequately reach the ideal of the character, she was so far from failing
that she was warmly applauded by a critical audience. She appeared in
the same part for a succession of nights, and her success became more
strongly assured as she more and more mastered the difficulties of her
work. To perform such a great lyric character at the age of fifteen,
with even a fair share of ability, was a glowing augury.

This early introduction to her profession was stamped by circumstances
of considerable romantic interest. A rich young gentleman, a scion of
one of the best Hamburg families, became passionately enamored of the
young cantatrice. After a brief but energetic courtship, he offered
her his hand, which Theresa, whose young heart had been touched by his
devotion, was not unwilling to accept, but the stumbling-block in the
way was that the family of the enamored youth were unwilling that his
future wife should remain on the stage. At last it was arranged that
Theresa should retire from the stage for a while, the understanding
being that, if at the end of nine months her inclination for the stage
should remain as strong, she should return to the profession. It was
tacitly a choice between marriage and a continuance of her professional
ambition. When the probation was over, the young cantatrice again
appeared before the footlights, and the unfortunate lover disappeared.

The director of opera at Frankfort-on-the-Main, having heard Mlle.
Titiens at Hamburg was so pleased that he made her an offer, and in
pursuance of this she appeared in Frankfort early in 1850, where she
made a most brilliant and decided success. Her reputation was now
growing fast, and offers of engagement poured in on her from various
European capitals. The director of the Imperial Opera at Vienna traveled
to Frankfort especially to hear her, and as her old contract with the
Frankfort _impressario_ was on the eve of expiration, and Mlle. Titiens
was free to accept a new offer, she gladly availed herself of the chance
to accept the opportunity of singing before one of the most brilliant
and critical publics of Europe. She made her _début_ at Vienna in 1856,
and was received with the most flattering and cordial approbation. She
appeared in the _rôle_ of _Donna Anna_ ("Don Giovanni"), and at the
close of the opera had numerous recalls. Her success was so great that
she continued to sing in Vienna for three consecutive seasons, and
became the leading favorite of the public. The operas in which she
made the most vivid impression were "Norma," "Les Huguenots," "Lucrezia
Borgia," "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Fidelio," and "Trovatore"; and her
versatility was displayed in the fact that when she was called on,
through the illness of another singer, to assume a comic part, she won
golden opinions from the public for the sparkle and grace of her style.


The English manager, Mr. Lumley, had heard of Mlle. Titiens and the
sensation she had made in Germany. So he hastened to Vienna, and made
the most lavish propositions to the young singer that she should appear
in his company before the London public. She was unable to accept his
proposition, for her contract in Vienna had yet a year to run; but,
after some negotiations, an arrangement was made which permitted
Mlle. Titiens to sing in London for three months, with the express
understanding that she should not surpass that limit.

She made her first bow before an English audience on April 13, 1858, as
_Valentine_ in Meyerbeer's _chef d'oeuvre_, Giuglini singing the part of
_Raoul_ for the first time. She did not understand Italian, but, under
the guidance of a competent master, she memorized the unknown words,
pronunciation and all, so perfectly that no one suspected but that she
was perfectly conversant with the liquid accents of that "soft bastard
Latin" of the South. Success alone justified so dangerous an experiment.
The audience was most fashionable and critical, and the reception of the
new singer was of the most assuring kind.

The voice of Mlle. Titiens was a pure soprano, fresh, penetrating, even,
powerful, unusually rich in quality, extensive in compass, and of great
flexibility. It had a bell-like resonance, and was capable of expressing
all the passionate and tender accents of lyric tragedy. Theresa Titiens
was, in the truest, fullest sense of the word, a lyric artist, and
she possessed every requisite needed by a cantatrice of the highest
order--personal beauty, physical strength, originality of conception,
a superb voice, and inexhaustible spirit and energy. Like most German
singers, Mlle. Titiens regarded ornamentation as merely an agreeable
adjunct in vocalization; and in the music of _Valentine_ she sang only
what the composer had set down--neither more nor less--but that was
accomplished to perfection.

As an actress, her tall, stately, elegant figure was admirably
calculated to personate the tragic heroines of opera. Her face at this
time was beautiful, her large eyes flashed with intellect, and her
classical features were radiant with expression; her grandeur of
conception, her tragic dignity, her glowing warmth and _abandon_
rendered her worthy of the finest days of lyric tragedy. She was
thoroughly dramatic; her movements and gestures were singularly noble,
and her attitudes on the stage had classical breadth and largeness,
without the least constraint.

As _Leonora_, in "Trovatore," she was peculiarly successful, and
her _Donna Anna_ literally took the audience by storm, through the
magnificence of both the singing and acting. In June she made her
appearance as _Lucrezia Borgia_. The qualities which this part demands
are precisely those with which Mlle. Titiens was endowed--tragic power,
intensity, impulsiveness. Her commanding figure and graceful bearing
gave weight to her acting, while in the more tender scenes she was
exquisitely pathetic, and displayed great depth of feeling. "Com' è
bello" was rendered with thrilling tenderness, and the allegro which
followed it created a _furore_; it was one of the most brilliant
_morceaux_ of florid decorative vocalism heard for years, the upper C in
the cadenza being quite electrical. At the end of the first and second
acts, the heartrending accents of a mother's agony, wrung from the
depths of her soul, and the scornful courage tempered with malignant
passion, were contrasted with consummate power. It was conceded that
Grisi herself never rose to a greater pitch of dramatic truth and power.

Mlle. Titiens was unable to get an extension of her _congé_, and, much
to the regret of her manager and the public, returned to Vienna early
in the autumn. Instantly that she could free herself from professional
obligation, she proceeded to Italy to acquire the Italian language, a
feat which she accomplished in a few months. Here she met Mr. Smith, the
manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, and effected an arrangement with him,
in consequence of which she inaugurated her second London season on May
3, 1859, with the performance of _Lucrezia Borgia_. Mlle. Titiens sang
successively in the characters which she had interpreted during her
previous visit to London, adding to them the magnificent _rôle_ of
_Norma_, whose breadth and grandeur of passion made it peculiarly
favorable for the display of her genius. Near the close of the season
she appeared in Verdi's "Vêpres Siciliennes," in which, we are told,
"she sang magnificently and acted with extraordinary passion and vigor.
At the close of the fourth act, when _Helen_ and _Procida_ are led to
the scaffold, the conflicting emotions that agitate the bosom of the
heroine were pictured with wonderful truth and intensity by Mlle.
Titiens." From London the singer made a tour of the provinces, where she
repeated the remarkable successes of the capital. At the various musical
festivals, she created an almost unprecedented reputation in oratorio.
The largeness and dignity of her musical style, the perfection of a
voice which responded to every intention of the singer, her splendor
of declamation, stamped her as _par excellence_ the best interpreter of
this class of music whom England had heard in the more recent years of
her generation. Her fame increased every year, with the development
of her genius and artistic knowledge, and it may be asserted that no
singer, with the exception of Grisi, ever held such a place for a long
period of years in the estimate of the English public.


During the season of 1860 she added fresh laurels to those which she
had already attained, and sang several new parts, among which maybe
mentioned Flotow's pretty ballad opera of "Martha" and Rossini's
"Semiramide." Her performance in the latter work created an almost
indescribable sensation, so great was her singing, so strong and
picturesque the dramatic effects which she produced. One of the
sensations of the season was Titiens's rendering of "Casta Diva," in
"Norma." Though many great vocalists had thrilled the public by their
rendering of this celebrated aria, no one had ever yet given it
the power so to excite the enthusiasm of the public. Mlle. Titiens
performed also in the opera of "Oberon" for the first time, with great
success. But the _pièce de resistance_ of the season was Rossini's great
tragic opera. "In Titiens's _Semiramide_," said a critic of the time,
"her intellectuality shines most, from its contrasting with the part she
impersonates--a part which in no wise assists her; but, as in a picture,
shadow renders a light more striking. In the splendid aria, 'Bel
Raggio,' the _solfeggi_ and fioriture that she lavishes on the
audience were executed with such marvelous tone and precision that she
electrified the house. The grand duet with Alboni, 'Giorno d'orrore,'
was exquisitely and nobly impressive from their dramatic interpretation
of the scene."

In 1861 Mlle. Titiens made an engagement with Mr. Mapleson, under whose
control she remained till her career was cut short by death. Associated
with her under this first season of the Mapleson _régime_ were Mme.
Alboni, the contralto, and Signor Giuglini, the tenor. Her performance
in the "Trovatore" drew forth more applause than ever. "Titiens is the
most superb _Leonora_ without a single exception that the Anglo-Italian
stage has ever witnessed," wrote an admiring critic. Among other
brilliant successes of the season was her performance for the first time
of _Amelia_ in Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," which was a masterpiece
of vocalization and dramatic fire. The great German cantatrice was now
accepted as the legitimate successor of Pasta, Malibran, and Grisi,
and numerous comparisons were made between her and the last-named great
singer. No artists could be more unlike in some respects. Titiens lacked
the adroitness, the fluent melting grace, the suavity, of the other.
"But," one critic justly remarks, "in passionate feeling, energy, power
of voice, and grandeur of style, a comparison may be established. In
certain characters Grisi has left no one to fill her place. These will
be found mostly in Rossini's operas, such as _Semiramide, Ninetta,
Desdemona, Pamira_ ('L'Assedio di Corinto'), _Elene_, etc., to which we
may add _Elvira_ in 'I Puritani,' written expressly for her. In not one
of these parts has anybody created an impression since she sang them.
They all belong to the repertoire of pure Italian song, of which
Giulietta Grisi was undoubtedly the greatest mistress since Pasta. That
Mlle. Titiens could not contend with her on her own Ausonian soil no one
will deny. Her means, her compass, her instincts, all forbade. There
is, however, one exception--_Norma_, in which the German singer may
challenge comparison with the Italian, and in which she occasionally
surpasses her. In the French and German repertoire the younger artist
has a decided advantage over the elder, in possessing a voice of such
extent as to be enabled to execute the music of the composers without
alteration of any kind. Everybody knows that Mlle. Titiens has not only
one of the most magnificent and powerful voices ever heard, but also one
of the most extraordinary in compass. To sing the music of _Donna Anna,
Fidelio, Valentine_, etc., without transposition or change, and to sing
it with power and effect, is granted to few artists. Mlle. Titiens is
one of these great rarities, and, therefore, without any great
stretch of compliment, we may assert that, putting aside the Rossinian
repertoire, she is destined to wear the mantle of Grisi."

In no previous season was Mlle. Titiens so popular or so much admired
as during the season of 1862. Her most remarkable performance was
the character of _Alice_, in Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable." "Mlle.
Titiens's admirable personation of _Alice_," observes the critic of a
leading daily paper, "must raise her to a still higher rank in public
estimation than that she has hitherto so long sustained. Each of the
three acts in which the German soprano was engaged won a separate
triumph for her. We are tired of perpetually expatiating on the splendid
brightness, purity, and clearness of her glorious voice, and on the
absolute certainty of her intonation; but these mere physical requisites
of a great singer are in themselves most uncommon. Irrespectively of the
lady's clever vocalization, and of the strong dramatic impulse which she
evinces, there is an actual sensual gratification in listening to her
superb voice, singing with immovable certainty in perfect tune.
Her German education, combined with long practice in Italian opera,
peculiarly fit Mlle. Titiens for interpreting the music of Meyerbeer,
who is equally a disciple of both schools."


Mlle. Titiens was such a firmly established favorite of the English
public that, in the line of great tragic characters, no one was held
her equal. The most brilliant favorites who have arisen since her
star ascended to the zenith have been utterly unable to dispute her
preeminence in those parts where height of tragic inspiration is united
with great demands of vocalization. Cherubini's opera of "Medea," a work
which, had never been produced in England, because no soprano could
be found equal to the colossal task of singing a score of almost
unprecedented difficulty in conjunction with the needs of dramatic
passion no less _exigeant_, was brought out expressly to display her
genius. Though this classic masterpiece was not repeated often, and
did not become a favorite with the English public on account of the
old-fashioned austerity of its musical style, Titiens achieved one of
the principal triumphs of her life in embodying the character of the
Colchian sorceress as expressed in song. Pasta's _Medea_, created
by herself musically and dramatically out of the faded and correct
commonplace of Simon Mayer's opera, was fitted with consummate skill to
that eminent artist's idiosyncrasies, and will ever remain one of the
grand traditions of the musical world. To perform such a work as that
of Cherubini required Pasta's tragic genius united with the voice of
a Catalani, made, as it were, of adamant and gold. To such an ideal
equipment of powers, Titiens approached more nearly than any other
singer who had ever assayed the _rôle_ in more recent times. One of
the noblest operas ever written, it has been relegated to the musical
lumber-room on account of the almost unparalleled difficulties which it

It is not desirable to catalogue the continued achievements of Mlle.
Titiens season by season in England, which country she had adopted as
her permanent home. She had achieved her place and settled the character
of her fame. Year after year she shone before the musical world of
London, to which all the greatest singers of the world resort to obtain
their final and greatest laurels, without finding her equal in the
highest walks of the lyric stage. As her voice through incessant work
lost something of its primal bloom, Mlle. Titiens confined her
repertory to a few operas such as "Trovatore," "Norma," "Don Giovanni,"
"Semiramide," etc., where dramatic greatness is even more essential than
those dulcet tones so apt to vanish with the passage of youth. As an
oratorio singer, she held a place to the last unequaled in musical

In 1875 Mlle. Titiens visited America, on a concert and operatic
tour which embraced the principal cities of the country. She was well
received, but failed, through the very conditions and peculiarities of
her genius, to make that marked impression on the public mind which
had sometimes, perhaps, been achieved by artists of more shallow and
meretricious graces. The voice of Mlle. Titiens had begun to show the
friction of years, and though her wonderful skill as a vocalist covered
up such defects in large measure, it was very evident that the greatest
of recent German singers had passed the zenith of her fascination as
a vocalist. But the grand style, the consummate breadth and skill in
phrasing, that gradation of effects by which the intention of a composer
is fully manifested, the truth and nobility of declamation, that repose
and dignity of action by which dramatic purpose reaches its goal
without a taint of violence or extravagance--in a word, all those great
qualities where the artist separates from the mere vocalist were
so finely manifested as to gain the deepest admiration of the
_cognoscenti_, and justify in the American mind the great reputation
associated with the name of Mlle. Titiens. On her return to Europe, she
continued to sing with unimpaired favor in opera, concert, and oratorio,
until she was seized with the fatal illness which carried her off in
1879. Her death was the cause of deep regret among musical circles in
England and on the Continent, for she left no successor in the line
of her greatness. So far as any survey of the field could justify a
judgment, liable at any time to be upset by the sudden apparition of
genius hitherto hampered by unfavorable conditions, Mlle. Titiens was
the last of that race of grand dramatic singers made splendid by
such beacon lights as Pasta, Malibran, Schröder-Devrient, Grisi, and


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Great Singers, Second Series - Malibran To Titiens" ***

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