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Title: Life of Henriette Sontag, Countess de Rossi. - with Interesting Sketches by Scudo, Hector Berlioz, Louis - Boerne, Adolphe Adam, Marie Aycard, Julie de Margueriete, - Prince Puckler-Muskau & Theophile Gautier.
Author: Pückler-Muskau, Prince Hermann [Contributor], Margueriete, Julie de [Contributor], Aycard, Marie [Contributor], Adam, Adolphe [Contributor], Boerne, Louis [Contributor], Gautier, Théophile, 1811-1872 [Contributor], Berlioz, Hector, 1803-1869 [Contributor], Scudo, Pierre, 1806-1864 [Contributor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Henriette Sontag, Countess de Rossi. - with Interesting Sketches by Scudo, Hector Berlioz, Louis - Boerne, Adolphe Adam, Marie Aycard, Julie de Margueriete, - Prince Puckler-Muskau & Theophile Gautier." ***

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[Illustration: portrait of Henriette Sontag]



Now Ready--Third Edition of "The Heirs of Randolph Abbey." Price 25 cents.
Second Edition of "The Upper Ten Thousand." Price 50 cents.
And Nearly Ready--"The Adventures of Lilly Dawson." Price 25 cents.



Sketches of American Society.




With ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS. Price 50 cents in paper; cloth, 75 cents.

Opinions of the Press.

"NEW-YORK LIFE, by a New-Yorker, clever, sparkling, and life-like. A set
of daguerreotypes, in which figure the drawing-rooms of the Avenue and
Union Place--the most noted _salons_ of the town--the butterfly crowds
of the watering-places, and pre-eminently--the Course. The hero of the
book, a modern fast young man, who has in a measure outgrown his
fastness, and looks patronizingly on the aspiring efforts of a very
young New-Yorker, cicerones you about, showing up the lions of town and
country, and all with a cool _blase_ sort of air that is wondrously
telling. With a stroke of the pen he annihilates the huge pretensions of
some _parvenu_ or bestows the final stab on the waning virtue of some
dashing belle. In the same moment giving a pithy _rationale_ of American
Society, and the best _recipe_ for concocting a sherry cobbler;
discussing, in the same breath, the popular theology of the town, and
the winning pacer on the Long Island course. Throughout, quietly
satirical yet seldom exaggerated. Looking at American life and manners
from no distant point, but as one who has been in, and of, and through
it all, pausing now and then to take down a jotting here, put in a bit
of shadow there, making more of life than 'John Timon;' not mere squints
through a _Lorgnette_, but broad, steady stares with the naked eye, with
now and then the help of a quizzing-glass."--_New-York Evening Mirror._

"They are sufficiently sprinkled with local satire, on a ground of a
pervading egotism, to be attractive in a book--in which capacity they
will hold their own with such memorable local effusions as IRVING and
PAULDING'S _Salmagundi_, HALLECK'S _Croakers_, and MITCHELL'S
_Lorgnette_."--_Literary World._

"We are glad to see these brilliant 'Sketches of American Society,'
incorporated into an elegant and portable volume, for they are
unquestionably the most veritable pictures of certain classes of
New-York society that have been written; we do not except even the
equally graphic portraits of 'The Lorgnette.' The great charm of Mr.
Bristed's sketches is the life-like characters he introduces as
illustrations of the varied phases of American society. These sketches
have been read with avidity as they appeared in the serial form, and
will doubtless form an inseparable travelling companion to our tourists
in their present compact shape, for they possess the interest of a
novel, with the piquancy and truthfulness of a personal
narrative."--MORRIS & WILLIS'S _Home Journal_.

"We must say that this little volume contains some true and vivid
sketches of men and manners, and that, notwithstanding its tone of
levity, it has within it a good moral. The moral is applicable in all
highly-civilized communities, and is simply this--when fashion is made
the _exclusive_ rule of life, one may search in vain for a man or woman
worth more than a moment's passing glance. All that is manly and
intelligent in the one sex, all that is feminine and lovely in the
other, gives place to a tasteless coating clumsily laid over a worthless
substance."--_New-York Albion._

"These sketches are lively, and adorned with characters whose types, we
may safely say whose originals, can be found in New-York in any winter,
and in Saratoga and Newport every summer. Mr. BRISTED'S descriptions of
gay life in those places certainly gave the English readers of _Fraser's
Magazine_ a very truthful and amusing picture of the trifling, bustling
existence of the New-Yorker's whose days and nights are passed in the
struggle for social notoriety. The book might better be styled,
_Germanics_ Sketches of the
Courier and Enquirer._

"These sketches contain much truthful sarcasm and quiet stabs at
vulgarism among the 'upper ten,' all under the garb of pictures of
American society in New-York, or 'Sketches of American Society,' as they
were called. Written in a rapid and pleasing style, and by a man who had
few prejudices against the Americans, they may be considered a pretty
fair expose of the ridiculous follies of the American people, while at
the same time their many excellent qualities are placed prominently
before the reader."--_Rough Notes._

Published by STRINGER & TOWNSEND, 222 Broadway, N. Y.












ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of
New York.

_B. CRAIGHEAD, Printer and Stereotyper,

53 Vesey Street._


LIFE OF THE COUNTESS DE ROSSI,                                         5

PEN AND INK PORTRAIT, BY              _Marie Aycard_,                 37

HENRIETTE SONTAG, BY                  _M. Scudo_,                     39

HENRIETTE SONTAG IN FRANCFORT, BY     _Louis Boerne_,                 46

PAST AND PRESENT, BY                  _Theophile Gautier_,            51

HOW SONTAG SINGS, BY                  _Hector Berlioz_,               53

THE PRIMA DONNA AND THE COUNTESS, BY      "    "                      53

IS IT THE MOTHER OR THE DAUGHTER? BY  _Adolphe Adam_,                 57

SOUVENIR OF THE OPERA, BY             _Julie de Margueritte_,         59

SONTAG AND THE EMPEROR OF RUSSIA, BY  _Prince Puckler-Muskau_,        64


WHETHER in rapid memoir or in ponderous biography, the life-sketcher or
the chronicler must always fain behold the object before him as a model
endowed not only with surpassing moral and physical beauties, but with
that individuality of genius, and that peculiar destiny, which separate
the few from the crowd. To the readers remains the duty of acting as
those did who were wont to attend the triumphs of Roman conquerors, and
urge the deduction of their mistakes and misdeeds--or, as the "Satanic
advocate" in the process of canonization in the Pope's court, show how
much more of a sinner than of a saint was the mortal about to pass into
the heaven of human invention. Although, thus, well aware of how much
our trifling office here is prone to exaggeration, we feel that there is
no fear of transgressing in the present case, and that the readers will
rather feel how much below than above the truth we remain.

The Countess Rossi is as clearly fitted to be the heroine of a memoir of
real life, as she is of being the heroine of a lyrical drama on the
fictive scene. Those who will read this sketch will, we think, behold in
her all the characteristics of a special and elevated nature--one marked
amongst mankind, framed for its admiration and for its model. We have
the striking attributes of a special nature manifest and effulgent even
in infancy; we see them defying the obstacles of fortune, and constantly
rising in power. We behold them in their utmost effulgence--first on the
stage, and next in the highest regions of society, and, ultimately,
tried by adversity. From beginning to end, the power and the effulgence
remain ever the same, fitted for all positions: wherever it is placed,
it continues unsullied and undiminished.

Having set forth our claims to the attention of those to whom we address
ourselves, we shall now rapidly trace the outline of the singularly
eventful career of Countess Rossi. The interest its moving incidents, so
singularly varied, have always inspired, are now increased tenfold by new
features, totally unparalleled in the history of the lyrical stage. To
behold this distinguished lady return to the stage, after enjoying
undisturbed for many years, and in the most exalted rank, the love and
esteem of the greatest personages of Europe, is a truly singular and
affecting event; but to behold her return, after this lapse of time,
with all her powers not only unimpaired, but improved by taste, study,
and observation, is an event without an example. If, to take the exact
measure of this phenomenon by comparison, we turn to the very few who
were her contemporaries on the stage, what do we behold? If asked how so
extraordinary a fact happens to exist, those who have had the good
fortune to know the Countess Rossi will readily explain it. The first
reason and first cause are, that this lady possesses a remarkably well
regulated mind--gentle in all things, ever resigned, and possessed of
unruffled patience; and her feelings, controlled by the most virtuous
sense of right, have never been agitated by those passions which most of
all beset stages and courts, and are the most insidious and dangerous
assailants of those who are the constant objects of adoration.

To these might be added other aiding causes, but of no little potency.
For the sake of brevity, we shall only mention two: the first is, that
the Countess Rossi's voice is a pure and perfect soprano, of the highest
register, from the first settlement of her voices--it is "to the manner
born." Thus she has never been compelled to superadd to her studies of
vocal science those efforts by which most of the greatest vocalists have
been obliged to transmute their contralto or mezzo soprano tones, to
polish their guttural or husky tones, and--almost all of them--extend
artificially their register. On the other hand, during her long
secession from the stage, the love of musical art has always remained
predominant, and its science been constantly cultivated, without the
necessity of taxing her powers, without the exhausting exertions of
other singers; whilst her style of singing is that of the high classical
Italian school, the only one that nurses the voice, whilst it displays
all its melodic power. Had not the Countess Rossi yielded up the German
school--had she not resorted to the Italian school to modify her
singing--as her great countryman Mozart did, to modify the form his
inspirations assumed--her voice would no doubt have been injured, and
she would have lost that marvellous power of overflowing richness of
embellishment, requiring purity of tone, agility, and elegance, in which
she is unquestionably unrivalled.

HENRIETTE SONTAG was born of a respectable family of artists, of limited
means, at Coblentz, Kingdom of Prussia. The old saying of the poet,
"_nascitur, non fit_," is singularly applicable to this great vocalist.
The strong bent for music which pointed out her ultimate vocation, was
observable as early as five years of age. At seven years of age, betwixt
her exquisite beauty and her exquisite voice, she was known far and wide
in her neighborhood. To gratify the nobility of the district, the
authorities of the town, or their friendly neighbors, it was the
practice of Henriette Sontag's mother to place her child on the table,
and bid her sing.

A distinguished traveller, who afterwards beheld her in all the
effulgence of her triumphs, relates having seen her sing in this manner
the grand aria of "The Queen of Night," in the _Zauberflöte_--her arms
hanging beside her, her eye following a fly on the window, or a
butterfly sporting on the flowers without--her voice, so pure, so
penetrating, and of angelic tone, flowing as unconsciously, as
effortless, and as sportive as a limpid rill from the mountain side.

The circle of her fame spread gradually wider and wider, and the
_Impresarii_ of Germany were not long in awakening to the importance of
securing the assistance of the infant wonder. The consequence was, that
at eleven years of age she appeared at Darmstadt, in a part written
purposely for her, entitled, _The Little Daughter of the Danube_. In
spite of her extraordinary success at Darmstadt, her wise and
conscientious parents, knowing the fate of infant prodigies when their
natural powers are allowed an untutored growth under the artificial
warmth of injudicious admiration and the heat of theatres, withdrew the
young _prima donna_ from the first scene of her successes, and conveyed
her to a very distant spot, the Conservatoire of Prague.

At the Conservatoire of Prague, the little maiden and her relatives did
not cease to be tempted by managers or _Impresarii_. First attracted by
her beauty, they were soon astonished by her aptitude. She successively
won the prize of every class of this great school of music, until she
earned the highest position; and, placed at the head of the school, she
became one of the marvels of the city.

Scarce three years had elapsed since her matriculation at the
Conservatoire, and she had hardly attained the age of fourteen, when she
saved the fortunes of that great Imperial Opera of Prague, associated
with so many glorious memories of music, and which would be immortalized
by the fact alone of having been the stage where the _Clemenza di Tito_
and the _Marriage of Figaro_ were first produced by Mozart. The favorite
_prima donna_ of this noble theatre was suddenly taken ill, and so
seriously, that there was little hope left of her reappearing for some
time. The manager, in despair, and at a loss which way to turn, could
think of no other resource to retain his audiences than the appearance
of the young prodigy of the Conservatoire--little Henriette Sontag. Such
was her proficiency in her art, that her parents no longer saw the same
danger in allowing their offspring to tread the fictive scene.

If nothing were wanting in courage, natural gifts of voice, and
intellectual power on the part of the child, as regards the height of
her person there was a _mancamento_ of several inches. As the French
proverb says, "_le temps corrige cela_;" but, in the meantime, the
stage-manager, a learned Hellenist, was not oblivious of the means by
which the Greeks gave altitudes to their scenic heroes and heroines, and
the little _prima donna_, to whom was assigned for her _début_ the part
of the heroine in a translation of the favorite French opera, _Jean de
Paris_, was supplied with enormous cork heels. There was a time, at the
court of Louis XV., when an inch and a half of red heel was the
distinctive characteristic of a marquis, or of a lady of sufficient
quality to be allowed to sit in the presence of royalty. On the occasion
of the _début_ of Henriette Sontag, four inches of vermillion-colored
cork foreshadowed the rank of the little lady, destined to become one of
the most absolute mimic queens of the lyrical world, and afterwards a
real and much respected countess. When the singer who enacted the
pompous seneschal in the opera of _Jean de Paris_ came forward, and
announced, "It is no less a personage than the Princess of Navarre whose
arrival I announce!" the applause and laughter were universal. When the
little prodigy appeared on her cork pedestal, the house was filled with
cheers and acclamations. As the business of the stage proceeded, the
auditors found that there was no longer any indulgence necessary on the
score of age, but that there were claims on their admiration for a voice
which, for its purity, its peculiar flute-like tone, and its agility,
has never been surpassed. The celebrated tenor, Gerstener, who enacted
_Jean de Paris_, that night sang better than ever, finding that he had
to cope with the attraction of a new melodic power. Many nights
successively did she thus sing the Princess of Navarre with increasing
success to crowded houses. Her next part was one far more
difficult--that of the heroine in Paer's fine opera, _Sargin_.

The capital of Bohemia was not destined long to retain its chief
ornament. Long before the conclusion of the season, the Imperial Court
had heard of her extraordinary success, and Henriette Sontag was
summoned to Vienna, where she appeared, the very next season, at the
German Opera.

In our times we have "Kings of Railways" and "Colossuses of Roads,"
indebted to good luck for their success. At the time Henriette Sontag
_debutted_ at Vienna there existed in Italy also _millionaire
Impresarii_, only indebted for pre-eminence to the favors of chance.
That curious original, Barbaja, the lessee at the same time of the
largest German and Italian Theatres, was born under the luckiest of
stars. Since his day, his successors in Italy, having found talent
becoming daily rarer, have watched every young talent as it rose, taken
possession of it, and worked them until the death of their voices,
before they had a chance of the maturation of their powers, in singing
operas of composers, who strive to conceal their sterility under noise
and exaggerations both dramatic and instrumental. In our days, to be a
successful lessee, you must be possessed of indefatigable genius, as
well as industry; Barbaja, on the contrary, found musical genius of all
kinds at his command to speculate upon. Not only were there Catalanis,
Pastas, Malibrans, Garcias, Donzellis, Rubinis, Lablaches, &c., in ample
number, but all the operas that Paër, Winter, Paesiello, Cimarosa, and
Mozart had written, were fresh in the lyrical _répertoire_, and
composers of equal merit were living, and could be monopolized for
money. In the Villa Barbaja, the palace the fortunate _impresario_ had
built for himself on the Possilipo, at Naples, you may, half way up the
hill, on the third story, see the room where, in the dog-days, Rossini
wrote his _Otello_, standing at a desk, in the costume of terrestrial
paradise, with a Chucharro boy fanning him behind with the back torn
from a large music-book. When managers had such slaves responding to
their behests, like the genius to the lamp of Aladdin, they might easily
live and rule like sultans, with a Mahomet's paradise upon earth. Thus
it was with Barbaja. With the assistance of the great alchymist Rossini,
who turned so readily "notes into gold," he thought he knew and mostly
had secured all the talent available to his theatre that existed in
Europe. In those days not only a northern _cantatrice_ was not dreamt
of, but it was thought that the South alone could produce a great singer
for the Italian lyrical stage.

When he arrived at Vienna, such was, however, the report of the fame of
young Sontag, that the great sybarite of the day condescended at last to
visit the German opera, even at the sacrifice of having his ears,
accustomed to the melodious "_lingua Toscana_," torn by the guttural
discordance of the Teutonic tongue. On hearing Henriette Sontag sing,
Barbaja was overcome with astonishment. To this feeling succeeded
dismay, when, having immediately applied to her parents, he found in
them a polite but most unquestionable abhorrence for the Italian stage,
which they were afraid would lead their daughter to the land of moral
laxity, of _Cicisbei_ and _Patiti_, of

    "Pasteboard triumph, and the cavalcade,
     Processions formed for piety and love,
     A mistress and a saint in every grove."

In vain he tempted them with an _El Dorado_ in perspective--the
conscientious Germans would not concede, at first, a single iota of his
wishes. The world, to whom she has imparted so much pure
enjoyment,--and, fortunately, will now impart so much more in time to
come--was near never hearing the great vocalist sing in an euphonious
language, in that which made her fame universal, and led her to visit
England and France.

At last, however, after repeated efforts, some concession was made,
although Barbaja's fate was like that of the hero of the classical
poet--the gods vouchsafed but half his prayer. Henriette Sontag was
allowed to appear at the Italian Opera at Vienna. But she alone, of all
the great singers of those days, never visited Italy. Many an evening
the good-natured Neapolitan _Impresario_, a still greater epicure in
gastronomy than in music, after enjoying a dinner such as Lucullus was
wont to degustate nearly on the same spot, as he walked on his Palace
terrace and looked down across the inlet to San Carlo, would grow moody
when he thought of what he lost by the rooted aversion of Sontag's
parents; and then he would anathematize the _Maledetti Tedeschi_, the
born enemies of his country, with an energy, if not with a poetry,
worthy of the patriotic _Filicaja_--for they, like all the other
invaders of Italy, "never gave her anything but blows and slavery, and
always took away everything they could, not leaving even an Iron Crown,
or a funeral urn to preserve the ashes of past greatness."

The important change for the musical world at large was, however,
effected. The next season Henriette Sontag was engaged to sing in
Italian at Vienna, and removed to the Carinthia, having for her
colleagues vocalists of such a calibre, that one of them, "_il buon
Rubini_," has never been surpassed; whilst all those who have enjoyed
the talents of the other, Lablache, feel that not only he has never
been, but cannot imagine that he ever will be equalled.

Amongst the company at the Carinthia, there was another exquisite
artist, who was destined, as a model of style, to exert a great
influence on the career of Sontag, who has now risen so much higher in
the world's estimation than her fair predecessor has ever attained,
eminent as she was. As soon as the young Sontag, the most conscientious
of artists (no slight portion of her success being due to her severity
of judgment on herself), had heard Madame Fodor, a new light broke upon
her; with tears in her eyes she threw her arms round her mother's neck,
conjured her to take her home, and give her a piano. Her wish
accomplished, she sat at her piano, working night and day at improving
herself, and never leaving her home but when there was a rehearsal for
Fodor, when she would hide herself in a corner of the house, and her
ears would drink up with enthusiasm every note that dropped from the
great _prima donna_, who has left a memory still enduring with the old
_habitués_ of Her Majesty's Theatre. Madame Fodor, on the other hand,
hearing the young inexperienced _prima donna_ sing for the first time,
exclaimed, "Had I her voice, I should hold the whole world at my feet!"

The Prussian _dilettanti_ employed every means to bring Henriette Sontag
to their capital. At the end of the Italian Opera season at Vienna, she
was persuaded to come to Berlin, to support by her attraction the
Koenigstadt Theatre, just opened. There she was joined by
distinguished German lyrists, such as Jäger, Wächter, Sager, and
Spitzeder. She was obliged to sing the translations of the operas of
Rossini and of the French _répertoire_, then all the fashion at Berlin.
Her success, however, was immense. Every seat in the house was taken, in
anticipation, long before the days of performance; and we remember well,
being there at the time, that the foreigners of rank who arrived in
Berlin, finding it impossible to purchase a seat at any price, were
obliged to apply to Count de Bruhl, the minister of the "_Menus plaisirs
du roi_," to obtain an obscure seat at the back of the Court, or of the
diplomatic box.

M. de Talleyrand used to boast, as one of the brightest diplomatic
tricks of his tricksy career, that in the settlement of limits of
respective dominions at the Congress of Vienna, he had procured that
Ferney should be included in the area of France, which made Voltaire a
Frenchman _post mortem_. On the same principle, the Prussians having
recently secured, at the same Congress, the forced allegiance of
Sontag's birth-place, Coblentz, added to the admiration which she
commanded wherever she went, a feeling of pride at her being their
countrywoman. Hence their enthusiasm knew no bounds.

The love as well as admiration excited by Mdlle. Sontag during her
residence at Berlin, gave rise to many singular incidents. Not allowed
to approach the object of their idolatry, her adorers had recourse to
the most eccentric expedients to express their devotion. It is related
that a young man of rank was so desperately enamored of her, as to
resort to the romantic expedient of hiring himself as a servant in her
family, to have the pleasure of constantly seeing her; nor was the
truth suspected by the object of his adoration, or any one else, until
the gentleman's own relations discovered him, and removed him from the
vicinity of the attraction.

That wise and excellent monarch, the late King of Prussia, heartily
joined in the enthusiasm of his subjects; and that he entertained as
much esteem as admiration for Madlle. Sontag will be proved in the most
signal manner by a circumstance we shall have presently to relate.

Whilst at the Berlin theatre, overtures were made to Mdlle. Sontag from
the Italian Opera in Paris--then belonging to the Crown, and under the
control of Vicomte Sosthene de la Rochefoucault, who for many years
ruled, under the Restoration, the theatres of France, and endeavored,
with rather dubious success, to apply the "Maxims" of his witty ancestor
to the government of stage affairs. As M. Sosthene had for negotiator in
this treaty the great Rossini, who had made Mdlle. Sontag's acquaintance
in Vienna, his wishes, amongst the offers made from all quarters,
prevailed. Madlle. Sontag made her first appearance in Paris at the
beginning of the season. She arrived in Paris at the close of the year
1827, after a triumphal "Progress" through Holland and the Rhenane
provinces, in which she gathered abundantly both those crowns which are
supposed always to be made of laurel, as well as those which bear the
effigies of monarchs. Paris was then the centre of taste and the
metropolis of art--the occupation of the whole population the enjoyment
of pleasures or the ministering to its desires and caprices. Madlle.
Sontag's voice and beauty produced a _furore_--each note produced a
murmur or an acclamation. No feature of hers escaped a sonnet, from her
eyebrow to her pretty foot. The ugliest women thought they became
handsome by imitating her costume; and venders of articles of luxury and
fancy goods found no easier way of getting rid of their wares than by
stamping them with her name or with her supposed resemblance.

In this, her first engagement at Paris, she made her _début_ in
Desdemona. She also performed with great success La Donna del Lago,
Cenerentola, and other first characters in the first operas of the day.
The Italian Opera season ended, she was eagerly engaged for the next
season, and her support secured. She then returned to her engagement at
Berlin,--once more at the Koenigstadt Theatre. Here she was destined
to receive, in a very novel form, the greatest compliment she had as yet
met with. The Berlinese, who justly deemed her the brightest living
ornament of their capital, and considered her as a Prussian, and thus,
for two reasons, their property, were indignant that she had left Berlin
for Paris, and still more, that she had taken another engagement, and
intended to leave them once more. When she appeared for the first time
after her return, in the _Italiana in Algieri_, from all parts of the
house there was an explosion of hisses and groans, interspersed with
exclamations--"What a shame to leave us!" "Give up your engagement with
the hateful French!" "Promise--swear you will remain with us!" &c., &c.
The alarm of the manager and of the vocalists engaged in the _Italiana_
was boundless. The jealous husband of the _libretto_, the favored
_cicisbeo_, even the erotic sultan and his janissaries fled from the
theatre, whilst for twenty minutes the fair vocalist remained alone on
the stage, mute and immovable as the statue of some nymph in a garden
abiding the pelting of a storm. Vain were the efforts of the audience:--

    "Speret--sudet multum, frustraque laboret,"

they could extract no concession from the goddess of their idolatry;
their courage to persecute her further failed them; and they determined
to enjoy the present moment,--"_advienne que pourra!_" From that night
unto the end of the season, the applause and enthusiasm of the audiences
of the Koenigstadt knew no bounds when the singer they had at first
regaled with their fiercest sibillations was on the stage.

Madlle. Sontag returned to Paris for the season. The Italian Opera was
then fallen under the rule of M. Laurent. There she found Malibran in
the plenitude of her fame and glory. The theatrical gossips, and the
Parisian _gobemouches_, either hoped or expected--all of them
predicted--that a war was about to arise betwixt the two stars now
forced to move in the same orbit--a war which would eclipse the
encounters of Juno and Venus in the days of Paris and the siege of Troy.
For once the Greeks of Paris, and the Trojans of the Salle Favart, were
disappointed. It is little to be doubted that the gentle and
affectionate nature of Madlle. Sontag, and the generosity which
characterized at all times the impetuous Malibran, would, under any
circumstances, have united the two great vocalists--and of this
supposition the more than probability is established by the fact that
all other _cantatrici_, of equal pretensions, have never failed to be
severed by jealousy the moment they have met on the same stage. But long
before Madlle. Sontag's arrival in Paris the second time, she had become
acquainted with Malibran. Those amongst our readers who have lived in
Paris when it was a centre of society, instead of a centre of
revolution, cannot fail to have heard, at least, of the Countess Merlin.
This Havanese lady, a gifted practical _dilettante_, with Countess de
Sparre (Madlle. Náldi) and her countryman Orfila (no less distinguished
as a vocalist than as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, and the
greatest of toxicologists), were wont to give concerts which were
thronged by all the _Melomanes_ of the French capital. Madame Merlin
thus naturally became the "_arbiter elegantiarum_" of Paris, at least as
far as regarded musical taste, and her house the rendezvous of all who
aspired to fame on the lyrical stage. Here Madlle. Sontag was frequently
invited on her first arrival in Paris. On one occasion, the Countess
introduced to her a fair Spaniard, a _protégé_ of hers just arrived from
New York. This artist, who had spent some years performing in the
inglorious theatres of the New World, was afterwards the celebrated
Malibran. Madame Merlin begged Madlle. Sontag to encourage her friend,
who, she assured her, had the greatest gifts of voice, by singing with
her the duet in _Tancredi_. Madlle. Sontag cheerfully consented. So
astonished, delighted, and overcome were the two fair vocalists at their
respective talents, that at the close of the duet, they threw themselves
into one another's arms, and from that day began their friendship.

Still the theatrical scandal-mongers did not hesitate for a moment to
declare that the two queens of the lyrical stage were devoured by mutual
envy and jealousy, and they thought there could not be a doubt of it,
from a circumstance which occurred the night Madlle. Sontag sang the
_Barbière_ for the first time since her return. Rossini came in the
interval betwixt the acts to tell the Rosina of the night, at that
moment surrounded by a crowd of admirers, that he had left Malibran in
tears in her box, in despair at ever attaining such a purity of tone and
such a perfection of execution as she had displayed. This was a sincere
tribute of admiration, and not of envy, on the part of that lamented
vocalist; whose real character, being impressed with the eccentricity
which too often besets genius, few could understand, and whose warmth of
heart and imagination made her too often the victim of cold-blooded

The truth is, that on her arrival in Paris, Malibran received her fair
colleague with open arms. Their meeting produced friendly emulation,
instead of hostile pique and rivalry, and the two incomparable singers
agreed to perform, in turn, the same operas. Thus did they enact, on
alternate nights, Desdemona, Rosina, Cenerentola, &c., whilst they
performed together such operas as _Tancredi_, &c. This was the most
glorious--the culminating epoch of the _Italiens_ in Paris. On one
occasion, _Don Giovanni_ was given; Madlle. Sontag performing Donna Anna
(perhaps the greatest of her triumphs); Malibran, Zerlina; and
Heinfetter, Elvira. On this, one of the coldest nights on record,
amongst the most stirring, elbowing their way from without, in the rush
of the eager aspirants to seats in the house, were observed at the same
time, Rossini, Cherubini, Paër, Meyerbeer, and Auber! Well might the
journals of the day observe, that no better criterion was needed of the
merits of the performers. No doubt each great _maestro_ went there
revolving in his mind how such voices might be turned to account in his
next composition; for then even the authors of _Masaniello_ and the
_Philtre_, of _Il Crociato_ and _Robert le Diable_, had not adopted that
style of overwrought harmony, of clamorous choral, and of deafening
instrumental combination, from which all pure voices of such quality
shrink--despairing to find melodic phrases to be uttered without
contention with ophicleides and double-drum.

Such was the sisterly love and confidence which existed betwixt the two
marvellous vocalists, then engaged at the _Italiens_, and which is so
powerfully recorded in the letters of the lamented Malibran, that the
latter was, for a time, in 1828, the only depositary of Sontag's secret,
that amongst the crowd of sighing and adoring swains who followed her
respectfully at a distance, tendering their offers of marriage, there
was one on whom she had bestowed her heart, and was about to bestow her

The fortunate object of Madlle. Sontag's choice--and time has proved how
well-founded was her judgment--was a member of the diplomatic body then
accredited at the Court of the Tuileries. Count de Rossi, although then
a very young man, was already, at that critical period of political
affairs, _Conseiller d'Ambassade_ of the Sardinian mission--a sufficient
proof of his mental powers. He had the good looks, the elegant manners,
the tastes, and the gifts of conversation which distinguish the
travelled man and the real _homme de qualité_--qualities which no
adversity can diminish. Fearing the prejudices of his noble relatives
and of his royal master, until they could be assuaged, it was determined
to conceal the wedding for the time being. It consequently was
solemnized with all due form, but in secret, with only two or three
intimate friends as witnesses.

A highly interesting circumstance attended this marriage--one perhaps

The late kind-hearted King of Prussia, apprised of the intended
marriage, was desirous on the one hand to show his estimation of his
fair subject, and on the other to prepare for the prejudices and
obstacles this marriage would meet with on the part of the Sardinian
Cabinet. Unsolicited, he spontaneously bestowed on Madlle. Sontag,
before her marriage, a Patent of Nobility, with every necessary details
of Coat of Arms, &c., together with a title, and the name of De
Launstein. So singular a circumstance cannot be contemplated without the
deepest interest. It appears to us to do as much credit to the feelings
of the lamented Sovereign, as it did honor to the character of Madlle.

But now the time was arrived when the Countess de Rossi must leave Paris
once more. The regret was universal; by this time she had endeared
herself to every one that approached her.

If at Paris Madlle. Sontag was admired by the public at large for her
talents and her beauty, her gentle and amiable character and her
generosity in private life gained her the esteem of all circles of
society. One _trait_, amongst many, may be cited, which adds glory to
her character as a woman as well as an artist.

The parents of Madlle. Sontag were, as we have stated, artists, with
very limited means. This she never forgot; and her short experience of
adversity in her earliest years was sufficient to awaken every sentiment
of charity. She was known by all the exiled Germans whom adversity had
driven from their native land to seek charity and sympathy in France.
One cold night, on leaving the theatre, after a performance of _Don
Giovanni_, Donna Anna, still full of emotion, observed on the step of a
door, as she passed, three young girls near their mother, singing
_lieders_ of their Fatherland. Madlle. Sontag recognised the poor
mother, who was weeping: she was scarcely thirty years old. She
recollected that she had seen her at the theatre at Darmstadt, when she
herself had been taken there in the arms of her parents. The
_Cantatrice_ approached the group with trembling steps, and in a voice
deeply moved by emotion, asked the mother where she lived--procured an
answer--dropped a gold coin--hurried to her carriage, and drove off.

On the same evening, a servant, attired in splendid livery, knocked at
the door of a garret of a house in the Fauxbourg du Temple. "Who is
there?" was asked by a voice, weakened by poverty and want. "A friend,
who brings you good news," was the immediate reply. The door opened.
"Here is a letter which I have been requested to deliver to you," said
the lacquey. "Read it." The letter was thus couched:--

     "On presenting yourself to-morrow at No. 17 Chaussée d'Antin, at
     Mr. M. B., the banker, you will find a sum of three thousand
     francs, which I beg you to accept. Return to Darmstadt with your
     three daughters, whose education I will look after."

"Pray tell me the name of the saviour of myself and children?" "I
cannot," was the reply of the messenger; "at Darmstadt only will it be
known to you."

The beggar dressed her children in their best attire, and the following
morning took the road to Germany. For seven years she regularly received
a pension, which enabled her to give her daughters a good education. One
of them entered the Conservatoire of Berlin, and has now become one of
the most brilliant stars of the German stage. Her name we of course must
refrain from mentioning. Only within the last two years has the poor
wanderer of those days discovered the secret author of a deed of such
noble charity.

This is but one instance of the many acts of signal charity of the
Countess Rossi recorded by the German writers, from whom we have
borrowed largely for the uses of this trifling sketch.

It will now be asked, what had the Direction of Her Majesty's Theatre in
London been doing during the several years that the great capitals of
the Continent had been enjoying the marvellous gifts of Countess Rossi?
The fact is, that as regards distant things, no great foresight or
vigilance could be expected from those who formerly directed this
institution. The engagement of Madlle. Sontag was too far-fetched an
effort: whilst she was at Vienna or Berlin, affairs at home absorbing
too much of the time and attention of the unfortunate lessee for the
time being. Her Majesty's Theatre--specially established by royalty, and
the chief amusement of the successive sovereigns and their illustrious
guests--liberally supported by the greatest aristocracy in the
world--for thirty years presented the most disorderly and disgraceful
aspect which ever characterized any theatre of such pretensions. Instead
of being governed by general principles of equity, and with a view to
general results, it was alternately subjected to the caprice of a
coterie, or to the passions of an artist. The stage was looked upon as a
resort of gallantry, enlivened by the envies, jealousies, and battles of
the _prima donna_; and the audience part of the theatre, where the
greatest personages of the land habitually appeared, headed by Royalty
itself, was frequently turned into a bear-garden, for uncouth
exhibitions of temper and unseemly rows. Needless to add what was the
fate of the successive lessees--at one moment compelled to live under
the foot of a favorite dancer, at another to be at the beck and call of
an imperious _prima donna_; to pay them whatever they asked, and
sacrifice to them whoever or whatever they pleased--"_Stet pro ratione
voluntas!_" was ever the order of the day. Not astonishing, that whoever
took the helm--a great and liberal nobleman, like the Earl of Middlesex
and other personages, whose mishaps Horace Walpole has so wittily
portrayed--a sublime composer, like Handel--a rich banker, like
Chambers--a librarian--an Italian _impresario_, or a clever actor--let
the theatre be governed by a single individual, or by a committee--ruin
was sure to ensue. To seek a _prima donna_ of German extraction at
Berlin, might, at some moment, when an Italian "_assolutissima_" was
reigning, have been considered as high treason, and exposed the
perpetrator to the highest punishment her admirers could inflict.
However, when Madlle. Sontag came to the _Italiens_ in Paris, the lessee
might venture, without risk of such dire punishment, to wish to vary and
increase the amusement of the public and his own receipts. Mr. Ebers,
who has recorded with unanswerable data the absurd caprices and
consequent losses of which, under this system, he was for seven years
the victim, was then the lessee of Her Majesty's Theatre. Mr. Ebers was
naturally anxious to make an engagement with a lady, the renown of whose
talents and beauty was the constant theme of conversation amongst the
travelled _dilettanti_. He wrote to her, and offered her an immense sum,
but she felt compelled to decline, owing to her engagements on the

Of course, when it was ascertained that Madlle. Sontag could not come,
the subscribers, and the public generally, were filled with a headlong
desire to behold her. On the principle of _omne ignotum pro magnifico_,
their imaginations were excited in the extreme; for, the "children of a
larger growth," like their juniors in petticoats, never cry violently
but after what is taken from them, or is beyond their reach. Well we
remember how every one inveighed against the want of liberality, or of
diplomacy, of the unfortunate lessee--who, after all, had only committed
one error, that of allowing the negotiation to be known before he was
certain it would succeed. He was, consequently, soon compelled to make
another appeal to Madlle. Sontag, and offer that, if she would come, he
would pay indemnity for her engagement. But Madlle. Sontag indignantly
repudiated the idea of breaking any contract accepted by her.

The successors of Mr. Ebers, Laurent and Laporte, were destined to reap
the benefit of these applications. The queens of the lyrical stage, like
the heroes and heroines of Shakespeare, come on with tenfold effect when
alarums and flourishes are previously sounded. These negotiations had
awakened and raised the expectations of the whole musical world of the
English metropolis, and, for once, their imaginations were not destined
in any respect to be disappointed in the contemplation of the reality.
The Duke of Devonshire, for so many years the liberal and tasteful
patron of every kind of art, was the first to make society enjoy the
talents of the wonderful artist.

Her _début_ took place at a concert at Devonshire-house, in the Easter
week. Such was her reputation, not only for musical genius, but for
beauty, elegance, and fascination of every kind, that the crowds of
eager spectators in the streets equalled the throng of nobility, rank,
and fashion under the roof of the great _dilettante_ and patron of art,
the Duke of Devonshire. A few days afterwards, she made her first
appearance at her Majesty's Theatre, when she more than realized the
high expectations which had been raised. Most of the great _prime donne_
of our times have been compelled, in soprano parts, to compensate by
their genius and science for the want of compass in their voices--as,
for example, in the case of Pasta, whose natural voice was a rugged
mezzo-soprano; and of Malibran, who was a real contralto. In Madame
Sontag, the public found a real soprano, "to the manner born," enabling
her to perform with certainty of tone, and with exquisite ease, purity,
and delicacy, the most intricate passages and original embellishments,
whether in full tone or _mezzo voce_. When she first appeared in
_Rosina_, she revelled and luxuriated in roulades, arpeggios, and
fanciful divisions; and, subsequently, in _Donna Anna_, she proved that
she could sing in the chastest classical style, and produce the same
effect by pure sentiment and expression, as she had done before by
fioriture and staccato passages.

Any further account of the performances of Madlle. Sontag at this period
would be supererogatory, that portion of her career being known to our
readers either from personal observation or from report. She found
herself again with Malibran, and we quote the following anecdote to give
another proof of the good understanding which prevailed between Madame
de Rossi and Malibran. One day Malibran accidentally met the great
tenor, Donzelli, and from his countenance she guessed he was in huge
dudgeon at some theatrical affair. "What is the matter with you?" said
Malibran. "It is near the end of the season," answered the great tenor,
"and I have not been able to fix on an attractive opera for my benefit."
"Have you thought of nothing?" "Yes." "Well, what is it?" "I had
thought of the _Matrimonio_, but Pisaroni says she is quite ugly enough
without playing Fidalma; and then you would not be included in the cast,
and I don't know what opera to choose in which you would not have the
second part to Madlle. Sontag's first--that would not please you, and
I'm in despair." "Well," said Malibran, "to please you, and to show you
I would play any part with dear Sontag, I'll play Fidalma." "What, old
Fidalma? You are joking!" "No, I'm not; and to prove that I'm in
earnest, announce it this very day." Donzelli, scarce believing his own
good luck, announced the opera. Malibran, dressed in most exquisite
caricature, was admirable in this part, and to her we owe the subsequent
appearance of great _prime donne_ in the part. The only performer
beneath expectation in this opera was the great tenor himself;
accustomed to parts of sublime energy, he roared like a sucking dove.

From England the Countess Rossi went to Prussia. After having sung the
usual time at Berlin, she repaired to Warsaw. In the Polish capital she
was overtaken by a revolution--source of so many sanguinary conflicts in
that unfortunate kingdom. However, this convulsion, so unfortunate for
others, only led Madame de Rossi to new and increased triumphs. She
removed to St. Petersburg; and there her singing produced unparalleled
effect and the most lasting impression. The Emperor and Empress, from
that moment, conceived for her the greatest partiality, and she was the
object of even more than that delicate, as well as generous liberality,
for which the court of the Czar is so justly renowned.

In the mean time, the Count de Rossi had been compelled to separate
momentarily from his lady. The aspect of affairs in Belgium demanded
that a young and active diplomatist should immediately be dispatched to
the court of the King of the Netherlands. The Sardinian Cabinet chose
Count Rossi for this office, and he received orders in 1829 immediately
to repair to Brussels. There he was still in 1830, when the revolution
broke out--in truly lyrical style--after a performance of _Masaniello_!
From Brussels, like the other members of the diplomatic body accredited
at this Court, he went to the Hague, the residence of the King of
Holland, still considered as the legitimate King of Belgium as well as
Holland, until Talleyrand and his confederates in the Hollando-Belgian
Conference said, like the quack doctor in Molière, "_nous avons changé
tout celà_."

Here began a new phase in the life of the Countess Rossi. The King of
Sardinia, cognizant of all the amiable qualities, as well as virtues,
which fitted the great vocalist for the most exalted sphere of society,
at last authorized the Count Rossi openly to announce his marriage.
Madame de Rossi, at St. Petersburg, bid adieu to the stage: and,
arriving at the Hague, the Count Rossi presented her to the whole
diplomatic body assembled and to the Court. If there had existed the
slightest hesitation as to the cordiality with which so bright a
character should be received, the first sight, and the first moments
spent with Madame de Rossi convinced the most stilted and hypercritical
personages that, in her, they beheld one destined to adorn every
position in life in which she might be placed, and who, fortunately for
them, was about to bring them, whether in their official _réunions_, or
in the private intimacy of life, a great accession of pleasure. Madame
de Rossi dropped as naturally into her position, amidst the votaries of
court and politics, as she had done into her parts on the stage, with
this difference, that here nothing was studied, not even the words she
uttered, but she found herself in the natural element of one whose mind
and tastes were plainly created for the enjoyment of everything that is
tasteful, refined, and truthful. If her reception at first was most
kindly courteous, in a very short time it was friendly in the extreme,
and she became the idol of the society of the Hague. Nothing could
exceed the delight with which the young Countess dropped into the calm
mode of life of the small town of the Hague, far removed from the
contentions and excitement of operatic life, but also from the turmoils
of politics, and the agitations of the great capitals of Europe. Unlike
so many other denizens of the stage, in her privacy there never was
observed in the manners of Madame de Rossi the slightest trace of her
habitual avocations. At the Hague, whether in the intercourse of the
courtly personages, or in the calm enjoyment of beautiful scenery and
rural diversions, no thought but of the present appeared ever to intrude
upon the memory of one, since her earliest years, accustomed to sway the
audiences of every capital, as if it were with the wand of an
enchanter--the crowds alternately hushed to dead silence--a moment later
excited to the loudest and most enthusiastic applause. But from the
moment that Madame de Rossi left the stage, up to the hour when she was
compelled to return to it, she ever appeared, like Thomson's

     ----"fitted or to shine in Courts
    With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
    With innocence and meditation joined
    In soft assemblage."

The Dutch, who dearly love their household gods, are devoted to their
language and their country, and religiously cherish the thoughts and
habits of their ancestors. Although liberal and cordial in other
respects, they do not readily admit foreigners into their privacy. Many
an alien, misunderstanding the reason of their exclusion from Dutch
society, has left Holland in huge dudgeon, muttering, as Voltaire did,
"Canards! Canaux! Canaille!" Under the influence of Madame de Rossi, all
these barriers dissolved, and, alone, amongst the foreigners resident at
the Hague, she was sought after by the Dutch ladies and their burly
consorts, and, up to the hour of her departure, lived in their intimate
native circle.

In 1835, the Sardinian cabinet, to reward Count Rossi for his good
services, appointed him Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary to the
Confederation of the Rhine, at Frankfort. Here the reputation of Madame
Rossi for beauty, goodness, and talent had preceded her. The great
diplomatic functionaries at Frankfort hastened to celebrate her arrival
with _réunions_, dinners, and balls. During her residence at Frankfort,
her life glided away cheerfully and rapidly amidst general esteem and
domestic happiness.

The only event which signalized her residence at Frankfort was a noble
act of charity. The overflowing of the Danube had produced desolation at
Pesth and Buda, and appeals had been made to all parts of Germany, and
particularly to the rich town of Frankfort, the commercial as well as
the political capital of the German confederation. Madame de Rossi,
amongst other distinguished persons, was appealed to. She at once
responded to the calls on her charity, and assembling all the _amateur_
musicians and singers, so numerous in every German capital, she gave an
oratorio with their assistance, at which she, of course, herself sung,
in the cathedral, the Dom, at Frankfort. The receipts of this truly
religious concert were even beyond all expectation in amount. The Prince
Metternich addressed to the Countess Rossi an autograph letter, thanking
her for this great act of charity to the Austrian emperor's subjects.

Whether the rumor was founded, we know not, but it may, perhaps, be
remembered, that towards the end of 1837, it was reported in the
newspapers that a coolness, arising from an accidental circumstance, had
arisen betwixt the Czar and the King of Sardinia. However this may be,
what is certain is, that that momentary cloud had blown over very
shortly afterwards; for the Sardinian cabinet had resolved to send to
St. Petersburg a diplomatic representative of a higher grade, and
furnished with ampler means of discharging one of the most agreeable
duties of diplomacy, and that which often contributes as much as
negotiation towards a good understanding--namely, hospitality. The
Sardinian cabinet deemed that the nomination of Count Rossi might be
agreeable to the Czar; and that this opinion was well founded was
immediately proved, for the Court of St. Petersburg being consulted,
according to usage, the Emperor of Russia condescended to express
himself in the most flattering terms both towards M. and Madame de
Rossi. The Czar has always maintained, and, moreover, proved
practically, his opinion, that the essence of the art of reigning, like
that of the art of eloquence, consists in action; habitually with his
Majesty, the deed immediately follows the word.

On the arrival of M. and Madame de Rossi at St. Petersburg, their
reception on the part of the Emperor and Empress was marked by every
circumstance which could be most gratifying to their feelings; and for
three years that they continued to reside in the imperial capital, they
enjoyed unalloyed happiness in a position of special favor.

Shortly after they arrived, that most amiable and august Princess, the
Emperor's Consort, became very solicitous to avail herself of Madame de
Rossi's admirable gifts at some concerts of sacred music, which her
Majesty was desirous to give at the Winter Palace, and likewise in some
operatic performances, with the assistance of the amateurs and
_dilettanti_ of her Court. Madame de Rossi was naturally most anxious to
gratify the august lady, as much beloved as she is deeply respected by
all, and to whom she bore special gratitude. But that the wife of his
representative should never sing in public in any form, was the special
injunction of the king of Sardinia, when he consented to the official
acknowledgment of Madame de Rossi's marriage, and the latter did not
even dare to apply on the subject to head-quarters. Count Nesselrode,
the chancellor of the Russian empire, whose ruling occupations and
predilections, apart from diplomacy, are the culture of music and that
of flowers--the former with enthusiasm--undertook the treaty, and
entered into the negotiation with as much zeal as if the question was
the cession of a new province to the away of the Czar. The King of
Sardinia was too much of a _chevalier_ not to feel he could refuse
nothing to such a negotiator, when the question was to oblige so
peerless a lady as the Empress. The whole Court was on the tip-toe of
expectation--the delay had added fuel to the general eagerness. Led by
Madame de Rossi, the performances at the Emperor's palace formed an
epoch in the enjoyments of the Court. This may be easily accounted for.
For here Madame de Rossi enacted chosen portions of operas, of which her
reading is, in a mere dramatic point of view, the most deeply affecting.
The more exalted the auditory, the more fully are its delicate traits
understood. The conception is natural, at the same time as refined in
the extreme. Not employing any of those outbursts, dramatic
over-coloring, and _jeux de ficelle_, to which most of the lyrical
actresses are addicted, there is a continuity and unity, a "oneness," in
the elaboration of her parts, which renders the illusion complete,
provided the spectator's education be proportioned to the performance. A
few years since, Italian singers, ever the models, were the most
listless and inanimate of actors; now most of these vocalists, having
undergone revolutionary and foreign influence, have gone to the other
extreme--their predecessors acted like telegraphs--they, like windmills.
Madame de Rossi gives the utmost value to the feeling of the part,
without forgetting that the first duty is to give also utmost value to
each note, and avoiding the gusty utterance, the spasmodic gesture, and
clap-traps "_ad captandum vulgus_," her marvellous tones are evolved in
all their purity, beauty of modulation, and all-surpassing agility. The
spectators do not suffer from the contemplation of those efforts, and
that suffusion of the face, that straining of the nerves, blood-vessels,
and muscles of the throat, which have degraded tragedy to melo-drama,
and which would make one believe the audience had come to behold an
execution, not a poetical performance. Such a style, we repeat, as that
of Madame de Rossi, is essentially made for the enjoyment of select
audiences, such as she found at St. Petersburg, within the precincts of
the palace. The impression made was immense, and the effects lasting. To
this cause is universally attributed the establishment on a noble scale
of the Italian Opera at St. Petersburg, now become, in consequence of
revolutions, which have destroyed elsewhere all art and refined
industry, the chief resource of Italian artists in the winter. Such was
the remembrance of the enjoyment, and such was the void left by the
departure of Madame de Rossi, that Rubini was summoned to St.
Petersburgh with a company of his own choosing, and at an outlay no
other sovereign but the Czar could have borne.

The Russians of every class possess an ear for music; their performances
in chorus, their extraordinary _morçeaux d'ensemble_ of single noted
wind instruments, sufficiently prove this assertion. Amongst the higher
classes art is a passion; and with such gifts as she possesses, Countess
Rossi naturally became the object of the utmost enthusiastic admiration.
In the summer season, when St. Petersburg is abandoned, parties were
made at country seats, purposely to secure her presence. It was at a
princely residence in the country, that the witty author of the popular
"Letters from the Baltic," met Countess Rossi, charming and attractive
as in the first burst of her popularity.

The following extracts from this gifted lady's account of her meeting
with Madame de Rossi, during a _villegiatara_ at Revel, will be read
with interest:--

"And now let me revert more particularly to one of the fairest
ornaments, both in mind and person, which our party possesses, whose
never-clouded name is such favorite property with the public as to
justify me in naming it--I mean the Countess Rossi. The advantages which
her peculiar experience and knowledge of society have afforded her,
added to the happiest _naturel_ that ever fell to human portion, render
her exquisite voice and talent, both still in undiminished perfection,
by no means her chief attraction in society. Madame Rossi could afford
to lose her voice to-morrow, and would be equally sought. True to her
nation, she has combined all the _Liebenswürdigkeit_ of a German with
the witchery of every other land. Madame Rossi's biography is one of
great interest and instruction, and it is to be hoped will one day
appear before the public. It is not generally known that she was
ennobled by the King of Prussia, under the title of Mademoiselle de
Launstein; and since absolute will, it seems, can bestow the past as
well as present and future, with seven _Ahnerrn_, or forefathers--'or
eight,' said the Countess, laughing, 'but I can't quite remember;' and
though never disowning the popular name of Sontag, yet, in respect for
the donor, her visiting cards when she appears in Prussia are always
printed _née de Launstein_. We were greatly privileged in the enjoyment
of her rich and flexible notes in our private circle, and under her
auspices an amateur concert was now proposed for the benefit of the poor
in Revel.

"The rehearsals were merry meetings, and when our own bawling was over
Madame Rossi went through her songs as scrupulously as the rest. I shall
never forget the impression she excited one evening. We were all united
in the great ball-room at the Governor's castle in Revel, which was
partially illuminated for the occasion, and, having wound up our last
noisy '_Firmament_,' we all retreated to distant parts of the salle,
leaving the Countess to rehearse the celebrated Scena from the
Freischütz with the instrumental parts. She was seated in the midst, and
completely hidden by the figures and desks around her. And now arose a
strain of melody and expression which thrills every nerve to
recall;--the interest and pathos creeping gradually on through every
division of this most noble and passionate of songs,--the gloomy
light,--the invisible songstress,--all combining to increase the effect,
till the feeling became almost too intense to bear. And then the horn in
the distance, and the husky voice of suppressed agony whilst doubt
possessed her soul, chilled the blood in our veins, and her final burst,
'_Er ist's, Er ist's_,' was one of agony to her audience. Tears, real
tears, ran down cheeks, both fair and rough, who knew not and cared not
that they were there; and not until the excitement had subsided did I
feel that my wrist had been clenched in so convulsive a grasp by my
neighbor as to retain marks long after the siren had ceased. I have
heard Schröder and Malibran, both grand and true in this composition,
but neither searched the depths of its passionate tones, and with it the
hearts of the audience, so completely as the matchless Madame Rossi."

Three years thus happily spent, in 1842, Count Rossi obtained leave of
absence to visit his family, then residing at Vienna, and the Countess
accompanied her husband. Those who visited Vienna before the late
revolution, cannot forget the state of society which prevailed in the
Austrian capital, the chief abode of taste and pleasure in that quarter
of the globe. The circles of society were defined as rigorously and
irrevocably as the boundaries of the little principalities on a German
map, and with this difference that there was no debatable land. Amidst
the nobility itself resident at Vienna, there was an exclusive circle
formed, whose exclusiveness was two-fold, being in the ratio not only of
rank, but of fashion. This circle, consisting of those who were once the
great feudal lords of the overgrown empire, of the mediatized princes,
of the nobles who had the highest rank and the greatest power, with a
sprinkling of those who had the greatest talent to amuse society--there
was formed a _crême de la crême_--a social oligarchy of exclusiveness,
without example in any other capital. Over this Olympus of gods and
demi-gods, the Prince Metternich, the greatest diplomatist of the age of
Napoleon, and a functionary with all the reality, although without the
title of imperial rule, together with his handsome and witty consort,
ruled supreme. The frost-work, which excluded so many persons of the
highest pretensions, whether travellers or residents, at once dissolved
under the gentle influence of Madame de Rossi, as soon as she arrived in
Vienna. In the sanctuary of princes and princesses, in the innermost
_penetralia_ of the most mysterious rites of fashion, Madame de Rossi
spent the time of her short residence in Vienna, delighting those
assemblies she visited by occasional snatches of song, and giving
_matinées musicales_ with amateurs, which were thronged by the highest
personages. By her amiability, her talents, and virtues, she laid at
Vienna the foundation of more than one enduring friendship.

Prussia having become the _punctum saliens_ of diplomacy in the Northern
world, the Sardinian Cabinet removed Count Rossi, as its representative,
to Berlin, in 1843. At this _dilettante_ Court, where she was considered
in the light of a countrywoman, and one of the boasts of the
"Faderland," and in that capital, where, a few years before, she had
exacted so often unbounded enthusiasm, Madame de Rossi was received with
the warmest welcome. The Berlinese contemplated her noble bearing in her
new position with the deepest interest.

From the Court she experienced the highest favor. The present King of
Prussia is a great lover of music. It is true that, like almost every
German _melomane_ of the present day, he mistakes entirely the natural
boundaries which essentially separate and distinguish from each other
the different species of music; he places on the stage music only fitted
for cathedrals, where religious fervor upholds and vivifies the
ponderous form of massive harmony; and he does not discern that dramatic
lyrical music should speak directly to the feelings through the words,
the inspiration always melodical, the ruling themes and dramatic objects
ever distinct, and not overlaid by science nor drowned by noise, and
thus adapted to the enjoyment of the mass of educated men, and not made
alone for the few adepts and pedantic lovers of abstruse lore. Still is
the Prussian monarch a devoted lover of music; and in his _répertoire_
he occasionally admits the older composers, those whose strains, like
Mozart's and Glück's, required no reasoning, no scientific study, to be
felt, but were at once comprehended, and charmed the ear and touched the
heart. In the execution of these works, in the private circle of the
King and Queen, Madame de Rossi was an immense acquisition. Happy were
those who could obtain an entrance into the royal precincts when the
_Iphigénie en Aulide_ of Glück was sung. Nothing can exceed the effect
of the noble strains of Piccini's conqueror when interpreted by our
great vocalist.

In Berlin, the home of the Countess Rossi was habitually the resort of
every personage exalted in rank, as well as of the _famosi_ of science,
art, and literature, such as Humboldt, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, &c. The
Princess of Prussia, who holds so distinguished a position, by her
tastes and her virtues, amongst the princesses of the Continent, honored
Madame de Rossi with the most affectionate regard, whilst that
illustrious _melomane_ and excellent prince, the Grand Duke of
Mecklenburgh Strelitz, finding so much goodness united with so much
talent, treated her almost as a daughter--the Count and Countess passing
three months every season at Strelitz.

No traveller distinguished by rank, or illustrious in art or literature,
passed through the Prussian capital, without visiting the _salons_ of
the Countess Rossi.

The King of Bavaria, who had heard so much reported of the talents and
virtues of Madame de Rossi, visited Berlin in 1846. To gratify his
desire to behold and hear her, the Princess of Prussia assembled at her
house a _réunion_ of the _élite_ of society, and specially invited
Madame de Rossi. The King felt deeply the charm of her looks, her
manners, and conversation, whilst her singing wound him up to poetical
enthusiasm. Under its effect, he wrote the following stanzas, which
created an immense sensation at the time. They possess, apart their
object, the intrinsic attraction of the highest poetry; but,
unfortunately, the language is scarcely translatable, and still less can
we do justice in prose to the peculiar German spirit with which the poem
is fraught:--


    Hoch hat dich der Herr gesegnet,
    Gab dir des Gesanges Macht!
    Glücklich welcher dir begegnet
    In des Zweifels banger Nacht.


    Deiner Stimme Silber Laute
    Treffen Süss des Hörers Ohr
    Dem, der ihnen sich vertraute
    Offnest du des Himmels Thor.


    Ans der Cherubinen Chöre
    Nahmst, du Hohe, deinen Sang;
    Seinen Engel Giaubut zu hören
    Jeder wohl zu dem er drang.


    Aus der reinsten Seele Tiefe
    Tönt ein solches Lied allein;
    Ist's als wenn der Herr uns riefe
    Heilig so wie _Er_ zu Seyn.


    Wenn auch einst dein Lied verklungen
    Bleibt sein Segen ewig doch,
    Da's in uns den Feind bezwungen
    Auferlegt der Liebe Joch.


    Wenn ins Reich der Harmonien
    Holde, du zurükgekehrt
    Wenn der Kraft die dir verliehen
    Keinen Erdenschranke wehrt.


    Dann wirst in den Engel Schaaren
    Singen du an Gottes Thron;
    Selig wirst du es erfahren,
    Was des Sängers höchster Lohn.

       *       *       *       *       *


    High was the boon of Heaven, when he gave thee
    the mastery of Song. Happy is he that hears it
    and ascends to its source in the dreadful Night of Doubts.


    For the Argentine sounds of thy voice softly stealing
    on the hearer's senses, to him that confides
    in them open the portals of Heaven.


    Of the choirs sublime of the Cherubim
    thou hast borrowed thy strains;
    and as he listens, each auditor thinks
    it is the voice of his Guardian Angel that speaks.


    Only from the depth of the purest
    of hearts can such tones arise;
    it is as if Heaven summoned
    us to partake of its own thoughts.


    If some day your voice resound no more,
    the blessing will be resumed; and, wrapped in eternity,
    it will have destroyed in us the enemy,
    and we will remain subject to a power of love and charity.


    For through thy beautiful lips Heaven speaks to its children,
    and thy voice brings us news from those realms above,
    which are the asylum of all.


    When thou shalt have returned to the Kingdom of Harmonies,
    and no mortal coil shall restrain thy power;
    then, amidst the angelic choir, thou shalt sing to the throne
    and blessed! thou shalt receive the highest reward of terrestrial

We have traced here but very imperfectly what we have observed
ourselves, heard from travellers, or collected from the many journals
and reviews of Germany. What we have recorded is but a very small
portion of the sum of constant happiness, of constant triumph, which
attended Madame de Rossi since she left the theatrical career. But at
last came the fatal year 1848, when a political eruption, unprecedented
for magnitude and extent, fell upon the whole fabric of human happiness
on the Continent, as unforeseen and as destructive as the volcanic
outburst which, in a past age, buried Pompeii. Madame de Rossi's
fortune, when the revolution broke out at Berlin, was placed partly with
bankers, partly in commercial securities; commerce ceased, public credit
was shaken, and private credit lost, and with the latter the fortune of
Madame de Rossi. Shortly afterwards followed the events in Sardinia, in
its turn deeply affecting the fortunes of her husband, and threatening
the Count Rossi with the loss of that office which he had so long and so
honorably held. On the first news of the losses experienced by Madame de
Rossi, knowing how perfectly she had preserved her voice, the Direction
of Her Majesty's Theatre made, in the most delicate manner that could be
devised, ample offers to the unfortunate lady, in case she should deem
it necessary to return to the scene of her former triumphs. The Count
and Countess Rossi did not contemplate then the necessity of so great a
sacrifice. Later offers of unlimited temptation were made by other
parties, and emissaries sent to Berlin secretly to treat with the great
vocalist of the golden age of the opera. But they were at once refused.
As events assumed a darker complexion, Madame de Rossi, the most
affectionate of mothers, grew more and more anxious for her children,
and used every endeavor to prevail on her noble husband to sacrifice the
privileges and prejudices of rank, and the sweets of high office, to the
future welfare of their children. An artist of European fame, who not
only commands admiration by his talents, his conversational powers, his
elegant and amiable manners, and his noble and elevated character--M.
Thalberg, happened some months since to be in Berlin, and he is said to
have seconded Madame de Rossi's efforts to persuade her husband.
Communications were resumed with the Direction of Her Majesty's Theatre,
although still in a problematical and conditional form, and the Count
Rossi repaired to Turin to endeavor to release himself from his duties.
After some delay, the Count obtained permission from his sovereign to
retire for a time from his career. When it was known later at Turin what
was the cause of his retirement, and that it was definitive, letters
were written, by order of the sovereign, in the highest degree cordial
and flattering, both to M. and Madame de Rossi. From Turin the Count
returned to Berlin; there Mr. Lumley had suddenly arrived--every
arrangement was made, and a week after he had left Berlin, the Count and
Countess Rossi arrived in London in a manner totally unforeseen. In a
week more she appeared on the stage, and although, unlike other great
singers, she had not, owing to the necessity of secresy, been preceded
by those announcements which habitually long beforehand herald forth a
_prima donna_, and work upon public expectation, her reception was one
never surpassed in enthusiasm.

When the circumstances in which Madame Sontag has once more appeared on
the horizon with undiminished glory are considered, a feeling of
something more than admiration takes possession of the observer. To
behold beings, of which there are not one in so many millions, whose
existence has scarcely been thought of, come in a critical hour,
interpose their power, uphold a noble establishment, and at once defeat
all the workings of intrigue, envy, and ingratitude, partakes of that
providential character of events to which all others are secondary. This
is the second time that such an interposition has occurred as regards
the greatest theatrical institution of the country. If there existed in
reality such a random power as _chance_, such events could scarcely be
reckoned amongst its casualties.

If there could be any one so devoid of love for what is really good and
really great, as not to be inspired by interest in the eventful life we
have so very superficially sketched, they need only to repair to the
theatre where our heroine appears, for them to change their disposition.
Nothing ever could resist, off the stage or on it, the sterling merit
either of Countess Rossi, or of Madame Sontag.








TWO centuries ago, under the dominion of a great king, when intellect
and wit were the daily pastimes--at that brilliant period when gallantry
was a habit and politeness a duty--there was a charming fashion; which
was to reproduce in writing, the description of the character, person,
and talents of those who had any claim to celebrity. This fashion of
pen-and-ink portraits, consecrated by La Rochefoucauld, who sketched his
own--by Madame Lafayette, who sketched that of her illustrious
friend--has disappeared with the great names, the great sayings, and the
great doings of those days, when toil and money-getting were not the
only objects of life.

Occupied, however, Madam, like all other people, as I am, I shall find
time to trace, with a rapid and truthful pen, those eminent qualities
which all admire in you. Endowed with beauty which attracts, grace which
fascinates, you also possess _esprit_ and native refinement, without
which every other quality loses its charm. You have a marvellous
talent--how shall I describe this! How can we explain by what natural
refinement, by what intellectual labor, you have made it at once so
grand and so touching! That ineffable voice, which goes directly to the
heart, and dwells for ever in the memory of those who hear it--those
ever-changing shades of expression--those bold and brilliant
embellishments created by good taste, softened by grace, and made
inimitable by art--you possess all. Oh, music of the spheres, of which
we dream but never hear!--you alone have revealed it, for you alone
possess that touching language, at once radiant and heart-thrilling, yet
penetrating, like all real beauty, like that divine essence whence you
emanate. When you appear on the scene, which you instantly transform
into a brilliant saloon, one would think he had been admitted by special
favor to one of those courtly representations given to indulge the
caprice of some great princess desirous of obtaining those numerous
wreaths you know so well how to wear.

How much admiration have you not excited in the different parts you have
filled, with equal inspiration and science! How have eyes and ears both
been charmed at the "Daughter of the Regiment"--a creation understood
and interpreted by yourself alone!--where, in spite of yourself, the
harmony of your gestures, the grace of your movements, give to the whole
character a mysterious poetry, which infects the very air around you!
With what inimitable art you represent that inimitable _Rosina_, at once
so innocent and so cunning, committing with such reckless grace those
little sins which make youth so happy, and revealing at the same time
the woman who attracts us by the qualities we love and the faults we
adore. Ah, whether you express either joy or sorrow, you charm
equally--like those privileged natures, you can feel everything, because
you can understand everything. You are merciful and
charitable--misfortune has never applied to you in vain--never has the
cry of the sufferer been listened to by you without reply. Succoring the
one, consoling the other, you give to misfortune at once your heart and
your gold. Benevolent, obliging, and generous, all those who come to you
are received with a gracious modesty which spares them many pangs. You
have so much memory for what is required of you--you forget so soon what
you give--you appear so happy to oblige--that you seem to be indebted to
those whom you serve. Artist and accomplished woman, you possess the
two endowments so rare in this world--immense talent and unlimited
appreciation. Heaven has given you two nobilities--that of ancestry and
that of the soul.

I have nothing more to say--except that I am seeking in vain for an
expression to portray so admirable a character. This is your portrait,
Madam--and I leave the world to determine whether it is correct.




(_Member of the Institut Français._)

AMONG the rare consolations which have lately been vouchsafed to the
devotees of music, is the reappearance upon the world's stage of a
celebrated artist who had been its ornament. Mademoiselle Sontag, after
having enchanted Europe by the beauty of her voice, by her marvellous
vocalization, and the charms of her person, suddenly disappeared from
the eyes of her numerous admirers, and hid the splendor of an
incontestable and painfully acquired reputation under the veil of
matrimony. Mademoiselle Sontag became Madame de Rossi. She exchanged a
diadem for the coronet of a countess, and the graceful Muse became an
humble ambassadress. A political revolution, which overturned society,
was necessary to restore to us the eminent vocalist whom we have so much
admired. Madame de Rossi, who, most happily for our enjoyment, has lost
her embassy and a part of her fortune, as we are assured, has again
become Mademoiselle Sontag. After having astonished the fashionable
world of London, which received her during the past winter with great
distinction, Mademoiselle Sontag has determined to present herself also,
after a silence of twenty years, before that Parisian public whose
discriminating acclamations formed then the most brilliant portion of
her fame. We have heard her at six concerts which she has given at the
Conservatoire; but before expressing our appreciation of a talent yet so
admirable, we may be permitted, perhaps, to speak briefly of the youth
of this celebrated woman, who has been so tried by destiny.

  [A] Scudo was a pupil of the great Choron, an intimate of
  Rossini, and has had the entrée of all the most distinguished musical
  circles on the continent for the past thirty years. He is a prominent
  contributor to the _Revue des Deux Mondes_, the _Revue de Paris_, and
  the _Revue Independant_, from one of which publications this article is
  taken.--_Note of the Translator._

Henriette Sontag was born at Coblentz in Prussia, of one of those
families of German comedians of which Goethe has given us such a poetic
description in his _Wilhelm Meister_. Coming to the light like the
halcyon, upon the crests of stormy waves, she early knew the
vicissitudes and trials of an artist's life. At the age of six years she
made her first appearance at Darmstadt in _Das Donauweibchen_ (The
Daughter of the Danube), an opera very popular in Germany, where, in the
character of _Salomé_, she won admiration for her childish grace and
just intonation. Three years afterwards, having lost her father,
Henriette Sontag went to Prague with her mother, where she played
children's parts, under the direction of Weber, who was then director of
the orchestra of the theatre. Her precocious success obtained for her,
by singular favor, permission to enter the Academy of Music of that
City, although she had not yet reached the age required by its rules.
There, for four years she studied vocal music, the piano-forte, and the
elements of vocalization. An indisposition of the _prima donna_ of the
theatre gave her the opportunity to appear for the first time in a part
of some importance, that of the _Princess of Navarre_ in Boildieu's
opera, _John of Paris_. She was then fifteen. The flexibility of her
voice, her budding charms which announced her future beauty, the
agitation which stirred her heart and filled it with mysterious
presentiments, secured for her a success which augured well for the
future of her professional life. From Prague, Henriette Sontag went to
Vienna, where she met Madame Mainville-Fodor, whose example and good
counsels developed the rich gifts which she had received from nature.
Singing alternately German and Italian opera, she was able to prove her
powers in these two strongly contrasting languages, and to choose with
deliberation between the dazzling caprices of Italian music and the
sober and profound accents of the new German school. An engagement
having been offered her, to sing in German opera, at the theatre of
Leipzig, she went to that city, the centre of the philosophical and
literary discussion, and acquired a great reputation by the manner in
which she interpreted Weber's _Der Freyschutz_ and _Euryanthe_.

The admirers of the genius of this great composer were chiefly the young
men of the Universities, and all those ardent and generous spirits who
wished to disenthral Germany from foreign rule, as well in the realm of
fancy as in that of politics; they sounded with enthusiasm the praises
of Mademoiselle Sontag, whose name was known throughout Germany as that
of a virtuoso of the first order, born to renew the marvels of Mara. It
was at Leipzig that Mara, that famous German singer of the close of the
eighteenth century, was educated under the care of the venerable
Professor Hiller. It was vouchsafed to M'lle Sontag to dedicate a
magnificent organ and a vocalization almost unknown on that side of the
Rhine, to the performance of the vigorous and profound music of Weber,
Beethoven, Spohr, and all those new German composers who, severing all
alliance with foreign scepticism, had given freedom to the national
genius. Overwhelmed with homage, celebrated by all the brilliant men of
the day, the students singing her praises, and followed by the _hourras_
of the German press, Mademoiselle Sontag was called to Berlin, where she
appeared with immense success at the theatre of Koenigstadt. It was at
Berlin, it will be remembered, that _Der Freyschutz_ was represented for
the first time. It was at Berlin, a protestant and rationalistic city,
the centre of an intellectual and political movement which sought to
concentrate within itself the life of Germany, at the expense of
Catholic Vienna, in which reigned the spirit of tradition, sensuality,
the gaiety and the light melodies of Italy; it was at Berlin, we say,
that the new school of dramatic music founded by Weber, had taken
foothold. Mademoiselle Sontag was received with enthusiasm as an
inspired interpretress of the national music. The Hegelian philosophers
found in her a subject for their learned commentaries, and they
recognised in her limpid and sonorous voice "_the subjective blended
with the objective in an absolute unity_." The old King of Prussia
received her at court with parental kindness. It was there that
diplomacy had occasion to make approaches to M'lle Sontag, and to effect
a breach in the heart of the muse.

Availing herself of a leave of absence which had been granted her, M'lle
Sontag came finally to Paris, and appeared at the Italian Theatre on the
fifteenth of June, 1826, in the part of _Rosina_ in _Il Barbière di
Seviglia_. Her success was brilliant, especially in Rode's variations,
which she introduced in the second act during the singing lesson. This
success she at once confirmed and increased in _La Donna del Lago_ and
_L'Italiana in Algieri_; many passages of which, written for a contralto
voice, she was obliged to transpose. Upon her return to Berlin she was
received with redoubled manifestations of interest. She remained in this
city until the close of the year 1826; when, abandoning Germany, and the
school which had formed her in the very sanctuary of its nationality,
she fixed herself at Paris. M'lle Sontag first appeared in the character
of _Desdemona_ in the opera _Otello_, on the second of January, 1828.
She was one of that constellation of admirable virtuosos who at that
epoch charmed Paris and London; and among whom Madame Pasta, Mad.
Pisaroni, Mad. Malibran, and M'lle Sontag shone as stars of the first

Between the last two vocalists, so different in their styles, there was
declared one of those fruitful rivalries of which Hoffman has given us
so dramatic a picture. This rivalry was pushed so far between the
imperious Juno and the blonde Venus that they could not remain together
in the same room. Upon the stage, when they sang in the same opera,
which happened in _Don Giovanni_ or _Semiramide_, their stupendous
jealousy manifested itself by malicious cadenzas and rockets of sound
which inflamed their hearers. Now it was the Trojans burst all bonds,
and now the Greeks. The parterre rose and fell like the waves of the sea
under the touch of the divinities of Olympus. At last, one day Mad.
Malibran and M'lle Sontag having to sing a duett at a princely mansion,
the fusion of two voices so different in quality and in the character of
their expression, produced so grand an effect that the success of the
two great vocalists worked their reconciliation. From that moment a calm
rested _sul mare infido_.

Even in the midst of such successes and festivals of art, a black spot
shows itself upon the horizon: diplomacy labored secretly to work
confusion--its protocols became menacing, and it was suddenly announced
that M'lle Sontag was about to quit the stage to devote herself to more
serious duties. For a year past she had been secretly married to a Count
de Rossi, who was no longer willing to share his happiness with the
world. M'lle Sontag took leave of the Parisian public at a performance
for the benefit of the poor, which was given at the opera, in January of
1830. Upon her return to Berlin, her friends and numerous admirers won
her consent to give a few representations, and she quitted the stage
definitively two months before the revolution of July. But before
entering upon the new path of life which she had chosen, and before
laying aside the brilliant renown which had been so justly acquired,
M'lle Sontag went a journey to Russia, giving at Warsaw, Moscow, St.
Petersburgh, and afterwards at Hamburg and other principal cities of
Germany, concerts equally brilliant and profitable.

It was after this journey that, under the name of the Countess de Rossi,
following the fortunes of her husband, she passed successively many
years at Brussels, the Hague, Frankfort, and Berlin, heard only in those
assemblies of the distinguished societies of Europe which the revolution
of February has shaken to its very foundations.

Mademoiselle Sontag possesses a soprano voice of unusual compass, of
great equality, and of a marvellous flexibility. From the middle _Do_ to
that in _alt_, this voice has the sweet ring of a silver bell, and never
need we fear either a doubtful intonation or an ill-balanced phrase in
her wonderful displays of vocalization. This rare flexibility of organ
is the result of incessant labor, judiciously directed to the
development of the munificent gifts of nature. Until her arrival at
Vienna, where she had opportunity to hear the great virtuosos of Italy,
M'lle Sontag had been guided only by her own happy instincts, and the
tastes, more or less cultivated, of the public before whom she sang. It
is to the counsels of Madame Maineville-Fodor, and yet more to the
example which the admirable talent of this exquisite singer set daily
before her, that M'lle Sontag owes the expanding of those native powers
which till then had rested, folded as it were, within their bud. The
contest with such rivals as Mad. Pisaroni and Mad. Malibran--those
heroic combats which she had to sustain upon the stages of Vienna,
Paris, and London--accomplished for her talent that degree of full and
satisfying maturity which has made M'lle Sontag one of the most
brilliant singers of Europe.

Amid the dazzling vocal displays of all kinds which M'lle Sontag pours
forth every evening before her admirers, attention is chiefly claimed by
the limpidity of her chromatic scales and the brilliance of her trills
which scintillate like rubies lying on velvet. Each note of these long
descending flights stands out as if it alone was struck and is linked to
the following note by a delicate and imperceptible transition; and all
these marvels are accomplished with perfect grace, and without ever
distorting the countenance by the least appearance of effort. The
charming face of M'lle Sontag, the clearness and sweetness of her lovely
eyes, her elegant outlines, and her figure lithe and slender as the stem
of a young poplar, finish the picture and complete the enchantment.

M'lle Sontag has essayed all styles. Born in Germany at the commencement
of this tumultuous era, she was developed by the vigorous and powerful
music of the new German school, and achieved her first success in the
masterpieces of Weber. At Paris she attempted successively the
characters of _Desdemona_, _Semiramide_, and that of _Donna Anna_ in the
_chef d'oeuvre_ of Mozart. In spite of the enthusiasm which she seems
to have excited in her countrymen by the manner in which she was enabled
to render the dramatic inspiration of Weber--an enthusiasm the echo of
which is found in the works of Louis Boerne--in spite of the brilliant
endowments which she displayed in the character of _Desdemona_, and
above all in that of _Donna Anna_, which was forced upon her almost by
the jealousy of Mad. Malibran--it is in light music and in the placid
style that M'lle Sontag finds her true superiority. The music of
_Rosina_ in _Il Barbière de Seviglia_, that of _Ninetta_ in _La Gazza
Ladra_, of _Amenaide_ in _Tancredi_, and _Elena_ in _La Donna del Lago_,
have afforded her the fields for her greatest success.

The cry of pathos never escapes from those delicate lips on whose
gently parted loveliness grace sits smiling; bursts of passion never
distort the classic contour of that visage, or crimson the satin-like
surface of that white and polished skin. No; in that elegant form, which
flits before the eager eye like an airy cloud, nature never rouses the
magnificent tempests of passion. This is the reason why Mademoiselle
Sontag consented to bow her lovely head under the yoke of matrimony, and
to descend from a throne to which she had been elevated by the
omnipotence of talent, to become the Countess de Rossi. Who knows if,
after all, bitter regrets did not follow to disturb the repose which she
had promised herself? Who can tell if the ambassadress, in the midst of
her sombre grandeur, has not turned a regretful glance upon those bright
years of her youth, when a whole nation of admirers crowned her with
roses and perennial wreaths? Have not Auber and Scribe, in their pretty
opera _L'Ambassadrice_, given us the story of Mademoiselle Sontag
transformed into the Countess de Rossi?

Madame Sontag's voice is well preserved. If its lower notes have lost a
little of their fulness and freedom, as is always the case with soprano
voices, the upper notes still retain their roundness and their charm.
Her powers are hardly less exquisite than when she was twenty years old;
her execution has lost nothing of that marvellous flexibility which was
then its characteristic; and, with the slightest awakening of the
imagination, we recognise to-day in Madame Sontag the finish, the charm,
the placid and serene expression which have distinguished her among the
eminent vocalists who have astonished Europe in the last half century.
Received with distinction by audiences of the highest fashion, who were
drawn together by the rumor of her greatness and her misfortune, she has
sung with great success many selections from her former _répertoire_.
Among these none have attracted more attention than Rode's Variations, a
sort of musical tapestry, brought into fashion by Mad. Catalani, and
upon which Mad. Sontag has embroidered the most intricate and charming
arabesques. An ascending scale launched out at lightning speed and
flashing upon the ear like a ribbon of fire, has excited the liveliest

The celebrated vocalists of the nineteenth century may be divided into
three groups, very diverse from each other. In one we find those who
have shone by the expression of strong passion, and by elevation of
style, such as Mad. Pisaroni, Mad. Pasta, and Mad. Malibran; in another,
those wonderful syrens who exhale in a merry peal of radiant laughter,
such as Marcolini, Mad. Persiani, and many others. It is between these
two extreme groups that we place Mad. Maineville-Fodor and Mad. Sontag,
who have possessed all the seductions of a rich and graceful
vocalization, without exhibiting either the transports of passion or the
spontaneous outpourings of gaiety. Accordingly, they have flourished
long, for they have never undergone those paroxysms which break and
consume a feeble woman as a diamond is devoured in the crucible of the
chemist. We delight to bring Mad. Sontag before our mind's eye decked in
a white robe, listening to harmless thoughts, moving placidly through a
leafy vista, and in her bosom a cluster of Forget-me-not.




ONE of the most brilliant and influential names in German literature,
for the last quarter of a century, is Louis Börne, a man whose genius,
at once tender and sarcastic, and whose innate love for political
freedom, were fitly refined and adorned by the most severe and delicate
taste in art. In one of his happiest chapters, he describes a visit to
his native city of Frankfort, made by Madame Sontag, who was then
turning the heads of all Germany,--as she has done again within the past
year. As this charming and accomplished artist is soon to appear in
America, we know of no better means of satisfying the curiosity of our
readers as to what they may expect from her, than by translating this
article by so eminent and trustworthy a critic as Börne. It is as

"A year ago Henriette Sontag, the gracious Muse of Melody, appeared at
Weimar, and it seemed as if they all went crazy. Like pious priests and
worshippers of stars, they celebrated her advent as that of some great
and glorious constellation, with music of harps and cymbals, in the
quaintest Spanish, Moorish, languishing, twilight strains, with
hyacinthine perfumes and incense. Instead of simply saying, 'M'lle
Sontag has supped with M. von Goethe,' they sang, 'The King of Poets has
cherished the Wondrous Child with food and drink!' Since then I have
gone mad at the foolish people, whose heads were turned in a night;
before that, they had used the flame of Prometheus to boil their
potatoes with, and now they had swallowed the fire itself; they had been
used to conceal their moderate capacity for enjoyment under hard and
bitter husks, but now, of a sudden, they began to grow sweet, and soft,
and uncertain, and shining as jelly.

"I had the bitterest sayings in my mind, and meant to print them all.
But it is well for me that I reflected and did it not. How people would
have mocked at the inflexible Rhadamanthus when at last, pen and all, he
became the vassal of a girl!

"In truth, since I have myself heard the enchantress, I am bewitched
like the others, and no longer know what I say. But as in the twilight
of a dream I remember, that before my soul's transmigration I was of the
opinion that we Germans, who are so hard to rouse to enthusiasm, who
begin to be intoxicated when others are getting over the headache,--it
was my opinion that we ought not to yield up our virgin hearts to the
first charming apparition. For though beautiful, it is not unfading;
though delightful, it does no solid good. I remember I held it to be
thoughtless extravagance. But now I think otherwise, and I say: It is
lovely; let us enjoy the moment, and why refuse to enjoy it? why
sacrifice it to the future? Who knows how long it will be before we are
again permitted thus loudly to utter our admiration and pay our homage
to a divinity of our own free choice, and not imposed on us by accident?
And now I desire to praise this enchantress, who has transformed an
entire nation; but where shall I find the words? Even the endless array
of mere paper words that we have created in Frankfort since our senses
were taken from us, even these are exhausted. One might offer a prize of
a hundred ducats for the invention of a new adjective, never before
employed, and nobody could gain the prize.

"They have called her the lovely, the incomparable, the heavenly, the
adorable, the celestial maiden, the darling Henriette, the gracious
child, the heroine of song, the daughter of the gods, the dear
songstress, the Pearl of the German Opera. To all these epithets, I say,
Yes, with all my heart. Even the severest judges have given their
verdict; her charming person, her playing, her singing can be compared
to everything that is lovely, for such a union of all these gifts of
Nature and Art was never found in any other singer. To this, also, I
assent, though the rareness of this union did not delude me; for with
all my efforts, I could not see and hear her at the same time, and I had
to think of her points of excellence one by one, together, in order to
arrive at the sum of her worth. But of one thing I am certain, and that
is that what could raise the whole of a German work-day city into such a
festal excitement, without the command of either the almanac or the
police, must be something admirable, something beautiful. To praise our
songstress then, let me speak of the excitement she has produced, for
such universal intoxication, even if not to the credit of the drinker,
is to the glory of the wine.

"With a little variation, Henriette Sontag could say with Cæsar: 'I
came, they saw, I conquered.' But triumph went before her, and the
battle was only a game for the celebration of the victory.

"The first compliment paid to her in subjugated Frankfort was the
announcement in the published list of arrivals, 'M'lle Sontag, Singer to
his Majesty the King of Prussia, with her suite and attendants.'
Princely personages travel 'with suite and attendants,' and by
attributing the same to M'lle Sontag, she was raised to the very steps
of the throne; and without rebellion, no higher honor could have been
paid her.

"To this first compliment the last she received here was perfectly
suited. The landlord at whose house she was lodged for a fortnight, at
her departure refused all compensation, and thereby renewed and ennobled
the old hotel of the Roman Emperor into a Prytaneum, where, in the name
of the Fatherland, famous Germans are entertained. Between these two
compliments extend a countless wilderness of others. Even the Jews
experienced a slight dizziness, and when at the Exchange you heard them
speak of Eighths and Quarters, you were doubtful whether they meant
musical beats or per cents. The price of tickets to the theatre was
doubled, a thing unheard of, for we Frankforters, rich as we are, regard
every unusual expense as intolerable. Spectators poured along in vast
crowds, not merely the inhabitants of the town, not merely the people of
the neighboring cities; but from a distance, from Cologne and Hanover,
came flocks of strangers. It was like the Olympian games. An Englishman,
who could not get a place in the boxes, wanted to take the entire
parquette, and when told it was impossible, gave loud vent to his
astonishment at this strange Continental scrupulosity. A young man came
on foot from Wiesbaden, a distance of sixteen miles, and arrived just as
the house was opened; with great difficulty he procured a seat, but was
good enough to give it up to a wearied lady; he stood up, fainted before
the performance began, and, as there was no place for him to fall, he
was carried lifeless in the fainting-fit, from hand to hand, to the
door; he recovered just as the curtain fell on the last act, and walked
back to Wiesbaden the same night. An inhabitant of the city was so
exhausted by the closeness and the heat, that he had to go home, and
died the same evening. We have heard of other injuries and maladies, and
of persons who were obliged to keep their beds for many days. Through
the whole time, the _Intelligencer_ was filled with advertisements of
lost chains, rings, bracelets, veils, and other articles which ladies
lose in a crowd. On the first day of Sontag's appearance, I went to the
optician's to get my opera glass, which had been left to be repaired,
and he had to look for it among fifty others, left there for the same
purpose. There was a universal arming of the eyes of the entire
masculine gender in Frankfort, and under the gleam of the new
chandelier, hundreds of glasses, directed at a weak girl, offered a
terribly warlike aspect. But never was artillery so poorly served, for
it was the unskilful artillerists who were injured and not the enemy.

"The house was opened two hours earlier than usual, but long before
that, the great square in front was crowded and jammed with people.
Expectation was raised to its highest apex; the excitement was intense
and keen. Until I experienced the reality it seemed impossible that such
extravagant anticipations could be satisfied. But all who were there
confessed that M'lle Sontag far exceeded all they had looked for. And in
such a case, where the appearance and the reality belong together, and
are one and the same thing, what room was there for deception and
illusion? A magical, indescribable grace accompanies all the movements
of this singer, and we are in doubt whether to regard her acting or her
singing as the lovely ornament of a perfect beauty. In comic parts she
always preserves that womanly tact, which is so easily violated on the
boards, and in serious ones a dignity which is at once touching and
commanding. On that first night we forgot the senseless text of
Rossini's _Otello_, we saw and heard the Desdemona of Shakspeare. In a
simple ballad which speaks to the heart she is admirable, as in the most
ornate Cavatina, which delights the ears. We saw old men
weeping--something which no trick of artificiality, though never so
unequalled and incomparable, could produce. Her low notes, her wonderful
trills, runs, and cadenzas, resemble the charming, childlike ornaments
on a Gothic edifice, which serve to moderate the solemnity of lofty
arches and pillars, to combine the joy of the heavens with the joy of
the earth, but never violate or degrade that solemnity. The inspiration
produced by Henriette Sontag as Desdemona, resembles the Greek fire that
could not be extinguished, and----. But let me cling to the rock of cool
reflection and save myself. Perhaps it was the whirlpool that carried me
away, perhaps it was not a mere figure of speech, when I said; 'I know
not what I say.' If this be the case, if I have experienced a human
weakness, why then I will not alive yield myself to mocking pity, but
will mingle with my ship-wrecked companions in misfortune. All the
critics and poets here and in Darmstadt have gone crazy also, and have
done nothing but declaim, sing, and rave about Sontag. What poems, what
fables, what flights of fancy! All Olympus was mustered into the
service, and the children, grey-beards, and veterans of mythology had to
come up and pay their tribute. Critical old women made declarations of
passion to the songstress, and bloodless reviewers glowed with life in
her praise. I am dizzy; I have seen Germans drunk, not with wine, but
with enthusiasm. There has been no end to the prose and still less to
the verse, expressive of their boundless delight. All seasons, all
times, all emotions, all forms of expression, have been evoked to pay
her honor. But I must end, lest I provoke some reader to exclaim:

    "Not all are free, who dare to sport with chains."




SONTAG! A thousand delightful memories are associated with that
name;--memories which it is ever pleasant to recall. Years, years ago we
heard her delicious voice, and its beauty never left us. We were present
at the few last performances of Sontag before she retired from a world
that almost worshipped her, to the joys and honors of private life. We
heard her, and we thought that nature had never before endowed a human
soul with such exquisite musical organization, or a voice in which heart
and melody were so beautifully and intimately blended. We were young
then, and our admiration of the beautiful in art was, perhaps, stronger
than our judgment; for, in youth, enthusiasm is but rarely under the
control of reason; and in good truth the beauty of Mademoiselle
Henriette Sontag was something so _spirituelle_, seemingly, to us, so
far elevated above common mortality, that reason was the slave of
sensation--a double entrancement of the eye and the ear.

The last part that we saw her in was _Agathe_ in _Der Freyschutz_. Her
singing of the _Grand Aria_ was something perfectly unique, different in
conception and execution from any artiste who had preceded her in that
celebrated _scena_. It was a combination of purity and innocence, with
earnest and holy love. The conception was full of dramatic force, and
the execution was nature without exaggeration or counterfeit. In the
_Andante_, which is a prayer for the safety of her lover, her
impassioned, but innocent heartfelt earnestness, was as though a seraph
was pleading for an erring mortal. We have seen nor heard anything like
it since: it will be to us a life-long memory of delight.

We remember well how loud, indignant, and regretful were the universal
exclamations at the presumption of any one man appropriating to himself
one in whom the whole civilized world held so dear an interest. But the
fiat had gone forth; Love pleaded and Hymen sanctioned the engagement;
the world looked on wonderingly, scarcely realizing the extent of the
loss. The star that but yesterday beamed in all its radiant effulgence,
had suddenly set, and would appear no more. And so Sontag disappeared; a
blaze of glory circling that young brow, o'er which scarce twenty
summers had set their seal. She disappeared, and by and by a new star
arose, and the many worshipped, and the past was, if not forgotten, but
rarely remembered.

From time to time, however, the court gossips and the telltales of
fashionable life vouchsafed us slight glimpses of the private life of
the Countess Rossi--the peerless Sontag. Beloved and admired in that
high circle to which her husband's position had called her, it was a
theme of general remark with what modest womanly dignity she ornamented
the society in which she moved. That same truthful earnestness which,
aided by her supernatural gifts, rendered her the idol of the stage,
secured her the love and esteem of all who met her in private life.

After many years of undimmed happiness and prosperity, changes take
place, and by one of those extraordinary freaks of fortune by which the
highest and the lowest reverse their positions, we find the Countess
Rossi--the Sontag of our youth--compelled to have recourse to that
profession of which she had been so immaculate an ornament, to retrieve
a broken fortune and re-erect the altars of her home. No false scruples
troubled her; she had a duty to perform, and she set herself with bold
and hopeful spirit to the work. How entirely she has succeeded, her
career for the two past years bears witness. A few more years of labor
and her noble exertions will have procured for her a second large

And how has time worked upon Sontag? To our mind it has but matured her
glorious powers, and added to her loveliness a charm, which is doubled
by our interest in and our sympathy for her present position.

Her voice has still that exquisite purity and _spirituelle_ quality
which make it a perfect luxury to listen. We have heard louder voices,
but never one that fell so soothingly upon the heart--nor one that left
us so perfectly satisfied while longing eagerly for more. She was always
a thorough and conscientious _artiste_, and she has not changed. To
describe her powers minutely would occupy too much space, but they are
all summed up in one short sentence. Sontag _sings_!




IN these days, when music has become one of the _necessities_ of
civilized life, each party and each clique has its own particular
favorite, and denies even common justice to those artists, who are not
members of that _camaraderie_ which Mr. Scribe has so cleverly portrayed
in his witty play. In that respect Madame Sontag has been extremely
fortunate; criticism has handled her more tenderly, and she had to
suffer less than any other singer from the venom of party spirit, from
the simple reason, that she united all the qualities--although not in an
equal degree--all like to find in an artist: sweetness never surpassed,
agility almost fabulous, expression, and the most perfect intonation. On
she carols, higher and higher, like a lark at "heaven's gate," so soft,
so clear, so wonderfully distinct that, like the silver bell from the
altar, it is heard through the pealing organ. But her principal merit,
in our eyes, is the absence of 'rant'--the substitute of genius--in any
shape whatever. She always SINGS, and does not depend on mere strength
of lungs--erroneously called "power." She never strains her delicate
organ--that sweet instrument so susceptible of every shade of
expression. How fortunate for our young singers that, like the nuns in
Meyerbeer's _Robert le Diable_, she left the tomb of the seven
ancestors, bestowed by the King of Prussia upon the Countess de Rossi,
to teach them the wide difference between singing and screaming, and to
show how we all, during the last ten years, have been listening to and
adoring _false_ prophets.



OF all the artists there is none who so appeals to our hearts and our
imaginations as Henriette Sontag. Her romantic history, her recent and
great misfortunes, her far-famed beauty, her supreme talent, and her
untarnished reputation, make her certainly one of the most remarkable
women of the present century. Madame Sontag has had, as it were, two
lives; twice she has achieved--what so few are ever destined to achieve
at all--fame and fortune. When a mere girl, at eighteen, when others of
her age are just entering on the world and existence, Henriette Sontag
had already acquired European fame, seen the noblest and richest of many
lands at her feet, refused even a royal hand offered for her acceptance,
and, true to woman's nature, bestowed herself and her fortune (already
considerable) where she had given her heart. The Count Rossi, one of the
_attachés_ of the Sardinian embassy, in every way merited this
preference, and many years of uninterrupted happiness, during which time
he became the representative of Sardinia at various courts, giving to
the prima donna the rank of Ambassadress, which was never more
gracefully filled, have justified her choice. What Henriette Sontag was
when she first appeared, cannot be better described than by an extract
from a work of Travels to St. Petersburg, by the celebrated Dr.
Granville, which, at the time, was translated into French and German,
and extracted into all the public papers. Dr. Granville, an Italian by
birth, and an accomplished musician, was in every way qualified to judge
of a musical talent, and time has proved the correctness of his

"* * * The orchestra (such an orchestra, composed of _premiers talens_
all playing as one) began the overture to Winter's 'Interrupted
Sacrifice,' _Das Unterbrechene-Orperfest_, and even though waiting in
feverish excitement for the appearance of that wonderful girl (for she
is no more) all had come to see, it was impossible not to be carried
away by the exquisite manner in which this orchestra (perhaps the finest
in the world) executed this fine composition. At length _Mirrha_
entered; the star, the comet, the attraction, the Henriette Sontag, of
whom sonnet-writers, poets, newspaper compilers, prose composers,
travellers, had raved so much, stood before us. She is slender, rather
_petite_ and _mignonne_. Her countenance, like that of Canova's nymphs,
belongs more to the ideal than to mortal reality. I should say that her
hands are the prettiest things I ever saw, if her feet were not prettier
still. She is faultless as to teeth, which the sweetest smile, for ever
playing round her mouth, sets off at every warble in all their glory.
Her _chevelure_, between auburn and blonde, is magnificent; and, to
conclude with the essential part, the quality of her voice is beyond
measure pleasing, and she possesses remarkable facility. M'lle Sontag's
voice is a soprano of a sonorous, sweet, and clear _timbre_. She can
reach the E above the lines without screaming. The flexibility of her
organ has seduced her into that peculiar style of singing, which made
Madame Catalani, for some few years, the musical wonder of Europe. It is
this quality of voice, united to the personal gifts so profusely
lavished by nature on one of her favorite daughters, that brought M'lle
Sontag forward as a miracle, on the German stage, and at once, and
without any premonitory step, made her a prima donna at the age of
sixteen. But the first station at the opera cannot be had on such easy
terms. The time necessary for acquiring declamation, expression, and
pathos, has been spent by this prodigy in receiving unbounded applause
for this one dazzling gift of nature, a flexible and brilliant voice,
rendered irresistible by great personal beauty. The part of _Mirrha_ is
suited to Henriette Sontag in all but the last two scenes, where she is
required to represent acute feeling and distress of mind. Her
unalterably sweet and girlish face is ever the same, and the extent of
the expression of her large, beautiful blue eyes consists in lowering
them with the bashfulness of one of Carlo Dolce's madonnas, or raising
them with the tenderness of a Cleopatra. The part of Rosina, in the
_Barbière_, is one which exquisitely suits both the voice and person of
M'lle Sontag. Never was there so fascinating a Rosina.

"Her _sostenuto_ is firm, clear, and sonorous; the silver tone of her
voice unsurpassed; her method excellent. She is daring, and launches at
all hazards into a sea of flourishes, the result of which is always
successful, particularly as she concludes them, by darting towards the
audience one of those glances which have called down in Berlin, as they
will in Paris and London, thunders of applause."

Thus was Henriette Sontag, during the first period of her fame. From
Berlin she came to London, where enthusiasm reached a height hitherto
unknown, because it included, as well as admiration, respect for the
virtues and conduct of the loveliest woman who had ever trod on the
stage. Then she went to Paris, and Paris set its seal upon her artistic
reputation, classing her with all who had hitherto stood at the head of
artistic celebrity. Yet she had powerful competitors to contend with,
for she sang with Malibran and Pisaroni. Here it was her marriage (which
she had been compelled to keep secret till the end of her engagement)
was declared. Certainly few men have been so envied as Count Rossi, when
he was known to be the husband of the world's idol. Society, which was
as much attached to the woman as to the artist, seemed to think it an
injustice, and felt for the first time inclined to quarrel with the
actions of her it had proclaimed faultless in both mind and person.
Scribe founded the libretto of the Ambassadress on this marriage, but he
little thought he should be prophetic in the catastrophe he put to his
opera, as he has been; for Henriette Sontag, like the Henriette in the
play, _has_ returned to the stage.

The Countess Rossi, though she had no taste for the publicity of the
stage, having gone uncorrupted and unscathed through all its glittering
temptations, had an innate enthusiasm for her art. The young Countess,
therefore, cultivated it as assiduously as the young prima donna; and in
Frankfort and in Berlin, where she principally resided, in St.
Petersburg, which she visited, her saloon was the resort of all that was
renowned in the artistic world. That wondrous voice sang on as admirably
as before, following all the progress of musical science, and knowing
all the _répertoire_ of the best masters, as their compositions appeared
before the world. Her silvery tones now resounded in the halls of
palaces; and, instead of a public, she had kings and princes for her
guests. Yet she was the same simple-minded and unaffected woman, with a
mind pure as in infancy, and a heart beating only with good and tender
emotions. Often during these years did she sing for public charities,
and her name was sure, as in former days, to fill the coffers of the
institution for which she sang.

But this bright destiny, which seemed placed beyond the reach of change,
and which time seemed to have consolidated, was, during the revolution
of 1848, from circumstances of an entirely private nature, completely

Then, with her sweet temper unruffled, her calm, pure mind, undisturbed,
the mother and the wife remembered the early days of the prima donna,
and how that voice and those talents had achieved fortune and honor. The
instant her determination was whispered, all the theatres of Europe were
open to her. She chose the Queen's Theatre, in London, and Lumley
offered her £7,000 sterling for the season. This she accepted; and once
more, she stepped on to those boards, where, twenty years previously,
she had stood, in all the freshness of her youth, but in the full
maturity of her talent. To say how the house welcomed her would be
impossible. It greeted her with shouts, with the waving of
handkerchiefs, with tears--for she had many friends, who remembered her
hospitality in her high estate. It rose to receive her. She stood before
them, gentle, unassuming, as in former years, but lovelier, far
lovelier. So youthful was she when she left the stage, that she had not
attained her full stature; she had grown considerably now, her form was
rounded with the full grace of womanhood. There were the same matchless
arms and hands, the proverbially beautiful foot. That countenance had
still the purity of outline of former years; but a life, however happy,
will, in a high and sensitive nature, leave a thoughtful and pensive
look upon the features.

Her beauty had gained what is almost a substitute for
beauty--expression. The wavy ringlets which had floated in clouds around
her girlish face were now braided over that deep, intellectual brow, on
which no evil passion or sordid calculation had ever set one wrinkle.
Those who had, in youth, witnessed her first appearance, looked at each
other's careworn features with astonishment, and asked if that fair
creature were not the daughter of the one enshrined in their memories.
But the voice, like which none had ever since been heard, soon
proclaimed that it was _the_ Henriette Sontag. Yet that voice had gained
in power, in expression, and in tone. What could the happy girl of
former days, whose short life had been a series of triumphs, do but
carol, like the lark, at the gates of Heaven? For _her_ sin, sorrow,
shame, misfortune, were undreamed of. But since, the woman had shuddered
at crime, felt and shared sorrow, often consoled shame, was now assailed
by misfortune. Now feeling, passion, and deep pathos hallowed every
note, inspired each gesture. The Henriette Sontag had outlived her fame,
and Madame Rossi Sontag, in her place, was recognised by perhaps the
most critical, because the most travelled audience in the world, as the
very greatest artist, both as an actress and a singer, ever heard or


IN 1850, when Madame Sontag reappeared as a vocalist in Paris, after a
silence of twenty years, Adolphe Adam, the composer of "_Le Postillon de
Lonjumeau_" and other popular music, wrote and published the following
pleasant notice of her, in one of the Paris journals. It will be
observed that it refers to Mr. Lumley, the once flourishing, but now
broken-down Operatic manager.

I thought proper to attack the privilege which has been granted to Mr.
Lumley--but since it has been granted, I will say no more about it, but
proceed to examine the merits of the artists whom Mr. Lumley has brought
us. I have said that Lumley was clever and energetic--cleverer, perhaps,
than you thought him. He is a better manager than you would suspect. For
the last month, we have been fancying he was going to let us hear the
Countess Rossi. I too believed it--but to-day I am convinced he has
taken us all in. No! The young girl, whom I heard last Tuesday at the
Conservatoire, is not, cannot be, the Countess Rossi. Ten years ago, at
St. Petersburg, I had the honor of both seeing and hearing the Countess
Rossi. In that lady I perfectly recognised the _cantatrice_ whom I had
formerly admired and applauded at the Theatre Italien. But the
_cantatrice_ whom I heard the other night cannot be the same. In the
first place, she is much younger, more beautiful than the other, and has
a great deal more talent. Now these are three qualities which would
diminish, rather than increase, in the space of twenty years--unless we
dated from the cradles of the prima donnas; and certainly the
_cantatrice_, whom in 1830 we idolized in the _Barbière_ and the
_Cenerentola_, was already some years removed from infancy.

Here is the true history of all this mystery. The Countess Rossi has, as
it is reported, lost her fortune; but she is still rich in the
possession of a daughter--a lovely girl, the very counterpart of her
mother--as lovely and as graceful--German by her complexion and waving
golden hair; Italian by her voice; French by her inimitable grace and
distinction. This charming young girl, notwithstanding the high rank to
which she was born--notwithstanding her brilliant education--did not
hesitate for an instant to sacrifice herself for her family. She went to
Lumley, and entreated him to engage her at his theatre. Imagine her
sorrow, when he refused her! Mr. Lumley judiciously thought that, though
talent might be hereditary in this family, name and reputation were not.
Now what a manager cares most for, is a name--a name which fills at once
his house and his money-drawers, and enables him to give (and pay) high

Overpowered by this unexpected refusal, the young girl sank into a
chair--when suddenly, the face of the manager was illumined by a
brilliant idea. "All may yet be well, my dear Mademoiselle--we can
reconcile every thing. We will at once come to my own relief and that of
your mother. I cannot engage _you_, but I will engage your mother; and I
will give her two hundred thousand francs ($40,000) for the first

"But, sir," said the young girl, "my mother is now Countess Rossi. It is
twenty-two years since she left the stage; and how do we know whether
she still possesses the talents which made her once so celebrated?"

"As we cannot tell that, Mademoiselle, we will not ask her either to
sing or to appear on the stage. Nominally, I will engage Madame
Henriette Sontag; but it is you who will sing in her place."

The affair was at once arranged. All was signed and agreed upon, amidst
tears of tenderness and admiration in which Mr. Lumley, though he was a
manager, could not help joining. The Countess Rossi consented to the
strictest retirement during the engagement of her daughter--or rather
her own. The parties were bound to secresy by the most solemn oaths;
and this secret has been so well kept that no one has suspected the
substitution. My instincts, aided by memory, have enabled me to
penetrate this mystery, which I shall perhaps be blamed for revealing.
But I confess that I am not a little proud of having found it out. And
then I really felt it a matter of conscience not to reveal to the world
such an unexampled and unheard of instance of filial devotion.

On her entrance at the _Conservatoire_, Mademoiselle Sontag imitated so
well the manners and grace of her mother--her refinement and her
elegance--that the illusion was complete. It was the same smile--the
same winning courtesy to the public--the same undulating figure. Her
very music books, like those of her mother, were bound in rich crimson
velvet. Everybody, excepting myself, was taken in--and, like every one,
I too applauded--to the utter destruction of my gloves; and I should
certainly have split the skin of my hands as well, had it not been much
more solid than kid.

The moment Mademoiselle Sontag began to sing, all doubt--if there ever
had been any, that I had really guessed the secret--vanished. It was the
same purity of voice--the same charm of style and execution, which I had
so much applauded, and which still echoed both in my ears and in my
heart. But the voice of _this_ Sontag had more power, more firmness,
more body. The higher notes are just as soft and just as clear--but they
have more roundness; and the middle register is infinitely better. In a
word, this artist unites the qualities of youth and freshness to all the
talents of the experienced and finished artist. _Rode's variations_ were
a series of vocal wonders. It was impossible to imagine that art or
talent could reach so high; and after all, I think we must set it down
to one of those prodigies which nature alone can create.





THE opera was _Cenerentola_; the overture, chorus, introduction, &c.,
all were impatiently listened to. At length the scene opened and
revealed _Cenerentola_ by her kitchen fire. She lays down her bellows,
she advances; even in that assemblage of beauty she was the most
beautiful. Her dress is simply a grey merino with a black velvet ribbon
round the waist. She is exactly the height of the Medicean Venus, what
the moderns call the middle height: her figure, though slight, has the
full proportion of womanhood: her skin glows with the soft tint of the
China rose; her arms and hands are faultless; her ankle, revealed by the
short petticoat, that of the "Danatrice;" the foot, one for which the
glass slipper would be too large. Who can describe her face? the soft,
pouting lips of infancy, the delicate features, the large melting blue
eye, the finely turned oval face, enshrined in a cloud of golden curls.
So lovely was she that the audience appeared to forget that she was to
do anything more than allow herself to be looked at. But she comes
towards the footlights with the modest self-possession of an innocent
child. "_Una olta c'era un rè_," first reveals the sweet tone of her
voice. From the first note to the last it is unmistakably a soprano. Her
execution, as she advanced into the difficulties of the music, was
perfectly supernatural; it resembled an instrument--no bird--but it was
the perfection of the loveliest of all instruments, the human voice.
With the purity of a silver bell, she reached to the E above the lines;
it was perfectly equal, both in the upper and middle registers; it was
sweet, soft, and expressive in all its tones. When the public recovered
from the first effect, they were obliged to acknowledge that it was
wonderful, pleasing, and charming, like the fair creature before them,
moving gracefully through her part as she would have done in a
drawing-room. _Cencrentola_ (like the _Barbière_) is an opera which is
sung by sopranos and by contraltos; it was originally written for Emilia
Bonini, a contralto, who quietly made her fortune in Italy, unknown to
Parisian or Londonian fame. It bears transposition without injury,
though it contains great difficulties of execution. Madame Albertazzi,
an English woman of great beauty, who acquired great celebrity and died
very young, was the first who ventured to appear in it after Sontag.

The enthusiasm for Sontag increased every night. Her gentle, unassuming
manners, her youth--she was but twenty, and looked eighteen--her
surprising beauty, the maidenly reserve of her conduct, brought to her
feet the homage of all London; the princess's robe was more than once
offered her for acceptance; a royal widower, allied with the English
throne, though a countryman of her own and now a king, offered his hand
at the risk of immense sacrifices; but she was never coquettish--never
prudish--never vain, and never swerved from her allegiance to the one
whose name she now bears, and to whom she was secretly engaged before
coming to England. She went everywhere with her merry little sister, and
her stately _dame de compagnie_; stepped from the stage to the saloons
of Devonshire House, where, amongst the most courted and honored guests,
she waltzed with the joyousness of a German girl; but none ever presumed
to pollute her ear with an impure word. There was at this time in London
another remarkable cantatrice, the most wonderful contralto who had ever
been heard since the days of Banti, of whom none but Italians ever
heard, and whom they have now forgotten. Her style and voice were
considered without equal; but nature had disdained to complete her work.
Pisaroni was little, crooked, awkward, and united in her features and
complexion every species of ugliness--but all this was forgotten when
from that large ungraceful mouth issued low mellifluous notes producing
on her hearers the thrilling effect of a sudden burst from an organ in a
still moonlight cathedral. At one morning concert, at the close of the
season, Pisaroni, Malibran, and Sontag sang the trio (from Meyerbeer's
_Crociato_) "_Giovinetto cavalier_;" and never was such music heard







SOME years ago an open carriage with four thorough-bred horses, mounted
by postillions in black velvet jackets and silver-tasseled caps, was
waiting at the door of a small, neat house in London, at the corner of
Regent and Argyle streets. The sun was shining brilliantly, and though
it was not later than ten o'clock in the morning, brilliant equipages
were continually dashing through the street. The horses of the carriage
which was waiting, tossed their heads and pawed the ground impatiently,
as the other horses galloped by; the postillions repeated to each other
the names of the owners as each equipage passed. Two gentlemen in the
very plainest morning costume, passed up and down the pavement, looking
anxiously each time they went by the open door into the small passage of
the house. "Can anything have detained her?" said one of the gentlemen
with a strong foreign accent. "We shall be late," said his companion
with the purest English accent, looking at his watch. "Warrender and
Burghersh!" shouted the groom on the leader to the groom on the wheeler,
as an equipage as well appointed as their own new past them. "They are
going for Malibran," said the foreigner, "we shall be last." "Coming
out!" shouted the footman, opening the carriage door, while his fellow
servant let down the steps, and escorted by a large and remarkably ugly
man, of most courtly bearing, three ladies issued from the house. One
was the Countess C----, the two others were Henriette and Nina Sontag.
The Chevalier de Benkhausen, the Russian Chargé d'Affaires, followed the
ladies into the carriage, the two other gentlemen mounted the box, the
postillions tightened the reins, the footmen shouting "All right!" got
on the dickey, and off sped the carriage at full speed. They were going
to Epsom, and this was the Derby day. In a few minutes, as they went
down Conduit street into Bond street, they passed a carriage in which
were one lady and three gentlemen. The lady was Marie Malibran; her
companions--Lord Burghersh, Sir George Warrender, and Charles de Beriot.
Men, grooms, and postillions shouted as they went by, and Malibran
impetuously threw herself forward to see into the carriage; but the
object of her curiosity was quietly talking to Lady C----, so that all
she saw was the back of a very pretty satin bonnet with a blonde veil,
and the outside of Nina Sontag's white parasol. Malibran threw herself
pettishly back and pulled the fingers of her glove--how she longed to
see the rival who had landed but two days before, and for whom all
London was already raving! The two carriages continued their race until
the crowd separated them, enveloping all in one cloud of dust. For hours
later the Countess of C----'s carriage was the scene of the delicious
scrambling which is the principal pleasure of Epsom, for those who are
not members of the turf; the attentive footmen supplying clean glasses,
fresh bottles of champagne, and saucers of Gunter's ice creams to all
from a fourgon which had preceded them. There was literally a dense
crowd round this carriage, each in turn taking his place on the steps
and leaning on the open door. Lady C---- proclaimed almost every name
in the English peerage, in the diplomatic corps, in the artistic and
political world, as she introduced in succession every new comer to her
distinguished guest. The Chevalier de Benkhausen, well known as a wit
and a "bon vivant," absorbed all the good things, though saying
brilliant ones at the same time. Lord C---- had descended from the box
and stood on the other side, occasionally exchanging salutations with
his friends, but without allowing his hand to quit the door of the
carriage on the side nearest Sontag, on which he stood, and many eyes
were ready to seize that envied position, but he maintained it in right
of a previous acquaintance in Berlin, with the beautiful _prima donna_.
Nina Sontag, who was a pretty girl of fifteen, kept eating, drinking,
bowing, and talking, but took particular care to hand up wings of
chicken and glasses of champagne to the very handsome foreigner, who
still retained his place on the box, having apparently taken literally
the scene before him, and fancying that it was really his duty to look
at the race, which every one else seemed to have forgotten. Nobody knew
much about him; he had come from Berlin (which accounted for his
intimacy with Nina), was a new attaché of the Sardinian embassy, and had
been introduced to Lady C---- by M. de Benkhausen as le Comte Rossi.
Suddenly the crowd round the carriage gave way on each side before a
tall fine man and a slight girlish woman enveloped in a large black lace
mantilla, and wearing a simple Leghorn bonnet. M. de Benkhausen, on
perceiving her, sprang from the carriage, took her hand, and assisted
her into his place, saying, "Mademoiselle, j'ai l'honneur de vous
presenter Madame Malibran." They gazed one instant at each other,
another instant and their hands were clasped, and a tear glistened in
the eye of the daughter of the South, who was passion's essence, whilst
a deeper tint mantled the cheek of the more reserved German. Nina's
laugh abruptly stopped, even the phlegmatic Count Rossi turned quickly
round, and Lord C---- reverently took off his hat. But few words were
exchanged, and then they parted, Malibran taking the arm of De Beriot,
and being followed by as numerous a train as the one they left behind.
Thus for the first time met the two greatest musical geniuses of the
age. Two nights after was the eventful night. The King's Theatre, as it
was then called, presented the most beautiful sight it is possible to
imagine. Fashion for once had forgotten itself, and every box, which on
ordinary nights it is voted vulgar to fill, was occupied by four or five
ladies in full dress, a dress which it is the peculiar prerogative of
English women to become, better than any other women in the world.






From his celebrated work entitled "Tutti Frutti."

SHE came here as the wife of the Sardinian Minister to the Court of St.
Petersburg, preceded by her fame as a singer. Courtly etiquette was
dying of curiosity to hear the _prima donna_, yet refrained her stately
steps under the imperial nod of the all-powerful Czar. Could she? would
she? ought she to sing? These were the questions. If the Emperor thought
right to ask her to sing, would the King of Sardinia think proper to
allow her to sing? At length one point was decided. There was a grand
_fête_ at the winter palace, and the newly arrived ambassadress was
invited; this was positive. Then from _salon_ to _salon_ flew the
intelligence that the Czar had asked the Countess Rossi to sing--that
Nesselrode had decided that, without infringing the dignity of the
_corps diplomatique_, an ambassadress _might_ sing; and, finally, that
his majesty of Sardinia, being consulted, had graciously accorded
permission; and, consequently, her Excellency Madame La Comtesse Rossi
would prove to the whole court, assembled at the winter palace, that
besides being the most lovely, graceful, and amiable of women, the
Sardinian ambassadress was also the greatest artist of the day. And so
it was, my dear ----, that the beautiful and melodious voice was revealed
to us in all its showers and cascades of brilliant notes--taking the ear
captive, until we all regretted the rank in which fate had placed such a
wonder, condemning it to comparative silence. The emperor was entranced.
After the concert, offering his arm to his lovely and gifted guest, he
promenaded with her through the saloons, presenting her to all the great
people; and the next day the empress invited the countess to join her
private circle, and to dine with her _en famille_. It is said that the
empress is even more charmed with the sweet and gentle manners of Madame
Rossi, than she was with all her surpassing talents.

       *       *       *       *       *


Price 25 cents.





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       *       *       *       *       *

These typographical errors have been corrected by the etext transcriber:


most poweful fiction of the day=>most powerful fiction of the day

although the author's same is not mentioned=>although the author's name
is not mentioned

knowing all the _repertoire_=>knowing all the _répertoire_

       *       *       *       *       *

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Henriette Sontag, Countess de Rossi. - with Interesting Sketches by Scudo, Hector Berlioz, Louis - Boerne, Adolphe Adam, Marie Aycard, Julie de Margueriete, - Prince Puckler-Muskau & Theophile Gautier." ***

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