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Dream." She sang the air, "Ye spotted snakes," and in
the finale with chorus. From this time forward she appeared
by Queen Victoria's command at nearly every State Concert
for twenty years in succession. The programmes compiled by
Messrs. Anderson and Cusins — each in turn the Queen's
"Master of the Musick" — were invariably distinguished by
special features, dear to the music-lovers of those times, where-
in the diva was naturally the central figure. To give them
all would occupy too much space, but it will be convenient to
enumerate here a few of the more notable items with which
the name of Adelina Patti is associated:

1865 (June 21), State Concert: in trio, "Hearts feel that love thee,"
from Mendelssohn's "Athalie," with Parepa and Trebelli.

1866 (June 26), State Concert: in quintet from Mozart's "Flauto
Magico," with Vilda, Trebelli, Bettini, and Santley; in an air
from Benedict's "Undine"; and in her own ballad, "On Part-

1867 (June 18), State Concert: in quintet from Mozart's "Cosi fan
Tutte"; in "Terzetto in Canone" by Costa; and in duet, "Sull'
aria," with Pauline Lucca.

1868 (June 19), State Concert: in quartet from Bennett's "Woman


of Samaria," with Drasdil, W. H. Cummings, and Santley;
and in duet, "Sull' aria," with Christine Nilsson.

1869 (Jane 23), State Concert: ensemble including Patti, Nilsson,
Tietjens, Monbelli, Trebelli, Gardoni, Bettini, and Santley; and
in duet, "Quis est homo," with Trebelli.

1870 (July 6), State Concert: air with two flutes from "L'Etoile du

1871 (May 15), State Concert: in duet from "La Gazza Ladra,"
with Trebelli; in quintet from "Cosi fan Tutte" with others,
including the tenor Stockhausen, who also sang "Der Wan-
derer" with orchestral accompaniment by F. Hiller.

1872 (July 4), at Windsor Castle: in duet, "La ci darem," with
Faure; in madrigal from "Romeo," with Victor Capoul; and
"Home, sweet home" by the Queen's request. Also (June 5),
State Concert : in trio from "Dinorah" with Bettini and Gra-

1873 (July 10), concert at Buckingham Palace: soprano solo in the
Prince Consort's cantata, "L'Invocazione all' Armonia"; other
solos by Trebelli, Capoul, and Maurel.

1875 (June 23), State Concert: in trio from "II Matrimonio Se-
greto" with Zare Thalberg and Trebelli; and in madrigal from
"Romeo" with Nicolini.

1876 (June 25), State Concert: in above trio with Christine Nilsson
and Trebelli.

1879 (June 16), State Concert: in solo pieces only.

1880 (June 29), State Concert: in selection from Gounod's "Mi-
reille" with Nicolini; and "Valse des Bluets" from Cohen's

1882 (June 28), State Concert: in duet from Lenepveu's "Velleda"
with Nicolini; ensemble further including Pauline Lucca, Tre-
belli, Joseph Maas, and Edouard de Reszke.

1886 (June 23), State Concert: in duet from "Semiramide" with

A word here as to conductors. After Sir Michael Costa left
Covent Garden in 1871, his place was filled, until the close
of the Gye regime, by two admirable orchestral leaders, Vianesi


and Bevignani, who shared between them the duty of directing
the operas in which Mme. Patti appeared. Bevignani was
an exquisite accompanist, and she preferred him for all the
lighter operas, in which his intimate knowledge of her daring
vocal flights, roulades, variations, points-d'orgue, cadenzas
(both studied and improvised), et hoc genus omne enabled him
to maintain perfect unity between the singer and the orchestra.
Vianesi was more at home in grand opera, a clever conductor
of Meyerbeer, of the later Verdi, and even of early Wagner,
lie held the baton at Covent Garden, Paris, Brussels, and New
York in turn, while Bevignani officiated at St. Petersburg and
Moscow. These, then, were the conductors most constantly
associated with the great prima donna .during the best part
of her European stage career. Luigi Arditi was to come
later, with the bonanza years in which the American continent
was revisited.



Debut at the Handel Festival (1865) — Patti as an Oratorio Singer —
Her First "Grand Morning Concert" — Her "Home, sweet home" — A
Susanna that Never Materialized — First Tour in Italy — How Nicolini
Came and Went — Covent Garden Seasons from 1866 to 1870 — Mario
and Patti in "Romeo" — Ten Years' Work in London — The Marquis de
Caux — A Courtship under Imperial Auspices — Marriage at Clapham —
Patti and Alboni Sing at Rossini's Funeral — Visit to Russia — The
Coalition Season of 1869 — Verdi's "Giovanna d'Arco"

IN the summer of 1865 Adelina Patti sang at the Handel
Festival for the first time. The great triennial celebration
held at the Crystal Palace was then at the height of its glory,
and this was perhaps the only imaginable feature that could
have enhanced it. It seems to have done so. Among the jour-
nals that reported the exciting incidents of the festival at col-
umns' length daily, one solemnly declared that "the presence
and cooperation of the diva imparted fresh eclat to this
national musical gathering." Another echoed the general
opinion when he wrote : ' ' Since the days of Clara Novello no
such penetrating and magnificent soprano tones had been
heard within the glass edifice of the Crystal Palace."

The conductor of the Handel Festival — a commemorative
event inaugurated in 1857 and now being held for the fourth
time only — was Sir Michael Costa. It was thanks to his
influence (and he was not less powerful here than at the Opera
or at Exeter Hall or at Birmingham) that the combined com-
mittees of the Sacred Harmonic Society and the Crystal Pal-
ace agreed to pay Mile. Patti her terms for singing at all
of the three concerts. They never expected to recoup their
outlay. However, as it turned out, Costa's advice proved to



have been thoroughly sound. Attendance and receipts alike
beat the record ; while, even among the giants of oratorio that
flourished in the sixties the versatile cantatrice of twenty-two
did something more than merely hold her own.

Let us note the names of a few of those giants. At the
festival of 1859 the soloists had all been famous singers —
Mme. Clara Novello, Mine. Rudersdorff, Mme. Lemmens-Sher-
rington, Miss Dolby, Mr. Sims Reeves, Signor Belletti, and
Mr. Weiss. In 1862 the same artists appeared again, with
the exception of Mme. Rudersdorff, who was replaced by the
gifted Theresa Tietjens — then comparatively new to oratorio,
although a great operatic favorite — and Mme. Parepa (sub-
sequently the first wife of Carl Rosa), another celebrated
oratorio soprano. At the Festival of 1865 Mile. Patti was
associated with the last-named artist; with Mme. Lemmens-
Sherrington, Mme. Sainton-Dolby, and Mr. Sims Reeves ; and
with two other English singers, Mr. Santley and Mr. W. H.
Cummings, who now made their debuts at this festival. At
subsequent gatherings some of these names were to fall out
and others take their place — such, for example, as Trebelli,
Patey, Edith Wynne, Albani, Edward Lloyd, Vernon Ribgy,
Agnesi, and Foli. But the standard of the soloists at the
Handel Festival always remained at the highest until the
supply had become exhausted.

Patti 's success, as has been stated, was extraordinary. It
owed something, of course, to her personal charm, to the
glamour that attached to her name and her preeminence as
an opera singer. But what really fascinated her twenty-five
thousand auditors at the Festival of 1865 was the resonant
timbre, the surpassing loveliness of a voice that penetrated to
the farthest recesses of the Centre Transept, together with a
breadth of style and clearness of diction not unworthy of the
best traditions of English oratorio.

The question has often been asked, was Adelina Patti a


typical Handelian vocalist, let us say, in the sense that Clara
Novello and Tietjens were? The answer to that must be in
the negative. Yet it may be just as emphatically asserted that
she was a serious and dignified interpreter of oratorio music.
If she did not pursue that branch of her art to the same extent
as did most of her gifted contemporaries in Great Britain,
it was not through lack of the essential qualities, but rather
because her natural bent did not lie in the direction of
oratorio. Her artistic nature yearned, above all things, for
the stage as an outlet for dramatic expression; in the expo-
sition of character or musical drama she chafed under the
narrower limitations of the concert platform.

It was this demand for freedom to "express" in her own
way that caused her animated execution of Handelian runs
or "divisions" to displease some of the purists, It was not
because the notes were not sung crisply or clearly enough, but
because her time was not always strictly metronomic ; because
she could not resist making a slight rubato occasionally, or
imparting to her fuoriture something of the dash and elan of
the operatic cadenza. Then again, hers was not the manner
of the motionless declaimer of that time or the statuesque
Lied er-singer of more modern daj's. She was wont to enhance
the significance of a vocal passage with some slight gesture
or physical action dictated by irresistible dramatic impulse ;
and all such "aids to effect," whether spontaneous or not,
were considered out of place in oratorio.

Nevertheless, even the purists of the sixties were fain to
utter paeans of joyful welcome when the bright particular
star of opera made her first courtesy before the expectant
multitude at the Handel Festival. The glorious ringing tone
of such a voice as hers, standing out high and clear amid the
huge volume of sound created by a choir of three thousand
voices and an orchestra of five hundred, was too wonderful in


its dynamic fitness and grandeur to leave a loophole for ad-
verse criticism. Moreover, the general verdict regarding her
oratorio style was far from being unfavorable.

At this gathering Adelina Patti sang the solos in the
"Messiah" for the first time; and the test under the circum-
stances was a severe one. Yet James Davison, the greatest
stickler in England for traditional oratorio singing, and a
harder festival critic than even Henry Chorley, declared in
the Times that he had "seldom listened to a more perfect
execution of 'Rejoice greatly.' ' He added: "It would be
hypercritical to wish for a more thoroughly devotional reading
of 'I know that my Redeemer liveth' than that of Mile. Adelina
Patti, who, without any straining after effect, brought con-
viction to the mind."

No small achievement, this, for a still youthful prima donna
reared amid the demonstrative conventions of the Italian
operatic stage. And she followed it up with another triumph
on the Selection Day of the Festival, when she sang two of
the Saxon master's most familiar airs. The event was thus
referred to in the leading musical organ : l

In the selection from "Samson" on Selection Day the great suc-
cess was reserved for Mile. Patti, who gave the celebrated "Let the
bright Seraphim" so charmingly that the audience was enraptured,
and insisted upon an encore. Not only the fresh, beautiful voice of
Mile. Patti, but the silvery tones of Mr. Harper's trumpet, pene-
trated every part of the vast area. ... In the selection from "Judas
Maceabams" she gave the air "From mighty Kings" with an artistic
finish that thoroughly satisfied every listener.

Finally, on the Friday she took part in the performance of
"Israel in Egypt," and made an especial hit in "Thou didst
blow with the wind," which she sang, happily, with her own
excellent English accent — not the kind of "zou" and "zee"

i Musical Times, August, 18G5.









prescribed by her distinguished relative, Maurice Strakosch.
Her pronunciation, in fact, was so good that Davison made a
direct allusion to it in the Times when referring to her delivery
of the solo verse in the National Anthem at the close of the
concert. "She sang it," he said, "with the fervour and em-
phasis of a loyal and genuine British subject, which she ought
surely to be, or she could hardly pronounce English so ad-

The first typical Patti concert ever given in London took
place in London on July 5, 1865, at the then newly erected
St. James's Hall in Regent Street, now the site of the Picca-
dilly Hotel. It was, of course, under the management of
Mr. Gye, who paid all the artists (including the concert-giver
herself), took all the risks (!), and pocketed the receipts.
The programme was of the miscellaneous order hereafter to be
associated with a long succession of such "grand morning
concerts." It made no pretence at attaining a lofty artistic
plane, and, had it done so, it would have offered no attraction
to the public. Occasionally in the years to come the services
of an orchestra would be called in. Not so yet, however. A
pianoforte amply sufficed for the accompaniments.

On the occasion now referred to Mile. Patti was assisted
by operatic stars of the first magnitude, — including Pauline
Lucca, Mario, Brignoli, Graziani, — so no wonder the papers
described it as "one of the most brilliant affairs of the sea-
son." We have no difficulty in believing the statement of
one of the musical journals 1 that "The remarkable popu-
larity of Mile. Patti and the charm about her, apart from
those powers which make her singing so specially attractive,
were quite enough to secure a large audience."

And what did she sing? Things wherein the perennial
Patti was to be heard "many a time and oft" in after years.

iQrehestra, July 8, 1865.


Among them, for the very first time in London, was the new
and in later years much-criticized "Ave Maria," or so-called
"Meditation," founded by Gounod upon Bach's first prelude,
the violin obbligato played by that fine old artist, Prosper
Sainton, who had not long before married the contralto, Miss
Dolby. Another novelty was the pretty but trivial romance,
"Si vous n'avez rien a me dire," by Baroness Willy de Roths-
child — afterwards to become so popular that for years it en-
riched the repertoire of every singing damsel who thought
she could warble in French.

Furthermore, at this "grand morning" affair Adelina Patti
gave in her own inimitable manner: "Within a mile o' Edin-
boro town" and "Comin' thro' the rye!" And what of
"Home, sweet home"? Yes, even now it was present and
inevitable. She sang it as an encore to the French romance,
just as she had sung it in her American days of childhood;
and as she was to sing it, beyond chance of escape, until the
ultimate Albert Hall concert and the parting farewell. Yet
without "Home, sweet home," her first London concert
would have been no less incomplete than the last. For to hear
Patti, at any period of her long career, in "Home, sweet
home," was an experience of which the most blase musical
cynic never seemed to tire. That simple achievement brought
the public of two continents to her feet.

A thousand pens have attempted to describe her way of
singing Bishop's unpretending melody; but it was always
indescribable. Words have never conveyed the full sense of
its unique charm and exquisite pathos, or' solved the riddle of
its touching appeal. The miracle was first recorded in her
childhood, and she never altered the manner of its perform-
ance. Least of all did she herself realize the exact manner
in which it was done. It belonged to those classic examples
of executive art that are unforgettable because they are spon-
taneous, inspired, effortless, and' at the same time replete with


the purest beauty. There are things that the artist never
does twice alike. Patti's "Home, sweet home," was ever
exactly the same. And yet, it never palled.

Another item in the scheme of this first "grand morning
concert" is worthy of mention here, not merely for the mem-
ories that it calls up, but because it brings to mind the story
of an unfulfilled promise. The item in question was the duet
"Sull'aria" from Mozart's "Figaro," which Adelina Patti
now sang for the first time (but not the last by many) with
Pauline Lucca. She loved it as "a gem of purest ray se-
rene," and would rarely miss the chance of singing it with
some other famous soprano when one was in the same concert
"bill." Among those associated with her at various times
in "Sull'aria," besides Lucca, were Christine Nilsson, Theresa
Tietjens, Marguerite Artot, Marcella Sembrich, and Emma
Albani. Nevertheless, despite her love of Mozart, her ac-
knowledged preeminence as an interpreter of his music, and
the incomparable perfection of her Zerlina, she never
appeared in any of his operas other than "Don Giovanni."

This circumstance is not easy to explain. In more than
one Covent Garden prospectus Mr. Gye gave out that she
would appear during the season as Susanna in "Le Nozze di
Figaro." It is therefore reasonable to assume that she had
studied the part and had every intention of singing it. Yet
this promise was never carried into execution.

Mozart's comic masterpiece was first announced for revival
at the Royal Italian Opera with the new Susanna in 1865.
It was not then, however, mounted at all ; and in the following
year it was again included in the prospectus with an explan-
atory note thus quaintly worded:

The large number of rehearsals necessary to the production last
season of the great opera of the "Africaine" unfortunately caused


the postponement of this favorite opera — probably next to "Don
Giovanni" the most popular work which Mozart has bequeathed to
us. "Le Nozze di Figaro" will be given with the following cast :

Susanna Mile. Adelina Patti.

(Her First Appearance in that Character.)
La Contessa Mile. Artot.

(Her First Appearance in that Character in England.)
Cherubino Mile. Pauline Lucca.

(Her First Appearance in that Character in England.)

II Conte Signor Graziani.

Basilio Signor Neri-Baraldi.

Bartolo Signor Ronconi.


Figaro Monsieur Faur«.

(His First Appearance in that Character.)

Alas that such a glorious project should not have been
realized! The above combination would have put even the
memorable "Don Giovanni" cast into the shade, not to speak
of introducing a sprightly and lovable Susanna whom the
whole world would have adored. But it was not to be. The
moment passed.

Opera-goers consoled themselves with Pauline Lucca's
delicious and inimitable Cherubino, and only after the gifted
Viennese soprano had retired from the scene did Mme. Patti
bethink her of adding to her repertoire "Voi che sapete."
That was not till the nineties. But it took its place quite nat-
urally beside "Batti, batti," and "Vedrai carino," and she
sang it with no less charm and distinction of style — the real
Patti charm and the true Mozart style !

Towards the end of 1865, after tours in Germany and
Holland, came a visit to Italy — the first yet paid by the young
prima donna to her parents' native land; that "land of
song" which had for some time been clamoring loudly to see

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and hear her. She was told to prepare for a rapturous
Italian welcome, and she got it. They crossed the Alps by
the Mont Cenis route, going over the pass and returning by
the new tunnel, which had not long been completed. They
spent their Christmas in Turin — a right merry party, with
"Papa" at the head of the table, and "Maurice" and two
or three invited guests to toast the joyous Adelina in ' ' Barolo ' '
and champagne.

There still survives, as this book is written, — in the person
of her companion, Karolyn Baumeister, who came to her in
September, 1865, — one who remembers the extraordinary
scenes of enthusiasm enacted in the theatres of Florence,
Bologna, Rome, and Turin when the "fanatical" opera-lovers
of those cities first heard Patti in "Sonnambula" and the
"Traviata"; how they shouted and applauded and wept like
children with sheer delight ; how they followed her carriage in
thousands from the stage-door to the hotel, where they se-
renaded her till they were tired. Nothing like it had been
witnessed before, even in keen, excitable Italy; and the im-
pression of it was never forgotten.

In 1866 Mr. Gye's prospectus again promised so much which
he did not follow up with deeds that it is refreshing to men-
tion one item in particular that actually did materialize,
namely, the debut of Signor Nicolini, the handsome and accom-
plished French tenor who, twenty years later, was to become
the husband of the heroine of this chronicle.

He made his first bow before a London audience (on May
21, 1866) at a concert given at St. James's Hall by Pauline
Lucca ; and, oddly enough, when he made his first appearance
at Covent Garden eight days later, the Lucia to whom he
sang Edgardo was no less a person than Adelina Patti. In
neither instance, however, did the new tenor create a favorable

The following is a fair sample of the notices that appeared :


On Tuesday, May 29, "Lucia di Lamniennoor ' was performed with
Mile. Patti for the first time this year as the heroine, the part of
Edgardo being sustained by a new candidate for fame from Paris,
of whom report had spoken favorably — Signor Nieolini. This gen-
tleman cannot, however, be said to have made much more than a
succes d'estime. His voice — being by no means of the highest qual-
ity — evidently disappointed the majority of his hearers. One of the
chief faults of Signor Nicolini's method is to be discovered in his
yielding much too incessantly to a habit of tremulousness, which so
many modern singers take to be the only one means for the demon-
stration of passion. His tone is, however, true, and his execution
facile, besides which he has other considerable attractions, his stage
figure being good, and his manner, although energetic, refined. . . .
That Signor Nieolini, like Brignoli, Fancelli, Lucchesi, and Neri-
Baraldi, will become more than a useful addition to the tenors of
the Royal Italian Opera is scarcely probable. 1

In short, the verdict of the critics was so discouraging that
Mr. Gye did not hesitate to cancel the new tenor's contract.
Signor Nieolini went back to France, and appeared in London
no more until the spring of 1871. He then came over with
the crowd of refugees who managed to escape the horrors of
the siege of Paris, and Mj\ Mapleson, who was giving Italian
opera at Drury Lane, allowed him another chance of winning
a name for himself here. This time he succeeded. He had
not got rid of his tremolo. He was never to do so. But the
general opinion was that his singing had improved and that
he had become a splendid actor.

It was during this season that I heard Nieolini for the first
time. He was my first Faust, and a better-looking one it
has never been my lot to behold. His likeness to Mario
in the character was remarkable. The Marguerite was a very
captivating French soprano named Leon-Duval. By the way,
Nicolini's debut at Drury Lane, which Mapleson erroneously

i From the current number of Orchestra.


calls his first appearance in England, 1 was made in Meyer-
beer's "Robert le Diable." His success led to his reengage-
ment by Mr. Gye, and he duly reappeared at Covent Garden
in the following year — 1872. Thenceforward he became a
permanent member of the company.

The story of his subsequent career will fall later into its
allotted place in this book. Meanwhile it is interesting to
note that, but for the Paris siege, Nicolini would never have
returned to this country — in which case his romantic union
with Adelina Patti would assuredly never have become a fait

During her visit to Paris in the autumn of 1866 Mile.
Patti stayed, with her father and Maurice Strakosch, at
Maria's fiat in a house near the Champs-Elysees. The Mar-
chese di Candia (as he was in private life) was away at the
time; indeed, he rarely if ever sang in Paris. But the fact
of Patti 's presence is worth recording, if only for an incident
which illustrates the kind of mad worship that was clan-
destinely paid her at this period by her demented (and dis-
appointed) French adorers. One morning Karolyn Baum-
eister opened the door of the Mario apartment, and, to her

Online LibraryHermann KleinThe reign of Patti → online text (page 13 of 37)