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"Rondo" from "Sonnainbula," and Jenny Lind's "'Echo Song."

I had just returned from a concert tour, and at the urgent request
of her parents, who were members of my household, I organised
some concerts for Adelina, and with marked success. Soon after I
made an arrangement for her appearance in the concerts of the
great violinist, Ole Bull, which I directed and managed, with Ade-
lina as one of the company, some three years.

During those years she studied with me and learned over one
hundred operatic selections and ballads, hearing and seeing the best
vocal and dramatic artists. She never failed to sing daily her
scales and exercises.

When she was between twelve and thirteen, and it was best that
she should cease singing for a time, I was absent from her, en-
gaged in writing an opera "'Giovanni di Napoli," written for Mile.
Parodi, and performed in New York in 1857. During my absence,
and against my advice, she made a tour in the West Indies with
Gottschalk, and was gone about two years. Until I rejoined her,
she studied with her half-brother, Ettore Barili, also with Signor
Manzocchi, learning two operas — "Sonnambula" and "Lucia."

When she was fifteen, both her parents, thinking her ready for the


stage, and encouraged by all who heard the marvellous child, desired
that she should make her operatic debut. I most earnestly opposed
it, assured that her voice needed rest and development. I fortu-
nately persuaded them to postpone her appearance for one year,
when I thought she could safely take a principal part in operatic
performances. She studied faithfully the ensuing months, and I
altered some passages in which her voice was too severely taxed,
and introduced cadenzas which enabled her to employ her marvellous
upper register in the two operas of "Sonnambula" and "Lucia" —
cadenzas which Mme. Patti still sings without change.

She made her debut on the 24th November, 1859, under my man-
agement, having one single piano and one orchestral rehearsal with
my then conductor, Signor E. Muzio. She had on that first night
the phenomenal success which has but continued and augmented ever
since. During a period of nine years I was never absent for a day
from her father and herself, nor failed to study with her. I was
her sole vocal and musical instructor. During that time I had the
honour of presenting her to the London public and the principal
European capitals, her first appearance in London taking place on the
14th of May, 1861. And, by and by, I had no little difficulty in
effecting an arrangement with the veteran manager, Mr. Gye, whose
fame as an opera director will never die. I only succeeded in mak-
ing an engagement which compelled Patti to sing three nights with-
out pay, Gye reserving the right to engage her for five seasons on
his own terms. He paid her the first season £150 a month, she
to sing eight times — not quite £20 a night. Times have changed
since then.

She studied with me from the first to the last note the fol-
lowing operas, and retains my cadenzas and changes at the present
moment: "Barbiere di Siviglia," "Don Pasquale," "Puritani,"
"Elisir d'Amore," "Martha," "Don Giovanni" (Zerlina), "Traviata,"
"Trovatore," "Rigoletto," "Ernani," "Mose in Egitto," "Othello,"
"Linda di Chamouni," "Dinorah," "Huguenots" (Valentina) ,
"Faust," "Romeo e Giuletta," Verdi's "Giovanna d'Arco," "Don
Desiderio" by Poniatowsky, 1 etc.

i This opera was produced at Pisa in 1839 and at Paris in 1858, but
there is no evidence that Patti ever sang in it.


I claim no special merit for this, as Adelina Patti had really
so exceptional a talent that she would prohably have achieved all
that she has without me, or even more with a more competent teacher.
But I must claim most positively that I was her only teacher for
a year previous to her debut until her marriage.

It is also my most intimate conviction that the care I was able to
exercise during the development of her voice, and the unmatched
solidity it acquired, not only preserved her organ but helped to make
it so exceptional.

To those who would dedicate themselves to the art of song I would
say, "There is but one method, that of the old Italian school." I
myself was in Italy when I could hear the artists who knew the
traditions of that school, and enjoyed the instruction and friendship
of Chevalier Micheroux, the teacher of Pasta, whom I also knew
intimately. She had retired to private life, the possessor of a large
fortune, which she generously dispensed in aid of charity and art.
She was living in Milan and Como, and graciously received a certain
number of pupils, whom she fitted for the operatic stage when she
found them sufficiently talented, while to others she gave a dot
enabling them to marry. When they were receiving her instruction
I played for her the accompaniments, and the knowledge gained from
Micheroux and Pasta I imparted as far as lay in my power to Ade-
lina Patti.

Believe me, sir, your obedient servant,

Maurice Strakosch.
Ole Bull's Island, Norway.



(From the Neiv York Herald, November 25, 1859)

A YOUNG lady, not yet seventeen, almost an American by birth,
having arrived here when an infant, belonging to an Italian
family which has been fruitful of good artists, sang last night the
favorite role of debutantes, Lucia di Lammermoor.

Whether it is from the natural sympathy with the forlorn fiancee
of the Master of Ravenswood which is infused into the female breast
with Donizetti's tender music, or from a clever inspiration that to
be unhappy and pretty is a sure passport to the affections of an au-
dience, we cannot say. Certain it is, however, that the aspirations
for the ovations, the triumphs, the glories, that await a successful
prima donna almost always select this opera for their preliminary
dash at the laurels. The music affords a fine opportunity to show
the quality and cultivation of the soprano voice, and it is so familiar
as to provoke comparison with first-rate artists, and provoke the
severest criticisms by the most rigid recognized tests.

All these were duly and thoroughly applied to Miss Adelina Patti
a day or two since by a very critical audience at what was called a
show rehearsal. It was then ascertained that Miss Patti had a fine
voice, and that she knew how to sing. The artists and amateurs were
in raptures. This was a certificate to the public, who do not nowa-
days put their faith in managers' announcements, unless they are
indorsed. With an off night and an opera worn to bits, the public
interest in Miss Patti's debut was so great as to bring together a very
large audience, rather more popular than usual, but still numbering
the best known habitues and most critical amateurs. The de-
butante was received politely but cordially — an indication that there
was not a strong claque, which was a relief. Her appearance was
that of a young lady, petite and interesting, with just a tinge of



school-room in her manner. She was apparently self-possessed, hut
not self-assured.

After the first few bars of recitative, she launched boldly into the
cavatina — one of the most difficult pieces of the opera. This she
sang perfectly, displaying a thorough Italian method and a high so-
prano voice, fresh and full and even throughout. In the succeeding
cabaletta, which was brilliantly executed, Miss Patti took the high
note E fiat, above the line, with the greatest ease. In this cabaletta
we noticed a tendency to show off vocal gifts which may be just
a little out of place. The introduction of variations not written
by the composer is only pardonable in an artist who has already as-
sured her position.

In the duet with the tenor (Brignoli) and with the baritone
(Ferri), and the Mad Scene, Miss Patti sang with sympathetic
tenderness — a rare gift in one so young — and increased the enthusi-
asm of the audience to a positive furore, which was demonstrated
in the usual way — recalls, bouquets, wreaths, etc., etc. The horti-
cultural business was more extensive than usual.

Of course we speak to-day only of Miss Patti's qualifications as a
singer. Acting she has yet to learn ; but artists, like poets, are born,
not made. The mere convenances of the stage will come of them-
selves. She is already pretty well acquainted with them. So far
as her voice, skill, method, and execution are concerned, we are sim-
ply recording the unanimous opinion of the public when we pro-
nounce the debut of Miss Patti a grand success.

Everyone predicts a career for this young artist, and who knows
but the managers may find in her their long-looked-for sensation?

On the same day the following curiously worded but obvi-
ously sincere notice appeared in the New York Tribune:

Extraordinary interest was excited last evening on the first ap-
pearance of Miss Adeline Patti, of this city, in the character of
Lucia. The qualities for this role are full soprano voice, with abso-
lute facility in the upper notes, thorough volatility of tone, or rapid
execution, great power of holding tones, especially attenuating them
to the last degree, a gentle ladylike demeanor, and to some extent


clearness of dramatic action. All these Miss Adeline Patti pos-
sesses unequivocally. She is neatly formed, with a sympathetic
face; she has a good carriage and mode of holding herself in the
necessary dramatic position. Her voice is clear and excellent; the
brilliant execution with which she begins at the outset of her career
— she is only turned of sweet sixteen — ranks with that where the
best singers end. This is saying a good deal, but it is not an
overstatement. . . . There is in her as much sentiment as we ought
to look for in one so young. Great passion, heart-rending pathos,
can only be found in the artist, whether the singer, the actor, or the
orator; after an experience with the world realities, with its sadness,
its sorrows. These will all come fast enough to give the tragic
element to the young aspirant. . . . Miss Adeline Patti, though an
American without a transatlantic puff, though a child brought up
in the midst of us, a positive unqualified rich success — because she
merited it. The applause from a good audience was immense ; calls
before the curtain and bouquets were the order of the night.

Also this excerpt from correspondence to Dwight's Journal
of Music of the same date :

Last evening Miss Adeline Patti, who some years ago sang as an
infant prodigy, made her second debut as a prima donna. Verily
it made us old opera habitues feel older than ever, and the sadness
attending the thought of our own years naturally attuned our souls
to a full enjoyment of the melancholy beauty of the Lucia. So far,
I have heard no dissenting opinion touching the abilities of the
young debutante. She is most pleasing in countenance, has enjoyed
really judicious instruction, rejoices in a freshness of voice extraor-
dinary, and knows no such word as fiasco. Let her be heard more !



(Extract from a Philadelphia paper: February, 1860)

THE best school of music . . . lives still in the person of
Miss Adelina Patti, the young artist who last evening en-
chanted a large audience at the Academy of Music by her exquisite
performance of the heroine in "Lucia di Lammermoor." There were
hundreds there with whom Lucia had long been worn threadbare,
and a new sensation in connection with it was pronounced impossi-
ble. But even to the most blase of opera-goers the evening was
one of delighted surprise and greater enthusiasm has never been
exhibited in the Academy on any occasion.

Miss Patti is very young in years and appearance, but she is a
finished artist. She makes her debut, indeed, at a point of perfec-
tion to which mature prima donnas never attain. . . . Her voice is
a pure, delicious soprano, of great evenness and purity of tone,
amply powerful in the upper and medium parts and promising
greater strength in the lower. It is a fresh, unspoiled voice, with
no tremble in it, and none of the cracks that exposure to the Verdi
fire always makes in that delicate article, the female voice. It is as
flexible as Sontag's,with a good natural shake, and a facility of
execution that makes all appearance of physical effort in the most
elaborate passages totally unnecessary. Nature has done everything
for Miss Patti; but the very best teaching has given her that beau-
tiful graceful delivery, noticeable particularly in recitative passages,
but not the less to be admired in others. She has been singing
ever since she could walk, having really "lisped in numbers." She
has been heard here in concerts when only eight or ten years of age.
But the usual fate of infant prodigies has not attended her; for her
talent and her voice have grown with her growth, and, having ceased



to be an infant phenomenon, she is now that far rarer phenomenon,
a beautiful singer of the purest and best school . . .

The triumph of the evening was in the Mad Scene, which was
full of touching tenderness, united with as beautiful singing as ever
fell from mortal lips. At its close the audience were entirely thrown
off their usual reserve. Bouquets flew from every part of the house,
the young artist was thrice called out, and at the last call there was
an irrepressible shout of enthusiasm, the most honest and legitimate
ever displayed in the Academy.



(From the Times, Wednesday, May 15, 1861)

ANEW Amino does not usually excite much curiosity among fre-
quenters of the opera. There have been since the days of
Malibran so many Aminos, and nineteen out of twenty of them com-
monplace. Even the announcement of a new singer, irrespective of
Amino, or 'Lucia, or Arline, or Maritana, or any other character,
Italian or English (not excepting the Traviata herself) — so strong
the reaction against preliminary flourish — is nowadays received with
something like indifference. How many Pastas, how many Grisis,
how many Jenny Linds ("nightingales/' of course) have suddenly
come forth and as suddenly vanished, or at best remained content to
occupy a second-, third-, or fourth-rate position? The musical pub-
lic has sunk into a sort of lethargic and cynical incredulity, the
result of many sanguine hopes raised, and just as many woefully

At present — we may venture to suggest — the most prudent way
to obtain an impartial and indulgent hearing for a new aspirant to
lyric honours is to say nothing in advance. Mr. Gye has adopted this
course of action, or inaction, with regard to a very young lady who
made her first appearance last night as the heroine of "La Sonnam-
bula," and who, we may add at once, created such a sensation as
has not been parallelled for years. It was simply advertised, last
week, that Tuesday, May 14, Mile. Adelina Patti would assume the
part of Amina in Bellini's well known opera. Apart from those
who had visited the United States of America, or those in the habit
of perusing the musical notices of American journals, no one had
ever heard of Mile. Adelina Patti ; and thus, although the house was
brilliantly attended (it being a "subscription night")j there were
no symptoms whatever of a more than ordinary degree of expecta-
tion. As that diverting necromancer, Gospadin Friskell, used to



declare, there was "no preparation" ; certainly there was no '-'claque"
— no disposition to anticipate favour or extort applause. The de-
butante was at first calmly, then more warmly, then enthusiastically
— but always fairly and dispassionately — judged; and she who, to
Europe at any rate, was yesterday without a name, before to-morrow
will be a "town talk."

And now comes the difficult part of our task. Is Mile. Adeline
Patti — it would naturally be asked — a phenomenon? Decidedly
yes. Is she a perfect artist? Decidedly no. How can a
girl of scarcely eighteen summers have reached perfection in an
art so difficult 1 ? It is simply impossible. We are almost inclined
to say she is something better than perfect; for perfection at her
age could be little else than mechanical, and might probably settle
down at last into a cold abstraction or mere commonplace technical
correctness. No; Mile. Patti has the faults incidental to youth and
experience; but these in no single instance wear the semblance of
being ineradicable; on the contrary, they are in a great measure
the consequence of an ardent ambition to attain at a jump what can
only be attained with years of laborious application.

The management of the voice, the gradation of tone, the balance
of cadence, the rounding off of phrase, are all occasionally more
or less defective; but to compensate for these inevitable drawbacks
there is an abiding charm in every vocal accent, an earnestness in
every look, and an intelligence in every movement and gesture that
undeniably proclaim an artist "native and to the manner born."
And let it be understood that these qualities of charm, of earnest-
ness, and of intelligence are not merely the prepossessing attributes
of extreme youth, allied to personal comeliness, but the evident
offspring of thought, of talent — we may almost add of genius, but
assuredly of natural endowments, both mental and physical, far
beyond the average.

Mile. Patti's first appearance on the stage seemed to take the au-
dience by surprise. So young an Amino — young enough in appear-
ance to be the daughter of her Elvino (Signor Tiberini) — an Amina,
in short, not yet done growing — had never before been witnessed.
The recitative, "Care compagne," however, showed at once that in
this particular case youthfulness and depth of feeling might be


found both naturally and gracefully united; while, long before the
termination of the air "Come per me sereno," with its brilliant
cabaletta, "Sovra il sen la man mi posa," a conviction was unani-
mously entertained by the audience that a singer of genuine feeling,
rare gifts, and decided originality stood before them.

A high soprano voice, equal, fresh, and telling in every note of
the medium, the upper E flat and even F at ready command; admir-
able accentuation of the words; considerable flexibility; dashing and
effective use of "bravura"; expression warm, energetic, and varied,
wmile never exaggerated and, last, not least, an intonation scarcely
ever at fault — such were the valuable qualities that revealed them-
selves in turn during the execution of Amino? s well known apos-
trophe to her companions on the auspicious day that is to unite her
to El vino, and which raised the house to positive enthusiasm.

A thing that must have astonished everyone was the thorough
ease and aplomb (an excellent tenn) with which so young a stranger
confronted so formidable an assembly in the midst of difficulties
that at times are apt to unsettle the oldest and most practised
stage singers. Too much self-composure, it might be urged, for one
of Mile. Patti's years, were it not that the ingenious confidence of
youth, when uncheckered by the susceptibility of a nervous tempera-
ment, often makes it unapprehensive of danger and careless of re-
sults. At any rate, Mile. Adelina Patti's first essay was a veritable
triumph, and her ultimate success thus placed beyond a doubt.

When the applause at the end of " Come per me sereno" had sub-
sided, there was a general buzz of satisfaction. The conscious-
ness of a new sensation having been unexpectedly experienced seemed
universal among the audience, who in grateful recognition might have
addressed the new songstress in the language with which the village
chorus apostrophise Amina:

Vive felice! e questo

II commun voto, O Adelina!

The history of Mile. Patti's first appearance is told in the fore-
going. What followed was to match. Needless to describe the
familiar incident of the bedroom, the arraignment and despair of
Amina; still less requisite to descant upon the Mill Scene, with


the touching appeal of the innocent girl to the flowers that drop
from her unconscious hands; or the awakening of the somnambulist
to rapture, when her innocence is established and her lover once
more at her feet. Enough that "Ah, non credea mirarti" was
given with the truest expression, and "Ah, non giunge" with won-
derful brilliancy, at the second verse rendered still more brilliant
by a variety of new ornaments (the "staccato," as in the first
cavatina, slightly over-obtruded), the high E flat and the F again
successfully attacked, and the whole crowned with a neat, equal, and
powerful shake upon the penultimate note — which, considering that
the air was sung in the original key (B flat), was a feat of no small

The descent of the curtain was the signal for loud and long-
continued plaudits. For the third time Mile. Patti was led for-
ward by Signor Tiberini; and then, in obedience to a general sum-
mons, she came on alone, to receive fresh honours. To conclude —
if Mile. Patti will rightly estimate the enthusiasm caused by her
first appearance before the most generous (although perhaps the
most jaded) of operatic publics, and — not regarding herself as
faultless — study her art with increased assiduity, a bright future
is in store for her. If, on the other hand, — but we would rather
not contemplate the opposite contingency.

(From the Times, second notice, May 23, 1861)

The second appearance of Mademoiselle Adelina Patti has con-
firmed her triumph. The house, last night, was crammed to suffo-
cation, and the enthusiasm of the audience unbounded. So great
was the excitement that we were reminded of the hottest days (or
nights) of rivalry between our two Italian operas, with Jenny Lind
at the Haymarket and Alboni at the Royal Italian Opera, each
counting adherents by the thousands, and giving occasion for as
much controversial warmth as if that memorable contest between the
German Gluck and the Italian Piccini, which even the gravity of
history is unable to ignore, had been revived with augmented vigour.
Mile. Patti and her manager, nevertheless, enjoy at the present mo-
ment an advantage of which neither Mile. Lind and Mr. Lumley, nor
Mile. Alboni and Mr. Frederick Beale, could boast. There is no


opposition to contend with, and therefore nothing to divide the at-
tention of the operatic world. The young prima donna is alone
in her glory, and it depends on herself to walk over the course,
not merely with ease, but with distinction. That, besides the strong
attraction inseparable from youth and promise, Mile. Patti possesses
the secret of charming impartial hearers into zealous partisans,
is pretty evident. Whatever she does is applauded — not with the
conventional nonchalance of indifferent approval, but with applause
dictated to the hands by the heart. Every point in her impersona-
tion of Amino that '"told" on the night of her first appearance was
doubly appreciated now; and— not to enter into long detail, at the
end of "Ah, non giunge" (which, by the way, she gave with an in-
creased brilliancy, the result of increased confidence) the audience
were fairly beside themselves. Of course, Mile. Patti came for-
ward with Signor Tiberini. Of course she appeared.

(From the Musical World, May 18, 1861)

"La Sonnambula," on Tuesday, was one of the most interesting
performances we have witnessed at the Royal Italian Opera. The
success of Mile. Adelina Patti— now, indeed, the principal topic
in London musical circles— took everybody by surprise, except those
who had been present at the rehearsal and who were let into the se-
cret. The reports of the American journals, although apparently
overcharged and extravagant, must really be received as a closer
approximation to the truth. The writers in the London papers on
Wednesday, except in one or two instances, are as high-flown,
uncompromising, and enthusiastic in the young artist's praise as
their contemporaries of the New Orleans and Philadelphia press
whose articles we have published.

Mile. Patti is even now, at eighteen years of age, in many re-
spects a great singer. Her voice is beautiful in quality — a real
soprano equal in every part of the register, without the slightest
tendency to tremulousness, and reaching to F in alt with astonish-
ing ease. It is, moreover, extremely flexible, and is managed w*ith
more than ordinary skill. The young lady, indeed, is almost a

Online LibraryHermann KleinThe reign of Patti → online text (page 31 of 37)