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most finished artists, like Sontag, Alboni, Bosio, may be allowed to
riot sometimes in a music so suggestive of the mood, it was hardly
good taste for so young a singer to begin with variations on Rossini.
Herein Patti had been unwisely advised; left to her own instincts,
she seems seldom to err against good taste and fitness. This part,
of course, afforded fine play for those bright points of vocalization,
those staccato sparkles in the upper octave, etc., which she com-
mands in such perfection and with which the mass of an audi-
ence is sure to be delighted.

Yet, on the whole, with all its errors and shortcomings, how many
more fascinating Rosinas can we find? Measured by the maturest
standard, it lacked much ; for such a girl it was wonderful. In some
quarters she has been visited by a too severe and sweeping criticism ;
it can do her no harm if it saves her from her own commonplaces —
that is to say, from too frequent trying over of her old and easy
triumphs, and provokes her to be earnestly true to herself, still
studying what intrinsically is fit in every case, and still a learner.



Xi itliing is more fatal to the real progress of an artist than to keep
pressing certain springs (be they ever so ingenious and peculiarly
her own) which she has found are sure to "bring the house down."
But Patti has it in her to be much more than a mere effect singer, a
mere vocal virtuoso. She already sings with character and feeling;
she will do more and more so if she is not injured by success.



(From the Musical World, May 17, 1863)

TBE prominent features of the cast [of "II Barbiere"] were the
Almaviva and Rosina of Signor Mario and Mile. Adelina Patti
— the most experienced tenor and the most unpractised soprano;
the oldest and youngest, indeed, in their respective departments, on
the Italian boards. They were thoroughly well matched. If, while
rivalling her accomplished partner in the grace, brilliancy, and life-
like naturalness of her acting, — for we can remember no more fin-
ished delineation of the sprightly ward than hers, — Mile. Patti would
also strive to follow his example in adhering a little more closely
to the musical text, her Rosina would be absolute perfection. But it
is vain to hope for this. Mile. Patti may cite the most illustrious
of her predecessors, from Malibran and Persiani to the much re-
gretted Angelina Bosio, as warrants for the liberties in which she
herself indulges. "Una voce poco fa" and "Dunque io son" seem
destined to be perpetually used as themes for the exhibition of the
singer's skill in the art of embroidery.

True, the part of Rosina was originally intended for a contralto,
and this in a great measure exonerates sopranos like Bosio and
Mile. Patti, who can hardly be expected to sacrifice their chance of
applause m favour of what would at the best be a correct and in-
effective reading. The secret, nevertheless, is how to reconcile these
elaborately contrived fioriture, which are the rhetoric of florid song,
with the real character of the music thus embellished — the flowing
melody of Rossini with all its glittering display of ornament. Once
hit upon that secret and objection would be done.


(From All the Year Round, December, 1861)

AND now has come the youngest Amino of all, and at once, with-
out a single note of prelude or preliminary trumpet, has stirred
up the tired town to an enthusiasm recalling the days wben Mali-
bran tottered across the stage in haste and frantic grief, and when
Lind breathed out her whole soul of sadness over the flowers as, leaf
by leaf, they mournfully dropped on the stage. Bom in Madrid,
Italian by parentage, trained exclusively in America, Mile. Adelina
Patti, on her first evening's appearance at our Italian Opera — nay,
in her first song — possessed herself of her audience with a sudden
victory which has scarcely a parallel. Old and young are now
treating as conspiracy and treason any looking back to past Aminas
— any comparison. This new singer, in her early girlhood, is (for
them) already a perfect artist — one who is to set Europe on fire
during the many years to which it may be hoped her career will

Nor is their delight altogether baseless. Mile. Patti's voice has
been carefully and completely trained. Those who fail to find
it as fresh in tone as a voice aged nineteen should be, must be
struck by its compass, by the certainty of its delivery, by some
quality in it (not to be reasoned out or defined) whiclr* has more
of the artist than the automaton. She has a rare amount of bril-
liancy and flexibility. She has some "notions" (as the Americans
have it) of ornament and fancy which are her own, if they be not
unimpeachable, say the dry-as-dusts, in point of taste.

If not beautiful, she is pleasing to see ; if not a Pasta, a Malibran,
or a Lind in action, she is possessed with her story. . . .

For the moment the newest Amina has the ear of London. In the
future Mile. Patti may become worthy of having her name written



in the golden book of great singers. Meanwhile, what a tale is here
told, not merely of her great and welcome promise, not merely of
her possessing that talent for success — charm — which is born into
few persons and which cannot be bought or taught, but of the lasting
truth and attraction of the music to which Bellini set the story of
the innocent girl who walked across the mill-wheel in her sleep !



(From the Irish Times, December, 1861)

THE series of operas which Mile. Patti inaugurated came to a
close with "Martha" on Saturday evening. From the begin-
ning the young prima donna has had a succession of triumphs.
Nothing could be more brilliant than the talents she displayed, and
the exhibition of the rich gifts bestowed on her by nature at so early
a period. No great lyric artist, to our knowledge, has manifested
so large a share of histrionic and vocal ability in mere girlhood.
Only eighteen years old, yet singing with the highest culture, the
most dazzling brilliancy and finish in every character, and acting
with the tact and experience of one who had trod the boards for
years; and possessing the fresh charm of girlhood, the grace of
beauty, and the buoyancy of youth. Anyone so fitted to enrapture
the young, please the mature, and gratify the experienced in art,
we have never witnessed on the stage.

She sings the music of Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti, and Flo-
tow with equal truthfulness, and frequently adorns their writings
with fioriture appropriate and dazzling, executed with an ease which
astonishes. If she has a fault in her vocalism, it is redundancy of
ornament, and too frequent a recurrence of birdlike staccati pas-

The part of Lady Henrietta, in "Martha," is particularly suited to
Mile. Patti. Her acting is tempered by good taste, and the tact she
displays in the by-play is worthy of all observation. Then her sing-
ing is distinguished by a truthful adherence to the text, enriched
by ornamentation in keeping with the various themes, and softened
by an expression pure and natural. To speak of some of her flights
of song is now superfluous, as all who have heard them must have



been equally delighted and amazed. This latter unique portion of
vocal art she exhibited in "The Spinning Wheel" quartet. In the
Italian version of the "Last Rose of Summer" she evinced a purity
of style never excelled by any of her predecessors, while she put
them all in the shade by her rendering, to an encore, of Moore's
words to the same melody. She then gave "Home, sweet home,"
and to another re-demand, " 'Twas within a mile of Edinboro' town."
The Scotch tune she sings with unspeakable archness, and originality
of tone and manner which cannot fail to charm.

At the termination she was greeted with acclamations, and left the
stage laden with bouquets. As she emerged from the stage-door to
her carriage, she was met bj' a cavalcade of the students of Trinity
College, — almost all honour men, — who took the horses from the ve-
hicle and drew her to the hotel, amidst deafening cheers. And thus
ended the climax to one of the most triumphant successes within
our memories.



(From a Brussels paper, February, 1862. Translated from

the French)

IN the two performances of "La Sonnambula" Mile. Adelina Patti
surpassed all the expectations which, with good reason, had been
founded on her extraordinary merit and recent reputation. Mile.
Patti is a great singer. She belongs to no one school more than
another; her singing, full of sympathy and feeling, leaves the old
beaten paths far behind. Her style is peculiar to herself; it is im-
possible to compare it, with justice, to anything ever heard before;
she resembles no one, she imitates no one; she is Mile. Patti! Her
certainty of execution, the delicacy and purity apparent in all she
does, and, above all, the irreproachable correctness of the whole
register of her voice, which is of incredible compass, render her an
exception among the artistic celebrities of the day.

Her prodigious talent astonishes, surprises, captivates ; you ap-
plaud in spite of yourself, carried away by an irresistible feeling
of admiration. If to the preceding qualities, which border on the
marvellous, we add the most graceful .appearance that ever set off
a young girl; beautiful and brilliant black eyes, full of slyness when
they are not full of tenderness or grief; and infantine grace, over-
flowing with charm and well-bred ease, and a genuine histrionic
talent, delicate, witty, striking, and dramatic, you will have a toler-
ably complete idea of this fairy of eighteen whose name is Adelina
Patti. Her success, or, as we prefer saying, in order to be nearer
the truth, her triumph, was immense.




(From the Musical World, May 10, 1862)

NO long-established favourite of the public was ever re-welcomed
with greater enthusiasm than Mile. Adelina Patti on Monday
evening, when she made her first appearance for the present season
in the opera of the "Sonnambula." It was in the character of
Amina that her earliest laurels were won, and few can have forgot-
ten the extraordinary sensation produced on the occasion of her
debut. Unheralded by preliminary flourish, she took the audience
by storm; and a name that was previously unknown to this coun-
try became in a very brief period familiar as a household word.

The brilliant reception of Monday night gives fair reason to be-
lieve that the interest in Mile. Patti will be maintained this season
at its height. What was written on the occasion of her first per-
formances might be repeated almost word for word, and apply just
as well. We can detect, indeed, but little difference. Her voice
seems to have gained in power, and her singing in spontaneity. But
the peculiarities of her vocalisation — its technical defects no less
than its indefinable charm, its occasional derelictions from severe
purity of style no less than its warmth of expression and engaging
tenderness, those beauties and those faults, in short, which make up
a sum total as irresistibly captivating as it is unhackneyed — remain
much as they were before.

As an actress, Mile. Patti has made a decided advance. We can
recall nothing more graceful, nothing more impassioned, than the
scene of the bedchamber, where the distracted Amina strives in
vain to persuade Elvino of her innocence. Nor do we remember to
have seen an audience more thoroughly moved to sympathy. The
fall of the curtain was a complete triumph for Mile. Patti, who was
recalled before the lamps, to be literally overwhelmed with applause.



(From the Musical World, August 9, 1862)

THE Dinorah of Mile. Patti is from first (o la*t an entirely new
creation, and, moreover, in the fullest degree as captivating
as new. It is not merely in all respects, whether regarded in a
dramatic or in a vocal sense, the best Dinorah we remember, but,
viewed as a whole, the only Dinorah entirely realising the poetical
conception which laid so strong a hold upon the imagination of
Meyerbeer as to inspire "Le Pardon de Ploermel," if not as the
most brilliant certainly as the most ethereal of his masterpieces.
Originality has been universally recognised as an attribute of each
successive assumption of Mile. Patti. Whatever may be her short-
comings, she invariably thinks for herself, invariably presents the
character she is assuming under a fresh and unhackneyed aspect —
the mark of her own piquant individuality being everywhere appar-
ent. This, combined with youth, a prepossessing appearance, and
a natural grace that enables her to tread the stage as though she
had been "born to it," confers upon her and all her endeavours a
certain indefinable charm.

The attraction thus created, and which gives to her Zerlina, her
Ttosina, and one or two other impersonations, the peculiarities so
agreeably distinguishing them, is, perhaps, nowhere more vivid —
perhaps nowhere so vivid — as in her Dinorah, the most elaborately
studied, the most carefully wrought out, and, at the same time, so
successfully are the mechanical means kept out of sight, the most
apparently spontaneous of her performances.




(Letter from Dr. Julius Wagner, of Vienna, to the Musical
World, dated March 17, 1863)

THE great reputation which little Adelina Patti has achieved
in two quarters of the globe is not unmerited. Such was the
general opinion after Vienna had heard her. Now, people in Vienna
are not prejudiced in anyone's favour; they must be convinced, de-
lighted, charmed, before going into such raptures as they indulged
in with Adelina Patti. Adelina Patti, however, has in her service
a herald who awakens a favourable feeling toward her; this is her
beauty. Yet no; beauty is not the proper expression. Mile. Patti
is, above all, an original and peculiar being; she is to so great a
degree herself alone, and possesses so little in common with any
member of the grand army of fair mediocre singers — of the so-
called celebrated cantatrice and travelling virtuosas — that she cannot
be described in general terms. Mile. Patti appeared, and a storm
of applause burst forth ; applause in which so many, who were
thoroughly roused by the exterior of the little, dainty, graceful girl,
took part.

It is the charm of the girl, nay, of the child, which produces so
refreshing an effect when she appears. It is spring; morning;
dew; the first ray of the sun; the perfume of the rose that has
blown during the night; which causes the faces of all the audience
to brighten up. The head of a child upon the symmetrically formed
and charming body of a young girl, such is Adelina Patti. A deli-
cately chiselled head, with fine mobile features, and the guileless eyes
of a doe — white marble turned into flesh, surrounded by a dark
frame of hair, and daintily intersected by black brows, eyes, and
lashes: such is Adelina Patti. A mignon head upon a delicate but
beautifully robust and healthy body. A head of fourteen upon a



bust, of eighteen. Small, dainty, and delicate is the sphere over
which the individuality of Adelina Patti exerts its sway. Her move-
ments, her smile, her joy, her seriousness, her grief, her suffering,
are all set in a small ring, but so naturally, so harmoniously, so
completely, so onefully, as to produce a pure, full impression.

There is nothing striking and grand; no lightning, no thunder-
claps, no demoniacal passion, and no ecstatic cry of joy, belonging
to Adelina Patti ; it is a maiden in her spring ; spring in art, which
we see in Adelina Patti : it is, moreover, the spring of the South,
which bids even the violets burst forth in their maturity. The form
of Mile. Patti bears the colour and features of the southern or
Oriental spring. The way she treads the uncertain boards of the
theatre produces the impression of a somnambulist boldly advancing,
secure and steady, toward her goal, without a consciousness of the
dangers that menace her. She has not merely the charm, but also
the courage and pleasing audacity, of a child.

Thus does she comport herself; thus does she act; thus does she
sing. Fresh as is her demeanour, her voice is equally so. The latter
sounds like a bell, just bright out of the mould. The hearer cannot
determine the question — is her voice great? is it powerful? it is so
entrancingly fresh. The hearer cannot ask himself, is Mile. Patti
a great singer? for she overcomes the greatest difficulties with child-
like facility. The hearer cannot ask himself, is Mile. Patti well
trained? for he believes that what she can do now she could always

She sings with taste and grace; she allows the pearls of her voice
to flow on their course; she wails like a nightingale; she warbles
like a lark; she twitters the highest and sharpest tones, swelling
upwards from the fundamental notes of the lower register like —
but similes must here cease; what she effects can be effected only
by a bird turned into a human being. Indeed, Mile. Patti pro-
duces the impression of having a bird nestling in her breast. She
sings like a bird and like nothing else; pleasing repose in her body,
tune and warbling in her throat. We have heard singers possessed
of more boldness and virtuosity than Mile. Patti, but this singing
child is a charming individuality, with which no other is to be com-
pared. This is her value; this is her especial charm.



(From "Die Moderne Oper," by Eduard Hanslick. Trans-
lated from the German.)

I CANNOT conclude these observations upon Meyerbeer's Dinorah
without calling 1 to mind the extraordinary performance of Ade-
lina Patti in the title-role — one of the most remarkable leaves in the
Sibylline book of the variations between creative and executive
musical art. In point of fact, I thank Patti for a most peculiar
and vivid impression of an opera which until then was unsympa-
thetic to me. Neither the marvellous technique nor the wealth of
elegant spirituel detail in this score of Meyerbeer's reconciles one to
the morbidly refined music nor to the nonsensical, uninteresting ac-
tion. Even to-day I cannot depart from this view, for naturally
the charm of a genial interpretation goes as little to the composer's
credit as the blame for an unintellectual one.

Call it Meyerbeer's misfortune or his fault, as you will, that he
needed an exceptional personality for the success of Dinorah — it
remains none the less a combination of luck and merit brought about
through the personality of Adelina Patti. One could swear that
the part, note for note, was written for her. ... In its poetic aspect,
even, Dinorah bespeaks Patti's individuality. There is something
poetical in the figure of the young shepherdess, an elemental charm,
which comes to light when a kindred nature awakens it. Such ele-
mental charm stirs in the bright, fresh voice of Patti, in her man-
ner of singing and acting, in her whole demeanour. She instinctively
reveals whatever natural poetry or genuine feeling may slumber in
Dinorah, and thus renders sympathetic a character which others, by
their coquettish and blase conception generally make just the oppo-
site. Even more than as poet has the composer here worked before-
hand for Patti. As though he had in mind during the whole time



the loveliest tones, the peculiar timbres and modulations that this
singer possesses — thus and not otherwise did he compose his "Di-

On her first entry Patti's movements are all replete with un-
affected grace and naturalness. She depicts Dinorah's madness
with a touch of dreamy distraction which bursts as readily into
merriment as into sadness. For bizarre or profound ideas, for
carefully studied nuances, one must seek as little in this as in any
other of her roles. She achieves the right thing, not through re-
flection, but through her wonderful instinct. What could be
smoother, more delightful, than her sweetness and the impeccable
intonation of her expressive swelling tones in, for instance, the
"Slumber Song"?

That it should be so hard to describe music, so impossible to por-
tray absolute beauty of sound ! Only he who has no notion of the
power and nobility of this sensuous beauty in music can ask how one
can contrive to listen with pleasure to insignificant and undramatic
roles when Patti sings them ! Note the difference between a com-
monplace phrase played by an ordinary fiddler and rendered by a
Joachim or a Wilhelmj upon his Stradivarius. Yet an exceptionally
beautiful voice is much lovelier, much more individual, than the
costliest Stradivarius; it exists only once in the world.

When she goes into Corentino's hut, Patti concludes her imitation
of the clarinet figure with a cadenza (written for her by Meyerbeer)
that rises to the E in alt and thence seems to descend in a thousand
glittering sparks. In the succeeding duet Patti executes her bril-
liant bravura passages with the highest art and the most astounding
virtuosity. Decidedly they do not sound in the least like a concert
piece, but rather the natural improvised accompaniment to the jokes
which Dinorah, with much dancing and teasing, plays upon the poor
bagpiper. The first act ends with the delicious "Bell Trio"; and he
alone knows it properly who has heard Patti sing it.

The "Shadow Song" of the second act is the show-piece of every
famous coloratur soprano, but I do not believe that, quite apart from
Patti's graceful acting and natural sweetness of expression, there
is another who can sing the first two bars as she does; nothing
slurred or blurred, but, together with the most beautiful legato,


every semiquaver ("eighth note") as though chiselled out of marble.
. . . Then the legend of the buried treasure, with its three notes,
E, F, G, in the major key — only three notes, but the loveliest that
haunt our memory, for here Patti's vocal art works with the magic
of a natural spell. Again, the closing trio, which she elevates both
musically and dramatically to the highest plane. And, finally, the
duet with Hoel in the last act, wherein she depicts with such ex-
quisite feeling Dinorah's return to consciousness and memory, and,
after the actual climax of her role, can still adorn so wonder-

Beyond doubt, nature only when in rarest holiday mood brings
forth such a musical phenomenon as this little Italian girl. Adelina
Patti must be designated the greatest of living singers; it would
almost appear as though she will remain the last great singer who,
after being reared in the severe school of Rossinian virtuosity and
Bellinian belcanto, and there equipped for the highest achievements
of Italian vocal art, yet ultimately turned to the performance of
modern dramatic tasks.


(From the Morning Post, May 29, 1863)

MLLE. ADELINA PATTI has fairly astonished even the most
devout believers in her genius by a really inagni6cent per-
formance of Leonora in "II Trovatore." We could not have sup-
posed that the charming, piquant little representative of the simple
peasant girl Amino, the lively, tormenting bride of Don Pasquale,
the sly and humorous ward of Don Bartolo, or the naive Zerlina
could have shone so brilliantly as she did last night in high lyric
tragedy. But who can measure the capacity of youthful genius?
Who can reason with mathematical exactness from what is to what
may be when a new spiritual manifestation, glowing and fresh in
the springtide of feeling, appears before us? What will come next,
and next? as the poetical Mr. Cobden would say. A new chord is
struck, a thousand hitherto unawakened emotions are set in sympa-
thetic vibration, and all that is left for the reasoning observer is
the statement that he is astonished. Prosaic admission! But so it
must be until critics become prophets.

That Mile. Patti would sing the cavatina, "Tacea la notte" with
wondrous brilliancy and effect was, of course, generally expected.
We, among others, felt quite sure that this piece of florid executancy
would be a triumph in its way ; but it was in the subsequent portions
of the opera, where grand tragic power and intensity of feeling are
required, that Mile. Patti completely surprised us. Her scenes with

Online LibraryHermann KleinThe reign of Patti → online text (page 33 of 37)