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Patti appeared as Leonora in "II Trovatore," renewing the suc-
cess which always attends her in that familiar impersonation.

On this night, the final one of the season, Mme. Patti concluded
her twenty- fifth consecutive annual engagement at Covent Garden.
Numbers of her admirers formed themselves into a committee for the
purpose of celebrating the event by presenting her with a suitable
memorial. At the termination of the opera the curtain rose, and
disclosed Mme. Adelina Patti ready to sing the national anthem,
supported by the band of the Grenadier Guards, in addition to the
band and orchestra of the Royal Italian Opera. This was the mo-
ment chosen for the presentation of a superb diamond bracelet,
subscribed for by admirers of the heroine of the occasion. Its
presentation was preceded by my delivery of the following address
from the Committee of the Patti Testimonial Fund :

"Madame Adelina Patti: You complete this evening your twenty-
fifth annual engagement at the theatre which had the honour of in-
troducing you, when you were still a child, to the public of England,
and indirectly, therefore, to that of Europe and the whole civilised
world. There has been no example in the history of the lyric drama
of such long-continued, never interrupted, always triumphant success
on the boards of the same theatre; and a number of your most
earnest admirers have decided not to let the occasion pass without
offering you their heartfelt congratulations.

'Many of them have watched with the deepest interest an artistic
career which, beginning in the spring of 1861, became year after



year more brilliant, until during the season which terminates to-
night the last possible point of perfection seems to have been
reached. You have been connected with the Royal Italian Opera
uninterruptedly throughout your long and brilliant career. During
the winter months you have visited and have been received with
enthusiasm at Paris, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, and
all the principal cities of Italy and the United States. But you
have allowed nothing to prevent you from returning every summer
to the scene of your earliest triumphs ; and now that you have com-
pleted your twenty-fifth season in London, your friends feel that the
interesting occasion must not be suffered to pass without due com-
memoration. We beg you, therefore, to accept from us, in the spirit
in which it is offered, the token of esteem and admiration which we
have now the honour of presenting to you."

The National Anthem, which followed, was received with loyal
cheers, and the season terminated brilliantly. After the perform-
ance an extraordinary scene took place outside the theatre. A band
and a number of torch-bearers had assembled at the northern en-
trance in Hart Street, awaiting Mme. Patti's departure. When she
stepped into her carriage it was headed by the bearers of the lighted
torches ; and as the carriage left, the band struck up. An enormous
crowd very soon gathered, and it gradually increased in numbers
as the procession moved on. The carnage was surrounded by
police, and the procession, headed by the band, consisted of about
a dozen carriages and cabs, the rear being brought up by a vehicle
on which several men were standing and holding limelights, which
threw their coloured glare upon the growing crowd and made the
whole as visible as in the daytime. The procession, which left Hart
Street just before midnight, reached the Midland Hotel in about
half an hour, almost the whole distance having been traversed at a
walking pace. When Mme. Patti reached the hotel she was sere-
naded by the band for a time, and more fireworks were let off. The
great crowd which had assembled remained hi Euston Road outside
the gates, which were closed immediately after the carriages had
passed through.



(From "Success in Music," by Henry T. Finck, pp. 65-66) 1

THUS, for nearly a decade more than half a century, has Ade-
lina Patti been able to arouse the enthusiasm of the public
and the cities. What is the secret of this longevity of her voice 1 ?

It lies in this, that sbe never abused it and always took good care
of her health, resisting the temptations to self-indulgence which her
great wealth abundantly afforded her. She carefully avoided over-
exertion and excess of any kind. In her own words, "Never in my
whole career have I sung oftener than three times a week, and to
this precaution I attribute my many years of success." . . .

Throughout her career Patti kept up her exercises, but of course
they were easy compared to those which less fortunately endowed
artists have to submit to. "Her vocal organs," wrote Hanslick in
1879, "which she has managed with such consummate skill since her
childhood, and with the instinctive certainty with which the rest of
us perform an ordinary action, hardly need any more practice.
Patti exercises solfeggios daily for half an hour, mostly mezza voce;
the roles themselves she does not go over. Never does she practise
facial expression or gestures before a mirror, because, as she thinks,
that only yields grimaces {singeries)."

The same Viennese critic, who knew her well and had many talks
with her, speaks of some of the remarkable things she was able to
do. Her memory was amazing. She learned a new role thor-
oughly by softly singing it two or three times, and what she had
once learned and sung in public she never forgot; so that it was
not necessary for her to take the scores in her trunk when she was
on tour. Equally remarkable was her sense of pitch. Hanslick
was present once when she sang the Jewel aria from "Faust," which

i London: John Murray, 1910.



was followed by noisy demonstrations of enthusiasm lasting many
minutes. Suddenly Patti, without signalling the orchestra, took up
the trill on B, the orchestra joined her in the next bar, and there
was not the least difference in the pitch.

Hanslick's assertion that she always sang with pure intonation
is not strictly true, for I have heard her sing off the pitch more
than once; but that simply showed she is human. The dozens of
performances by her I heard in the Academy of Music, New York,
convinced me that she was above most singers of her class — a model,
especially to her Italian countrywomen — in so far as she avoided
all clap-trap display not prescribed in her part, such as abnormally
sustained high tones, interminable trills, arbitrary tempo, and ex-
plosive final notes.

Her evident relish of her own work and of stage life in general
has been one of the secrets of her success. To be sure, she enjoyed
the great advantage of being entirely free from nervousness. Even
when, as a child of seven, she first appeared as a concert singer,
or at sixteen on the operatic stage, she was, by her own testimony,
absolutely ignorant of what stage-fright means.

Such are the good points of Patti and the advantages she enjoyed.
Unlike Jenny Lind, moreover, she had great personal beauty, and
beauty is a joy forever, on the stage as well as off.



(From the Cambrian, Swansea, August 15, 1884)

TIME was when Patti was only a name in the provinces, and
especially in the Principality of Wales. True, that name was
a great one — the greatest name among living exponents of song, but
still a name, a reputation only, not an experience, not a person. It
was said that gifts so great and genius so distinguished as those of
Adelina Patti were not for the enjoyment of provincials, but were
reserved for the metropolitan cities of the world, where alone she
could meet with a fit auditory and a fair reward. At any rate, it
was confidently averred that the great prima donna had never sung
in a provincial city, however great, and that she would not conde-
scend to do so.

When the Queen of Song, however, bought for herself a home
nest among the Welsh mountains, and when at length she came to
take up her brief holiday residence at Craig-y-Nos Castle, there
was a whisper of hope that her voice might be heard in the land
of her adoption — the home of minstrelsy, for, as the old motto says,
"Mor o gan yw Cymry gyd." With fear and trembling lest they
should be asking too much, the late Silas Evans and his then co-
adjutors in the Swansea Choral Society wrote to ask whether there
was the slightest chance of the diva paying Swansea a visit of song;
but the answer, as might have been expected, was not a reassuring
one. Engagements were many, days of rest few, and then — aye,
and then, could Swansea afford to pay the price, even the most
moderate price, which Mine. Patti's services for one concert were
valued at in the musical world? No! No! And so the matter

The newspapers contained glowing accounts of the alterations at
Craig-y-Nos Castle, the furniture, the gardens, the conservatories,



etc., and now and again there was a whisper of "grand doings at
the castle"; and ever and anon a tourist in that wild valley would
relate how he had wandered about the enchanted abode and heard
by stealth the Nightingale sing "Home, sweet home" so that it went
to his heart; but still Mme. Patti was but a name. Later on it was
whispered that the romantic chatelaine paid incognita visits to
Swansea. The knowing ones said they had seen her in the street,
leaning on the arm of Signor Nicolini; and that she was, as she
was reported to be, beautiful to look upon, "comely to a wish."
Then the people heard of joyous proceedings in the Swansea Valley.
Mme. Patti was welcomed to her mountain home with an address,
with fireworks, and with song. But all this was far away from the
great bulk of the people, to whom Mme. Patti was still a name, a
winsome mystery, a fascinating romance, spoken of as a being apart,
and almost unapproachable; the admired of millions, the friend of
genius, the associate of emperors and kings and princes.

But at length that spell was broken in local life, and the name
was exchanged for the personality, the reputation for the experi-
ence. Mme. Patti came down from her pedestal to befriend the poor
and destitute, and, in descending from the standpoint of fame to
mix with the people amongst whom she dwelt, she ascended another
throne — the throne of the affections of a grateful people, whose
plaudits and memory, whose esteem and love, she will ever inherit.

Hearing that the Swansea General Hospital was in debt, she most
magnanimously came forward to its help, and gave a concert which
realised no less than £830 10s. Her reception was a royal one in
the best sense. The hearts of all the populace went out to meet
her, as their voices were raised to acclaim her Queen of Song and
Princess of Beneficence. To alter the words of the all-vanquishing
Cassar: She came, she sang, she conquered!



(From the Sunday Times, August 15, 1891)

HERE in her lovely Welsh home Mme. Patti has just brought
to fruition one of the most charming' ideas that ever occurred
to a great artist. In the old days, when art flourished chiefly by
aid of private means, it was not a rare thing for sovereigns, princes,
archbishops, and nobles to build themselves a theatre in their pal-
aces. But until the present moment no such luxury had ever, so
far as I am aware, formed an adjunct to the residence of a singer —
even of a queen among singers. The reasons which have actuated
Mme. Patti in the execution of this purpose are simple enough.
She loves her home and she loves her art. The more she enjoys the
former the less she can practise the latter. If she remains six or
eight months out of the twelve at Craig-y-Nos, amid delightful
scenery and the most perfect comfort that modern science can devise
or money purchase, she must perforce be absent during that time
from the stage which it is to her a happiness to tread. Hence the
idea — unite the two pleasures and make them one by erecting a
theatre within the very walls of Craig-y-Nos Castle!

The genie of the story, who raised a palace in the desert, was not
more powerful than is our diva of the lyric stage. He was a little
quicker in carrying out his operations, that was all. Two years ago
Mme. Patti said, "I will have my theatre," and within twelve months
it was built. The work of decorating and fitting up the interior
has only, however, been finished lately; for, although on a small
scale, it is very elaborately constructed, and neither in the audi-
torium nor on the stage has aught been omitted that could please
the eye or tend to secure mechanical completeness. In plan, indeed,
it is a Bayreuth Theatre en miniature: no side boxes or seats, a



single gallery at the back, stalls sloping clown to an orchestra low-
ered so that the musicians are almost out of sight, and a clever
system of stage lighting by electricity. The pure Renaissance of
the architecture is set off to advantage by a singularly delicate
scheme of color — pale blue, cream, and gold — to which the deep
sapphire of the plush curtains supplies a most effective contrast.
The walls and proscenium are handsomely decorated, and between
graceful columns are inscribed in panels the names of all the great
composers. The scenery is painted by some of our best theatrical
artists, while the act-drop, representing Semiramide driving her war
chariot, drawn by two fiery steeds, is a very daring and spirited
achievement, the value of which is enhanced by the admirable like-
ness that the queen of the picture bears to the Queen of Song.

Altogether, then, the little theatre at Craig-y-Nos is quite a gem
of its kind ; and let me add that, to be in keeping with everything
else here, it could not very well have been less. Ever since they
took up their residence in this out-of-the-way paradise, M. and Mine.
Nicolini have been augmenting its beauties and increasing its stock
of treasures. The theatre is only part of a new wing which, besides
adding immensely to the imposing exterior proportions of the castle,
yields an amount of space within which the hospitable tendencies
of the host and hostess rendered absolutely essential. In one of the
noble suite of apartments thus created is placed the famous orches-
trion of Backer and Kroll, of Geneva and Freibourg, which is the
largest in the world and probably the only one worked by electricity.
It is a magnificent instrument, and remarkable as much for its mel-
lowness of tone as for the accuracy with which it reproduces the most
subtle orchestral effects. Wagner it brings in a truly wonderful
way, the "Tannhauser" overture and the Trauermarsch from "Sieg-
fried" being by no means beyond the capacity of this extraordinary
piece of mechanism. Nor does anyone listen to these things with
greater delight than Mme. Patti herself, for she adores Wagner's
music and only wishes she could sing it without the danger of a
strain that might be harmful to her voice.



(From the Sunday Times, June 16, 1895)

IT was a great night. I have assisted at a good many Covent
Garden functions in my time — State nights, the Patti nights
of old, first nights, farewell nights, and nearly all the rest of the
special nights that there have been there since the seventies began ;
but never yet have I witnessed within those classic walls an event
so profoundly interesting, so absolutely unique in its nature, as the
return of Mine. Patti in Verdi's "Traviata" on Tuesday last. It was
not so much the outward aspect of the scene that was remarkable,
though that was sufficiently brilliant to call forth the descriptive
powers of a Sala or a Bennett. It was rather the fact that London
was welcoming back to her proper sphere a singer who had held
undisputed sway among the giants of her art for a period of thirty-
four years, and who, after an absence of a decade, was capable of
resuming her place upon the Covent Garden boards, peerless and
unapproachable as on the day she last appeared there.

Such a thing, it is needless to say, is utterly without precedent in
the history of the operatic stage. Famous singers have come and
gone, and come back again, before now, but hardly a case can be
cited in which it would not have been better for their reputation
had the return "after many days" been avoided. Concerning Mme.
Patti, it assuredly never will be said that she profits by a bygone
renown. It was choice, not necessity, that induced her to return
to a stage to which she had not yet hidden adieu, and the reason
why she did not shirk the ordeal was because she knew her powers
to be still undimmed in lustre, and therefore still worthy of her
name. She is too sensible — nay, too sensitive — to run any risks in
this matter.

Nevertheless, the representative audience of Tuesday contained



enough of the new generation (which "knew not Patti") for it to
be discriminating, and even critical. There was no indulging in
wild enthusiasm as an affair of duty. I fancied I recognised the
accents of the vieille garde as it uttered its shout of welcome when
the marvellous little lady — the most fascinating Violetta that ever
trod the boards — tripped forward with all the youthful grace and
lightness of yore, resplendent with jewels, and attired to perfection
in the loveliest of pink satin gowns. How could she be other than
nervous at such a moment? It was wonderful how she controlled
her emotion and sang her "Ah, fors' e lui," with such steadiness and
verve, and with the ever-incomparable beauty of tone and charm
of style. But the reserve and self-control exercised throughout that
first act only afforded one more proof of greatness in the great
artist. The old admirers might still be to the fore with the plaudits
and the recalls; there was plenty of time to complete the victory
of the new legion.

In the second act Mme. Patti, quite herself once more, acted as I
have never before seen her act. Such spontaneity, such impulse,
such intense feeling, she had never thrown either into the scene
with the father or the farewell to Alfredo. The superb tones, too,
rang true, and touched the heart as no others can. When the cur-
tain fell this time there was a distinct crescendo; but the climax
of the night's demonstrations only came at the end of the third act,
after the most powerful and graphic realisation of the ball-room
episode that the unhappy Violetta has as yet figured in. Then it
was that the whole house rose at the diva, called her forward again
and again, and, from the front row of the stalls to the hindmost
ranks in the gallery and slips, substantially acknowledged that there
was only one Patti in the world. That splendid ovation was prob-
ably the grandest triumph that she has ever won in the whole
course of her career.



(Joseph Bennett in the Daily Telegraph, May 25, 1897)

THE Queen of Song, as she is called here with convincing'
iteration, paid her first visit to Brecon in 1889, when the Na-
tional Eisteddfod held its meeting under the shadow of what re-
mains of the old castle. That was a memorable event in Eisteddfodic
annals, since it marked a record attendance, no fewer than 12,814
persons passing the turnstile during the Patti day. On that occa-
sion the greal artist sang three songs to the enthusiastic crowd, who
worshipped her with true Welsh fervour. Mabon was the Eistedd-
fod conductor, and led the chorus in "Land of my Fathers."

Said the Lady of Craig-y-Nos, "You have a splendid voice, sir";
and the hon. member, not to be outdone, answered, "So have you,

In view of still another celebration, the "Conscript Fathers" of
Brecon took a step without precedent in the annals of the town.
They have never scattered honours lavishly. I am assured, indeed,
that the freedom of the borough has been granted to outsiders only
five times. It was this rare dignity that the Mayor and Corpora-
tion offered to Mme. Patti-Nicolini, and that the Queen of Song to-
day came hither to receive, with all due pomp and ceremony. When
Brecon had made its offer to the Lady of the Castle, and she had
graciously accepted, the authorities here very properly resolved not
to do things by halves. The burgess-elect they determined should
be received with almost royal honours, met at the railway station by
the dignitaries of the borough and county, and escorted to the Eis-
teddfod hall in solemn procession. . . .

So did official Brecon proceed to meet its guest, presently re-
turning through the sunlit streets with Mme. Patti occupying the



place of honour in the Mayor's carriage. The ceremony at the sta-
tion was brief and simple. On the party from Craig-y-Nos alight-
ing, the "Queen" was conducted by the Mayor to his carriage, the
Mayoress having first presented her with a superb bouquet. Mme.
Patti's companions, among whom were the Baroness von Zedlitz and
Mr. Augustus Spalding, were next escorted to the carriages in
waiting, and when all was ready the procession set out, passing
under triumphal arches and through lanes of admiring and applaud-
ing people.

An incident on the way should be mentioned. Brecon, like Lon-
don, once possessed a gateway, which has disappeared; but the site
is known, and there the townsfolk built a castellated arch, that the
town's guest might enter with the more ceremony. On the Mayor's
carriage arriving at this structure, which was supposed to be closed,
the Deputy-Mayor (Mr. Lewis Williams) uplifted his voice and
said: "Admit Mme. Patti-Nicolini into the confines of the borough
of Brecon." There was none to say him "nay," and the procession
passed triumphantly on to the hall with blare of bugle and beat of
drum. As Mme. Patti entered, leaning on the arm of the Mayor,
enthusiastic cheers were raised, and continued till she had taken her
place in a large chair of carved oak, the Mayor on her left and
the Mayoress on her right. . . .

Now began the ceremony of making a new burgess. In the first
place, the Mayor, after a few introductory words, in which he
feelingly referred to the absence of Mr. Nicolini through illness,
called upon the town clerk to read the resolution conferring the
freedom of the borough on Mme. Patti. This done, the new burgess
advanced to the table, took the oath, which bound her, among other
things, to obey the Mayor of Brecon for the time being, and signed
the freemen's roll with, as someone said, "a steady hand and a
sweet smile."

It was now the business of the Mayor to ask Mme. Patti's accept-
ance of a costly casket, containing the certificate of her freedom.
This is a very beautiful example of its kind, surmounted by the
goat of Wales, and enriched in various ways, notably by a repre-
sentation in relief of Craig-y-Nos Castle. Expectation among the
great audience was keen when the Eisteddfod conductor (Mr. Rhys


Davies, J. P.) announced (hat Mme. Patti would return thanks
"With a song!" exclaimed a voice at the far end of the hall; and
the interruption called forth hearty cheering. But the diva, only
just recovering from illness, could not sing, and her thanks were
given by proxy, Mr. Spalding being put up for that purpose.
Lord Tredegar followed, with words of congratulation to the young-
est burgess, and so the municipal ceremony came to an end.

But Mme. Patti was not yet to be liberated. She had offered a
gold-mounted baton to the conductor of the male voice choir which
came out first in a previous competition. That choir now sang the
principal test piece in admirable style, which done, the conductor
advanced to the front, bent his knee, and received from the donor's
hand his glittering prize. . . . The name of the successful competi-
tor for the bardic chair having been proclaimed, that gentleman was
led forward to he installed in due form. A sword in a dilapidated
leather case, an historic weapon, I understand, was held above his
head by Mme. Patti, the Mayor and Mayoress, and Lord Tredegar,
while the conductor recited some formula in Welsh and the audi-
ence gave stentorian responses. With this came to an end Mme.
Patti's labours, and she retired, the street procession reforming to
escort her to the station with no abatement of pomp and circum-
stance. Thus closed a very remarkable demonstration in honour of
a great artist, most excellent neighbour.

I cannot finish this message more appropriately than by quoting
a sonnet on Mme. Patti which won the prize to-day. It is by Mr.

Online LibraryHermann KleinThe reign of Patti → online text (page 35 of 37)