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that I recited for the first time the "Francesca da Rimini"
of Silvio Pellico. Though I was only fifteen, my success
was such that soon afterward they offered me the parts
of leading lady with encouragement of advancement.

My good father, who was gifted with a great deal of
sense, did not allow his head to be turned by such offers.
Reflecting that my health might suffer from being thrown
so early into the difficulties of stage life he refused these
offers and accepted a more modest place, as ingenue, in
the Royal Company, under the auspices of the King of
Sardinia and stationed during several months of the year
at Turin. It was managed by the leading man, the most
intelligent and capable among the stage managers of the
time. The advice of this cultured, though severe man,
rendered his management noteworthy and sought after
as essential to the making of a good actor.

Among the members of the company shone the fore-
most beacon-lights of Italian art, such as Vestri, Madame
Marchionni, Romagnoli, Righetti, and many others who
were quoted as examples of dramatic art, as well as
Pasta, Malibran, Rubini, and Tamburini in the lyric art.

My engagement for the part of ingenue was to have
lasted three years, but, after the year, I was promoted
to the parts of the first lady, and in the third year, to the
absolute leading lady.

To such unhoped-for and flattering results I was able
to attain, by ascending step by step through the en-
couragement and admonition of my excellent teacher,
Madame Carlotta Marchionni, a distinguished actress and
the interest of Gaetano Bazzi who also had great affection
for me. It was really then that my artistic education
began. It was then that I acquired the knowledge and



8 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

the i*ules which placed me in a position to discern the
characteristics of a true artist. I learned to distinguish
and to delineate the comic and the dramatic passions.
My temperament caused me to incline greatly toward
the tender and the gentle. However, in the tragic parts,
my vigour increased. I learned to portray transitions for
the sake of fusing the different contrasts; a capital but
difficult study of detail, tedious at times, but of the great-
est importance. The lamentations in a part where two
extreme and opposing passions are at play, are like those
which in painting are called "chiaro-oscuro," a blending
of the tones, which thus portrays truth devoid of artifice.

In order to succeed in this intent, it is necessary to take
as model the great culture of art, and also to be gifted
with a well-tempered and artistic nature. And these are
not to be confined to sterile imitation, but are for the
purpose of accumulating the rich material of dramatic
erudition, so that one may present oneself before the
audiences as an original and artistic individuality.

Some people think that distinction of birth and a per-
fect education will render them capable of appearing upon
the stage with the same facility and nonchalance with
which one enters a ball-room, and they are not at all
timid about walking upon the boards, presuming that
they can do it as well as an actor who has been raised
upon them. A great error !

One of the greatest difficulties that they meet is in not
knowing how to walk upon a stage, which, owing to the
slight inclination in construction, easily causes the feet
to totter, particularly if one is a beginner, and especially
at the entrances and exits. I myself encountered this
difficulty. Though I had dedicated myself to the art
from my infancy and had been instructed with the greatest
care every day of my life by my grandmother, at the age
of fifteen my movements had not yet acquired all the ease
and naturalness necessary to make me feel at home upon
the stage, and certain sudden turns always frightened me.

When I began my artistic apprenticeship, the use of
diction was given great importance, as a means of judging
an actor. At that time the audience was critical and
severe.



FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE 9

In our days, the same audience has become less exact-
ing, less critical, and does not aim to improve the artist,
by counting his defects. According to my opinion, the
old system was best, as it is not in excessive indulgence
and solely by considering the good qualities, without
correcting the bad ones, that real artists are made.

It is also my conviction that a person who wishes to
dedicate himself to the stage should not begin his career
with parts of great importance, either comic, dramatic,
or tragic. The interpretation becomes too difficult for
a beginner and may harm his future career: first, the
discouragement over the difificulties that he meets; sec-
ondly, an excessive vanity caused by the appreciation
with which the public apparently honours him. Both
these sentiments will lead the actor, in a short time, to
neglect his study. On the other hand, by taking several
parts, he becomes familiar with the means of rendering
his part natural, thus convincing himself that by
representing correctly characters of little importance, he
will be given more important ones later on. Thus it will
come about that his study will be more careful.

But let me return to my narrative.

By the year 1840, my reputation as absolute leading
lady was established. I had reached the desired goal,
not without having struggled against the greatest
obstacles. But I was in love with my art, and it was
by meeting obstacles that I was gaining new strength.

Fatigue never discouraged me. So great was my
passion for the stage that when my manager granted me
an evening's rest for the sake of saving my strength and
also with the cunning object of causing the public to
desire my presence the more, I felt like a fish out of water.
I did my best to take advantage of that free evening by
employing it in the study of some new and difBcult part.
I applied myself to it passionately, with the greatest
possible enthusiasm; but when the hour of the per-
formance struck, a sort of restlessness would take hold
of me which I wasn't able to quiet. I seemed to hear the
first notes of the orchestra, the impatient muiinur of the
audience and the exhilarating uproar of the applause.
Then I would walk up and down the room with long



IO MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

strides, endeavouring to distract my mind, and repeating
from memory some lines which I had studied — but in
vain! Irritated by not succeeding in accomplishing any-
thing, I would suddenly enter my mother's room, ex-
claiming, " Shall we go to the theatre to spend an hour?"
" Let us go," she would answer, " if you cannot keep away
from it!" Quickly we would don our wraps and hats, and
be off. Having reached the theatre, I was often over-
come by my gay humour, and would think of all sorts of
pranks to play upon my fellow actors. I remember on
one of those evenings, they were playing "Le Memorie
del Diavolo," in which many masqueraders appeared
at a certain moment of the play. The caprice seized me
to go upon the stage among the supernumeraries as a
surprise to the leading man. It was useless to attempt to
dissuade me from that roguish trick. To don a domino
and cover my face with a half -mask was but the matter
of a minute. I went on the stage with the supernum-
eraries. At the stroke of twelve, they all had to unmask.
You may imagine what ugly looks the leading man gave
me, upon noticing my presence. But I was motionless,
suppressing my laughter and not at all discountenanced.
The audience, having noticed the joke, broke into loud
applause. Observing that my fellow actor was getting
angry I hid myself among the supernumeraries standing
around me and succeeded in withdrawing from the eyes
of all. Asking forgiveness from my good companion —
which I readily obtained — I convinced him that I had
entered into that escapade in fun.

However, my mood was not always gay. Often I was
downcast by inexplicable sadness which, lying like a piece
of lead upon my heart, filled my mind with sad thoughts.
I think that this strange uneasiness of temperament was
to be attributed entirely to the excessive emotions which
I experienced when playing certain passionate parts.

I interpreted so realistically the parts I took that even
my health became afTected. One evening when I was
playing "Adrienne Lecouvreur," the tension of nerves
and mind during that last act of delirious passion was so
great that when the curtain dropped at the end of the
drama, I was assailed by a sort of nerv^ous attack, and



FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE n

experienced in my brain a drowsiness, so that I lost con-
sciousness for a period of fifty minutes.

When I was under the influence of similar emotions, a
sense of melancholia would take hold of me. Then I
would love a walk to the cemetery. I would remain a
long time within that peaceful enclosure, stopping from
time to time to read the inscriptions over the various
tombs, and I was moved to pity, even to tears, if I came
upon the tomb of a young girl taken in the bloom of life
from desolate parents, an adoring husband, or from her
children, and I would return home with my spirit extremely
grieved. Often as soon as I had arrived in a new town
and visited the picture and sculpture galleries, I contrived
to obtain permission to visit the insane asylum. When
it was not the cemetery, it was there that the impulse of
the moment would carry me. Demented young girls
were those who attracted my sympathy, and if their
sad, tranquil forms of insanity permitted me to enter
their cells, I would entertain myself with them ; and they
had a special love for me, making me the confidante
of their sacred griefs ! It is true that very often I heard
the same old story — Treachery! Abandonment!

With the passing of years, I succeeded in outgrowing
such eccentricities. By mastering my nerves, I freed
myself from those romantic ideas and nothing could dis-
tract me from my studies.

The condition of dramatic art in Italy, particularly at
that time, did not permit the run of representations
in the different cities to exceed habitually thirty or forty
days. Rarely did the performances run for two months
in succession. By these frequent changes, the public
derived great advantages. It was not necessary to
possess a varied repertoire, and the public had no time
to accustom itself to the actors, to the detriment of their
enthusiasm. Thus I had before me frequently a new
public easily moved at my will and which, owing to the
magnetic current promptly established between ourselves
(a condition very necessary for me), could communicate
to me those sparks which complete the artist, and without
which any study brings an impression of aridity and
deficiency.



12 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

The years of my youth rolled by in the pursuit of my
professional career while my love for learning never grew
any less. On the contrary, while advancing in age I
was greatly improving in my artistic vocation. That
nature had designed me for the dramatic art, I could
feel from the eager desire urging me to observe and
acquire all that was shown to me, through my professional
peregrinations. Music, painting, and sculpture had
always had for me a fascinating attractiveness. I will
quote an example. One night in Florence, being worn
out with fatigue owing to several successive performances,
I was longing for a day of rest. However, such a welcome
relief did not suit the manager of the Cocomero Theatre,
Signor Somigli, who was not inclined to interrupt the
profitable run of the performances of "Pia de' Tolomei,"
which had met with great public favour, and swelled the
cash receipts.

The greedy manager called to his assistance his brother,
who remembered a desire which I had previously ex-
pressed and conceived the idea of striking me in my
vulnerable spot. Coming to me, he said, " Please do
play again to-morrow night and you will get a fine
present. "

"I don't care for your presents," I answered
laughing.

"Still," he added; "if you knew! . . . Do you
remember that beautiful drawing of the fagade of our
famous San Miniato al Monte, you so much admired when
in my house? If you will play, it is yours."

I could not resist and accepted. The management
made another big cash receipt, while I played a whole
evening for a drawing.



Even at present, I am pleased to recollect the will-
power that I always exercised, both as a young girl and
as a woman, and the wise suggestions of my illustrious
teacher, Madame Carlotta Marchionni.

Whenever I went upon the stage, the fear with which
the audience inspired me, would not abandon me for a



FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE 13

single second The audience might be large or small,
intelligent or not, it was all the same to me. The possi-
bility that a single person might be there, who was in-
telligent and cultured enough to criticise my ability with
just discernment, was sufficient to keep me from neglect-
ing the slightest gesture.

At that time, the mode of reading the lines according
to the French school was in vogue, and this was carried
to such an extreme that with many actors it frequently
produced a tiresome cadenza. Without abandoning
totally my habitual manner of reciting, which was devoid
of the above-mentioned pedantry, I endeavoured to fuse
that method with the Italian, because I felt that in order
to improve the art of the drama, it should submit to some
transformations. However, I never was a servile imi-
tator. Whether in the drama or in tragedy, I never
lacked the vivacity and spontaneity of the Italian tem-
perament. It is a part of our nature to feel the passions
vividly, and, in expressing them to be freed from academic
and conventional rules. If you deprive the Italian actor
of his passionate outbursts, and the real colouring of the
expression, he will remain a weak and insignificant actor.

I adopted the system of a "coloured naturalness."
The public remunerated me largely for my studies, as
well as for my efforts to make myself worthy of so much
appreciation.

Above all, my own country was generous to me, as far
as lay within its power, in showing me love and appre-
ciation. I was delighted and carried away with exulta-
tion in feeling myself the arbiter of the stage, able to stir
all the emotions of the heart, whether to tender or violent
passions. I hope that the reader will forgive me such an
utterance, considering that the artist lives upon the satis-
faction that his long studies and hard struggles have
caused him to experience. One may easily comprehend
that the very recollection of having reached the goal
which procured him so many exalting joys, electrifies
him!

When for the first time, at the age of eighteen, I was
asked to play the part of Schiller's Mary Stuart I real-
ised, after seeing how much that great study cost me,



14 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

how thorny the path which I had to tread must be if I
was to succeed, as I eventually did.

The reader will be surprised to read the analytic review
which I make further on of that difficult task and of the
painful struggle that it cost me.



CHAPTER II

MY MARRIAGE — MY CHILDREN — DRAMATIC AND LYRIC
PLAYS — AMENITIES OF THE THEATRICAL CENSURE — MY
SHORT WITHDRAWAL TO PRIVATE LIFE MY PRO-
FESSIONAL TRIP TO PARIS IN 1855 — MY RELATIONS
WITH RACHEL

I HAD reached the age when the heart feels the imperious
need of another love besides the one for art. The
affection that I nourished for children in general, was not
only inborn but extraordinary with me, and I fancied that
children alone were destined to make one realise true
happiness on earth. Still I could not decide to marry,
lest this might endanger my professional career, with
which I was infatuated. However, the fates had des-
tined for me a companion, a gentle soul, who, sharing
with me a love for my art, instead of lessening my
enthusiasm encouraged me to pursue my vocation with
tenacity.

After a series of grave difficulties and romantic
adventures, already told by my biographers, I united
myself in matrimony with the Marquis Giuliano Capran-
ica del Grillo.

Painful circumstances obliged us, during the first
years of our married life, to live separated. Still the
days of bliss and comfort soon came for us. I had the
sublime good fortune to become the mother of four
children. Unfortunately two of them died. The two
remaining ones, Giorgio and Bianca, were destined to
make up for the emptiness, which the death of their two
poor brothers had caused.

We never wished to be separated from them; so they
grew up under our very eyes, and were for us a source of
great joy.

Little by little, however, I began to perceive that the

IS



i6 MEiMOlRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

first sweetness of maternal affection was taking such
hold upon me, that my love for my art was gradually
decreasing in its intensity. The abnormal state of my
mind joined together with secondary reasons, prompted
me to retire from the stage, when hardly three years had
elapsed since my last contract with the Royal Sardinian
Company.

Though the list of the plays of our company was very
select, and included the productions of our greatest and
most celebrated authors, such as Alfieri, Goldoni, Nic-
colini, Monti, Pellico, Carlo Marenco, Nota, Giacometti,
Ferrari, Gherardi del Testa, Leopoldo Marenco, Forti s,
Castelvecchio, and many more worthy of being mentioned
in this galaxy of stars; still we could not compete with
the lyric art!

For the benefit of the opera or the ballet, the theat-
rical academies lavished immense sums of money. A
great spectacular show was quite an event. All was
sacrified for that purpose, while the neglected dramatic
art, entirely set aside, had to make herculean efforts to
keep alive.

The melodious Muse only was enjoying the public
favour.

During the first years of my career, so great was the
enthusiasm for French plays, which had become more
fashionable than our own, that if the management wanted
to make sure of a crowded house for several consecutive
performances, it was necessary to announce a play of
Scribe, Dimias, Legouvé, Malesville, etc., etc. It was not
that the plays of our national authors did not meet the
public favour, as their artistic value was beyond question,
but granting their due literary merit, they lacked the
French spontaneity, mise en scène, and purity of
language. The audience, with rare exceptions, did
become enthusiastic over a play of the Italian school.

However, the decadence of our drama was mainly due
to the harm done to it by the Austrian and Pontifical
censure, the two powers which governed Italy at that
period.

Patriotic subjects were absolutely forbidden. Moral
plays were so disguised that they turned into farcical




Courtesy of Geo. Kirchner & Co., New York

PIUS IX., COUNT GIOVANNI M.\RL\ M.\STAI FERRETTI
Pope from 1846-1878



AMENITIES OF DRAMATIC CAREER 17

parodies. The plays were mutilated to a mass of con-
tradictions, being at times rendered completely silly and
bereft of any interest.

I will give you an idea of the nonsensical changes,
which were enforced particularly by the ecclesiastic
censor of those times.

A doctor had to say: "I have cured him of a dan-
gerous illness," and the censor considered it profane to
mention on the stage a word which designated the head
of a parish ! Neither was it permitted to mention the word
God, or angel, or devil. The actor could not be called
Gregorius, the pope at that time being Gregorius XVI.,
or by the name of John and Pius, during the reign of
Pope John Mastai, Pius IX.

To utter the word " Fatherland," was considered
blasphemy! One day a play was presented to the censor,
whose principal character was a deaf-mute, who was
returning home after a long exile. In the book were the
necessary annotations indicating what the actor should
express by gestures. Among these there was this
one: "Here this actor must express the joy which he
experiences in beholding his fatherland — " Well then,
the censor erased the word "fatherland" and substi-
tuted "native land"! Just as if the audience could by
means of the gestures, discern the difference!

Another time, in Rome, they wished to perform " Mac-
beth," in which one of the witches says: "Here I have
a pilot's thumb wrecked as homeward he did come!"
The censor erases this whole sentence. "Why?" asks
the manager. "Don't you think," answers the censor,
"that the audience will see in that sentence an allusion
to the boat of St. Peter, which owing to the wickedness
of the times, is about to be wrecked?''

In the face of such absurdities no good reasoning can
hold!

The same absurd censure was exercised with the
librettos of the operas. In Verdi's opera, " Luisa Miller,"
in the beautiful romance of the tenor, there are the fol-
lowing words :

" While she with angelic utterance:

' Thee alone, will I love! ' was saying. . . .



i8 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

That word " angelic," hurt the nerves of the censor, who
substituted for it: "armonie!" This change excited the
hilarity of the gallery and a humorous fellow amused
himself by writing under the name of a street situated
near St. Peter in Rome, called Via Porta Angelica, "Via
Porta Armonica."

Once when in Rome, they were going to produce the
opera of the immortal Bellini, "Norma," the censor did
not allow its production until the following modifications
had been made: First, that the title of "Norma,"
should be changed to "The Forest of Irminsul," to
remove the allusion in the word "norma," which appears
in many Italian prayer-books; second: that the two
sons of the priestess should become her own brothers;
thirdly, that her condemnation to die upon the pyre
should be the result of having compromised herself with
the Roman pagans. And in the famous final scene,
before ascending the pyre, instead of commending her
children to her father "Oroveso," she had to commend
them to the Druids, saying : " Let them not be the victims,
etc., etc., ..."

In Verona, the Austrian imperial censor has not yet
been forgotten who in a piece of poetry containing the
phrase: "Beautiful sky of Italy," substituted: "Beauti-
ful sky of the world!" And many more striking examples
could be mentioned.

With such a state of affairs how could the Italian
theatre prosper ? How could it excite and keep alive the
pulses of the public? As these were lacking, I was like
a body without a soul! I felt paralysed under an un-
bearable yoke, which controlled my gestures and my
words. It was not enough for me to know that the
audience honoured me with sincere, unmovable, true
and constant affection and sympathy. I had grown
accustomed to interpret the part of the character I repre-
sented, to live those few hours with the artistic life of
the play, and when the latter, badly conceived or out-
rageously mutilated, could no longer excite those
enthusiasms, no longer cause those electric currents which
stir up and transport an audience, and transform and
raise the artist to a paroxysm of delirium, I felt that I



AMENITIES OF DRAMATIC CAREER 19

was tumbling down from, the supreme height of my
aspirations. The applause granted for myself alone,
seemed to be cold, and an invading sadness overwhelmed
my heart.

And thus it happened, that in Turin, at the time men-
tioned at the beginning of these Memoirs, I decided
suddenly to retire from the footlights, as it appeared to
me that by entering the quietness of domestic life, I
should find the realisation of my most beautiful dream.

However, such a resolution was only of short duration.
The sacred fire of my art was only smothered, not
extinguished, and the proof of this was in my twice
touring professionally the world.

Still, in spite of the decision to leave my home and
country, my mind was preoccupied. My object was to
vindicate abroad the true artistic genius of the Italian
stage, and to show that Italy is not only the " Land of the
Dead."

But how could I succeed in carrying out my plan?
Like a flash of lightning, the bold project of an artistic
tour to France, sprang from the bottom of my heart.
Unfortunately the experience which in the spring cf 1830,
another dramatic company, directed by the celebrated
actors Luigi Taddei and Carolina Iternari, had under-
gone, was not very encouraging. However, they could
attribute their failure to the terrible revolutionary events
of that time and to the flight of their protectress the
Duchess de Berry, who followed the king, Charles X, in
his exile.

Everything seemed to foretell that our project should be
crowned with great success. I informed my husband of


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