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Memoirs and artistic studies of Adelaide Ristori; online

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edged liberal character and they will listen to you." He
was too much disturbed to understand the object of
my request, while the audience was becoming more
and more uncontrollable. It was necessary to take a
bold stand. Seized by an irrepressible impulse, I rose
resolutely from my chair, I moved toward the footlights
and made a motion that I wished to speak. The
audience quieted down as by enchantment, and I be-
gan my harangue with these words: "Ladies and
gentlemen, in producing in Italy this drama of our illus-
trious compatriot, I thought I acted wisely in selecting
as its first judge a Bolognese audience, so renowned for
its keen intelligence and acquired appreciation of the
beautiful. I do not ask anybody to applaud what he
does not like, but in order to be able to pass a true judg-
ment upon a work of this kind it is necessary to see and
listen unbiased by party prejudice. Let all party feeling
be forgotten then, and let the majority of this honourable
audience who came here to-night unprejudiced by any
political bias or aspiration, enjoy this historical and
classic production according to its dramatic merits."

This little speech was received with an outburst of
applause and succeeded in quieting even the most
turbulent of the spectators. At the end of the play, at the
falling of the curtain, I was called out several times, and
came forward to the footlights hand in hand with the timid
Signor Giacometti, who was now weeping with emotion.

Later, the chief of police and some other authorities
came on the stage to thank me and to congratulate me
on the courage I had shown, as if it had saved the country
from some impending calamity!

After this experience the success of the play was fully
assured, and it became very popular wherever I played
it, so popular indeed, that in some small towns of Italy,
women meeting me in the streets would point their fingers
at me and exclaim : " Look, there goes Marie Antoinette ! "

The papers, however, did not spare it in their criticism.
The radicals found that the tortures practised by the
cobbler Simon upon the unhappy Dauphin (Louis XVII.),


were exaggerated, while the suflerings and martyrdom
of the other members of the royal family, were nothing but
a poetiad invention. Nevertheless, historical truth
triumphed over fanaticism and from that time forward,
"Marie Antoinette" was well received and most suc-
cessfully produced everywhere.

In the first part of June, I sailed with my company
from Italy to Rio de Janeiro. On the 20th of the same
month I made my debut with the drama " Medea " at the
Theatre Fluminense, in the largest town of Brazil. Though
the Brazilians were anxious to see me, and the theatre
was well filled, even the members of the Imperial family
being present at the performance, still to my great sur-
prise, on my appearance on the stage in the scene where
I come down from the mountain holding my two children
by their hands, I was most coldly received ! Not a sound
of applause, not a murmur of greeting! The unexpected
coldness astonished me, as I was aware of the reputation
the Brazilians have of being very enthusiastic in their
reception of dramatic artists.

However, soon after the disappointing effects of that
opening scene, the enthusiasm of the audience rose and
dissipated the first coldness, and when Medea, with words
of desolation, maddened by the lamentations of her
children asking for bread, exclaims:

" Why can I not draw from my own veins

The last drop of blood, and say:

' Take, drink my own blood! . . . .' "

the despairing invocation coming impetuously from my
lips and out of the fulness of my heart, produced some-
thing like a shivering sensation in the audience, and
resulted in bringing forth one of those spontaneous out-
bursts of applause which is called the baptism of a great
success. When, later in the play Medea, turning to
Creusa, declares to her that if she discovers her rival she
will jump in a bound upon her like a leopard and tear
her to pieces, the house broke into frantic applause.

How many honours and distinctions I was, later, made
the recipient of by the people and the Sovereigns of Brazil !
What a gentle mind and what an exceptionally cultured


personality I found in the Emperor Dom Pedro! He
honoured me with his friendship, of which I am very-
proud, and neither time nor distance has ever lessened
the warmth of my feeling for him. I was received at court
together with my husband and children, and I will not
attempt to describe or tell how much kindness and cour-
tesy were bestowed upon me by that noble family. I had
many opportunities to admire the culture and brilliant
intellect of His Majesty the Emperor. He was familiar
with all kinds of literature. Owing to his uprightness
and his sound judgment in governing, he was loved by all
his subjects. He had but one aim, and that was the pro-
gress and prosperity of his people. He often expressed
the desire to undertake a trip to Europe, so that his
country might benefit by the results of his observations
of modern progress. But it is superfluous to mention the
numerous noble qualities he possessed. His history
has been made known to all the world.

I was wandering from one surprise to another and
through repeated emotions while in that wonderful

It would not be for me to tell all that they devised in
order to show their admiration for me. I was living in a
pretty villa in one of the suburbs of the city. The night
that I played for my special benefit, thousands of people,
some of them carrying lighted torches escorted me to my
house, after the performance. In each of the various
streets through which I had to go, a band was stationed
playing national Brazilian and Italian airs. The roads
all strewn with flowers, lighted with beautiful fire-works
of a thousand colours.

After I reached my home, the playing of the bands
continued until late night.

From Rio Janeiro I went to Buenos Ayres, opening my
season, on the loth of September, with " Medea."

New joys were awaiting me in that delightful country,
where the Italian colony is very numerous and true as
always to any reminder of their fatherland. I received
royal greetings, being particularly proud of those lavished
upon me by the inhabitants of Argentina. In the pleasant
city of Buenos Ayres, I was the object of such a striking


demonstration, that I still maintain the most vivid
remembrance of it. During the month of October, I
visited Montevideo, where I received a similar hearty
greeting. Then, bv wav of Rio laneiro, I sailed for

In September, 187 1, I travelled through the various
Danubian Principalities, including Bucharest, Galatz,
Braila, Jassy. What an eventful trip it was from the
Balkans to Russia ! The means of transportation were few
and hard to get. We had to cross some lands which did
not have even a trace of a path. We hired vehicles of all
sorts and shapes, some of them lacking seats where we
could safely lie down ; but for lack of better ones, we were
forced to use these makeshift conveyances.

We made ourselves as comfortable as we could before
starting on this journey, but looked like a caravan of
immigrants. Some big bells had been attached to the
horses of the first carriage, which was the one I occupied,
in order that through the darkness of the night they
should act as guides to the carriages following. Fre-
quently we were tossed and jerked about so that we had
to hold on to the railings of the seats to prevent ourselves
from being thrown over on the road, which, owing to its
sharp inclines, looked like a frozen stormy sea. It being
October, the nights were very cold and though we were
wrapped up in cloaks and blankets, with which we were
provided, the carriages were uncovered, and we suffered
intensely from the cold.

When morning came, our drivers, without giving us
any warning, made a halt, unhitching the horses in the
middle of the road, and feeding them with hay and oats.
Seeing that we could not dream of the luxury of even
a hut in which to eat some breakfast, we had to resign
ourselves to the situation and imitate the simplicity of
our forefathers. Seating ourselves on the bare ground,
we spread out our plaids and placed on them the eatables,
which we had fortunately taken with us. The originality
of our table, the voracious appetite we brought to our
repast, after such a cold night, together with the fresh air
of the open country and the hearty laughter prompted
by the primitiveness of the situation in which we found


ourselves, all contributed to make us enjoy our meal

Reaching Kishineff, on the 20th, we took up our
quarters at the best hotel of the place. What a happy
luxury, after our nomadic journey! However, on taking
possession of our respective rooms, in order to enjoy a
well-deserved rest, we discovered that we had no cause for
overmuch rejoicing. Our beds were provided with only
a single bedcover. All the servants had retired, so we
had to ring a long time and wake up the whole hotel-
force, before we obtained what we wanted. At last we
went to sleep, but in the middle of the night the screams
of a woman woke everybody in the hotel. We listened
behind the doors of our rooms, the bells began to ring
again, and the domestics ran in every direction. We
were informed that the wife of a Russian was creating all
this uproar. Her amiable husband was administering a
punishment to her which she will long remember. The
screaming went on, and, moved with pity and indignation,
we sent the strongest man of our troupe to protect the
poor woman. The door was locked, but owing to the
heavy and repeated knocks or rather blows of the rescuer,
who demanded admission, the screaming ceased. Then
appeared in the corridor, the woman in petticoats, angry
and excited, crying out with a stentorian voice : " What
do you want? Mind your business! My husband has the
right to beat me if he wishes!"

" If such treatment is salutary for you, please stand it
without screaming, we want to sleep, so good night," we
replied and laughing we returned to our rooms.

From Kishineff we went first to Odessa and then to
Kieff, at the end of 1871, stopping at Berlin, Weimar,
and in Belgium, and then on to Rome, where I took
quarters for the winter season, wishing to rest for a
while after my long trips and the fatigues of stage life.
It is well for me to state now, that outside the Dan-
ubian Principalities, and Turkey and Greece, which I
visited only once, while I visited more than twice the
other parts of the world; but when a little rest was
granted to me, I always preferred either Paris or Rome
as my resting place.


I made my fourth trip to London in 1873.

Not having any new drama to present and being tired
of repeating the same productions, I felt the necessity of
reanimating my mind with some strong emotion, of dis-
covering something, in a word, the execution of which
had never been attempted by others.

At last I believed I had found something to satisfy
my desire. The admiration I had for the Shakespearean
dramas, and particularly for the character of Lady
Macbeth, inspired me with the idea of playing in English,
the sleeping scene from "Macbeth," which I think is the
greatest conception of the Titanic poet. I was also
induced to make this bold attempt, partly as a tribute of
gratitude to the English audiences of the great metropolis,
who had shown me so much deference. But how was I
going to succeed? ... I took advice from a good
friend of mine, Mrs. Ward, the mother of the renowned
actress Genevieve Ward. She not only encouraged
my idea, but offered her services in helping me to learn
how to recite that scene in English.

I still had some remembrance of my study of English
when I was a girl, and there is no language more difficult
to pronounce and enunciate correctly, for an Italian. I
was frightened only to think of that, still I drew sufficient
courage even from its difficulties, to grapple with my
task. After a fortnight of constant study, I found my-
self ready to make an attempt at my recitation. How-
ever, not wishing to compromise my reputation by risk-
ing a failure, I acted very cautiously.

I invited to my house the most competent among the
dramatic critics of the London papers, without forewarn-
ing them of the object and asked them kindly to hear me
and express frankly their opinion, assuring them that if
it should not be a favourable one, I would not feel badly
over it.

I then recited the scene in English, and my judges
seemed to be very much pleased. They corrected my
pronunciation of two words only, and encouraged me to
announce publicly my bold project. The evening of the
performance, at the approach of that important scene,
I was trembling! . . . The enthusiastic reception


granted me by the audience, awakened in me all vigour,
and the happy success of my effort compensated me a
thousandfold for all the anxieties I had gone through.
This success still increased my ambitious aspirations, and
I wished to try myself in even a greater task. I aimed at
no less a project than the impersonation of the entire role
of Lady Macbeth in English, but such an arduous under-
taking seemed so bold to me, that I finally gave up the
idea and drove away from my mind forever the temptation
to try it.




In the month of May, 1874, we sailed from Bordeaux,
France, for a trip around the worid. We had with us,
besides our children, our old friend General Galletti, a
most congenial companion.

This is the itinerary that we planned :

Bordeaux, Rio Janeiro, Buenos Ayres, Montevideo,
Santiago (Chili), Valparaiso, Lima, Mexico, Pueblo, Vera
Cruz, the United States, the Sandwich Islands, New
Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Ceylon, Aden,
Suez, Alexandria (Egypt), Brindisi, Rome.

After having gone so far on this professional tour, in
the order mentioned, we sailed from Montevideo, on the
15th of July of the same year, upon the magnificent
English steamer Britannia, bound for Valparaiso. We
crossed the Strait of Magellan, having on one side Pata-
gonia and on the other Terra del Fuego. I should digress
too much from my prescribed path, were I to attempt to
describe all the emotions I experienced in beholding for
the first time these wonderful scenes. I will say only that
the delightful weather we enjoyed in spite of all predic-
tions to the contrary, permitted me to gaze upon the ever-
changing view with wide-open eyes, bent on being the first
one to be able to boast of discovering some spot or thing
the like of which we had never seen before. I did not
have to wait long to satisfy my desire. I beheld a skifT
sailing in the direction of our boat. It contained a whole
family of Patagonians. They were very tall people, with
olive complexions and long dishevelled hair, as stiff as



hogs' bristles. As far as their characteristic features were
concerned, the wide mouth, the prominent cheek bones,
and the long white teeth, I found many points of
resemblance between this type of men, and my old
acquaintances the Redskins, whom I had met during my
first long trip to California. I can see even now, those
tall Patagonians, badly clothed with dark animal skins,
begging, by gestures, that we give them something to eat
and to smoke.

Glad to be able to satisfy their wants, we begged the
captain to slacken the speed of the steamer, as it is
customary for the commander of any boat, but, I do not
recollect for what reason, our captain did not wish to do
so, though the poor fellows, rowing with all their might,
were trying to overtake us. From their gestures we
readily understood the imprecations they sent after us,
on discovering that their hopes were vain.

Coming out of the Strait, the passing of which took
thirty-six hours, we came to Cape Pillar. We found there
such a furious sea, that it was difficult for us to stand on
our feet. I, as a matter of precaution, had been fastened
with a strap to the ring of the upper port-hole over my
couch, on which I was lying, when a violent surge of the
ship, threw down both myself and my couch, leaving me
suspended by the arm from the strap. The pain I felt was
too intense to allow me to free myself from that
uncomfortable position. The people who came to my
assistance, were also staggering owing the rocking of
the boat, and presented to the other passengers a funny
spectacle. It was in that peculiar position that I was
introduced to the "Pacific" Ocean!

On the first of August I made my debut at Valparaiso,
Chili. My sojourn in that country including Santiago
and Quillotta, lasted two months. The favours and
warm tokens of admiration I received there, were not
any less than those I had been honoured with in other

On the 1 8th of the following October I was at Lima,
the beautiful capital of Peru. There, as in many other
places, I opened my season with "Medea." I discovered
a most intelligent audience, which lavished upon me a


thousand kind attentions, but I narrowly escaped being
the witness of a civil war.

I was far from imagining that among the few cabin
passengers on board of the steamer Britannia, some of
whom landed at Punta Arenas, near the middle of the
Strait of Magellan, there was one, who two months later
would break the peace of our pacific sojourn at Lima.
This person, was a man of rather small stature, and very-
energetic appearance. He was not talkative and his
gruff manners did not say much in his favour. The
gossip which ran about him on board, among our small
floating colony, was not such as to encourage anybody
to get acquainted with him. He called himself Don
, a Peruvian who had been the head of a con-
spiracy for the overthrowing of the President of the
Republic. His methods of accomplishing his object was
nothing less than the blowing up of an entire railway
train, which was carrying on board the President of Peru
and all the members of his Cabinet, on the occasion of
the inauguration of a new branch of some railroad line.

Rightly or wrongly, Don was accused of being

responsible for this outrage and was banished from
the Peruvian soil. This dangerous companion of our
journey, landed at Coronel, the first halting place of the
Britannia, in Chili.

We had just reached Valparaiso, when the news was

brought to us that Don , having been joined by a

number of his partisans, had hired a "clipper," and sailed
for an unknown destination.

Our delightful sojourn at both Valparaiso and Santiago,

had caused us to forget the name of Don but

when we arrived at Lima, we were apprised that this con-
spirator had landed, with his men, on the Peruvian coast,
and was fomenting a rebellion and fighting at the head of
a small army against the soldiers of the Government.
Revolutions and counter-revolutions, succeed one another
in that country, where the office of president, so eagerly
sought, very often costs the life of the ambitious one who
has secured it. Such had been the price paid by the
majority of the heads of that Government up to the
year 1874.


Besides the papers, which every morning brought us
the news of the war, we were in possession of a living news-
bearer, in the shape of a native servant we had hired to
assist our domestics in the fulfillment of their duties.
Though his only tasks were to do the marketing and run
errands, we had bestowed upon him the pompous title
of "Majordomo." After the first war news reached us,
it was no longer possible to make him leave the house.
With every unfavourable news concerning the Presiden-
tial party, our Majordomo, would become frantically
tragic, and we were forced to listen to his lamentations.

We could not, at first, understand how this man could
confine himself steadily indoors, and after some days,
we made up our mind to force him to go out. He armed
himself with a sword-cane, with which he told us, he would
know how to defend himself, though in appearance he was
not very belligerent. " But what's the matter with
you? " someone asked him, " you have to go to the market
only and not to war." " But don't you know," answered
the Majordomo, "the danger that I am threatened with
at every street? the Government, needing soldiers, takes
them by force, and if they lay their hands on me, I am
lost." And it was really so, as we discovered a few days
later. A sergeant, together with two soldiers would
force every poor fellow he met to enlist, and if the cap-
tured one offered any resistance he was lassoed as wild
horses are on the plains of Mexico.

Don , and his followers were approaching the

capital. One morning the President at the head of his
troops, left the city of Lima, to go and meet the enemy,
which the greater part of the population so greatly feared,
leaving only the police force to protect the city. Of all
the people in the Capital we were the only ones who were
surprised at what was happening, as its inhabitants had
been accustomed for a long time to witness events of this
kind. One day we went on a very interesting excursion
by a railway to Oroyo, which crosses the Andes, connect-
ing Peru with the Amazon River. We ascended to a
height of 14,000 feet above the sea level, going through
some of the most picturesque zones of vegetation, in which
we noticed hordes of wild buffalos, and some captive ones


used to plough the soil. After our return in the evening
we were seated at the table, telling to a Peruvian friend
who was dining with us, our impressions of the day, when
all of a sudden we heard from the street cries of ''Cerra
pileria! ccrra piicrta!'' A woman beside herself, rushed
inside of our "patio," shouting: ''Jesus Maria! la revo-
liicion!" Our courageous Majordomo, even more fright-
ened than the woman, dashed to the door of the house,
closed it violently, locked it and fastened it with an iron
bar. Urged by our curiosity to find out what the mat-
ter was we ran to the windows and noticed that our
neighbours had taken the same precaution as our Major-
domo. Hearing some shooting at a distance, we pru-
dently withdrew our heads from the windows. " But
what is the matter," we asked our host. He, not in the
least disconcerted, answered: " It is nothing but a "Cerra
ptierta." Whenever the President is obliged to leave
the city, with its garrison, in order to repress some revo-
lutionary movement, it often happens that those who
remain behind begin to fight among themselves. The
policemen, who are too few in number to maintain order
are instructed before returning to their barracks, to run
through the streets crying: "Cerra puerta" which
means: Close the door. All the inhabitants
then, close and lock their outside doors and
await patiently the result of the trouble. If you are in
the street you run the risk of getting shot, but the dwell-
ings are never invaded. We were able quietly to resume
our dinner, but this sublime indifference, did not modify
our curiosity and in spite of the advice given to us, we
still looked out of the windows. One could neither see
nor hear anything. The shooting had ceased. Soon
afterward the doors began to be cautiously opened, and
the people to peep through, while policemen reappeared
in the streets bringing reassuring news. It had been a
false alarm, and next came a telegram announcing a great
victory of the President's troops over the rebels. " All's
well that ends well," Shakespeare says; We opened
the door laug?iing at the tragi-comic interruption of our
meal and gaily resimied our seats at the table.

In the Peruvian capital the ladies are very handsome,


good and kind. Page after page, could I fill describing
my pleasant recollections of Lima which are still vivid in
my memory.

On the 28th of November, we went to Callao, the sea-
port of Lima, only fifteen minutes by rail from that place,
and took passage on board the steamer Oroya, bound
for Panama. That voyage was a most agreeable and
enjoyable one. The sea was calm all the way, thus
permitting the poorest sailors of all among our people to

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