George T. Ferris.

Great Singers, Second Series Malibran To Titiens online

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Produced by David Widger








Copyright, 1881, By D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.


In the preparation of this companion volume of "Great Singers," the
same limitations of purpose have guided the author as in the case of
the earlier book, which sketched the lives of the greatest lyric artists
from Faustina Bordoni to Henrietta Sontag. It has been impossible to
include any but those who stand incontestably in the front rank of the
operatic profession, except so far as some account of the lesser lights
is essential to the study of those artistic lives whose names make the
captions of these sketches. So, too, it has been attempted to embody, in
several of the articles, intelligent, if not fully adequate, notice of
a few of the greatest men singers, who, if they have not aroused as
deep an enthusiasm as have those of the other sex, are perhaps justly
entitled to as much consideration on art grounds. It will be observed
that the great living vocalists have been excluded from this book,
except those who, having definitely retired from the stage, may be
considered as dead to their art. This plan has been pursued, not from
any undervaluation of the Pattis, the Nilssons, and the Luccas of the
present musical stage, but because, in obeying that necessity imposed by
limitation of space, it has seemed more desirable to exclude those whose
place in art is not yet finally settled, rather than those whose names
belong to history, and who may be seen in full perspective.

The material from which this little book is compiled has been drawn from
a variety of sources, among which may be mentioned the three works of
Henry F. Chorley, "Music and Manners in France and Germany," "Modern
German Music," and "Thirty Years' Musical Kecollections"; Sutherland
Edwards's "History of the Opera"; Fetis's "Biographie des Musiciens";
Ebers's "Seven Years of the King's Theatre"; Lumley's "Reminiscences";
Charles Hervey's "Theatres of Paris"; Arsène Houssaye's "Galerie
de Portraits"; Countess de Merlin's "Mémoires de Madame Malibran";
Ox-berry's "Dramatic Biography and Histrionic Anecdotes"; Crowest's
"Musical Anecdotes" and Mrs. Clayton's "Queens of Song."



The Childhood of Maria Garcia. - Her Father's Sternness and Severe
Discipline. - Her First Appearance as an Artist on the Operatic
Stage. - Her Genius and Power evident from the Beginning. - Anecdotes
of her Early Career. - Manuel Garcia's Operatic Enterprise in New
York. - Maria Garcia is inveigled into marrying M. Malibran. - Failure of
the Garcia Opera, and Maria's Separation from her Husband. - She
makes her _Début_ in Paris with Great Success. - Madame Malibran's
Characteristics as a Singer, a Genius, and a Woman. - Anecdotes of her
Generosity and Kindness. - She sings in a Great London Engagement. - Her
Eccentric and Daring Methods excite Severe Criticism. - Her Reckless
Expenditure of Strength in the Pursuit of her Profession or
Pleasures. - Madame Malibran's Attachment to De Bériot. - Anecdotes of
her Public and Private Career. - Malibran in Italy, where she becomes
the Popular Idol. - Her Last London Engagement. - Her Death at Manchester
during the Great Musical Festival


Mme. Schröder-Devrient the Daughter of a Woman of Genius. - Her Early
Appearance on the Dramatic Stage in Connection with her Mother. - She
studies Music and devotes herself to the Lyric Stage. - Her Operatic
_Début_ in Mozart's "Zauberflote." - Her Appearance and Voice. - Mlle.
Schröder makes her _Début_ in her most Celebrated Character,
_Fidelio_. - Her own Description of the First Performance. - A Wonderful
Dramatic Conception. - Henry Chorley's Judgment of her as a Singer and
Actress. - She marries Carl Devrient at Dresden. - Mme. Schröder-Devrient
makes herself celebrated as a Representative of Weber's Romantic
Heroines. - Dissolution of her Marriage. - She makes Successful
Appearances in Paris and London in both Italian and German
Opera. - English Opinions of the German Artist. - Anecdotes of her London
Engagement. - An Italian Tour and Reëngagements for the Paris and London
Stage. - Different Criticisms of her Artistic Style. - Retirement from the
Stage, and Second Marriage. - Her Death in 1860, and the Honors paid to
the Memory of her Genius


The Childhood of a Great Artist. - Giulietta Grisi's Early Musical
Training. - Giuditta Grisi's Pride in the Talents of her Young
Sister. - Her Italian _Début_ and Success. - She escapes from a Managerial
Taskmaster and takes Refuge in Paris. - Impression made on French
Audiences. - Production of Bellini's "Puritani." - Appearance before the
London Public. - Character of Grisi's Singing and Acting. - Anecdotes of
the Prima Donna. - Marriage of Mlle. Grisi. - Her Connection with
Other Distinguished Singers. - Kubini, his Character as an Artist, and
Incidents of his Life. - Tamburini, another Member of the First Great
"Puritani" Quartet. - Lablache, the King of Operatic Bassos. - His Career
as an Artist. - His Wonderful Genius as Singer and Actor. - Advent of
Mario on the Stage. - His Intimate Association with Mme. Grisi as
Woman and Artist. - Incidents of Mario's Life and Character as
an Artist. - Grisi's Long Hold on the Stage for more than a
Quarter-century. - Her American Tour. - Final Retirement from her
Profession. - The Elements of her Greatness as a Goddess of Song


Vicissitudes of the Garcia Family. - Pauline Viardot's Early
Training. - Indications of her Musical Genius. - She becomes a Pupil
of Liszt on the Piano. - Pauline Garcia practically self-trained as a
Vocalist. - Her Remarkable Accomplishments. - Her First Appearance before
the Public with De Bériot in Concert. - She makes her _Début_ in London
as _Desdemona_. - Contemporary Opinions of her Powers. - Description of
Pauline Garcia's Voice and the Character of her Art. - The Originality
of her Genius. - Pauline Garcia marries M. Viardot, a Well-known
_Litterateur_. - A Tour through Southern Europe. - She creates a Distinct
Place for herself in the Musical Art. - Great Enthusiasm in Germany
over her Singing. - The Richness of her Art Resources. - Sketches of the
Tenors, Nourrit and Duprez, and of the Great Barytone, Ronconi. - Mme.
Viardot and the Music of Meyerbeer. - Her Creation of the Part of _Fides_
in "Le Prophète," the Crowning Work of a Great Career. - Retirement from
the Stage. - High Position in Private Life. - Connection with the French


The Tenor Singer Tacchinardi. - An Exquisite Voice and Deformed
Physique. - Early Talent shown by his Daughter Fanny. - His Aversion to
her entering on the Stage Life. - Her Marriage to M. Persiani. - The
Incident which launched Fanny Persiani on the Stage. - Rapid Success as a
Singer. - Donizetti writes one of his Great Operas for her. - _Personnel_,
Voice, and Artistic Style of Mme. Persiani. - One of the Greatest
Executants who ever lived. - Anecdotes of her Italian Tours. - First
Appearance in Paris and London. - A Tour through Belgium with
Ru-bini. - Anecdote of Prince Metternich. - Further Studies of Persiani's
Characteristics as a Singer. - Donizetti composes Another Opera for
her. - Her Prosperous Career and retirement from the Stage. - Last
Appearance in Paris for Mario's Benefit


The Greatest of Contraltos. - Marietta Alboni's Early
Surroundings. - Rossini's Interest in her Career. - First Appearance on
the Operatic Stage. - Excitement produced in Germany by her Singing. - Her
Independence of Character. - Her Great Success in London. - Description
of her Voice and Person. - Concerts in Paris. - The Verdicts of the Great
French Critics. - Hector Berlioz on Alboni's Singing. - She appears in
Opera in Paris. - Strange Indifference of the Audience quickly turned to
Enthusiasm. - She competes favorably in London with Grisi, Persiani,
and Viardot. - Takes the Place of Jenny Lind as Prima Donna at Her
Majesty's. - She extends her Voice into the Soprano Register. - Performs
"Fides" in "Le Prophète." - Visit to America. - Retires from the Stage


The Childhood of the "Swedish Nightingale." - Her First Musical
Instruction. - The Loss and Return of her Voice. - Jenny Lind's
Pupilage in Paris under Manuel Garcia. - She makes the Acquaintance of
Meyerbeer. - Great Sue-cess in Stockholm in "Robert le Diable." - Fredrika
Bremer and Hans Christian Andersen on the Young Singer. - Her _Début_
in Berlin. - Becomes Prima Donna at the Royal Theatre. - Beginning of
the Lind Enthusiasm that overran Europe. - She appears in Dresden in
Meyerbeer's New Opera, "Feldlager in Schliesen." - Offers throng in from
all the Leading Theatres of Europe. - The Grand _Furore_ in Every Part
of Germany. - Description of Scenes in her Musical Progresses. - She makes
her _Début_ in London. - Extraordinary Excitement of the English Public,
such as had never before been known. - Descriptions of her Singing
by Contemporary Critics. - Her Quality as an Actress. - Jenny Lind's
_Personnel_. - Scenes and Incidents of the "Lind" Mania. - Her Second
London Season. - Her Place and Character as a Lyric Artist. - Mlle.
Lind's American Tour. - Extraordinary Enthusiasm in America. - Her
Lavish Generosity. - She marries Herr Otto Goldschmidt. - Present Life of
Retirement in London. - Jenny Lind as a Public Benefactor


The Daughter of an Obscure German Pastor. - She studies Music in
Paris. - Failure of her Voice. - Makes her _Début_ at La Fenice. - She
appears in London during the Lind Excitement. - Description of her
Voice and Person. - A Great Excitement over her Second Appearance
in Italy. - _Début_ in Paris. - Her Grand Impersonation in
"Fidelio." - Critical Estimates of her Genius. - Sophie Cruvelli's
Eccentricities. - Excitement in Paris over her _Valentine_ in "Les
Huguenots." - Different Performances in London and Paris. - She retires
from the Stage and marries Baron Vigier. - Her Professional Status. - One
of the Most Gifted Women of any Age


Born at Hamburg of an Hungarian Family. - Her Early Musical
Training. - First Appearance in Opera in "Lucrezia Borgia." - Romance of
her Youth. - Rapid Extension of her Fame. - Receives a _Congé_ from
Vienna to sing in England. - Description of Mlle. Titiens, her Voice,
and Artistic Style. - The Characters in which she was specially
eminent. - Opinions of the Critics. - Her Relative Standing in
the Operatic Profession. - Her Performances of _Semi-ramide_
and _Medea_. - Latter Years of her Career. - Her Artistic Tour in
America. - Her Death, and Estimate placed on her Genius



The Childhood of Maria Garcia. - Her Father's Sternness and Severe
Discipline. - Her First Appearance as an Artist on the Operatic
Stage. - Her Genius and Power evident from the Beginning. - Anecdotes
of her Early Career. - Manuel Garcia's Operatic Enterprise in New
York. - Maria Garcia is inveigled into marrying M. Malibran. - Failure of
the Garcia Opera, and Maria's Separation from her Husband. - She
makes her _Début_ in Paris with Great Success. - Madame Malibran's
Characteristics as a Singer, a Genius, and a Woman. - Anecdotes of her
Generosity and Kindness. - She sings in a Great London Engagement. - Her
Eccentric and Daring Methods excite Severe Criticism. - Her Reckless
Expenditure of Strength in the Pursuit of her Profession or
Pleasures. - Madame Malibran's Attachment to De Bériot. - Anecdotes of
her Public and Private Career. - Malibran in Italy, where she becomes
the Popular Idol. - Her Last London Engagement. - Her Death at Manchester
during the Great Musical Festival.


With the name of Malibran there is associated an interest, alike
personal and artistic, rarely equaled and certainly unsurpassed among
the traditions which make the records of the lyric stage so fascinating.
Daring originality stamped her life as a woman, her career as an artist,
and the brightness with which her star shone through a brief and stormy
history had something akin in it to the dazzling but capricious passage
of a meteor. If Pasta was the Siddons of the lyric drama, unapproachable
in its more severe and tragic phases, Malibran represented its Garrick.
Brilliant, creative, and versatile, she sang equally well in all styles
of music, and no strain on her resources seemed to overtax the power
of an artistic imagination which delighted in vanquishing obstacles and
transforming native defects into new beauties, an attribute of genius
which she shared in equal degree with Pasta, though it took on a
different manifestation.

This great singer belonged to a Spanish family of musicians, who have
been well characterized as "representative artists, whose power, genius,
and originality have impressed a permanent trace on the record of the
methods of vocal execution and ornament." Her father, Manuel Vicente
Garcia, at the age of seventeen, was already well known as composer,
singer, actor, and conductor. His pieces, short comic operas, had a
great popularity in Spain, and were not only bright and inventive,
but marked by thorough musical workmanship. A month after he made his
_début_ in Paris, in 1811, he had become the chief singer, and sang
for three years under the operatic _regime_ which shared the general
splendor of Napoleon's court. He was afterward appointed first tenor at
Naples by King Joachim Munit, and there produced his opera of "Califo di
Bagdad," which met with great success. It was here that the child Maria,
then only five years old, made her first public appearance in one of
Paer's operas, and here that she received her first lessons in music
from M. Panseron and the composer Hérold. When Garcia quitted Italy
in 1816, he sang with Catalani in Paris, but, as that jealous artist
admitted no bright star near her own, Garcia soon left the troupe, and
went to London in the spring of 1818. He oscillated between the two
countries for several years, and was the first brilliant exponent of the
Rossinian music in two great capitals, as his training and method were
peculiarly fitted to this school. The indomitable energy and ambition
which he transmitted to his daughters, who were to become such
distinguished ornaments of the stage, were not contented with making
their possessor a great executant, for he continued to produce operas,
several of which were put on the stage in Paris with notable success.
Garcia's name as a teacher commenced about the year 1823 to overshadow
his reputation as a singer. In the one he had rivals, in the other he
was peerless. His school of singing quickly became famous, though he
continued to appear on the stage, and to pour forth operas of more than
average merit.

The education of his daughter Maria, born at Paris, March 24, 1808, had
always been a matter of paternal solicitude. A delicate, sensitive, and
willful child, she had been so humored and petted at the convent-school
of Hammersmith, where she was first placed, that she developed a caprice
and a recklessness which made her return to the house of her stern and
imperious father doubly painful, lier experience was a severe one, and
Manuel Garcia was more pitiless to his daughter than to other pupils.
Already at this period Maria spoke with ease Spanish, Italian, French,
and English, to which she afterward added German. The Garcia household
was a strange one. The Spanish musician was a tyrant in his home, and
a savage temper, which had but few streaks of tenderness, frequently
vented itself in blows and brutality, in spite of the remarkable musical
facility with which Maria appropriated teaching, and the brilliant gifts
which would have flattered the pride and softened the sympathies of
a more gentle and complacent parent. The young girl, in spite of
her prodigious instinct for art and her splendid intelligence, had a
peculiarly intractable organ. The lower notes of the voice were very
imperfect, the upper tones thin, disagreeable, and hard, the middle
veiled, and her intonation so doubtful that it almost indicated an
imperfect ear. She would sometimes sing so badly that her father would
quit the piano precipitately and retreat to the farthest corner of the
house with his fingers thrust into his ears. But Garcia was resolved
that his daughter should become what Nature seemingly had resolved she
should not be, a great vocalist, and he bent all the energies of his
harsh and imperious temper to further this result. "One evening I
studied a duet with Maria," says the Countess Merlin, "in which Garcia
had written a passage, and he desired her to execute it. She tried, but
became discouraged, and said, 'I can not.' In an instant the Andalu-sian
blood of her father rose. He fixed his flashing eyes upon her: 'What
did you say?' Maria looked at him, trembled, and, clasping her hands,
murmured in a stifled voice, 'I will do it, papa;' and she executed the
passage perfectly. She told me afterward that she could not conceive how
she did it. 'Papa's glance,' added she, 'has such an influence upon
me that I am sure it would make me fling myself from the roof into the
street without doing myself any harm.'"

Maria Felicia Garcia was a wayward and willful child, but so generous
and placable that her fierce outbursts of rage were followed by the
most fascinating and winning contrition. Irresistibly charming, frank,
fearless, and original, she gave promise, even in her early youth, of
the remarkable qualities which afterward bestowed such a unique and
brilliant _cachet_ on her genius as an artist and her character as a
woman. Her father, with all his harshness, understood her truly, for
she inherited both her faults and her gifts from himself. "Her proud and
stubborn spirit requires an iron hand to control it," he said; "Maria
can never become great except at the price of much suffering." By the
time she had reached the age of fifteen her voice had greatly improved.
Her chest-notes had gained greatly in power, richness, and depth, though
the higher register of the vocal organ still remained crude and veiled.
Fetis says that it was on account of the sudden indisposition of
Madame Pasta that the first public appearance of Maria in opera was
unexpectedly made, but Lord Mount Edgcumbe and the impressario Ebers
both tell a different story. The former relates in his "Reminiscences"
that, shortly after the repair of the King's Theatre, "the great
favorite Pasta arrived for a limited number of nights. About the same
time Konzi fell ill and totally lost her voice, so that she was obliged
to throw up her engagement and return to Italy. Mme. Vestris having
seceded, and Caradori being for some time unable to perform, it became
necessary to engage a young singer, the daughter of the tenor Garcia,
who had sung here for several seasons.... Her extreme youth, her
prettiness, her pleasing voice, and sprightly, easy action as _Rosina_
in 'Il Barbiere,' in which part she made her _début_, gained her general
favor." Chor-ley recalls the impression she made on him at this time in
more precise and emphatic terms: "From the first hour when Maria Garcia
appeared on the stage, first in 'Il Barbiere' and subsequently in
'Il Crociato,' it was evident that a new artist, as original as
extraordinary, was come - one by nature fairly endowed, not merely with
physical powers, but also with that inventive, energetic, rapid genius,
before which obstacles become as nothing, and by the aid of which the
sharpest contradictions become reconciled." She made her _début_ on June
7, 1825, and was immediately engaged for the remaining six weeks of
the season at five hundred pounds. Her first success was followed by a
second in Meyerber's 'Il Crociato,' in which she sang with Velluti, the
last of that extraordinary _genre_ of artists, the male sopranos. Garcia
wrote several arias for her voice, which were interpolated in the opera,
much to Manager Ayrton's disgust, but much also to the young singer's
advantage, for the father knew every defect and every beauty of his
daughter's voice.

If her father was ambitious and daring, Maria was so likewise. She had
to sing with Velluti a duet in Zingarelli's "Romeo e Giulietta," and in
the morning they rehearsed it together, Velluti reserving his fioriture
for the evening, lest the young _débutante_ should endeavor to imitate
his ornaments. In the evening he sang his solo part, embroidering it
with the most florid decorations, and finishing with a new and beautiful
cadenza, which astonished and charmed the audience; Maria seized the
phrases, to which she imparted an additional grace, and crowned her
triumph with an audacious and superb improvisation. Thunders of applause
greeted her, and while trembling with excitement she felt her arm
grasped by a hand of iron. "Briccona!" hissed a voice in her ear, as
Velluti glared on her, gnashing his teeth with rage. After performing
in London, she appeared in the autumn with her father at the Manchester,
York, and Liverpool Festivals, where she sang some of the most difficult
pieces from the "Messiah" and the "Creation." Some said that she failed,
others that she sang with a degree of mingled brilliancy, delicacy, and
sweetness that drew down a storm of applause.


Garcia now conceived a project for establishing Italian opera in the
United States, and with characteristic daring he set sail for America
with a miserable company, of which the only talent consisted of his own
family, comprising himself, his son, daughter, and wife, Mme. Garcia
having been a fairly good artist in her youth. The first opera produced
was "Il Barbiere," on November 29, 1825, and this was speedily
followed by "Tancredi," "Otello," "Il Turco in Italia," "Don Giovanni,"
"Cenerentola," and two operas composed by Garcia himself - "L'Amante
Astuto," and "La Figlia dell' Aria," The young singer's success was of
extraordinary character, and New York, unaccustomed to Italian opera,
went into an ecstasy of admiration. Maria's charming voice and personal
fascination held the public spellbound, and her good nature in the
introduction of English songs, whenever called on by her admirers,
raised the delight of the opera-goers of the day to a wild enthusiasm.

The occurrence of the most unfortunate episode of her life at this time
was the fruitful source of much of the misery and eccentricity of her
after-career. M. François Eugène Malibran, a French merchant, engaged in
business in New York, fell passionately in love with the young singer,
and speedily laid his heart and fortune, which was supposed to be great,
at her feet. In spite of the fact that the suitor was fifty, and Maria
only seventeen, she was disposed to accept the offer, for she was sick
of her father's brutality, and the straits to which she was constantly
put by the exigencies of her dependent situation. Her heart had never
yet awakened to the sweetness of love, and the supposed great fortune
and lavish promises of M. Malibran dazzled her young imagination. Garcia
sternly refused his consent, and there were many violent scenes between
father and daughter. Such was the hostility of feeling between the two,
that Maria almost feared for her life. The following incident is an
expressive comment on the condition of her mind at this time: One
evening she was playing _Des-demona_ to her father's _Othello_, in
Rossini's opera. At the moment when _Othello_ approaches, his eyes
sparkling with rage, to stab _Desdemona_, Maria perceived that her
father's dagger was not a stage sham, but a genuine weapon. Frantic with
terror, she screamed "Papa, papa, for the love of God, do not kill me!"
Her terrors were groundless, for the substitution of the real for a
theatrical dagger was a mere accident. The audience knew no difference,
as they supposed Maria's Spanish exclamation to be good operatic
Italian, and they applauded at the fine dramatic point made by the young

At last the importunate suitor overcame Gar-cia's opposition by agreeing
to give him a hundred thousand francs in payment for the loss of his
daughter's services, and the sacrifice of the young and beautiful singer
was consummated on March 23, 1826. A few weeks later Malibran was a
bankrupt and imprisoned for debt, and his bride discovered how she had
been cheated and outraged by a cunning scoundrel, who had calculated
on saving himself from poverty by dependence on the stage-earnings of
a brilliant wife. The enraged Garcia, always a man of unbridled temper,
was only prevented from transforming one of those scenes of mimic
tragedy with which he was so familiar, into a criminal reality by

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Online LibraryGeorge T. FerrisGreat Singers, Second Series Malibran To Titiens → online text (page 1 of 15)