Famous Singers of To-day and Yesterday - Part 5

Part 5

After her memorable tour in the United States, in 1872, Madame Lucca continued before the public in Europe until 1884, since which time she has lived in Vienna, and devoted herself chiefly to teaching.

While Lucca was thus rising to the highest pinnacles of fame, Patti also was scoring great successes. In London she had become a permanent favorite, and from the year 1861, in which she made her European debut, for more than twenty years she was engaged every season at Covent Garden.

In spite of all rivalry, she held her position there as the most popular opera singer of modern times. She has enjoyed the same popularity on the continent, and in America also she has been immensely popular.

[Ill.u.s.tration: _Patti._]

Adelina Patti's voice was one of moderate power, but great range and of wonderful flexibility. Her production was faultless, and she was, and is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest mistresses of vocalization of the century. As an actress, she could not compare with many other singers, and her greatest successes were gained in such operas as made the least demand upon the histrionic capabilities of the performer. Her repertoire included about thirty operas, mostly of the Italian school, though she also sang in the operas of Meyerbeer and Gounod, and others. She was one of the many "Carmens;" but while her interpretation vocally was excellent, she was by no means equal dramatically to Mlle. Hauk, and much less so to Calve, the latest and by far the greatest interpreter of that role.

One of the most notable events of Madame Patti's career occurred when, in 1868, at the funeral of Rossini, the composer, she sang with Madame Alboni the beautiful duet, "Quis est h.o.m.o," from Rossini's "Stabat Mater." On that occasion such an a.s.sembly of noted musicians and singers was gathered together to honor the great composer as probably never before met under the same roof. To hear that beautiful music, rendered by two such artists over the grave of the composer, was to feel in the truest sense the genius of Rossini, and the part that he played in the music of the nineteenth century.

The name of Patti has always been a.s.sociated with high prices, and not without cause; for, although other singers have received larger sums for isolated engagements, none have ever succeeded in maintaining such a uniformly high rate.

When she returned to America in 1881, after an absence of some twenty years, Patti held mistaken notions about the American people, and her early concerts were a bitter disappointment. High prices and hackneyed songs did not suit the public, and in order to make a success of the tour Madame Patti was obliged to throw over her French manager, and employ an American (Henry E. Abbey) who knew the public, and who immediately cut the prices down to one-half. Eventually the season was successful, both artistically and financially, her voice showing but little sign of wear, and her execution being as brilliant as ever. At Brooklyn the people took the horses out of her carriage, and dragged her home,--one facetious writer remarking that he saw no reason for taking away her horses, and subst.i.tuting a.s.ses. The following clever rhyme, at the expense of her manager, taken from "Puck," voices the opinion of the public very neatly, in regard to Patti's tour, in 1881-2:

Patti cake, Patti cake, Franchi man!

"So I do, messieurs, comme vite as I can."

"Roulez et tournez et marquez 'with care,'

Et posez au publique a ten dollars a chair."

Farinelli is said to have made $30,000 per annum, a very large sum for the times in which he lived. Catalani's profits ran almost to $100,000 a season. Malibran received $95,000 for eighty-five performances at La Scala. Jenny Lind, for ninety-five concerts, under Barnum's management, received $208,675, all good figures. But Rubini is said to have made $11,500 at one concert, and Tamagno is the highest-priced tenor of the present day.

Patti at one time made a contract for a series of performances at $4,400 a night, and later on her fee was $5,000 a night, paid in advance, but when she came to Boston in 1882, and sang in three performances given in a week, her share of the receipts was $20,895. The attendance at the Sat.u.r.day matinee was 9,142 people, and her share of the receipts for that performance alone was $8,395.

Madame Patti always had the advantage of excellent management. Until her marriage with the Marquis de Caux she was under the management of her brother-in-law, Maurice Strakosch, and so a.s.siduous was he in his protection of his young star from unnecessary wear and tear that he became the subject of many jokes. It is said that he occasionally took her place at rehearsals, that when visitors called on her they saw him instead, and some people, with vivid imagination, declared that Strakosch sat for Patti's photograph, and that he once offered to receive a declaration of love for her.

One is apt to doubt the necessity of all this management, for Patti seems to have been admirably adapted for self-defence, and even for aggression in financial matters. An amusing anecdote is told of her by Max Maretzek, who, one day, when she was a small child, in a moment of generosity promised her a doll, or, as some accounts have it, some bon-bons as a reward for singing in a concert. It was to be her very first appearance. Patti did not forget the promise, and when it was nearly time for her to sing she asked for her doll. Maretzek had forgotten it, and promised that she should have it after the concert, or the next day. But no, she must have it first, or she would not go on and sing. The poor man was in despair. It was late and stores were all closed, but by some means he succeeded in getting the bribe, whether dolls or bon-bons, and, rushing back in breathless haste, he handed it to her. Then she became cheerful at once, and giving it to her mother to be taken care of, she went on and performed her part in the concert.

One of the most amusing of these anecdotes was told by Colonel Mapleson, the well-known impresario, who says that no one ever approached Madame Patti in the art of obtaining from a manager the greatest possible sum that he could contrive by any possibility to pay. In 1882, owing to the compet.i.tion of Henry Abbey, the American impresario, Mapleson was obliged to raise Patti's salary from $1,000 per night to $4,000, and, finally, to $5,000 per night, a sum previously unheard-of in the annals of opera. The price, moreover, was to be paid at two o'clock of the day on which Patti was to sing.

On the second night of the engagement at Boston, Madame Patti was billed to sing in "Traviata." Expenses had been heavy and the funds were low, so that when Signor Franchi, Patti's agent, called at the theatre promptly at two o'clock, only $4,000 could be sc.r.a.ped together. Signor Franchi was indignant, and declared that the contract was broken, and that Madame Patti would not sing. He refused to take the $4,000, and went off to report the matter to the prima donna. At four o'clock, Signor Franchi returned to the theatre, and congratulated Colonel Mapleson on his facility for managing Madame Patti, saying that she would do for the colonel that which she would do for no other impresario. In short, Patti would take the $4,000 and dress for her part, all except her shoes. She would arrive at the theatre at the regular time, and when the remaining paltry $1,000 was forthcoming she would put on her shoes and be ready to go on the stage.

Everything happened as Patti had promised. She arrived at the theatre costumed as Violetta, but minus her shoes. Franchi called at the box-office, but only $800 was on hand. The genial Signor took the money and returned to Patti's room. He soon appeared again to say that Madame Patti was all ready except one shoe, which she could not put on until the remaining $200 was paid. It was already time for the performance to begin, but people were still coming in, and after some slight delay Signor Franchi was able to go in triumph to Madame Patti with the balance of the amount. Patti put on her other shoe and proceeded to the stage. She made her entrance at the proper time, her face radiant with smiles, and no one in the audience had any idea of the stirring events which had just taken place.

In later years, when Madame Patti invested some of her fortune in the beautiful castle at Craig-y-Nos, in Wales, the people employed to put the place into repair, knowing of her reputed wealth and extravagance, sent in enormous bills. But Madame Patti was not to be imposed upon, and the result was that the amounts melted down considerably under the gentle influence of the law. The unkindest cut of all was, however, when a Belgian gentleman, who had amused himself at Craig-y-Nos, who had fished, shot, and been entertained, but who always managed to be present during discussions on business, sent in a bill of 3,000 for his services as agent.

Under the management of Colonel Mapleson, Patti travelled in most luxurious style. She had a special car which is said to have cost $65,000, and a whole retinue of servants. At Cheyenne, the legislature and a.s.sembly adjourned and chartered a special car to meet the operatic train. A military band was at the station, and nearly the whole population turned out to witness the arrival. Tickets to the opera were ten dollars each, and there was an audience of 3,000 people.

California seems to have been considered doubtful territory, for Patti left the question undecided as to whether she would go so far. When she did arrive it was merely as a visitor, but her delight with the "heavenly place" was so great that she declared she _must_ sing there.

The necessary delay incurred by sending to Chicago for numerous trunks containing her wardrobe, gave sufficient time for the excitement in San Francisco to work up to fever heat. Tickets sold at unheard-of prices, and more or less damage to property was done in the scramble.

Adelina Patti made her first matrimonial venture in 1868, when she was united to the Marquis de Caux, an event which did not interfere with her operatic career, for she filled an engagement of six weeks at Paris, and then went on to St. Petersburg, where the town opened a subscription which amounted to 100,000 rubles, and presented her with a diamond necklace.

In 1885 Madame Patti obtained a divorce from the Marquis de Caux, from whom she had separated in 1877, and the following year married Ernest Nicolini, the tenor singer. Nicolini was a man of fine stage presence, and, for a time, after the retirement of Mario, was considered the best tenor on the stage. His voice was of moderate power and of pleasing quality, but his tremolo was, to say the least, extensive. For some years Madame Patti declined every engagement in which Nicolini was not included, until the public indignation found vent in many protests.

Signor Nicolini seems to have been a devoted and admiring husband, and to have entered heartily into the pleasures of the luxurious life of Craig-y-Nos. He died in January, 1898.

After some years of retirement from the operatic stage, during which she sang only in concerts, Patti made a reappearance at Covent Garden in 1895, and showed that her voice, notwithstanding nearly forty years of use, was wonderfully well preserved. Nevertheless it was a disappointment to those who had heard her in her prime. As a reason for its preservation she says that she never sings when she is tired, and never strains for high notes. Sir Morell Mackenzie, the great throat specialist, said that she had the most wonderful throat he ever saw. It was the only one in which the vocal cords were in absolutely perfect condition after many years of use. They were not strained, warped, or roughened in the slightest degree, but absolutely perfect, and there was no reason why they should not remain so for ten or even twenty years longer. It was by her voice alone that she charmed and delighted her audiences, and she will doubtless be recorded as the possessor of the most perfect voice of the nineteenth century. She witnessed the rise of many rivals, but none ever equalled her in popularity, though many excelled her in dramatic powers. Lucca, Sembrich, Nilsson, were all greater as actresses, but of all the rivals of her prime only Sembrich and Albani remain, and several years must elapse before their careers will equal the length of Patti's.

Probably no other singer has succeeded in ama.s.sing so great a fortune as Madame Patti. Her earnings enabled her to purchase, in 1878, the beautiful estate in Wales, which she remodelled to suit her own ideas.

Here she has lived in regal style and entertained lavishly many of the most noted people of the civilized world.

Her wealth is by no means confined to real estate, for she has a rare collection of jewels, said to be the largest and most brilliant owned by any of the modern actresses and opera singers. One of her gowns, worn in the third act of "La Traviata," was covered with precious stones to the value of $500,000.

Madame Patti's most popular roles were Juliet and Aida, and though she created no new parts of importance, she has amply fulfilled the traditional role of prima donna in matters of caprice and exaction, and has even created some new precedents. In 1898 she was still before the public, singing in concerts in London and elsewhere.



At the middle of the century critics began to cry out about the decadence of the vocal art, much as they have done at intervals during the past two centuries, and with as little real cause. The great singers of recent years had departed, and apparently none had arisen to take their place, and yet the latter half of the century has been adorned by stars who, as far as we are able to judge, are not inferior to those who have gone before. It is probable that other stars also will arise who will delight as large audiences and create as great excitement as Grisi, Lind, and Malibran.

While it is undoubtedly true that declamation holds a more important place in modern opera than it did in the operas of bygone days, and some declare that the art of vocalization is extinct, yet singers who can charm by pure vocalization are still as welcome as ever, though more is expected of them in the dramatic branch of their art.

It is doubtful whether a greater trio of singers has been before the public at any time than Patti, Lucca, and Nilsson, and yet they appeared at a time when it was claimed that vocal art was dead.

During the first half of the century we have seen that some of the great singers visited the United States. Garcia brought his daughter to America, where she created a great sensation and found her first husband. Sontag crossed the ocean, Grisi, Alboni, and Jenny Lind had found appreciative audiences in America. Among the men, Incledon was the first singer of importance to cross the water.

We now arrive at a period when not only many great singers, and some of less repute, crossed the wild Atlantic for American dollars, but America began to supply singers to the European market. When Colonel Mapleson was interviewed in San Francisco during Patti's tour, he declared that there were more than 2,000 American vocal students in Europe, and he mentioned fifteen who had appeared under his management up to 1883. This number included Patti, who could hardly be claimed as American, for she was born in Madrid, of Italian parents. But between 1860 and 1870, Clara Louise Kellogg, Minnie Hauk, and Annie Louise Gary were genuine Americans, as was also Adelaide Phillips, who made her debut in 1854. In later years the number increased till, at the present day, at least two of the greatest artists among the prima donnas are of American origin, while a large number have reached a high position and may be destined for the greatest honors.

The star of the year 1860 was born in Vienna, made her debut there, and remained there for some years. Marie Gabrielle Krauss was one of those singers, who, with a voice far from perfect, was able by her style, her phrasing, and her musical delivery, to which must be added the incontestable power of dramatic accent, to be cla.s.sed among the greatest singers of her time. In 1867 she was engaged in Paris and sung there for many years, except during the Franco-Prussian war.

In 1861, Carlotta Patti made her debut, but she was obliged to abandon the operatic stage on account of lameness. She was an elder sister of Adelina Patti, and for many years was very popular on the concert stage, sharing with her sister wonderful facility of execution and beautiful quality of voice. Probably no singer of her time travelled so extensively as Carlotta Patti, who is said to have visited every part of the world in which a concert could be successfully given. In 1879 she married Mr. Ernst de Munck, of Weimar, a violoncellist, but ten years later she died.

Clara Louise Kellogg was one of the early American singers, who, though her great musical gifts enabled her to win triumphs in opera in the great musical centres of the world, devoted the prime of her life to giving English opera in her native land.

Miss Kellogg was born in Sumterville, S. C., in 1842, but in 1856 she went, with her mother, who had considerable musical ability, to New York, in order to continue the musical education which her mother had begun. In 1861, before she had completed her nineteenth year, she made her debut at the Academy of Music, in "Rigoletto" as Gilda, and sang during the season about a dozen times.

In 1867 she appeared at Her Majesty's Theatre in London as Margherita, and was reengaged for the following year. She then returned to the United States and made a concert tour which lasted for four years. In 1872 she was back again in London at Her Majesty's.

In 1874 she organized an English Opera company in America, translating the words, training the chorus, and doing most of the hard work of the enterprise herself. Such was her ardor and enthusiasm that she sang in the winter of 1874-5 no less than one hundred and twenty-five times.

From that time until 1882, she was constantly before the public in opera or concert, and in addition to her musical talents she was remarkable for business ability. Her voice was of large compa.s.s and great purity, and when she retired she left a memory of a good, exemplary life, full of benevolent actions.

It is said that in her youth she was engaged to be married to a schoolmate, but the marriage was necessarily to wait until they had sufficient means. She went on the stage, was successful, and wrote to him saying that she had sufficient money and was ready. He, however, felt it inc.u.mbent upon him to provide at least a capital equal to hers, and desired a further postponement. This annoyed her, and her enthusiasm cooled off. Money-making was a slow process with him, and before he had satisfied his conscience she had announced her engagement to another man. Miss Kellogg retired in 1882, and married Mr. Strakosch, a son of the celebrated impresario.

During Miss Kellogg's travels in the United States she visited with her company a great many towns which have since become music-loving cities, and she met with many highly amusing experiences, besides some which were less amusing than instructive. She has exerted an educational influence throughout the country which it would be difficult to over-estimate; indeed, it can be claimed that the ambition of many young Americans to study music owes its origin to the efforts of those who, like Miss Kellogg, visited the smaller towns, and made it possible for a large number of people to enjoy music of a high order.

The year 1862 produced a singer of great ability, Ilma di Murska, a native of Croatia, one of the most brilliant sopranos, and one of the most eccentric women of her time. There seems to be considerable uncertainty about her early life, both as to birth and marriage. By some authorities it is stated that she was born in 1843, the year in which Patti, Nilsson, and (some say) Lucca were born. On the other hand, the date of her birth is placed both in 1836 and 1837, and there are many reasons for supposing that one of these earlier dates is the right one.

Concerning her first marriage, one authority states that her first husband was Count Nugent, a descendant of a renowned Irish officer of that name, by whom she had a son and a daughter, and that the son committed suicide in 1876. Another account is that in early life she married General Eider, from whom she separated on account of her eccentricities, which made it impossible for him to live happily with her. This account speaks of her daughter, and it is tolerably well established that she did have a daughter, for that young lady played an important and not particularly creditable part in the history of the talented singer. It is not impossible that she may have married both Count Nugent and General Eider, for she certainly married frequently, and in that respect holds a unique place, even in the list of much-married prima donnas.

Madame di Murska was tall and slender in figure, of striking appearance, and with features not specially attractive, but her vigor and originality were remarkable. Her impersonations were full of life, and, while she occasionally exaggerated in gesture or expression, she invariably held the attention of her audience. She sang the most difficult pa.s.sages, and gave the most florid ornamentation, with ease and certainty.

As Lucia, Astrofiammante, and Dinorah, she made a great sensation, even at a time when Adelina Patti was considered to be perfection in those parts. The writer remembers her in "Roberto" at Drury Lane, when her impa.s.sioned acting resulted in a very funny incident. While she sang the beautiful aria, "Robert, toi que j'aime," the object of her adoration reposed in oblivion on a red plush sofa. In her abandon she let her face rest for a moment on the head of the sofa, where, when she arose, there remained a large, white patch, which aroused the audience to laughter, in spite of themselves. Truly, the step from the sublime to the ridiculous is very small.

Ilma di Murska made her debut at Florence, after which she sang at Pesth, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, and London. Her memory is said to have been remarkable, and her facility in learning equally so, for she could learn her part by merely reading it, sometimes in bed, from the score.