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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 8536

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The genius of the Garcia family flowered not less in Mme. Malibran's younger sister than in her own brilliant and admired self. Pauline, the second daughter of Manuel Garcia, was thirteen years the junior of her sister, and born at Paris, July 18, 1821. The child had for sponsors at baptism the celebrated Ferdinand Paer, the composer, and the Princess Pauline Prascovie Galitzin, a distinguished Russian lady, noted for her musical amateurship, and the full name given was Michelle Ferdinandie Pauline. The little girl was only three years old when her sister Maria made her début in London, and even then she lisped the airs she heard sung by her sister and her father with something like musical intelligence, and showed that the hereditary gift was deeply rooted in her own organization.

Manuel Garcia's project for establishing Italian opera in America and the disastrous crash in which it ended have already been described in an earlier chapter. Maria, who had become Mme. Malibran, was left in New York, while the rest of the Garcia family sailed for Mexico, to give a series of operatic performances in that ancient city. The precocious genius of Pauline developed rapidly. She learned in Mexico to play on the organ and piano as if by instinct, with so much ease did she master the difficulties of these instruments, and it was her father's proud boast that never, except in the cases of a few of the greatest composers, had aptitude for the musical art been so convincingly displayed at her early years. At the age of six Pauline Garcia could speak four languages, French, Spanish, Italian, and English, with facility, and to these she afterward added German. Her passion for acquirement was ardent and never lost its force, for she was not only an indefatigable student in music, but extended her researches and attainments in directions alien to the ordinary tastes of even brilliant women. It is said that before she had reached the age of eight-and-twenty, she had learned to read Latin and Greek with facility, and made herself more than passably acquainted with various arts and sciences. To the indomitable will and perseverance of her sister Maria, she added a docility and gentleness to which the elder daughter of Garcia had been a stranger. Pauline was a favorite of her father, who had used pitiless severity in training the brilliant and willful Maria. "Pauline can be guided by a thread of silk," he would say, "but Maria needs a hand of iron."

Garcia's operatic performances in Mexico were very successful up to the breaking out of the civil war consequent on revolt from Spain. Society was so utterly disturbed by this catastrophe that residence in Mexico became alike unsafe and profitless, and the Spanish musician resolved to return to Europe. He turned his money into ingots of gold and silver, and started, with his little family, across the mountains interposing between the capital and the seaport of Vera Cruz, a region at that period terribly infested with brigands. Garcia was not lucky enough to escape these outlaws. They pounced on the little cavalcade, and the hard-earned wealth of the singer, amounting to nearly a hundred thousand dollars, passed out of his possession in a twinkling. The cruel humor of the chief of the banditti bound Garcia to a tree, after he had been stripped naked, and as it was known that he was a singer he was commanded to display his art for the pleasure of these strange auditors. For a while the despoiled man sternly refused, though threatened with immediate death. At last he began an aria, but his voice was so choked by his rage and agitation that he broke down, at which the robber connoisseurs hissed. This stung Garcia's pride, and he began again with a haughty gesture, breaking forth into a magnificent flight of song, which delighted his hearers, and they shouted "Bravissimo!" with all the abandon of an enthusiastic Italian audience. A flash of chivalry animated the rude hearts of the brigands, for they restored to Garcia all his personal effects, and a liberal share of the wealth which they had confiscated, and gave him an escort to the coast as a protection against other knights of the road. The reader will hardly fail to recall a similar adventure which befell Salvato

r Rosa, the great painter, who not only earned immunity, but gained the enthusiastic admiration of a band of brigands, by whom he had been captured, through a display of his art.

The talent of Pauline Garcia for the piano was so remarkable that it was for some time the purpose of her father to devote her to this musical specialty. She was barely more than seven on the return of the Garcias to Europe, and she was placed, without delay, under the care of a celebrated teacher, Meysenberg of Paris. Three years later she was transferred to the instruction of Franz Liszt, of whom she became one of the most distinguished pupils. Liszt believed that his young scholar had the ability to become one of the greatest pianists of the age, and was urgent that she should devote herself to this branch of the musical art. Her health, however, was not equal to the unremitting sedentary confinement of piano practice, though she attained a degree of skill which enabled her to play with much success as a solo performer at the concerts of her sister Maria. Her voice had also developed remarkable quality during the time when she was devoting her energies in another direction, and her proud father was wont to say, whenever a buzz of ecstatic pleasure over the singing of Mme. Malibran met his ear, "There is a younger sister who is a greater genius than she." It is more than probable that Pauline Garcia, as a singer, owed an inestimable debt to Pauline Garcia as a player, and that her accuracy and brilliancy of musical method were, in large measure, the outcome of her training under the king of modern pianists.

Manuel Garcia died when Pauline was but eleven years old, and the question of her daughter's further musical education was left to Mme. Garcia. The celebrated tenor singer, Adolphe Nourrit, one of the famous lights of the French stage, who had been a favorite pupil of Garcia, showed great kindness to the widow and her daughter. Anxious to promote the interests of the young girl, he proposed that she should take lessons from Eossini, and that great maestro consented. Nourrit's delight at this piece of good luck, however, was quickly checked. Mme. Garcia firmly declined, and said that if her son Manuel could not come to her from Rome for the purpose of training Pauline's voice, she herself was equal to the task, knowing the principles on which the Garcia school of the voice was founded. The systems of Rossini and Garcia were radically different, the one stopping at florid grace of vocalization, while the other aimed at a radical and profound culture of all the resources of the voice.

It may be said, however, that Pauline Garcia was self-educated as a vocalist. Her mother's removal to Brussels, her brother's absence in Italy, and the wandering life of Mme. Malibran practically threw her on her own resources. She was admirably fitted for self-culture. Ardent, resolute, industrious, thoroughly grounded in the soundest of art methods, and marvelously gifted in musical intelligence, she applied herself to her vocal studies with abounding enthusiasm, without instruction other than the judicious counsels of her mother. She had her eyes fixed on a great goal, and this she pursued without rest or turning from her path. She exhausted the solfeggi which her father had written out for her sister Maria, and when this laborious discipline was done she determined to compose others for herself. She had already learned harmony and counterpoint from Reicha at the Paris Conservatoire, and these she now found occasion to put in practice. She copied all the melodies of Schubert, of whom she was a passionate admirer, and thought no toil too great which promoted her musical growth. Her labor was a labor of love, and all the ardor of her nature was poured into it. Music was not the sole accomplishment in which she became skilled. Unassisted by teaching, she, like Malibran, learned to sketch and paint in oil and water-colors, and found many spare moments in the midst of an incessant art-training, which looked to the lyric stage, to devote to literature. All this denotes a remarkable nature, fit to overcome every difficulty and rise to the topmost shining peaks of artistic greatness. What she did our sketch will further relate.

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