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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 7485

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Yet with all this flattery and admiration, which would have fed the conceit of a weaker woman to madness, Jenny Lind remained the same quiet, simple-hearted, almost diffident woman as of yore. The great pianist and composer Moscheles writes: "What shall I say of Jenny Lind? I can find no words adequate to give you any idea of the impression she has made.... This is no short-lived fit of public enthusiasm. I wanted to know her off the stage as well as on; but, as she lives at some distance from me, I asked her in a letter to fix upon an hour for me to call. Simple and unceremonious as she is, she came the next day herself, bringing the answer verbally. So much modesty and so much greatness united are seldom if ever to be met with; and, although her intimate friend Mendelssohn had given me an insight into the noble qualities of her character, I was surprised to find them so apparent."

From a variety of accounts we are justified in concluding that never had there been such a musical enthusiasm in London. Since the days when the world fought for hours at the pit-door to see the seventh farewell of Siddons, nothing had been seen in the least approaching the scenes at the entrance of the theatre on the "Lind" nights. Of her various impersonations during the season of 1847, her Amina in "Sonnambula" made the deepest impression on the town, as it was marked by several original features, both in the acting and singing, which were remarkably effective. Her performance of Norma was afterward held by judicious critics to be far inferior to that of Grisi in its dramatic aspect; but, when the mania was at its height, those who dared to impeach the ideal perfection of everything done by the idol of the hour were consigned to perdition as idiotic slanderers. Chorley wrote with satirical bitterness, though himself a warm admirer of the "Swedish Nightingale": "It was a curious experience to sit and to wait for what should come next, and to wonder whether it really was the case that music never had been heard till the year 1847."

Mlle. Lind passed the winter at Stockholm, and it is needless to speak of the pride and delight of her townspeople in the singer who had created such an unprecedented sensation in the musical world. All the places at the theatre when she sang fetched immense premiums, especially as it was known that the professional gains of Jenny Lind during this engagement were to be devoted to the endowment of an asylum for the support of decayed artists, and a school for young girls studying music. When she left Stockholm again for London, the scene was even more brilliant and impressive than that which had marked her previous departure for England.

The "Lind" mania in the English capital during the spring of 1848 raged without diminution. The anecdotes of her munificent charity, piety, and goodness filled the public prints and fed the popular idolatry. She added to her repertoire this season the r?les of Susanna in Mozart's great comic opera, Elvira in "Puritani," Adina in "L'Elisir d'Amore," and Giulia in Spontini's "Vestale." As Giulia she reached her high-water mark in tragedy, and as Adina in "L'Elisir" she was deliciously arch and fascinating. After the opera had closed, she remained in England during the summer and winter, owing to the disturbed state of the Continent, and gave extended concert tours in the provinces, for which she received immense sums of money. Many concerts she also devoted to charitable purposes, and splendid acknowledgments were made as gifts to her by corporations and private individuals in recognition of her lavish benevolence. Jenny Lind had now determined to take leave of the lyric stage, and in the April season of 1849 she gave a limited

season of farewell performances at Her Majesty's Theatre. The last appearance was on May 10th in her original character of Alice. The opera-house presented on that night of final adieu one of those striking scenes which words can hardly depict without seeming to be extravagant. The crowd was dense in every nook and corner of the house, including all the great personages of the realm. The whole royal family were present, the Houses of Parliament had emptied themselves to swell the throng, and everybody distinguished in art, letters, science, or fashion contributed to the splendor of the audience. When the curtain fell, and the deafening roar of applause, renewed again and again, had ceased, Jenny Lind came forward, led by the tenor Gardoni. She retired, but was called again in front of the curtain, and bowed her acknowledgments. A third time she was summoned, and this time she stood, her eyes streaming with tears, while the audience shouted themselves hoarse, so prolonged and irrepressible was the enthusiasm.

Now that the "Lind" fever is a thing of the past, it is possible to survey her genius as a lyric artist in the right perspective. Her voice was of bright, thrilling, and sympathetic quality, with greater strength and purity in the upper register, but somewhat defective in the other. These two portions of her voice she united, however, with great artistic dexterity, so that the power of the upper notes was not allowed to outshine the lower. Her execution was great, though inferior to that of Persiani and the older and still greater singer, Catalani. It appeared, perhaps, still greater than it was, on account of the natural reluctance of the voice. Her taste in ornamentation was original and brilliant, but always judicious, a moderation not often found among great executive singers. She composed all her own cadenzas, and many of them were of a character and performance such as to have evoked the strongest admiration of such musical authorities as Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, and Moscheles for their creative science. Her pianissimo tones were so fined down that they had almost the effect of ventriloquism, so exquisitely were they attenuated; and yet they never lost their peculiarly musical quality. As an actress Jenny Lind had no very startling power, and but little versatility, as her very limited opera repertory proved; but into what she did she infused a grace, sympathy, and tenderness, which, combined with the greatness of her singing and some indescribable quality in the voice itself, produced an effect on audiences with but few parallels in the annals of the opera. It is a little strange that Jenny Lind would never sing in Paris, but obstinately refused the most tempting offers. Perhaps she never forgot the circumstances of her first experience with a Parisian impressario.

It was at Lubeck, Germany, where she was singing in concert in 1849, that she concluded a treaty with Mr. Barnum for a series of one hundred and fifty concerts in America under his auspices. The terms were one thousand dollars per night for each of the performances, and the expenses of the whole troupe, which consisted of Sig. Belletti and Julius Benedict (since Sir Julius Benedict). The period intervening before her American tour was occupied in concert-giving on the continent and in England. The proceeds of these entertainments were given to charity, and the demonstrations of the public everywhere proved how firmly fixed in the heart of the music-loving public the great Swedish singer remained. Her last appearance before crossing the ocean was at Liverpool, before an audience of more than three thousand people, when the English people gave their idol a most affecting display of their admiration.

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