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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 6035

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The prevalence of the Lind fever, which seemed to know no abatement, however, made a London engagement at this period not highly flattering to other singers, and Mlle. Cruvelli beat a retreat to Germany, where she made a musical tour. She was compelled to leave Berlin by the breaking out of the Revolution, and she made, an engagement for the Carnival season at Trieste, during which time she gave performances in "Attila," "Norma," "Don Pasquale," and "Macbeth," and other operas of minor importance, covering a wide field of characters, serious and comic. In 1850 we hear of Mlle. Cruvelli creating a very great sensation at Milan at La Scala. Genoa was no less enthusiastic in its welcome of the young singer, who had left Italy only two years before, and returned a great artist. No stall could be obtained without an order at least a week in advance.

In April, 1850, she made her first Parisian appearance at the Théatre Italien in Paris, under Mr. Lumley's management, as Elvira to Mr. Sims Reeves's Ernani, and the French critics were highly eulogistic over this fresh candidate for lyric honors. She did not highly strike the perfect key-note of her genius till she appeared as Leonora in "Fidelio," at Her Majesty's Theatre, in London, on May 20, 1851, Sims Reeves being the Florestan. Her improvement since her first London engagement had been marvelous. Though scarcely twenty, Mlle. Cruvelli had become a great actress, and her physical beauty had flowered into striking loveliness, though of a lofty and antique type. Her sculpturesque face and figure, her great dramatic passion, and the brilliancy of her voice produced a profound sensation in London. Her Leonora was a symmetrical and noble performance, raised to tragic heights by dramatic genius, and elaborated with a vocal excellence which would bear comparison with the most notable representations of that great r?le: "From the shuddering expression given to the words, 'How cold it is in this subterranean vault!' spoken on entering Florestan's dungeon," said one critic, "to the joyous and energetic duet, in which the reunited pair gave vent to their rapturous feelings, all was inimitable. Each transition of feeling was faithfully conveyed, and the suspicion, growing by degrees into certainty, that the wretched prisoner is Florestan, was depicted with heart-searching truth. The internal struggle was perfectly expressed."

"With Mlle. Cruvelli," says this writer, "Fidelio is governed throughout by one purpose, to which everything is rendered subservient. Determination to discover and liberate her husband is the mainspring not only of all her actions, and the theme of all her soliloquies, but, even when others likely to annunce her design in any way are acting or speaking, we read in the anxious gaze, the breathless anxiety, the head bent to catch the slightest word, a continuation of the same train of thought and an ever-living ardor in the pursuit of the one cherished object. In such positions as these, where one gifted

artist follows nature with so delicate an appreciation of its most subtile truths, it is not easy for a character occupying the background of the stage picture to maintain (although by gesture only) a constant commentary upon the words of others without becoming intrusive or attracting an undue share of attention. Yet Cruvelli does this throughout the first scene (especially during the duet betwixt Rocco and Pizarro, in which Fidelio overhears the plan to assassinate her husband) with a perfection akin to that realized by Rachel in the last scene of 'Les Horaces,' where Camille listens to the recital of her brother's victory over her lover; and the result, like that of the chorus in a Greek drama, is to heighten rather than lessen the effect. These may be considered minor points, but, as necessary parts of a great conception, they are as important, and afford as much evidence of the master mind, as the artist's delivery of the grandest speeches or scenes."

"Mlle. Cruvelli," observes another critic, "has the power of expressing joy and despair, hope and anxiety, hatred and love, fear and resolution, with equal facility. She has voice and execution sufficient to master with ease all the trying difficulties of the most trying and difficult of parts."

Norma was Sophie's second performance. "Before the first act was over, Sophie Cruvelli demonstrated that she was as profound a mistress of the grand as of the romantic school of acting, as perfect an interpreter of the brilliant as of the classical school of music." She represented Fidelio five times and Norma thrice.

Her features were most expressive, and well adapted to the lyric stage; her manner also was dramatic and energetic. She was highly original, and always thought for herself. Possessing a profound insight into character, her conception was always true and just, while her execution continually varied. "The one proceeds from a judgment that never errs, the other from impulse, which may possibly lead her astray. Thus, while her Fidelio and her Norma are never precisely the same on two consecutive evenings, they are, nevertheless, always Fidelio and Norma.... She does not calculate. She sings and acts on the impulse of the moment; but her performance must always be impressive, because it is always true to one idea, always bearing upon one object-the vivid realization of the character she impersonates to the apprehension of her audience." So much was she the creature of impulse that, even when she would spend a day, a week, a month, in elaborating a certain passage-a certain dramatic effect-perhaps on the night of performance she would improvise something perfectly different from her preconceived idea.

Her sister Marie made her début in Thalberg's Florinda, in July, with Sophie. She was a graceful and charming contralto; but her timidity and an over-delicacy of expression did not permit her then to display her talents to the greatest advantage. The brother of the sisters Cruvelli was a fine barytone.

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