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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 5540

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The English manager, Mr. Lumley, had heard of Mlle. Titiens and the sensation she had made in Germany. So he hastened to Vienna, and made the most lavish propositions to the young singer that she should appear in his company before the London public. She was unable to accept his proposition, for her contract in Vienna had yet a year to run; but, after some negotiations, an arrangement was made which permitted Mlle. Titiens to sing in London for three months, with the express understanding that she should not surpass that limit.

She made her first bow before an English audience on April 13, 1858, as Valentine in Meyerbeer's chef d'oeuvre, Giuglini singing the part of Raoul for the first time. She did not understand Italian, but, under the guidance of a competent master, she memorized the unknown words, pronunciation and all, so perfectly that no one suspected but that she was perfectly conversant with the liquid accents of that "soft bastard Latin" of the South. Success alone justified so dangerous an experiment. The audience was most fashionable and critical, and the reception of the new singer was of the most assuring kind.

The voice of Mlle. Titiens was a pure soprano, fresh, penetrating, even, powerful, unusually rich in quality, extensive in compass, and of great flexibility. It had a bell-like resonance, and was capable of expressing all the passionate and tender accents of lyric tragedy. Theresa Titiens was, in the truest, fullest sense of the word, a lyric artist, and she possessed every requisite needed by a cantatrice of the highest order-personal beauty, physical strength, originality of conception, a superb voice, and inexhaustible spirit and energy. Like most German singers, Mlle. Titiens regarded ornamentation as merely an agreeable adjunct in vocalization; and in the music of Valentine she sang only what the composer had set down-neither more nor less-but that was accomplished to perfection.

As an actress, her tall, stately, elegant figure was admirably calculated to personate the tragic heroines of opera. Her face at this time was beautiful, her large eyes flashed with intellect, and her classical features were radiant with expression; her grandeur of conception, her tragic dignity, her glowing warmth and abandon rendered her worthy of the finest days of lyric tragedy. She was thoroughly dramatic; her movements and gestures were singularly noble, and her attitudes on the stage had classical breadth and largeness, without the least constraint.

As Leonora, in "Trovatore," she was peculiarly successful, and her Donna Anna literally took the audience by storm, through the magnificence of both the singing and acting. In June she made her appearance as Lucrezia Borgia. The qualities which this part d

emands are precisely those with which Mlle. Titiens was endowed-tragic power, intensity, impulsiveness. Her commanding figure and graceful bearing gave weight to her acting, while in the more tender scenes she was exquisitely pathetic, and displayed great depth of feeling. "Com' è bello" was rendered with thrilling tenderness, and the allegro which followed it created a furore; it was one of the most brilliant morceaux of florid decorative vocalism heard for years, the upper C in the cadenza being quite electrical. At the end of the first and second acts, the heartrending accents of a mother's agony, wrung from the depths of her soul, and the scornful courage tempered with malignant passion, were contrasted with consummate power. It was conceded that Grisi herself never rose to a greater pitch of dramatic truth and power.

Mlle. Titiens was unable to get an extension of her congé, and, much to the regret of her manager and the public, returned to Vienna early in the autumn. Instantly that she could free herself from professional obligation, she proceeded to Italy to acquire the Italian language, a feat which she accomplished in a few months. Here she met Mr. Smith, the manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, and effected an arrangement with him, in consequence of which she inaugurated her second London season on May 3, 1859, with the performance of Lucrezia Borgia. Mlle. Titiens sang successively in the characters which she had interpreted during her previous visit to London, adding to them the magnificent r?le of Norma, whose breadth and grandeur of passion made it peculiarly favorable for the display of her genius. Near the close of the season she appeared in Verdi's "Vêpres Siciliennes," in which, we are told, "she sang magnificently and acted with extraordinary passion and vigor. At the close of the fourth act, when Helen and Procida are led to the scaffold, the conflicting emotions that agitate the bosom of the heroine were pictured with wonderful truth and intensity by Mlle. Titiens." From London the singer made a tour of the provinces, where she repeated the remarkable successes of the capital. At the various musical festivals, she created an almost unprecedented reputation in oratorio. The largeness and dignity of her musical style, the perfection of a voice which responded to every intention of the singer, her splendor of declamation, stamped her as par excellence the best interpreter of this class of music whom England had heard in the more recent years of her generation. Her fame increased every year, with the development of her genius and artistic knowledge, and it may be asserted that no singer, with the exception of Grisi, ever held such a place for a long period of years in the estimate of the English public.

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