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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 5174

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

During the season of 1860 she added fresh laurels to those which she had already attained, and sang several new parts, among which maybe mentioned Flotow's pretty ballad opera of "Martha" and Rossini's "Semiramide." Her performance in the latter work created an almost indescribable sensation, so great was her singing, so strong and picturesque the dramatic effects which she produced. One of the sensations of the season was Titiens's rendering of "Casta Diva," in "Norma." Though many great vocalists had thrilled the public by their rendering of this celebrated aria, no one had ever yet given it the power so to excite the enthusiasm of the public. Mlle. Titiens performed also in the opera of "Oberon" for the first time, with great success. But the pièce de resistance of the season was Rossini's great tragic opera. "In Titiens's Semiramide," said a critic of the time, "her intellectuality shines most, from its contrasting with the part she impersonates-a part which in no wise assists her; but, as in a picture, shadow renders a light more striking. In the splendid aria, 'Bel Raggio,' the solfeggi and fioriture that she lavishes on the audience were executed with such marvelous tone and precision that she electrified the house. The grand duet with Alboni, 'Giorno d'orrore,' was exquisitely and nobly impressive from their dramatic interpretation of the scene."

In 1861 Mlle. Titiens made an engagement with Mr. Mapleson, under whose control she remained till her career was cut short by death. Associated with her under this first season of the Mapleson régime were Mme. Alboni, the contralto, and Signor Giuglini, the tenor. Her performance in the "Trovatore" drew forth more applause than ever. "Titiens is the most superb Leonora without a single exception that the Anglo-Italian stage has ever witnessed," wrote an admiring critic. Among other brilliant successes of the season was her performance for the first time of Amelia in Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," which was a masterpiece of vocalization and dramatic fire. The great German cantatrice was now accepted as the legitimate successor of Pasta, Malibran, and Grisi, and numerous comparisons were made between her and the last-named great singer. No artists could be more unlike in some respects. Titiens lacked the adroitness, the fluent melting grace, the suavity, of the other. "But," one critic justly remarks, "in passionate feeling, energy, power of voice, and grandeur of style, a comparison may be established. In certain characters Grisi has left no one to fill her place. These will be found most

ly in Rossini's operas, such as Semiramide, Ninetta, Desdemona, Pamira ('L'Assedio di Corinto'), Elene, etc., to which we may add Elvira in 'I Puritani,' written expressly for her. In not one of these parts has anybody created an impression since she sang them. They all belong to the repertoire of pure Italian song, of which Giulietta Grisi was undoubtedly the greatest mistress since Pasta. That Mlle. Titiens could not contend with her on her own Ausonian soil no one will deny. Her means, her compass, her instincts, all forbade. There is, however, one exception-Norma, in which the German singer may challenge comparison with the Italian, and in which she occasionally surpasses her. In the French and German repertoire the younger artist has a decided advantage over the elder, in possessing a voice of such extent as to be enabled to execute the music of the composers without alteration of any kind. Everybody knows that Mlle. Titiens has not only one of the most magnificent and powerful voices ever heard, but also one of the most extraordinary in compass. To sing the music of Donna Anna, Fidelio, Valentine, etc., without transposition or change, and to sing it with power and effect, is granted to few artists. Mlle. Titiens is one of these great rarities, and, therefore, without any great stretch of compliment, we may assert that, putting aside the Rossinian repertoire, she is destined to wear the mantle of Grisi."

In no previous season was Mlle. Titiens so popular or so much admired as during the season of 1862. Her most remarkable performance was the character of Alice, in Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable." "Mlle. Titiens's admirable personation of Alice," observes the critic of a leading daily paper, "must raise her to a still higher rank in public estimation than that she has hitherto so long sustained. Each of the three acts in which the German soprano was engaged won a separate triumph for her. We are tired of perpetually expatiating on the splendid brightness, purity, and clearness of her glorious voice, and on the absolute certainty of her intonation; but these mere physical requisites of a great singer are in themselves most uncommon. Irrespectively of the lady's clever vocalization, and of the strong dramatic impulse which she evinces, there is an actual sensual gratification in listening to her superb voice, singing with immovable certainty in perfect tune. Her German education, combined with long practice in Italian opera, peculiarly fit Mlle. Titiens for interpreting the music of Meyerbeer, who is equally a disciple of both schools."

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