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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 4459

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Mlle. Titiens was such a firmly established favorite of the English public that, in the line of great tragic characters, no one was held her equal. The most brilliant favorites who have arisen since her star ascended to the zenith have been utterly unable to dispute her preeminence in those parts where height of tragic inspiration is united with great demands of vocalization. Cherubini's opera of "Medea," a work which, had never been produced in England, because no soprano could be found equal to the colossal task of singing a score of almost unprecedented difficulty in conjunction with the needs of dramatic passion no less exigeant, was brought out expressly to display her genius. Though this classic masterpiece was not repeated often, and did not become a favorite with the English public on account of the old-fashioned austerity of its musical style, Titiens achieved one of the principal triumphs of her life in embodying the character of the Colchian sorceress as expressed in song. Pasta's Medea, created by herself musically and dramatically out of the faded and correct commonplace of Simon Mayer's opera, was fitted with consummate skill to that eminent artist's idiosyncrasies, and will ever remain one of the grand traditions of the musical world. To perform such a work as that of Cherubini required Pasta's tragic genius united with the voice of a Catalani, made, as it were, of adamant and gold. To such an ideal equipment of powers, Titiens approached more nearly than any other singer who had ever assayed the r?le in more recent times. One of the noblest operas ever written, it has been relegated to the musical lumber-room on account of the almost unparalleled difficulties which it presents.

It is not desirable to catalogue the continued achievements of Mlle. Titiens season by season in England, which country she had adopted as her permanent home. She had achieved her place and settled the character of her fame. Year after year she shone before the musical world of London, to which all the greatest singers of the world resort to obtain their final and greatest laurels, without finding her equal in the highest walks of the lyric stage. As her voice through incessant work lost something o

f its primal bloom, Mlle. Titiens confined her repertory to a few operas such as "Trovatore," "Norma," "Don Giovanni," "Semiramide," etc., where dramatic greatness is even more essential than those dulcet tones so apt to vanish with the passage of youth. As an oratorio singer, she held a place to the last unequaled in musical annals.

In 1875 Mlle. Titiens visited America, on a concert and operatic tour which embraced the principal cities of the country. She was well received, but failed, through the very conditions and peculiarities of her genius, to make that marked impression on the public mind which had sometimes, perhaps, been achieved by artists of more shallow and meretricious graces. The voice of Mlle. Titiens had begun to show the friction of years, and though her wonderful skill as a vocalist covered up such defects in large measure, it was very evident that the greatest of recent German singers had passed the zenith of her fascination as a vocalist. But the grand style, the consummate breadth and skill in phrasing, that gradation of effects by which the intention of a composer is fully manifested, the truth and nobility of declamation, that repose and dignity of action by which dramatic purpose reaches its goal without a taint of violence or extravagance-in a word, all those great qualities where the artist separates from the mere vocalist were so finely manifested as to gain the deepest admiration of the cognoscenti, and justify in the American mind the great reputation associated with the name of Mlle. Titiens. On her return to Europe, she continued to sing with unimpaired favor in opera, concert, and oratorio, until she was seized with the fatal illness which carried her off in 1879. Her death was the cause of deep regret among musical circles in England and on the Continent, for she left no successor in the line of her greatness. So far as any survey of the field could justify a judgment, liable at any time to be upset by the sudden apparition of genius hitherto hampered by unfavorable conditions, Mlle. Titiens was the last of that race of grand dramatic singers made splendid by such beacon lights as Pasta, Malibran, Schr?der-Devrient, Grisi, and Viardot-Garcia.


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