The rehearsal was fixed for the next day of "Lucia di Lammermoor," for I was to sing in this opera here for the first time. The excitement had become so great that the people made every endeavour to be allowed to hear the rehearsal. This, of course, could not be permitted; but in the end the direction and the artistes had to submit, for the crowds outside actually broke down the doors and filled the theatre from floor to ceiling, the rehearsal being thus converted into an actual performance.
On the next night not even standing room was left, and a very considerable sum of money was realised and handed over to the responsible authorities for the benefit of the poor. The warmth of my welcome and the applause I received almost overwhelmed me. I left Aci Reale the following day amidst a scene of amazing enthusiasm. Some acquaintances I made some years afterwards in Paris told me they arrived from Palermo just as I was leaving, and they could not imagine what extraordinary event was happening. I mention this to show to what lengths an enthusiastic musical audience will go in Sicily!
I arrived in London in June James Mapleson, the manager of the Italian Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre, had heard of my success in Sicily and Malta and had been asked to hear me sing. To my keen disappointment, Mr. Mapleson could not, or would not, do so. Marimon had just before this made a success in Paris, and Mr. Mapleson had engaged her for his theatre, and did not want, as he said, any more prime donne.
I, in fact, did not even see Mr. Mapleson, and met him for the first time several years later. After this repulse I--most fortunately for myself, as it turned out--had a communication, through General McCrea, from Mr. He received me most kindly, heard me sing, and gave me an engagement for five summer seasons.
As this was in June, and there was still over a month of the opera season to run, I was very anxious to begin my engagement at once; but Mr. He promised, however, to give me the "Sonnambula" at the beginning of the next season, and with this I had to be content. I sang under the management of Mr. Frederick Gye from my first year in London until the time of his death in seven seasons in all. Gye was a thorough business man, very kind and thoughtful, but always managing his theatre in a splendid fashion, whilst insisting upon everybody doing their duty.
It was a real pleasure to be directed by him. He used to say that an operatic manager needed to be a greater diplomatist than the Prime Minister; and I am sure he was right. He never would let me sing two days in succession, nor rehearse on the day that I had a performance at night.
I have followed this rule ever since, and have found it very much to my comfort and advantage. Gye was the manager of Covent Garden Theatre at the time it was burnt down in By great energy and perseverance he got the money together to rebuild it, and the present theatre was finished and opened in May I remained for a short time in London, where I made some kind friends, and saw as many of the wonderful collections and "sights" of London as I could.
Faure, and other great artistes of world-wide reputation, who were then all singing at Covent Garden every season. Naturally in Italy, where riches do not abound as in London, I had been associated with artistes who were either beginners or whose talents or voices had not enabled them to rise to the first rank; but here I found opera given with such a combination of the highest artistic talent as probably had never existed before, and, I fear, may never exist again.
The orchestra was the finest in Europe, and the chorus and "ensemble" generally far beyond anything I had ever known. Madame Patti was then at the zenith of her fame. To listen to her lovely voice, soft as velvet, equal throughout in register, flexible, true, and seeming to pour from her throat with the ease and facility of the voice of a bird, was an immense pleasure to me.
Her acting, too, was very fascinating, especially when she played Rosina in Rossini's "Barbiere di Siviglia. Madame Lucca also interested me greatly. Her "Africaine" was a study in feeling, in expression, in singing, and especially in acting. She was great in the "Africaine," and she was great also in the absolute comedy part of Zerlina in "Fra Diavolo.
I shall never forget the first time I heard Madame Miolan Carvallo. It was in Gounod's "Faust," and she had hurriedly replaced Madame Lucca, who had been taken ill. In the Jewel Song her grace, her phrasing, her rhythm, the perfection and beauty of her art, touched me so deeply that, as she finished the last note, I involuntarily burst into tears.
It was his custom to leave Milan during the hot weather and spend the summer and autumn on one of the Italian lakes. This did not necessarily entail a cessation of his lessons, as several of the more anxious and industrious of his pupils always followed him, and the days were most agreeably as well as profitably spent, half in work and half in relaxation and the enjoyment of Como's exquisite climate and scenery.
To the many who know it description is superfluous; but to me, who saw it for the first time, it seemed almost a paradise, at once of grandeur and of beauty. Its mountains are so magnificent, its waters so blue, its vegetation and flowers so luxuriant, that the music of our studies was sung again by Nature to our souls; we felt refreshed both mentally and physically. The maestro entirely approved of this, and with his hearty sanction I wrote to the publisher of "Mignon," M. Heugel, asking him, if I came to Paris, whether it would be possible for him to arrange an interview for me with M.
Heugel was quite a stranger to me, but he wrote back most kindly, telling me to come to Paris, and that M. Thomas would gladly see me and tell me all I wanted to know. This meeting duly took place, and I learnt from M. Thomas especially taking the kindest interest and trouble in the several interviews he granted me. He even went so far as to sing my part himself, giving me every detail of his own ideas about the role. It was he who suggested to me the sobbing and laughing in one of the recitatives. It is to him also I owe a proper understanding of the great importance of clear enunciation of the recitatives and of the words generally.
Up to that time my first anxiety had been for my singing, my breathing, shades of tone, and production of voice; the words hitherto had been a secondary consideration. Ever since then I have adopted this plan of going through a new work with its composer whenever it has been possible, for by so doing an insight is obtained into more of the capabilities and possibilities of the music than can be gained in any other way.
Gounod, the greatest French composer living at that time. On the beauties of these oratorios I need not dwell here, as they are so well known; but my rendering of them was essentially enlarged by having the interpretation of his music explained to me by M. Gounod and by the extreme charm with which he played it. I felt deeply indebted to him for his kindness and instruction--an indebtedness often renewed in later years--as well as for the true friendship he then showed me, and which lasted until his death.
I also went to hear the operas given by the Germans in Germany, so as to acquire a knowledge of all the best methods and traditions known and practised in Wagner's own country. There is nothing which enables an artiste to feel and to understand the actual reality of a role so well, both in the music and the acting, as living so far as possible in its artistic atmosphere while studying it. After two weeks of real study of "Mignon" with M.
Cabanel, whose acquaintance I made here. He had come to Florence on the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, and he remained there during that winter. At last, towards the end of the season--and, for me, dangerously close to the time when I must depart and fulfil my engagement at Covent Garden--"Mignon" was ready to be produced.
Books by Dewey Dempsey
It had been rather a failure in another town in Italy, but at the Pergola it created such a furore that four or five pieces were encored at each performance. I had even to repeat recitatives, of which there were several, and the house was crammed every night. It was on this occasion that I came fully to realise that an opera could be acted as thoroughly as it could be sung.
So great was the success of "Mignon" that the manager telegraphed to Mr. Gye in London begging him to allow me to stay longer, so that more nights of this opera might be given. This was, however, not possible, as the London season was just beginning and I was wanted immediately. But I did all I could for the Direction of the Pergola, and actually sang in nine performances of "Mignon" in ten days! It was with very mingled feelings that I arrived in London.
The change was a great one, both in the matter of climate, which I found so different to those of Italy and Malta, and the "personnel" of such a great opera house as Covent Garden then was. Here I found myself in a solidly established opera house, the staff of which the heads of it certainly was a permanent one. The whole was worked with the quiet discipline of a regiment. The greatest artistes of the day, who were always engaged, returned year after year, and became established in the affections of the British public.
I use the word "affection" advisedly, for the English people take those who serve them well to their hearts, and never forget, even after long years, any who once have won their admiration and, above all, their esteem. Small wonder if I felt nervous on my arrival; but I was much encouraged by Mr.
Gye, who, though almost a stranger then, was kindness itself to me. I discovered that one important reason Mr. He was certainly right, although at the time I was much disappointed at having to leave London without giving even one representation. My first appearance at Covent Garden was heralded by no preliminary puffing or extravagant notices, for Mr. Gye, the first and cleverest of operatic managers of that day, would never countenance that form of preliminary advertisement which has since become so much the custom.
He quoted the old proverb, I remember, that "Good wine needs no bush," and said that to raise the expectations of the public too high must always be a great mistake. If I made a success, it would then come as a surprise and be all the greater. All that appeared beforehand about me was the following simple announcement: Albani, the remarkable young soprano, will appear in Italian opera at Covent Garden under the management of Mr. An officious friend twitted Mr.
Gye with not having done more for me in advance, but he only answered, "They will come, they will listen, and they will come again. When in Florence the previous winter my engagement in London was much discussed, and the Italians said that the English would probably like me, but that they were not sufficiently musical entirely to appreciate my singing. I know now how utterly wrong they were. I can truthfully say, with pride and gratitude, that I have been fortunate and happy enough to make numberless friends and--may I add?
The English public has been, and is, faithful and true to me ever since. As I have said before, in England you are never forgotten. The Italians being wrong and Mr. I may, however, perhaps be allowed to quote a paragraph which appeared in the Musical Times for May , as being fairly typical of the very kind reception accorded me by the critics:.
As the heroine in 'Lucia di Lammermoor', Mlle. Albani again asserted her right to the highest place as a lyric artist; and there can be no doubt that future performances will fully justify the verdict so unanimously and unmistakably pronounced upon her first appearance. How well I remember him! He had a fine, powerful voice, which he used with much skill, and he possessed great dramatic ability.
In later years I sang with him "Lohengrin," "Les Huguenots," and other operas. During this season I sang in "Lucia di Lammermoor," as Lady Enrichetta in Flotow's "Marta," and in "Linda di Chamounix," but with so many other prime donne in the theatre it was, of course, difficult to find at once fresh roles for a young debutante.
Lord Dudley was a great lover of music and patron of art, and a constant visitor to the opera. He was good enough to admire my voice and singing, and to feel interested in my youthful career; and he continued his kindness to me during the rest of his life. At his house I met the late Queen of Holland. I remember her as a very amiable and kind-hearted old lady; she complimented me and was most kind in expressing the pleasure my singing gave her. I remember also being much struck by her wonderful "coiffure," which consisted of a mass of grey curls, arranged quite unlike the fashion of that day.
I was presented to many celebrated persons, both in society and in the musical and artistic world, during that season. Many of their names, however, I regret to say I cannot remember at this distance of time, but it was then I first met Sir Julius Benedict, who arranged for, and accompanied me at, most of my private concerts. He gave me much good advice on the subject of music generally, and was the first to enlighten me on the traditions of oratorio music, which is understood nowhere else as it is in England. From an English accompanist, Mr. Josiah Pitman, the organist at Covent Garden, I learnt also nearly all the traditions of oratorio.
He had known for years past and accompanied them all the great oratorio singers, and could tell me how they sang each phrase. Through him I am indebted to the celebrated Madame Clara Novello, though I never heard myself, for some most valuable instruction, her especially on the necessity of the clearest enunciation and correct weight and meaning being given to every word, as well as to every phrase, in oratorio singing.
Whilst singing oratorio, I have often been told that I recalled Clara Novello, and I should like to quote here an account of her singing which I happened to come across lately, and which, to my mind, describes exactly what an oratorio singer should strive to be. The singing of oratorio is the highest perfection of all, and few are granted the specialised gifts needed to exercise it in perfection. For one really great woman oratorio singer we generally count two or three eminent operatic prima donnas. Oratorio supplies no fictitious aids of scenery, impersonation, or story to bring the audience into sympathy with the singer.
It is just music in its purest, boldest form, and the artiste who can stand up with stringed instruments behind her and thousands of calm critical listeners before, and sing 'Lift thine eyes' or 'O, rest in the Lord' so as to lift every soul there into the Courts of Heaven, must have, as one would think, learnt her art among the angels before bringing it down to earth.
A voice such as is heard perhaps once or twice in a century, temperament balanced to equal riches and simplicity, these are the conditions necessary for the greatest singers, and for the oratorio singer one more grace is needed--a living faith in the immortal messages to which her voice must lend its wings. He told me that whilst writing "Stabat Mater" he could hear my voice when walking in the woods about his native village in Hungary.
As a result of my first season in London I was engaged as one of the leading soprani at the Norwich Musical Festival in the following October, and this was the beginning of my connection with the great English festivals--a connection which has lasted, I may say, almost without intermission up to the present time.
These festivals in England are a great institution, and go far, in my opinion, to contradict the assertion that the English, as a nation, are unmusical. The festivals are all triennial. The choruses are composed mostly of amateurs, and part of the orchestra is composed of amateurs also. The rehearsals last sometimes for a whole year beforehand, ensuring effective knowledge of the music and unanimity in its execution. These rehearsals are pursued with the greatest industry and enthusiasm by each and every local amateur society that is to take part in the festival.
My early training in sacred music in the church at Albany stood me in good stead, and I soon gained a reputation for my interpretation of sacred music. When I first came to England, poor Madame Titiens was the principal soprano at most of the festivals, and I sang at two or three with her, only taking a less important part. Since her death I have sung the principal soprano parts in all the oratorios.
At this first festival one of the principal artistes fell ill and could not sing. The committee asked me if I could help them in their sudden difficulty, and kindly reassured me by saying that if I would sing "Angels, ever bright and fair" it would be amply sufficient. I promised to do my best, and was rewarded by the warm appreciation of the public. I remember seeing, and cannot help smiling as I think of it, the walls of Norwich placarded with the simple announcement that Mlle.
Albani would sing "Angels, ever bright and fair. Maas, and Signor Foli. Some of these have unhappily gone from amongst us, but I can call to mind many splendid performances with which they were associated, and I recollect vividly the splendid tones of Madame Titiens's voice, so finely trained and so eminently suited to the music of oratorio. Madame Trebelli also, although her method was purely Italian, was extraordinarily successful in oratorio, and most clever in every variety of music.
It was a true pleasure to me, for example, to sing with her the "Quis est homo" from the "Stabat Mater" of Rossini.
Madame Patey will be remembered in England as long as oratorio lasts for many of the solos she sang, but probably above all for "O, rest in the Lord," from "Elijah," in the rendering of which she has rarely, if ever, been equalled, and assuredly never been surpassed. An amusing, though at the time somewhat painful, incident that happened on my benefit night at Covent Garden is perhaps worth recording here. When at the end of the opera I was recalled before the curtain, a gentleman sitting in one of the front rows of the stalls threw me a bouquet and a jewel case.
Unfortunately for his good intentions, the case struck me in the middle of the forehead with considerable violence. The gentleman could be seen making frantic gestures of despair as, with my hands pressed to my forehead, I rushed off the stage to my dressing-room. The application of a few simple remedies soon made me feel all right, and possibly my recovery may have been hastened by the fact that, on opening the case, I discovered that it contained a beautiful diadem set with brilliants.
For the winter season of I was engaged at the Italian Opera in Paris. This was then held at the Salle Ventadour, a not very large, but very commodious, theatre, the acoustic properties of which were very good. Here I had to await the suffrages of a distinctly different public to that of either Italy or England. I sang in the "Sonnambula," "Lucia," and "Rigoletto," and my fears were soon laid to rest by the warmth of applause showered on me by one of the most discriminating and, as it can be, difficult publics in the world.
I sang it for my first appearance, my partenaire being M. Capoul as Elvino, who sang the music with the greatest charm. It seemed, to my delight, that my old Maestro Lamperti's choice of my opera had again brought me luck, for the Paris critics were enthusiastic in their appreciation, and wrote of "the new star that had appeared on the operatic horizon. My time during the winter was almost entirely taken up with my work, but all the leisure I could spare I devoted to visiting the picture-galleries, old buildings, and the many historical interests in which Paris abounds.
Here, as elsewhere, since I began my career, I met with nothing but help and sympathy from my brother and sister artistes. I had heard much about the jealousies and difficulties often only too rife in a theatre, but I can truly assert that the sympathetic pleasure I always feel myself in the talent and success of any of my colleagues, was ungrudgingly given to me by one and all, bringing sunshine into my operatic life, and lightening its inevitable work and anxieties.
I have been told a story--let us hope it is but a "story"--that a celebrated singer was once heard to exclaim, "There is one soprano in the world I do not hate, and that is Emma Lajeunesse, whom they call Albani! Albani seems destined to enter into rivalry. In "Hamlet" I had the great advantage and pleasure of singing with M. Faure, and in "Le Nozze di Figaro" with M. Both these fine artistes had made great reputations before coming to London, which they have ever since brilliantly maintained.
Whenever possible I went to the opera, listening with delight to the great singers who then were the favourites of all London, witnessing an ensemble in almost every opera which can never be surpassed. I may here repeat a little story, the keen edge of which, however, I am glad to say, is taken off by the fact that it was Madame Patti herself who told it to me.
One morning, she said, she was walking with her husband in Regent Street, and as she stopped at a shop window to look at a number of photographs, a gentleman who had come up behind her and of course not seeing who she was , said to his friend, "There's the portrait of Albani: During the August of this year I was engaged for the Birmingham Festival to sing scenas from the operas at the three miscellaneous concerts only, as Madame Titiens and Madame Lemmens Sherrington were singing the soprano parts in the oratorios.
I am proud to say I have been engaged for this important festival ever since. Later in the autumn I was engaged in Russia, and sang at Moscow and St. Petersburg during the winter of In those days the Italian opera took place at the Imperial theatres, and was conducted somewhat on the following principle. A manager was chosen from amongst the operatic impresarii of Europe by the Minister who had the control of the Royal theatres.
He was given the theatre and was allowed to conduct his season, being subject only to certain restrictions and regulations imposed by the Minister. If the manager made a profit on the season, he put it into his pocket; but if there was a deficit, it was paid by the Emperor, as the whole personnel of the theatre, including the performers, was looked upon as part of the Royal Household.
There was never much danger of the latter eventuality occurring, as the Russians are very fond of the opera, and there was very little other music in Russia. For several years now no Italian opera has existed in Russia, as the theatres have been given up to national opera, and Royal patronage given to everything Russian. True, there has been from time to time some Italian opera, but it has been done by private enterprise, and has had to be given in an inferior theatre.
I sang at nine performances in Moscow, beginning in November and ending before Christmas, when the season finished there. I had succeeded in pleasing the Russian people, who, in contradiction to their cold climate, are warm-hearted and responsive. A correspondent wrote to the Times as follows:.
She has appeared on nine occasions, each succeeding night being a greater success than the preceding one. At the end of the opera the subscribers gave me a splendid basket of flowers, to which was attached a jewel-case containing a very large butterfly composed of brilliants and rubies, with an enormous emerald forming the body. More and more flowers descended upon the stage from all parts of the house, until it was nearly covered.
The Russian public is the most enthusiastic one I have ever known. When they like a singer, there is no limit to their expressions of approval, and I have sometimes been obliged to appear before the curtain twenty and twenty-five times and more in one evening. I have never ceased to feel grateful for the warm welcome with which, as a young singer, I was received by my kind Russian audiences.
Petersburg for the season there, which commenced as soon as all the Christmas festivities were over. I sang in the same operas as I had sung in Moscow, and it was during this season that I was presented and spoke to the first reigning monarch I had ever had the honour to approach.
The Czar Alexander II. I was very frightened, but very pleased. He subsequently sent me a lovely and very valuable diamond ornament in recognition of my singing at a State concert. As all the troupe of the opera belonged to the "maison de l'Empereur," the Czar commanded the singers when he pleased, and instead of any sum of money, made them a present varying in value according to their status in the theatre.
Forty Years of Song, by Emma Albani
I have been told that it was the custom for some of the artistes to take their brooches or bracelets back to the jeweller from whom they were bought and receive money for them, so that in this way a particular piece of jewellery might be presented several times over. I need not say that I treasure all my Russian presents, and especially the diamond cross, in remembrance of Alexander II, who met with so cruel and undeserved a fate.
His Imperial Majesty's was a personality that struck me both forcibly and sympathetically, even at first sight. His kindness and courtesy were remarkable; his innate dignity as simple as it was royal: That he was mistaken in the period at which he did it, that he failed to realise how unfit the Serfs really were for that liberty, which it must take them years of education to know how to use and enjoy properly, were errors into which his mind fell, but to which his heart never gave assent. Criticism should shrink back before so noble an effort, and praise, not blame, be accorded to the murdered Emperor.
The great event of the winter was the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh to the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, only daughter of the Czar. As a part of the Emperor's Household, the principal artistes of the Italian opera were commanded to sing during the Imperial banquet, which took place after the marriage ceremony. We were placed in a gallery facing the Imperial table in the great White Hall of the palace, and we looked down on a scene the magnificence of which I can never forget, combining as it did the modern perfection of Western civilisation with the remains of the barbarous splendour of Oriental life.
Very disturbing incidents with regard to the music took place during the banquet. Several "toasts" were proposed, and before each a great flourish of trumpets was sounded. This was done without any regard to what was going on in the gallery, or who was singing. Luckily I escaped this during my song, but one or two of the solos were sadly marred by the trumpeters. The clatter of plates and of knives and forks also did not help the harmony of our efforts. In Russia, at all Court functions, the Russian ladies are obliged to wear the old national Court costume, which consists of flowing and richly embroidered robes, and a sort of high diadem head-dress, which is literally covered with jewels, the jewels owned by the Royal and most of the noble families in Russia being amongst the rarest and finest in the world.
On this occasion the Imperial table alone was a most marvellous sight. The row of glittering and varied uniforms, alternating with the diamond tiaras, necklaces, and splendid jewels of all descriptions, and the rich embroideries of the ladies' dresses, their costumes being mostly of velvet of every shade and colour, trimmed with precious stones and priceless furs, formed a coup d'oeil , the beauty of which is as difficult to imagine as it is adequately to describe. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote the account given by Signor Arditi, who conducted his own cantata which was performed at the wedding ceremony.
Petersburg has long been renowned for its lavish display of precious stones at Royal and other distinguished functions, and is considered to be the city par excellence for general gorgeousness of array. The ladies were clad in rich robes of cloth-of-silver or cloth-of-gold, the bodices of which were shrouded in priceless Valenciennes or Brussels lace, while diaphanous veils floated from their jewelled Russian caps on to the costly trains beneath.
The British Duke's distinguished air and pleasant manner entirely won the hearts of those who were present to wish him God-speed, and the illustrious hero of the evening, together with his lovely bride, were very greatly admired. I shall never forget," Signor Arditi continues, "the extraordinary effect produced by the huge, roaring furnaces which had been built outside in the courtyards of the palace for the benefit and comfort of the coachmen, who cowered round them, endeavouring to keep warm, while they awaited their Royal masters.
Without these furnaces they must, one and all, inevitably have been frozen to death, since the cold that year was more horribly intense than I ever remember it to have been on any of my previous visits to the Russian capital. From Russia I returned to London for the opera season of , singing in my previous operas, the "Sonnambula," "Lucia," "Linda di Chamounix," "Marta," etc.
It was during this season that I was honoured with a command to sing at Windsor, where for the first time I saw Queen Victoria, and here began that warm appreciation and faithful interest in me on the part of Her Majesty--I might almost venture to say friendship --which ended only with her life. I need scarcely say that I deeply felt and as deeply reciprocated Her Majesty's generous attachment to me, of which I can never be sufficiently proud or sufficiently happy to have had the privilege of enjoying.
It was not alone the distinguished honour bestowed by a great and extraordinarily gifted Queen; it was that even higher moral support and love for those for whom she cared which seemed to radiate from Queen Victoria. She praised my voice and my singing, and with a discrimination that told me at once how thoroughly she understood music and the art of singing. Indeed, as I continually noticed in after-years, it was all but impossible to find any subject on which Her Majesty was not well informed, and generally far better informed than any one else who might happen to be present.
That she loved music it is scarcely necessary for me to say. Almost every school of music appeared to appeal to Queen Victoria. Sometimes she would ask me to sing two or three or more little French songs, one after another. Then she would suggest something by Brahms, or perhaps Grieg, or possibly Handel or Mendelssohn; and often I have concluded with some simple song that I knew she was fond of. Scotch songs, in particular, appealed to her very strongly. She never grew tired, for instance, of "The Bluebells of Scotland," which she generally spoke of as "the Hieland Laddie song.
He and Lablache had been her music masters in the early years of her married life, and Prince Albert had always entertained a very high opinion of Mendelssohn in particular. I am inclined to think, though I may of course be mistaken, that my singing of Mendelssohn sometimes recalled to the Queen's memory pleasant recollections of the years that had fled.
Number after number of Mendelssohn's oratorios she would listen to with rapt attention, and often when I stopped singing she would remain for some moments in a sort of reverie. Sometimes she failed to remember the words of some song she particularly wished me to sing. On those occasions--rather rare occasions, I am bound to admit--she would herself hum over the air in order to recall the piece to my memory. Another of Queen Victoria's favourite composers was Gounod. His opera "Faust" was composed only just before the death of Prince Albert, and as, after the Prince Consort's death, she made up her mind never to attend another public performance either at the opera or at a theatre, she did not see it produced.
Yet she never wearied of hearing me sing bits out of the opera. Then, when Sir Arthur Sullivan wrote for me his glorious "Golden Legend," I induced the Queen to listen to certain portions of it that I thought would prove irresistible. In the end she became intensely eager to attend a performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan's masterpiece, and though I did not venture actually to suggest it, I did endeavour indirectly to foster her desire to be present at one performance.
Finally the "Golden Legend" was produced at Leeds. For some months after that the Queen did not again broach the subject of attending a public performance. Then one morning, to my surprise and great delight, she sent word to me to say that she had definitely decided to witness the performance of the "Golden Legend" just advertised to take place at the Albert Hall.
The day arrived, and when I came forward to sing my first solo and saw the Queen occupying the Royal box, attended by several members of the Royal Family, I think I felt more delighted than I have ever felt in my life before. One of her ladies-in-waiting was the Dowager Lady Erroll, whose sister Mrs.
Rich was an intimate friend of mine in Malta. These sisters were the nieces of the Duchess of Inverness, to whom this title had been given after the death of her husband the Duke of Sussex, and the Queen, on being told of our intimate acquaintance, had invited Mrs. Rich to be present. Her Majesty had also heard from Mrs. Rich that I was a Roman Catholic, and with that tact and thoughtfulness which, as I very soon came to discover, was, in the Queen, ever present, Her Majesty selected a most beautiful pearl cross and necklace, which were sent to me the next day with the following letter from Sir Thomas Biddulph, by the Queen's command:.
Biddulph presents his compliments to Madame Albani. He is desired by the Queen to ask her to accept the accompanying necklace and cross as a souvenir of her visit to Windsor last week. Amongst other presents from Queen Victoria were two portraits of herself; one was the first taken when she came to the throne, the other taken at the time of her jubilee.
She also gave me a small portrait in a silver and enamel case, saying at the time, "I hear that you always carry my photograph with you in your travels. This one will be a more convenient one. In the autumn of this year I was engaged for the opera in the United States, and before sailing sang at the Liverpool Festival, where Madame Patti was also singing. The manager of the enterprise in America was Mr. My lady companion went with me, and as I was under an engagement for all the year round to Mr. Gye, he sent his son Mr.
Ernest Gye to look after his interests in America. The season opened in New York at the old Academy of Music, a large theatre, but one which since has been superseded by a finer opera house. I sang in "La Sonnambula," "Lucia," "Rigoletto," and "Mignon," and in this last opera was included in the cast a celebrated American contralto, Miss Cary, who had a beautiful voice, and also Mlle.
The latter was already well known in London. I was most kindly received, and sang to audiences whose appreciation did but increase as the season progressed, the newspapers all warmly endorsing the verdict of the public. Strakosch introduced last evening to an American audience Mlle. Albani, and in so doing, won a great victory Albani's success, and as a consequence the success of her impresario, was not marked by the rendering of a merely favourable verdict, but by a rare demonstration of enthusiasm.
Albani's performance was so striking as to justify the most rapturous applause, and so finished as to disarm the coldest connoisseur. Her singing is perfect. Nilsson's, in point of purity and elegance of phrasing, unerring accuracy of intonation and general good taste, was vastly inferior to it. Lucca's rank as an artist is not the result of that lady's mastery of the vocal art. Albani's work was a revelation. As we have implied, Amina is but a small role, but it was of sufficient length to serve its purpose. The expressive delivery--calm, thoughtful almost, but of matchless chastity and rare richness of sound--of 'Come per me sereno' showed at once how splendid was the method of the debutante, while the succeeding allegro 'Sovra il seu,' with its ornate repetition of the theme, asserted her fitness to cope with florid music, not as a time-worn songstress with large experience and the relics of a voice, but as the owner of young and exquisite tones Albani stirred her audience to an unprecedented pitch of excitement in the rondo preceding the fall of the curtain.
Never in the memory of the present generation has 'Ah! The sweet andante prefacing it, commencing 'Ah! The opening aria 'Regnava nel silenzio,' which is generally treated with indifference by representatives of the role, was rendered by Mlle. Albani with as much care, expression, and dramatic power as even the final scene. She acted the scene with the same effect as she sang it.
The Cabaletta was an idyll of vocal beauty in its delicacy A rather disturbing incident occurred one night during the performance of "Lucia. In the beginning of November I paid a flying visit to Albany, where I sang in a concert to the dear friends to whose goodness I owed all my musical education abroad, and whose kindness had so genuinely aided me to return to them in the happy position I had attained.
On the occasion of this visit I was shown a poem which had been written by a Miss Bulger, who was one of my schoolfellows at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, and has since become a nun. The poem is as follows:. I was also told a little story by a friend. He happened to meet a veteran sergeant of police who had been to my concert at the Academy of Music. She sang for a party of policemen one New Year's Day when we were calling upon the people with whom she lived. The house was on Grand Street, and when we had been there about five minutes the old gentleman said: Miss Lajeunesse, however, will play for you.
And I tell you she did sing! She sang some old ballads, simple, old-fashioned songs, but there was more than one pair of eyes that weren't quite dry when she finished, and for a while the boys didn't have much to say. Then I thanked her in the name of the boys, and we got out.
Now she's famous the world over, but I'll bet she never sang better than she did in that little room many years ago for us policemen. Several of my friends in Albany evidently wished to see me married, as all kinds of rumours were going round about my engagement and my approaching marriage. These rumours were contradicted by the Albany Morning Express in the following characteristic paragraph:. Albani, with whom in years gone by she was somewhat intimate, is married or engaged to be married.
On behalf of the correspondent we have taken the pains to ascertain precisely, and now can assure her and others positively that the lady is not engaged, and that we were mistaken in so stating some time back. It may be supposed that the correspondent and ourselves are--well, indiscreet, in touching upon a matter of so delicate a nature, but we feel that it will be pleasant for Miss Emma's admirers to know that in her great prosperity she is as heart and fancy free as the morning when she left her old home on Arbor Hill six years ago.
This much we say at the instance of one who has the confidence and friendship of our prima donna. I felt almost as if all Albany were composed of one enormous family, and I the one long-exiled member of it who had just come "home. I returned to New York, singing in "Mignon" again for several nights, and then in "Marta. The first time I sang it, the audience burst into a storm of applause and demanded its repetition.
When I repeated it, and sang the original Irish words of Moore, the whole opera house was roused to a positive furore of enthusiasm. The great musical event of this season was, for me, the reproduction of "Lohengrin. Strakosch had not intended giving it during this season, but in accordance with many requests he suddenly decided to do so, and begged me to sing it. It was getting late, there was but little time in which to study it, and there never is sufficient leisure during the constant work of a season to learn new operas thoroughly.
Moreover, I had never even seen the score or heard the opera. However, I yielded to Mr. Strakosch's earnest request, and, notwithstanding the importance and the difficulties of such an opera as "Lohengrin," I set to work, and devoting all the spare time I could find and all my energies to it, I succeeded in learning and singing "Lohengrin" in the short space of fifteen days--a tour de force I should never have attempted had I been given time to think.
But here my early training as a musician helped me so greatly that I was enabled to accomplish what I otherwise could never have done. I had hitherto sung very little except pure Italian operas, and this music of Wagner's, magnificent as it is, was so entirely different, that I could not help feeling very nervous as to the result. Happily, the "end justified the means," and the public and the newspapers judged my rendering of the music and role of Elsa as highly as they had done my Amina, Lucia, Gilda, Mignon, Marta, and other characters, kindly assuring me that I could sing the music of Wagner as well as I could that of the Italian composers.
Albani made her first appearance as Elsa, and her execution of the music, her magnificent vocalisation, and thorough dramatic conception of the part were equally gratifying. Evidently imbued with the sentiment of the character, as well as with the spirit of Wagner's music, Mlle. Albani was sweet, charming, and satisfying. She has undoubtedly added to her repertoire a new and vivid illustration of her genius and musical ability.
Albani looks, acts, and sings as the very priestess of them might. The American public can, I have heard, be rather alarming, but it is a very good and appreciative one, and I soon felt at home with my audiences at the Academy of Music. I was even on fairly good terms with that much-discussed "institution" the American interviewer, though I confess I might have occasionally improved our relations could I have given more of the time and of the details so constantly demanded of me, and have brought myself to stretch the limits I personally think should determine the boundary as to what the public has a right to know, and that which every individual person has the exclusive right to retain.
During this winter opera season King Kalakua, King of the Sandwich Islands, was on a visit to the United States, and while in New York he came one evening to the opera when I was singing in "Lohengrin. During the performance he asked to be introduced to me, and after the second act he came to my dressing-room, congratulated me warmly in excellent English, and presented me with the bouquet.
I, of course, was very gratified by his kindness. He did not forget me, for later when he was in England he came to hear me again at Covent Garden, on this occasion decorating me with his Order of Merit, and giving me an invitation to sing in the Sandwich Islands. On my return from America I was asked to go to Venice to sing at three representations at the Venice Theatre in honour of the great occasion of the visit of the Emperor of Austria, who was to enter Lombardy for the first time after its cession by Austria to Italy.
King Victor Emmanuel met the Emperor at Venice, and both sovereigns, accompanied by Queen Margherite, came to the gala performance at the opera, where I and the great tenor Tamagno sang in "Lucia. I had just sung some bars of my first aria when their Majesties arrived.
The opera was stopped, the Austrian hymn played, the whole house rose, and there was a storm of enthusiastic greeting such as few but Italian audiences ever give, and it was some time before the opera could be resumed, and I had to begin my air all over again. This was the first time I had met Signor Tamagno. He was one of the artistes of that winter season in Venice, and had been singing the "Guarany" of Gomez with tremendous success. He could then hardly have been more than twenty-three years of age, was very tall, extremely good-looking, especially on the stage, and possessed a true tenor voice which was simply phenomenal in force and quality.
His natural talent was stupendous, for he had actually studied but little then, and his success was so immediate that no time was given him for further study, and he took engagement after engagement, leaving himself no time to arrive at that artistic perfection in his art to which his natural gifts would have enabled him to attain, and to become the finest tenore di forza of his own, and perhaps of any other, time.
When the "Otello" of Verdi was being brought out, Verdi himself took Signor Tamagno in hand, and taught him the part which was magnificently suited both to his splendid voice and temperament; and it is certain that no one has ever equalled him in that role. I remember being greatly struck on that occasion with the beauty and gracious manner of Queen Margherita, and also with the nine rows of immense and lovely pearls which she wore, the rows being at first tightly wound round her throat, but lengthening gradually until the last formed a long circle extending some way down the skirt of her dress.
I believe these pearls have become historical in their rarity and beauty. I received a message of most kind and gracious compliment from all their Majesties, expressing their delight and appreciation. I sang also the "Puritani" at the Fenice in the following autumn, when, after the London season, I fulfilled a short engagement there, meeting with a great reception. My singing of the "Puritani" pleased the Venetians so much that on my last night I was almost covered with flowers on the stage, escorted to my hotel by a procession of gondolas, and serenaded beneath my balcony.
Venice, however, might have proved fatal to me that night, for in all the excitement I forgot where I was in leaving the opera house, and stepped into the water instead of into the gondola. Luckily I was seized and lifted into safety, but only just in time! Venice has always had a great charm for me--indeed, hers is a charm which takes actual and forcible possession of all those to whom she appeals in any degree at all.
Her marvellous beauty, her climate, her historical associations, are so absolutely unique. The delightful sensation of rest and charm in being rowed about in a gondola was to me a source of infinite pleasure. While singing in Venice I always took my daily "drive" in a gondola, gliding over her waters to the Lido, and drinking in the refreshing breezes of the sea.
She is attractive, athletic and smart: She is stalked, attacked and held hostage by the serial killer called the Brid She solves crimes and saves lives She is pursued by a trio of serial killer psychiatristsShe foils a Mayan Revenant This is a revision of two stories originally published in They both came spontaneously during a period when I was studying Jungian psychology and going on Native American vision quests in northern Arizona and the Four Corners region. Qua Nie Saga - 3. The time is the first months of the California Gold Rush.
FORTY YEARS OF SONG
Qua Nie Saga - 5. Qua Nie Saga - 4. Qua Nie Saga - 2. This is the second book in the Qua Nie saga. Books Two through Seven are completed and I am publishing them as short, sixty to seventy-five pages, Ebooks every two months and then will consolidate them and publish them in paperback form. In the second book of the series Diamond Rising Star Adair is continuing her transition from a jet-setting college professor and pursuer of hobbies to being the owner of her own detective agency.
Related Diamond and the Edinburgh Madam (Diamond Rising Star Adair Book 2)
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