Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/333

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CATALANI.
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discretion (or indiscretion), without being confined by the accompaniment, but in which she can indulge in ad libitum passages with a luxuriance and redundancy no other singer ever possessed, or if possessing ever practised, and which she carries to a fantastical excess.' The opinions of all good judges were nearly the same with the above; but the public was led completely away by her marvellous powers. She made her début Dec. 15, 1806, in the 'Semiramide' of Portogallo, composed for her expressly. She appeared also in 'Mitridate,' 'Elfrida,' and most unwillingly in 'La Clemenza di Tito,' for the strict time required in Mozart's music, and the importance of the accompaniments, were not suited to her style. She was, however, the singer who introduced to the English stage his 'Nozze di Figaro,' in which she played Susanna to admiration. In the 'Orazi' she performed the part of the first soprano, Curiazio, that of the first woman being filled by Ferlendis. In 'Didone' she caused the rôle of Enea to be sung by Madame Dussek, who was entirely unfitted for it; and, in another opera, she made Madame Dussek act the first woman's part, choosing for herself that of the primo uomo. Subsequently she assumed also the place of prima buffa, and succeeded equally well in that line; singing with greater simplicity and ease, she was by some preferred in comic opera. Her face and figure suited both styles; for her handsome countenance was capable of great varieties of expression. Her gains soon became enormous. She was the great attraction of Goold's management, and her engagements entailed on the theatre an expense surpassing anything before experienced. Mr. Waters, in a pamphlet which he published, gives the total amount received by her from the theatre in 1807, including benefits, at £5,000, and her total profits that year, with concerts, provincial tour, etc., at £16,700,—an immense sum to be received in such a period for the services of a single artist. That she sometimes found a difficulty in getting payment is not surprising, especially from such a manager as Taylor. Ebers relates that, on one occasion, she refused to sing unless a debt of £1,000 due to her was paid; and that he gave security for this, of which he had ultimately to pay every farthing. She received as much as 200 guineas for singing 'God save the King' and 'Rule Britannia,' and at a single festival £2,000. Had she practised the least economy she must have amassed a very great fortune; but this she did not do. It is said, for example, that the consumption of beer by her servants during a single year amounted to £103. More serious causes, however, contributed to dissipate these riches as fast as she gained them; for her husband was passionately addicted to gambling, and lost vast sums at play. She remained seven years in England, where she finally succeeded in becoming the only singer of eminence, and led in both lines; but one singer does not constitute an opera, though Valabrègue used to say 'Ma femme et quatre ou cinq poupées,—voilà tout ce qu'il faut.' Neither would her disposition endure the possibility of rivalry, nor the extravagance of her increasing demands allow any manager to engage other singers. She quitted the theatre at the end of the season of 1813, having first endeavoured (unsuccessfully) to purchase it, and so become sole proprietor, sole manager, and sole singer. After leaving this stage, she for many years never trod any other, except at Paris, where she obtained the management of the Italian opera, with a subvention of 160,000 francs; but the undertaking was not fortunate. On the return of Napoleon, in 1815, she left Paris, going first to Hamburg, and afterwards to Denmark and Sweden, and exciting everywhere the wildest admiration and enthusiasm. She returned to France, after the Restoration, by Holland and Belgium. On her arrival at Paris, she resumed the direction of the Théâtre Italian, and established the same ruinous system which had destroyed, for a time, opera in London. Every expense of scenery, orchestra, and chorus, was curtailed, and every singer of worth excluded, in order that the entire receipts might go, with the subvention, into the purse of Valabrègue. This was not all. To suit this state of things the operas were arranged in such a manner that little of the original but the name remained. The rest consisted of variations by Rode, and similar things, with the famous 'Son regina,' interpolated in place of the concerted pieces and songs which had been cut out. In May 1816 Catalani left her opera in the hands of managers, and went to Munich to give some concerts and representations. Thence she proceeded to Italy, and only returned to Paris in August 1817. In the next April she left her opera entirely, and resumed her wanderings. Having engaged Mme. Gail to accompany her, as Pucitta had done in London and Paris, she started for Vienna. No sooner had they arrived than she quarrelled with her companion, who returned to Paris. Catalani continued her tour alone, and it lasted nearly ten years. In 1824 she returned to London, performing a certain number of nights with no regular engagement. She reappeared in 'Il Nuovo Fanatico per la Musica,' an opera by Mayer, arranged for her. 'Her powers were undiminshed, her taste unimproved.' She next continued her wanderings on the continent. In 1826 an attempt was made by Ebers to engage her, but the terms proposed by her were so exorbitant that it was impossible to consider them seriously. Her voice was, however, no longer what it had been, especially in the highest part of her register. Though still beautiful, flexible, and strong, it was losing gradually a little of these qualities. In turn she visited Germany, Italy, and Paris once more, where she sang without success; then Poland, Russia, and the north of Germany again in 1827. About this time she sang for the last time at Berlin, and resolved to cease singing in public. But she revisited England once more in 1828, and sang at the York Festival. Lord Mount-Edgcumbe heard her the same year at Plymouth, and