Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/214

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202
MALIBRAN.
 

managed with great taste.' Her début took place June 7, 1825. She was immediately afterwards engaged for the remainder of the season (about six weeks) at £500. On July 23, she sang Felicia in the first performance of Meyerbeer's 'Crociato.' At the end of the season, Garcia went, with his daughter, to the provincial festivals, and then embarked for New York. In this new sphere Maria rapidly improved, and acquired confidence, experience, and the habit of the stage. She appeared in 'Otello,' 'Romeo,' 'Don Giovanni,' 'Tancredi,' 'Cenerentola,' and in two operas written for her by her father, 'L'amante astuto,' and 'La Figlia dell' aria.' She had scarcely made her début when the enthusiasm of the public knew no bounds; and, in the midst of her popularity, Garcia gave her in marriage to M. Malibran, an elderly and seemingly wealthy French merchant, in spite of her repugnance to the union. This marriage, celebrated March 25, 1826, was as unhappy as it was ill-assorted; a year had hardly elapsed before the young wife found herself, on Malibran's bankruptcy, free to leave him, and she at once seized the opportunity. In September 1827 she had returned to France. Preceded by a bright reputation, she began by reaping a harvest of applause in private concerts, followed in January 1828 by a great and genuine success, at Galli's benefit, in 'Semiramide.' Her genius for dramatic singing was at once recognised, though her style was marred by a questionable taste in her choice of ornament. This she had, in Paris, the best opportunity of correcting, both by the advice of kindly critics and the example of accomplished singers. Engaged for the season at the Italian opera, she made her début April 8. The public, at first doubting, soon welcomed her as a really great singer, and were particularly struck with wonder and delight at the novelty and originality of her style. In the season of 1829 Malibran made her re-appearance in London, where she shared the applause of the public with Sontag, and the same result followed her singing with that artist at Paris in the autumn. Engaged again at the Italian Opera in the same capital in January 1830, she was paid frs. 1075 for each representation. This was less than she had received from Laporte in London, for he had given her frs. 13,333.33 a month, an odd sum, unless it meant frs. 40,000 for three months; and she stipulated only to appear twice a week, making each of those appearances cost frs. 1666.66, or about £66. Though she certainly continued to draw no higher salary at the Paris Opera in 1830 and 31, and her charge for singing at private concerts in London, 1829, was only 25 guineas, yet Mr. Alfred Bunn engaged her, soon after, for nineteen nights at £125 per night, payable in advance.

Sontag, marrying and retiring from the stage early in 1830, left Malibran mistress of the field, and henceforth she had no rival, but continued to sing each season in London and Paris with ever-increased éclat. In 1830 an attachment sprang up between her and de Bériot; and this ended only with her life. They built in 1831 a handsome villa in a suburb of Brussels, to which they returned after every operatic campaign. In the summer of 1832, a sudden inspiration took this impulsive artist to Italy in the company of Lablache, who happened to pass through Brussels; and an Italian tour was improvised, which was a sort of triumphal progress. Milan, Rome, Naples, and Bologna were visited with equal success.

On her return to Brussels in November, Mme. Malibran gave birth to a daughter, who did not live; she had already a son. In the following spring she came to London, and sang at Drury Lane, in English Opera, receiving frs. 80,000 for 40 representations, with two benefits which produced not less than frs. 50,000. The prices offered to her increased each year to an unprecedented extent. She received at the Opera in London, during May and June 1835, £2,775 for 24 appearances. Sums, the like of which had not been heard of before in such cases, were paid to her at the provincial festivals in England, and her last engagement at Naples was for frs. 80,000 for 40 nights, with 2½ benefits, while that which she had accepted at Milan from the Duke Visconti, the director of La Scala, was, exclusively of some other profitable conditions, frs. 450,000 for 185 performances, viz. 75 in 1835–6, 75 in 1836–7, and 35 in the autumn of 38.

Having played here in English versions of 'Sonnambula' and 'Fidelio,' Malibran returned to Naples, where she remained until May, 1834, proceeding then to Bologna, and thence to Milan. She soon came back, however, to London for a flying visit; and was singing at Sinigaglia in July. On the 11th of the next month she went to Lucca, where her horses were taken from her carriage, which was drawn to her hotel by enthusiastic admirers after her last appearance. She next went to Milan, where she signed the above-mentioned scrittura, and thence to Naples, where she sang during the Carnival. Here she met with an accident, her carriage being upset at the corner of a street; and she suffered injuries which prevented her from appearing in public for a fortnight. Even then, she made her first appearance with her arm in a sling, which added to the interest of the occasion. From Naples she went, in the same triumphant manner, to Venice, her arrival being announced by fanfares of trumpets. There she was besieged with fresh enthusiasm, which followed her in her return to Paris and London. She returned in August to Lucca, where she played in 'Ines di Castro,' written for her by Persiani, and in 'Maria Stuarda.'

At this juncture, her marriage was annulled by the Courts at Paris, and on March 26, 1836, she married de Bériot, with whom she returned immediately to Brussels.

In the following April, once more in London, Mme. Malibran de B{{e'}riot had a fall from her horse. She was dragged some distance along the road, and received serious injuries to her head, from which she never entirely recovered; but her