Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/647

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�SONTAG.

Court. Lumley, then manager of Her Majesty's Theatre, having offered the Countess Rossi 6000 for six months, it was accepted, and in July 1849 her reappearance in London as ' Linda ' was an- nounced. The curiosity excited was extreme. Her voice and charms were unimpaired, and the unanimous opinion seems to have been that, in the words of Adolph Adam, she now united to youth and freshness the qualities of a finished artist. Her former deficiencies were in some measure compensated for by study and less girlish appearance. As Amina, though Jenny Land was fresh in the public memory, she was rapturously received, as also in Desdemona, and Susanna in the 'Nozze,' one of her favourite parts, and pronounced by a German critic the most perfect thing he had seen on any stage. Her extraordinary preservation of her powers was partly due no doubt to long exemption from the wear and tear of incessant public singing, but Sontag was always extremely careful of her voice, discarding any rdle that did not lie well within her register. Thus, in an early contract at Berlin, she expressly stipulates that she shall not be bound to sing in the operas of Spontini !

After a tour in the English provinces in the winter of 1849, s ^ e wen ^ * Paris, where a suc- cessful series of concerts, also under Lumley's management, preceded in the spring of 1850 her reappearance at Her Majesty's to win fresh laurels as Norina in ' Don Pasquale,' Elvira in the 'Puritani,' and Miranda in HaleVy's new opera 'La Tempesta.' As Zerlina and the 'Figlia del Reggimento/ she appeared for the first time, and with pre-eminent success. In the autumn of 1850 she sang in Italian opera at Paris, Lumley again being director of the com- pany. During this season Alary's ' Tre Nozze ' was produced, and the polka-duet between Sontag and Lablache never failed to send the public into ecstasies. It was brought out in London in 1 85 r, with similar results. During this season, Mme. Sontag' s last in London, she sang in a round of her favourite parts, and in the production of 'L'Enfant Prodigue.'

In Germany, wherever she went she carried all before her. At a concert at Munich she was expressly requested to stay to hear the last piece. It proved to be a ' Huldigungs Chor ' verses com- posed expressly in her honour by the Crown Prince, and set to music by Lachner.

In 1852 Mme. Sontag received offers from the United States, which tempted her thither with her husband in the autumn. The results were brilliant. Her voice was strengthened by the climate, and at this time she could sing in 'Lucrezia Borgia' and the 'Figlia del Reggi- mento' on a single evening without over-fatigue! Her last appearance was made in ' Lucrezia ' at Mexico, in 1854. She was attacked by cholera, and on June 17 a brief illness cut short a life of unchequered prosperity.

Berlioz, remarking on the fact that Sontag had less to suffer than other equally famous singers from hostile criticism and party spirit,

��SOPRANO.

��635

��ascribes it to her having united so many favourite qualities sweetness unsurpassed, fabulous agi- lity, perfect intonation, and expression. In thi& last her scope was limited, and warranted Cata- lani's mot, ' Elle est la premiere dans son genre, mais son genre n'est pas le premier.' Her success in certain pathetic rdles must be attributed to- the charm of her singing. She used to say, ' A Donna Anna over her father's corpse, a Pamina in the air " Ach ich fiihl's," who cannot move the public to tears, have no idea of Mozart.' By her delivery of the short phrase alone, ' Tamino r halt! ich muss ihn sehn,' sung by Pamina be- hind the scenes, she could rouse the house to the stormiest applause. She was a thorough and conscientious artist, and her style won her the special favour of eminent musicians. Mendels- sohn entertained the highest admiration for her, and she obtained a like tribute of praise from connoisseurs in every country. It fell to her lot to achieve an international popularity and fame never before accorded to a German singer. [B.T.]

SOPRANO. The human voice of the highest pitch or range. Its peculiar clef (called =zn: the Soprano Clef) is the C-clef upon the -?U] first line of our treble stave ; but in "tnf modern times this has been almost superseded by the treble or G-clef on the second line.

The word ' Soprano ' is etymologically synony- mous with 'Sovrano,' the head, chief, or highest. In the present day the soprano is the highest natural voice of women and boys the artificial soprani belonging to the past; and hi women it is, perhaps, the voice which varies most in com- pass. [See SINGING.] That of AGUJARI is the highest and most extended on record, and that of TITJENS one of the largest in quality and power. But, as with other voices, it is not a question of compass alone, but of timbre. Many mezzo- soprani can sing higher notes than many soprani ; but there is a middle to every voice, which, as a rule, it is not difficult to find, and about this the tessitura (literally texture) of the music and the practice should be woven. Tessitura is the techni- cal term used by the Italians to signify the notes or part of the scale upon which music is framed, and though, as said above, a mezzo-soprano may sing higher notes than a soprano, it would generally be found distressing to the former voice to dwell upon that part of the scale upon which even a limited soprano part is written. No one can say that F on the line is a high note for a soprano, and yet 'Voi che sapete ' (which never goes above F) is found a trying song by some limited soprani, the tessitura being high. [See TESSITURA.] Faustina, Cuzzoni, Mingotti, Anastasia Robinson, Mara,. Banti, Catalani, Mrs. Billington, and Miss Paton are some of the principal soprani of bygone days, possessing exceptionally good voices ; and those of Grisi, Clara Novello, Titjens,and Adelina Patti, may perhaps be considered the four best natural soprano voices of modern times. Some great singers have depended more upon their artistic excellence than upon their voices Pasta and Persiani for example. Jenny Lind made her voice what it was. Massive soprano voices are

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