1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Reszke, Jean de
RESZKE, JEAN DE (1850–), operatic singer, was born at Warsaw on the 14th of January 1850. His parents were Poles; his father was a state official and his mother a capable amateur singer, their house being a recognized musical centre. After singing as a boy in the Cathedral of Warsaw, he studied law in the university there, but in a few years he abandoned this and went to Italy to study singing. He made his first public appearance, as a baritone, at Venice in January 1874, as Alfonso in La Favorita, and in the following April he sang for the first time in London, appearing at Drury Lane Theatre, and a little later in Paris. He was not entirely successful and retired for a further period of study, during which his voice gained remarkably in the upper register; so that when he made his first reappearance at Madrid in 1879 it was as a tenor, in the title-rôle of Robert le Diable. Jean de Reszke’s great fame as a singer dates from this time. For several seasons he sang regularly in Paris, and he reappeared at Drury Lane in 1887 as Radames. In the next year he was again in London, this time at Covent Garden as Vasco da Gama; this appearance was mainly responsible for the revival of the opera as a fashionable amusement in London. He appeared in London nearly every year from this date until 1900. In 1891 he visited America, and from 1893 to 1899 he was welcomed each year at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Jean de Reszke’s most successful parts were the title-rôle of Le Cid, which was written for him by Massenet, and those of Romeo, Lancelot in Elaine, and Lohengrin, Walther von Stolzing, Siegfried and Tristan in Wagner’s operas. In 1904 illness compelled him to retire from the stage, and he subsequently divided his time between teaching singing in Paris and breeding race-horses in Poland.
Jean de Reszke’s younger brother, Edouard, born at Warsaw on the 23rd of December 1855, is also famous as an operatic singer. He appeared for the first time in Paris in April 1896, and has since sung with his brother for many seasons both in London and in New York. His magnificent bass voice and admirable technique earned him fame in such parts as those of Mephistopheles in Faust, Charles V. in Marchetti’s Don Giovanni d’ Austria, Walter in Tell, the Count in Sonnambula, Prince Gudal in Demonio, and Hans Sachs, King Mark, Hunding and Hagen in Wagner’s operas.