A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Fodor-Mainvielle, Josephine

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FODOR-MAINVIELLE, Josephine, celebrated singer, born 1793 in Paris, where her father, Joseph Fodor the violinist, had settled in 1787. In 1794 her parents removed to St. Petersburg, where she played both pianoforte and harp when only eleven. Three years after she became known as a singer, and in 1810 made her first appearance at the Court Theatre in Fioravanti's 'Cantatrici villanelle,' which was repeated 60 times, so successful was her performance. In 1812 she married the actor Mainvielle, and travelled with him to Stockholm, Copenhagen, returning to Paris, where she was engaged for the Opéra Comique. Her first appearance, Aug. 9, 1814, was a comparative failure; it was evident that French opera was not her province, and she was transferred in November of the same year to the Théâtre Italien, then under Mme. Catalani's management. Here she remained till the beginning of 1816, when she left for London. In London she sang for three seasons as prima donna, listened to with respect, though never a warm favourite. 'Don Giovanni' was brought out at the King's Theatre in 1817, and Zerlina was her best character. In July 1818 she went to Italy, returning to Paris early in the following year, after Catalani had given up the opera. Rossini's 'Barbiere' was then given for the first time in Paris (Oct. 26, 1819) and she played Rosina, as well as Ninetta, Agnese, and other first-rate parts. In 1822, suffering severely from dyspepsia, she was advised to try the milder climate of Naples, which so completely restored her that she appeared at San Carlo as Desdemona, Semiramide, and Zelmira, creating in all 20 new parts. In the following year she sang for a whole season in Vienna, but returned to Naples and remained there till 1825, when she again went to Paris. On Dec. 9 she appeared in Semiramide, but her voice failed and she was compelled to leave the stage. This misfortune was followed by a hoarseness which prevented her singing again in Paris. The management having declined to fulfil their contract, she brought a succession of actions against them, and finally accepted a compromise in 1828. After her return to Naples her voice so far improved that she sang again at San Carlo, but its peculiar charm was gone though her style was as fine as ever, and served as a model for no less a singer than Henrietta Sontag. Mendelssohn saw a great deal of her at Naples in 1831, and his very favourable impression may be learned from his letters (April 27, 1831). Her last appearance was at Bordeaux in 1833, after which she retired into private life.

When at her prime, Fodor's voice was not only powerful but extremely sweet and round, with a peculiarly charming accent, and a faultless intonation. She was very painstaking, and acquired by practice a flexibility with which she was not naturally gifted. Her daughter Enrichetta, also a singer of merit, was very successful at the Königstadt Theatre in Berlin between the years 1846–9 (not the Friedrich-Wilhelmstädt Theatre).

[ F. G. ]