Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lablache, Luigi

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LABLACHE, LUIGI (1794–1858), vocalist, son of Nicholas Lablache, merchant, of Marseilles, by an Irish lady, was born at Naples 6 Dec. 1794. He was educated from 1806 at the Conservatorio della Pietà de' Turchini, where Gentili taught him the elements of music, and Valesi instructed him in singing, while at the same time he studied the violin and violoncello. His voice was a beautiful contralto, and just before it broke he sang the solos in the requiem of Mozart on the death of Haydn in 1809. Before long he became possessed of a magnificent bass, which gradually increased in volume until at the age of twenty it attained a compass of two octaves from E flat below to E flat above the bass stave. In 1812, when only eighteen, he was engaged at the San Carlo Theatre, Naples, and appeared in ‘La Molinara’ of Fioravanti. Two years later he married Teresa Pinotti, the daughter of an actor. In 1817, at La Scala in Milan, he took the part of Dandini in ‘Cenerentola.’ The opera of ‘Elisa e Claudio’ was now (1821) written for him by Mercadante; his position was made, and his reputation spread throughout Europe. From Milan he went to Turin, returned to Milan in 1822, then appeared at Venice, and in 1824 at Vienna. Going back to Naples after an absence of twelve years, he created a great sensation as Assur in ‘Semiramide.’ On 30 March 1830, under Ebers's management, he was first heard in London as Geronimo in ‘Il Matrimonio Segreto,’ and thenceforth appeared there annually, also singing in many provincial festivals. His success in England was assured from the first. His voice was at all times extraordinarily powerful, but he could produce comic, humorous, tender, or sorrowful effects with equal ease and mastery. As an actor he excelled equally in comic and tragic parts. His chief rôles were Leporello (his greatest part), Geronimo the Podestà in ‘La Gazza Ladra,’ Dandini in ‘La Prova d' un' Opera Seria,’ Henry VIII in ‘Anna Bolena,’ the Doge in ‘Marino Faliero,’ and Oroveso in ‘Norma.’ Towards the close of his career he played two new characters of quite different types with great success, Shakespeare's Caliban and Gritzenko, the Kalmuck, in Scribe's ‘L'Etoile du Nord.’ At the funeral of Beethoven in 1827 he was one of the thirty-two torchbearers who surrounded the coffin. He taught singing to Queen Victoria. He died at Naples 23 Jan. 1858, and was buried at Maison-Lafitte, Paris.

[Grove's Dict. of Music, 1880, ii. 79–81; Dramatic and Musical Rev. 1844, iii. 267–8, 377–9; You have Heard of Them, by Q., 1854, pp. 82–90; Lumley's Reminiscences of the Opera, 1864, pp. 135–8, 369; L. Engel's From Mozart to Mario, 1886, i. 23, ii. 81, 373; Illustrated London News, 1842 i. 124 (with portrait), 1843 ii. 275 (with portrait); Morley's Journal of a London Playgoer, 1866, pp. 91 et seq.]

G. C. B.