Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lind, Johanna Maria

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LIND, JOHANNA MARIA, known as Jenny Lind, and afterwards as Madame Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt (1820–1887), vocalist, was born at Stockholm on 6 Oct. 1820. Her father was the son of a lace manufacturer, and her mother, whose maiden name was Anna Maria Fellborg, and who had been married before to Captain Radberg, kept a day-school for girls. From 1821 to 1824 the child was placed in the charge of an organist and parish clerk, some fifteen miles from Stockholm, and after spending the years 1824–8 with her parents, she was again sent away in the latter year to live in the Widows' Home in the town. Here she was heard singing to her cat by the maid of Mlle. Lundberg, a dancer at the opera, who persuaded the mother to allow Jenny to be taught singing. An introduction to Croelius, court secretary and singing-master at the Royal Theatre, led to her being admitted into the school attached to the theatre in 1830. She studied there under Berg, who succeeded Croelius in 1831, and performed in no less than twenty-six parts of different kinds before the date on which she made the discovery that she was fitted for a great operatic career. This was on 7 March 1838, when she first appeared at the Royal Theatre as Agathe in ‘Der Freischütz.’ Euryanthe and Pamina were added to her repertory in the same year, and in 1839 she sang the whole part of Alice in ‘Roberto,’ in a portion of which she had already appeared. In this year she left her mother's house, and went to live in the family of Lindblad the composer, where she could pursue her studies in peace. In 1840 her chief new characters were Donna Anna and Lucia; in January of this year she was appointed court singer, and was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. In spite of her enormous success in her native land she felt that her powers could not reach their full development without the guidance of the greatest singing-masters of Europe, and she determined to apply to Manuel Garcia in Paris for instruction. She raised the funds for her journey thither by giving a round of concerts accompanied by her father. Garcia's first opinion of her voice was that it had been worn out by premature work, but it soon became clear to him that when certain uncorrected faults were removed the voice would regain its original beauty. Owing to the industry of the pupil and the skill of the teacher, by June 1842 she had learnt all that any singing-master could teach her. In July of that year the power of her voice was tested by Meyerbeer's wish in the Grand Opéra at Paris. An erroneous report was spread in after years that this so-called ‘trial performance’ was given in order that she might procure an engagement in Paris, but the fact that she had already signed an agreement with the Stockholm Opera for either one or two years is a sufficient refutation of the rumour. She reached home in August 1842, and appeared on 10 Oct. in ‘Norma,’ the last part she had sung before leaving Sweden the year before. The most important of her new parts during this period were Valentine in ‘Les Huguenots,’ the Countess in ‘Figaro,’ and Amina in ‘La Sonnambula.’ Her salary for the two seasons after her tuition in Paris was 150l. per annum. She was placed under the legal guardianship of Judge H. M. Munthe on 30 Jan. 1843, and in the same year she undertook a professional visit to Finland and another to Copenhagen. In July 1844 she went to Dresden in order to perfect herself in German and to obtain experience in the German operas. Meyerbeer had already approached her on the subject of his opera ‘Das Feldlager in Schlesien,’ but though the principal part in it was written for her, it was sung, when produced in Berlin on 7 Dec. 1844 for the opening of the new theatre, by another singer. She appeared a week afterwards at Berlin in ‘Norma,’ and was engaged for six months at a far higher salary than she had yet received. On 5 Jan. 1845 she sang the part written for her by Meyerbeer with great success. In the same year the English manager, Alfred Bunn, went to Berlin in order to secure Mlle. Lind for his next season of English opera at Covent Garden. By great persuasion he actually induced her to sign an agreement, which on consideration she found herself unable to fulfil. The troublesome correspondence which ensued, and the threatening attitude adopted by the disappointed manager, had the effect of keeping her from visiting England for two years, during which time she appeared not only in Berlin, but at Hanover, Hamburg, Altona, and many of the chief cities of Germany. She sang before Queen Victoria at Stolzenfels, shortly after the Beethoven festival at Bonn, and in Denmark gave one of the first of her charitable performances which were so prominent a feature of her later career. In December 1845 she sang at Leipzig, and her friendship with Mendelssohn, which began on this occasion, soon ripened into intimacy. On 22 April 1846 she sang for the first time, again in ‘Norma,’ at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, and in the following summer took part in the Niederrheinische Musik-Fest at Aix. In the autumn she was engaged at Darmstadt and Munich, and had already consented to appear in London at Her Majesty's Theatre, then under Lumley's management. In January 1847 she sang during an operatic engagement at Vienna, at two concerts of some historical interest, one given by Robert and Clara Schumann, and the other by Wilhelmina Neruda, then an ‘infant prodigy.’

At length by the persuasions and help of Mendelssohn and of Mrs. Grote, her most intimate friend in England, she was induced to set out for England in April 1847. On 4 May she made her first appearance in London in ‘Roberto,’ and created at once unparalleled enthusiasm. The ‘Jenny Lind fever’ is a matter of history, and it is quite certain that the adulation of the public has never been more worthily bestowed. Out of the thirty operas in which she took part during her career she appeared in London only in the following: ‘Sonnambula,’ ‘Lucia,’ ‘Norma,’ ‘Roberto,’ ‘Figlia del Reggimento,’ ‘Figaro,’ ‘L'Elisir d'Amore,’ ‘Puritani,’ and ‘I Masnadieri,’ the last an early and unsuccessful attempt of Verdi. She had immense success at a concert which she gave at Norwich in 1849. At Norwich she was the guest of Bishop Stanley, who became one of her most valued friends, and to whose influence her ultimate abandonment of the stage has been generally ascribed. It is almost certain, however, from the evidence of letters written at different times of her life, that in spite of her wonderful talents as an actress she never felt the theatrical career to be the highest possible for her. After her third season at Her Majesty's she retired from the stage, appearing for the last time in ‘Roberto’ on 10 May 1849, the closing performance of six which she was induced to give in order to help the manager Lumley out of serious difficulties. The curious experiment tried at one of the six of performing an opera (the ‘Flauto Magico’) without dresses or scenery was of course a failure, though it gave the audience the opportunity of hearing the great singer in portions at least of the music allotted to various characters.

Among the many appearances both in England and abroad which took place before Mlle. Lind's retirement from the stage, one of the most interesting was the performance of ‘Elijah,’ given in Exeter Hall on 15 Dec. 1848, in order to raise a fund for the endowment of a scholarship in memory of Mendelssohn, who had died in November of the previous year. Although, as in the case of Meyerbeer's opera, Mlle. Lind was not the first to sing the soprano part, there is no doubt that the composer had her voice in view when he wrote the music, and therefore a peculiar interest attached to the first of many occasions on which she interpreted it. At ten concerts, given between July 1848 and February 1849, for various charitable objects, she succeeded in raising the gigantic sum of 10,500l., and the list of institutions in England and in Sweden which benefited by her charity is a very long one.

A continental tour occupied her during the years 1849–50. In September 1850 she began an American tour under the management of Barnum, and with Benedict as conductor; the tour lasted until the middle of 1852. In May 1851 Benedict was succeeded as conductor by Mr. Otto Goldschmidt of Hamburg, whom Mlle. Lind had first met on the continent in 1849, and to whom she was married at Boston on 5 Feb. 1852. The whole of her earnings in America, amounting to 20,000l., was devoted to founding scholarships and other charities in Sweden. From 1852 to 1855 her home was in Dresden. In 1854 and 1855 she made extensive tours in Germany, Austria, Holland, &c.; and in the last year appeared again at the Lower Rhine Festival at Düsseldorf, where she also sang in 1863 and 1866. In 1855–6 a memorable tour in England, Scotland, and Wales was undertaken in the company of many other distinguished artists, and she first appeared at the Philharmonic Concerts in London in the latter year. On various special occasions from this time forward she appeared in public, as at the Hereford Festival of 1867, and at the production of Mr. Goldschmidt's oratorio ‘Ruth’ in Hamburg and London (1869). From the foundation of the Bach Choir in 1876 to 1883 she took the keenest interest in its welfare, and gave the ladies of the choir the benefit of her training and superintendence. From 1883 to 1886 she held the post of chief professor of singing at the Royal College of Music. Her last appearance in public was at a concert given for the Railway Servants' Benevolent Fund at the Spa, Malvern, on 23 July 1883. On the naturalisation of Mr. Goldschmidt in 1859 she had become a British subject. She died at Wynds Point, Malvern, after great sufferings, borne with Christian resignation, on 2 Nov. 1887, leaving two sons and a daughter.

It was the charm of her personality, probably quite as much as the glory of her wonderful voice, that won her a position in public estimation which no other singer has attained. Her absolute integrity of life and character, her intellectual vigour, as well as her generosity of disposition, were in strong contrast with the characteristics of too many among her professional companions; and the feeling that she stood apart from so many of her contemporaries may well have caused, or at least fostered, the somewhat intolerant attitude she sometimes took up with regard to certain persons against whom she was prejudiced. It was a very slight blemish on a character of singular beauty formed in adverse circumstances. Her histrionic powers are no doubt to be traced to her long early training in various classes of dramatic art, though her natural instinct must have been very strong. Her voice was a brilliant soprano, extending over two octaves and a sixth, from B below the treble stave to G on the fourth line above it. A minute description of its qualities will be found in one of the most valuable chapters of the memoir by Canon Holland and Mr. Rockstro, and in an appendix many of the cadenzas which she introduced with such consummate skill are given in full (see also Grove's Dictionary, ii. 141, and iii. 508, and Musical Union Record, 1849, p. 8). The ingenuity and melodic beauty of these show that she was an accomplished musician, for she always invented them herself, and they formed one of the most characteristic of her many attractions, giving special value to her singing of Swedish songs and transcriptions of mazurkas by Chopin.

[Jenny Lind the Artist, by the Rev. Canon Henry Scott Holland and W. S. Rockstro, 1891; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, i. 608, ii. 140, 310, &c.; private information; personal knowledge.]

J. A. F. M.