Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/680

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

her. She then played Cherubino; next a secondary part in 'Agnese'; and afterwards Servilia in 'La Clemenza di Tito,' and the part of the pretended shrew in Ferrari's 'Sbaglio'; but there is no doubt that she was a failure. Her husband did not even appear.

The young singer, however, did not despair. Though her voice was rebellious and her style as yet quite unfinished, she had many advantages even then which promised future excellence as the reward of unremitting and laborious study. Below the middle height, her figure was nevertheless very well proportioned; she had a noble head with fine features, a high forehead, dark and expressive eyes, and a beautiful mouth. The dignity of her face, form, and natural gestures, fitted her evidently for tragedy, for which she was not wanting in the necessary fire and energy.

Having returned to Italy, she meditated seriously on the causes of her ill success, and studied for some time with Scappa. In 1819 she appeared at Venice, with marked effect; and this first success was repeated at Rome and Milan, in that year and the next. In the autumn of 1821 she first attracted the attention of the Parisian public at the 'Italiens'; but it was after singing at Verona, during the congress of 1822, that she returned to Paris, where she at length became suddenly famous, and excited the wildest enthusiasm. Her voice, a splendid soprano, extending from the low A to the highest D, even then was not absolutely free from imperfection; but the individuality of her impersonations, and the peculiar and penetrating expression of her singing made the severest critics forget any faults of production in the sympathy and emotion she irresistibly created. She continued, however, to work, to study, and to triumph over her harsh and rebellious organ by these means. Meanwhile, by the force and truth of her acting, she delighted the Parisians in such parts as Tancredi, Romeo, Desdemona, Camilla, Nina, and Medea. 'Though but a moderate musician,' says Fétis, 'she instinctively understood that the kind of ornaments which had been introduced by Rossini, could only rest a claim for novelty on their supporting harmony'; and she therefore invented the embellishments in arpeggio which were afterwards carried to a still higher pitch of excellence by Malibran. On April 24, 1824, Pasta reappeared in London in 'Otello,' and had another enthusiastic success, which she followed up with 'Tancredi,' 'Romeo,' and 'Semiramide.' She was, however, only one of six prime donne at the King's Theatre, one of whom, Madame Colbran-Rossini, had a salary of £1500, while Pasta was to have no more than £1400. And even this sum she never received in full, Benelli, the manager and sub-lessee, having quitted England, leaving the greater portion of it unpaid. This made it difficult to re-engage her for 1825, as she rather naturally asked for the balance to be paid before she should appear; but this was arranged by a compromise, and she came, at a salary of £1000, to sing till June 8, the longest congé she could obtain from Paris. While on the subject of her salary, it may be added that in 1826 she had £2000,[1] £1000 of which was paid to her before she left Paris, and £2365 in 1827. In each succeeding year her voice appeared more equal and her style more finished and refined. Her acting was always extremely powerful. Talma, when he saw and heard her, is said to have exclaimed, 'Here is a woman of whom I can still learn something.'

Owing to a misunderstanding with Rossini, then managing the Italian Opera at Paris, Pasta would not engage herself for that stage in 1827, but went to Italy instead. There she played at Trieste, and at Naples, where Pacini wrote 'Niobe' for her. The Neapolitans failed to recognise her full merits, but she was better appreciated at Bologna, Milan, Vienna, and Verona. At Milan, Bellini wrote for her the 'Sonnambula' (1831) and 'Norma' (1832).

In 1833 and 34 Pasta was once more at Paris, singing in 'Sonnambula' and 'Anna Bolena.' Now, for the first time, her voice seemed to have lost something of its beauty and truth; her intonation had become very uncertain, and she sang flat sometimes through the whole of an opera. But her dramatic talent, far from being impaired, was even more remarkable than ever. She was as simple and unaffected a village girl in the 'Sonnambula,' as she was dignified, noble, or energetic in 'Anna Bolena,' 'Semiramide,' and 'Norma.' As 'Desdemona,' she was now more gentle and graceful than heretofore, and in like manner she had improved and completed her conception of all her characters, till they became worthy of the admiration of critics and the study of actors.

Once more in Italy, Pasta reappeared in a few of her famous rôles at some of the chief theatres, spending every summer at the beautiful villa which she had bought in 1829 near the Lake of Como, where she gave herself up to the delights of cultivating a magnificent garden.

Pasta sang again in England in 1837; but her voice was nearly gone, and she gave her admirers more pain than pleasure. In 1840, though so long retired from the stage, she accepted an offer of 200,000 frs. to sing at St. Petersburg; but it would have been better for her reputation as a singer had she refused it. The same may be said of her last visit to London, in 1850, when she only appeared twice in public.

Madame Pasta is said to have had only one child, a daughter; but she had a son also, whom she mentions in a letter[2] to the Princess Belgiojoso, her 'Carissima Teresa,' a cultivated and charming lady, with whom she was on the most intimate and affectionate terms. She had some pupils, of whom Parodi was the most distinguished. This great singer died at her villa on the Lake of Como, April 1, 1865.

[ J. M. ]

PASTICCIO, literally 'a pie.' A species of Lyric Drama, composed of Airs, Duets, and other

  1. Not 2,300l. as stated by Ebers. The receipt, in the possesiion of the writer, disproves this statement.
  2. In the possession of the writer.