Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/329

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engaged Schroder-Devrient at a double salary.

I'Fidelio,' 'La Sonnambula' and 'Norma' were performed in English. She broke down in health before the season was over. It is said that Bunn forced himself into her sick-room one night, to insist on her showing herself in character upon the stage for one moment, to enable him to put off the performance ' on account of the sudden indisposition of the singer' and yet keep the entrance money. After a rest, too short to be beneficial, she resumed her work, and was car- ried home insensible from the theatre. She was able however to give a farewell performance of ' Fidelio,' with the last act of the ' Montecchi e Capuletti,' and then discovered that Mr. Bunn had declared himself bankrupt and could pay her nothing. In his book, 'The Stage both before and behind the Curtain,' Mr. Bunn complains of the singer's attempts at extor- tion ; says that she demanded the fourth part of the proceeds of each night, but on this sum proving to fall short of the fixed salary, asked for 100.

From 1837 a gradual decline in power was observed in Madame Schroder-Devrient, though she continued to delight her audiences all over Germany in the parts she had identified herself with. Of Wagner's operas she only appeared in ' Rienzi,' as Adriano Colonna, in 'Der fliegende Hollander,' as Senta, and in 'Tannhauser,' as Venus. His later dramas would have been a fitting field for her dramatic genius. Gluck's masterpieces were among her latest studies. Her last appearance in Dresden was in his ' Iphi- genie in Aulis,' in 1847 ; her last appearance on any stage took place at Riga, where she played Romeo. Her concert singing was greatly ad : mired, and one of the liveliest passages in Mendelssohn's letters l describes the furore caused by her impromptu execution of 'Adelaide ' in her ordinary travelling dress at the Gewand- haus Concert of Feb. u, 1841.

Madame Schroder-Devrient had made a second marriage with Heir von Doring, a worthless person, who immediately seized upon his wife's earnings and pension, and left her almost desti- tute, to recover what she could in a long lawsuit. The marriage was dissolved at her wish. In 1850 she again married Herr von Bock, a man of culture, who took her to his property in Livonia. The union promised great happiness, and Madame von Bock entered with ardour on her new duties. But she found herself unfitted for a quiet country life, and sought relief in travelling. Passing through Dresden, she was arrested on account of the sympathy she had shown with the revolution of 1848. An examination in Berlin resulted in her being forbidden to return to Saxony : in the meantime she was exiled from Russia. Her husband's exertions and sacrifices secured a reversal of this sentence. In 1856 she visited some German towns, singing Lieder in public concerts. Her interpretations of Beetho- ven's 'Adelaide ' and of Schubert's and Schumann's

I Letter. Feb. 14. 1841.



��songs were immensely admired, though by some thought too dramatic. When at Leipzig her strength succumbed to a painful illness. She was devotedly nursed by a sister and a friend at Coburg, and died Jan. si, 1860.

Schroder-Devrient's voice, even in her best days, was of no extraordinary compass, but, to the last, the tones of the middle notes were of exceptionally fine quality. Mazatti's teaching, with further instruction from Radichi and from Miksch (the Dresden Chorus -master), had not been sufficient training for the young girl, who had besides been disinclined to the drudgery of scale-singing. The neglect of system and of careful vocal exercise resulted in faulty execu- tion and too early loss of the high notes. This might have been less observable had she kept to such simple rdles as Pamina and Agathe. But there seemed a discrepancy between the delicate organization of her voice and the passionate energy of her temperament. By force of will she accomplished more than was warranted by her natural powers. ' A portion of her life was exhausted in every song.' As a musical instru- ment the voice was not under her command ; as a vehicle of expression it was completely so. It was the dramatic genius of this artist which won for her an European reputation. She infused a terrible earnestness 3 into the more pathetic im- personations, while an almost unerring instinct of artistic fitness, combined with a conscientious study of the parts, secured a perfection of per- formance which reached every detail of bye-play. It could be said of her that she never ceased learning, for she toiled at her art to the end. She once wrote as follows : ' Art is an eternal race, and the artist is destroyed for art as soon as he entertains the delusion that he is at the goal. It were certainly comfortable to lay down the task with the costume, and let it rest until its turn comes round again in the re'pertoire. I have never been able to do this. How often, when the public have shouted approval and showered bouquets on me, have I retired in confusion, asking myself: "Wilhelmine, what have you been about again ?" then there would be no peace for me, but brooding the livelong days and nights until I had hit upon something better.'

Her good faith and earnestness led her to condemn a fellow- actress for disrespect to her art when she carelessly threw down behind the scenes a handkerchief which had served on the stage as a Signal of Love. Schroder-Devrient's play generally inspired others with her own spirit. On one occasion it moved a Bluebeard to forget the ordinary artifice used in dragging his Marie off the stage, and to take her literally by the hair. 'Almost unconscious with pain and covered with blood, the artist endured this torture rather than spoil the effect of the tableau.'

��J Sometimes perhaps a trifle too much, as indeed Mendelssohn hints in the sequel of the passage quoted above. Even in the Con- cert-room this was so. 'The old Declamatrice,' writes Mendelssohn. on Nov. 28. 1842, 'thoroughly delighted us all by the great strength- and vigour of her voice and her whole style.'

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