Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Patti, Carlotta

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PATTI, CARLOTTA (1835–1889), vocalist, born at Florence on 30 Oct. 1835, was the daughter of a singer named Salvator Patti, a native of Catania (d. 1869), and of his wife, Catherine Chiesa, a Roman, whose first husband was Signor Barilli. Eight years senior to her more famous sister, Mme. Adelina Patti (b. 1843), Carlotta, after being grounded in the rudiments of music by her mother, began its serious study by learning the pianoforte under Heinrich Herz (1806–1888). But finding herself the possessor of a voice of more than ordinary capacity, she renounced the pianoforte in order to devote herself entirely to singing.

After the removal of her family to the United States she made her first appearance in 1861 as a concert singer at the Academy of Music in New York, with pronounced success; and in the following year she joined, with her brother Carlo (1842–1873), a violinist, Max Strakosch's concert party, then touring in North America. Coming next to England, Carlotta made her début in this country on 16 April 1863 at a concert at Covent Garden Theatre, when she attracted considerable attention; and on 9 May she created almost a furore at the Crystal Palace. After taking part in some fifty concerts, as well as singing before the court, Carlotta Patti spent a large part of the next six years in various continental tours, singing at Vienna in 1865, and again in 1867 at the Carl Theatre. During one of these tours a wealthy Wallachian noble amateur once sent a coach-and-four with four men to meet the diva; and when she complimented him on the good taste of his equipage, he replied, ‘If it please you, madame, pray keep it, coach and men, in remembrance of the occasion.’ The offer was declined.

In 1869 Mlle. Patti returned to America, and became the leading attraction of Strakosch's company, gaining especial praise for her singing of the part of the Queen of the Night in ‘Die Zauberflöte.’ In the spring of 1870 she was in South America, where, at Buenos Ayres, she made almost her only appearance on the stage, singing in Rossini's ‘Barber’ and in ‘Don Pasquale.’ A concert given later in the same country for the benefit of the sufferers in the Franco-Prussian war realised a profit of sixty thousand francs. In 1872 she was singing with Mario in the United States, but from time to time she reappeared in Europe, and sang at the London Philharmonic and other concerts.

On 3 Sept. 1879 Mlle. Patti married M. Ernest de Munck, solo violoncellist to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar; and from that date to her death, which took place from cancer, at her house in the Rue Pierre-Charron at Paris, on 27 June 1889, she retired from public life, though much of her time was devoted to teaching.

Mlle. Patti possessed a voice of quite abnormal compass, which is said to have extended to G in altissimo, but, though of great brilliancy, it was deficient in sympathy. Her style and execution were excellent and finished, and it was almost entirely due to lameness, the result of an accident, that she never attempted to take a more prominent place among operatic singers.

[The Times and other daily papers, 29 June 1889; the Musical World from 1869 to 1889, which closely followed in its reports from America and the Continent the performances of Mlle. Patti; Hanslick's Aus dem Concertsaal, Vienna, 1870, pp. 356, 441; Grove's Dict. of Music; information kindly supplied by M. E. de Munck.]

R. H. L.