Great Singers, First Series eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Great Singers, First Series.

Mrs. Billington displayed her talents in a variety of operatic characters, which taxed her versatility, but did not prove beyond her powers.  Both English and Italian operas, serious and comic roles, seemed entirely within her scope; and those who admired her as Mandane were not less fascinated by her Rosetta, when Ineledon shared the honors of the evening with herself.  In spite of Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s somewhat severe judgment as given above, she appears to have pleased by her acting as well as singing, if we can judge from the wide diversity of characters in which she appeared so successfully.  We are justified in this, especially from the character of the English opera, of which Mrs. Billington was so brilliant an exponent; for this was rather musical drama than opera, and made strong demands on histrionic faculty.  As Rosetta, in “Love in a Village,” a performance in which Mrs. Billington was peculiarly charming, she drew such throngs that the price of admission was raised for the nights on which it was offered.  The witticism of Jekyl, the great barrister, made the town laugh on one of these occasions.  Being present with a country friend in the pit, the latter asked him, as Mrs. Billington appeared in the garden-scene, “Is that Rosetta?” The singer’s portly form, which had increased largely in bulk during her Italian absence, made the answer peculiarly appropriate:  “No, sir, it is not Rosetta, it is Grand Cairo.”

Life was running smoothly for Mrs. Billington; never had her popularity reached so high a pitch; never had Fortune favored her with such lavish returns for her professional abilities.  One night she was horrified with fear and disgust on returning home to see her brutal husband, Felican, lolling on the sofa.  He had been heart-broken at separation from his beloved wife, and could endure it no longer.  It was only left for her to bribe him to depart with a large sum of money, which she fortunately could afford.  “I never,” says Kelly, “saw a woman so much in awe of a man as poor Mrs. Billington was of him whom she had married for love.”  On the 3d of July, 1802, she sang with Mme. Mara at the farewell benefit of that distinguished singer.  Both rose to the utmost pitch of their skill, and, in their attempts to surpass each other, the theatre rang with thunders of applause.  In our sketches of some of Mrs. Billington’s rivals and contemporaries, Mme. Mara demands precedence.

III.

Frederick the Great loved war and music with equal fervor, and possessed talents for the one little inferior to his genius for the other.  He played with remarkable skill on the flute, of which instrument he possessed a large collection, and composed original music with both science and facility.  This royal connoisseur carried his despotism into his love of art, and ruled with an iron hand over those who catered for the amusement

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Great Singers, First Series from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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