Great Singers, First Series eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 182 pages of information about Great Singers, First Series.
I had an idea of presenting the Cross of the Legion of Honor to Talma; but I refrained from doing this, in consideration of our capricious manners and absurd prejudices.  I wished to make a first experiment in an affair that was out of date and unimportant, and I accordingly gave the Iron Crown to Crescentini.  The decoration was foreign, and so was the individual on whom it was conferred.  This circumstance was less likely to attract public notice or to render my conduct the subject of discussion; at worst, it could only give rise to a few malicious jokes.  Such,” continued the Emperor, “is the influence of public opinion.  I distributed scepters at will, and thousands readily bowed beneath their sway; and yet I could not give away a ribbon without the chance of incurring disapprobation, for I believe my experiment with regard to Crescentini proved unsuccessful.”  “It did, sire,” observed some one present.  “The circumstance occasioned a great outcry in Paris; it drew forth a general anathema in all the drawing-rooms of the metropolis, and afforded full scope for the expression of malignant feeling.  However, at one of the evening parties of the Faubourg St. Germain, a bon mot had the effect of completely stemming the current of indignation.  A pompous orator was holding forth in an eloquent strain on the subject of the honor that had been conferred on Crescentini.  He declared it to be a disgrace, a horror, a perfect profanation, and inquired by what right Crescentini was entitled to such a distinction.  Mme. Grassini, who was present, rose majestically from her chair, with a theatrical tone and gesture exclaiming, ’Et sa blessure, monsieur?’ This produced a general burst of laughter, amid which Grassini sat down, embarrassed by her own success.”

Mme. Grassini remained on the stage till about 1823 when, having lost the beauty of her voice, she retired to private life with a comfortable fortune, spending her last years in Paris.  She died in 1850, in her eighty-fifth year, preserving her beauty and freshness in a marvelous degree.  The effect of Grassini’s singing on people of refined taste was even greater than the impression made on regular musicians.  Thomas De Quincey speaks of her in his “Autobiographical Sketches” as having a voice delightful beyond all that he had ever heard.  Sir Charles Bell thought it was “only Grassini who conveyed the idea of the united power of music and action.  She did not act only without being ridiculous, but with an effect equal to Mrs. Siddons.  The ‘O Dio’ of Mrs. Billington was a bar of music, but in the strange, almost unnatural voice of Grassini, it went to the soul.”  Elsewhere he speaks of “her dignity, truth, and affecting simplicity.”


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