The Girlhood of Catalani.—She makes her Debut in Florence.—Description of her Marvelous Vocalism.—The Romance of Love and Marriage.—Her Preference for the Concert Stage.—She meets Napoleon in Paris.—Her Escape from France and Appearance in London.—Opinions of Lord Mount Edgcumbe and other Critics.—Anecdotes of herself and Husband.—The Great Prima Donna’s Character.—Her Gradual Divergence from Good Taste in singing.—Bon Mots of the Wits of the Day.—The Opera-house Riot.—Her Husband’s Avarice.—Grand Concert Tour through Europe.—She meets Goethe.—Her Return to England and Brilliant Reception.—She sings with the Tenor Braham.—John Braham’ s Artistic Career.—The Davides.—Catalani’s Last English Appearance, and the Opinions of Critics.—Her Retirement and Death.
About the year 1790 the convent of Santa Lucia at Gubbio, in the duchy of Urbino, was the subject of a queer kind of scandal. Complaint was made to the bishop that one of the novices sang with such extraordinary brilliancy and beauty of voice that throngs gathered to the chapel from miles around, and that the religious services were transformed into a sort of theatrical entertainment” so entranced were all hearers by the charm of the singing, and so forgetful of the religious purport of these occasions in the fascination of the music. His Reverence ordered the lady abbess to abate the scandal; so the young Angelica Catalani was no longer permitted to sing alone, but only in concert with the other novices. Her voice at the age of twelve, when she began to sing, already possessed a volume, compass, and sweetness which made her a phenomenon. The young girl, who had been destined for conventual life, studied so hard that she became ill, and her father, a magistrate of Sinigaglia, was obliged to take her home. Signor Catalani was a man of bigoted piety, and it was with great difficulty that he could be induced to forego the plan which he had arranged for Angelica’s future. The idea of her going on the stage was repulsive to him, and only his straitened circumstances wrung from him a reluctant consent that she should abandon the thought of the convent and become a singer. From