Great Singers, First Series eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 150 pages of information about Great Singers, First Series.
life, M. Valle-bregue appears to have been a stupid, ignorant soldier, and, as is common with those who make similar matrimonial speculations, to have had no eyes beyond helping his talented wife to make all the money possible and spend it with the utmost freedom afterward.  Mme. Catalani made a brief visit to Paris in the spring of 1806, sang twice at St. Cloud, and gave three public concerts, each of which produced twenty-four thousand francs, the price being doubled for these occasions.

Napoleon was always anxious to make Paris the center of European art, and to assemble within its borders all the attractions of the civilized world.  He spared no temptation to induce the Italian cantatrice to remain.  When she attended his commands at the Tuileries she trembled like a leaf before the stern tyrant, under whose gracious demeanor she detected the workings of an unbending purpose.  “Ou allez vous, madame?” said he, smilingly.  “To London, sire,” was the reply.  “Remain in Paris.  I will pay you well, and your talents will be appreciated.  You shall receive a hundred thousand francs per annum, and two months for conge.  So that is settled.  Adieu, madame.”  Such was the brusque and imperious interview, which seemed to fix the fate of the artist.  But Mme. Catalani, anxious to get to London, to which she looked as a rich harvest-field, and regarding the grim Napoleon as the foe of the legitimate King, was determined not to stay.  “When at Paris I was denied a passport,” she afterward said; “however, I got introduced to Talleyrand, and, by the aid of a handful of gold, I was put into a government boat, and ordered to lie down to avoid being shot; and wonderful to relate, I got over in safety, with my little boy seven months old.”

II.

Catalani had already signed a contract with Goold and Taylor, the managers of the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, at a salary of two thousand pounds a month and her expenses, besides various other emoluments.  At the time of her arrival there was no competitor for the public favor, Grassini and Mrs. Billington having both retired from the stage a short time previously.  Lord Mount Edgcumbe tells us:  “The great and far-famed Catalani supplied the place of both, and for many years reigned alone; for she would bear no rival, nor any singer sufficiently good to divide the applause.  It is well known,” he says, “that her voice is of a most uncommon quality; and capable of bearing exertions almost superhuman.  Her throat seems endowed (as is remarked by medical men) with a power of expansion and muscular motion by no means usual; and when she throws out all her voice to the utmost, it has a volume and strength quite surprising; while its agility in divisions running up and down the scale in semi-tones, and its compass in jumping over two octaves at once, are equally astonishing.  It were to be wished that she was less lavish in the

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