Encouraged by Pasta, Giulia Grisi declared that she, too, would become a great tragedienne. “How I should love to play Norma!” she exclaimed to Bellini one night behind the scenes. “Wait twenty years, and we shall see.” “I will play Norma in spite of you, and in less than twenty years!” she retorted. The young man smiled incredulously, and muttered, “A poco! a poco!” But Grisi kept her word.
Her genius was now fully appreciated, and she had obtained one of those triumphs which form the basis of a great renown. With astonishing ease she passed from Semiramide to Anna Bolena, then to Desdemona, to Donna Anna, to Elena in the “Donna del Lago.”
The young artiste had learned her true value, and was aware of the injury she was suffering from remaining in the service to which she had foolishly bound herself: she was now twenty-four, and time was passing away. Her father’s repeated endeavors to obtain more reasonable terms for his daughter from Lanari proved fruitless. He urged that his daughter, having entered into the contract without his knowledge, and while she was a minor, it was illegal. “Then, if you knew absolutely nothing of the matter, and it was altogether without your cognizance,” retorted Lanari, imperturbably, “how did it happen that her salary was always paid to you?”
But the high-spirited Giulietta had now become too conscious of her own value to remain hampered by a contract which in its essence was fraudulent. She determined to break her bonds by flight to Paris, where her sister Giuditta and her aunt Mme. Grassini-Ragani were then domiciled. She confided her proposed escapade to her father and her old teacher Marliani, who assisted her to procure passports for herself and maid. Her journey was long and tedious, but, spurred by fear and eagerness, she disdained fatigue for seven days of post-riding over bad roads and through mountain-gorges choked with snow, till she threw herself into the arms of her loving friends in the French capital.
An engagement was procured for her without difficulty at the Opera, which was then controlled by the triumvirate, Rossini, Robert, and Severini. Rossini remembered the beautiful debutante for whom he had predicted a splendid future, and secured a definite engagement for her at the Favart to replace Mme. Malibran. That this young and comparatively inexperienced girl, with a reputation hardly known out of Italy, should have been chosen to take the place of the great Malibran, was alike flattering testimony to her own rising genius and Rossini’s penetration. She appeared first before a French audience in “Semiramide,” and at once became a favorite. During the season of six months she succeeded in establishing her place as one of the most brilliant singers of the age. She sang in cooperation with many of the foremost