Great Singers, Second Series eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 170 pages of information about Great Singers, Second Series.

IV.

But of all the great men-singers with whom the Grisi was associated no one was so intimately connected with her career as the tenor Mario.  Their art partnership was in later years followed by marriage, but it was well known that a passionate and romantic attachment sprang up between these two gifted singers long before a dissolution of Grisi’s earlier union permitted their affection to be consecrated by the Church.  Mario, Conte di Candia, the scion of a noble family, was born at Genoa in 1812.  His father had been a general in the army at Piedmont, and he himself at the time of his first visit to Paris in 1836 carried his sovereign’s commission.  The fascinating young Italian officer was welcomed in the highest circles, for his splendid physical beauty, and his art-talents as an amateur in music, painting, and sculpture, separated him from all others, even in a throng of brilliant and accomplished men.  He had often been told that he had a fortune in his voice, but his pride of birth had always restrained him from a career to which his own secret tastes inclined him, in spite of the fact that expensive tastes cooperated with a meager allowance from his father to plunge him deeply in debt.  At last the moment of successful temptation came.  Duponchel, the director of the Opera, made him a tempting offer, for good tenors were very difficult to secure then as in the later days of the stage.

The young Count Candia hesitated to sign his father’s name to a contract, but he finally compromised the matter at the house of the Comtesse de Merlin, where he was dining one night in company with Prince Belgiojoso and other musical amateurs, by signing only the Christian name, under which he afterward became famous, Mario.  He spent a short season in studying under Michelet, Pouchard, and the great singing master, Bordogni, but there is no doubt that his singing was very imperfect when he made his debut, November 30, 1838, in the part of Robert le Diable.  His princely beauty and delicious fresh voice, however, took the musical public by storm, and the common cry was that he would replace Kubini.  For a year he remained at the Academie, but in 1840 passed to the Italian Opera, for which his qualities more specially fitted him.

In the mean time he had made his first appearance before that public of which he continued to be a favorite for so many years.  London first saw the new tenor in “Lucrezia Borgia,” and was as cordial in its appreciation as Paris had been.  A critic of the period, writing of him in later years, said:  “The vocal command which he afterward gained was unthought of; his acting then did not get beyond that of a southern man with a strong feeling for the stage.  But physical beauty and geniality, such as have been bestowed on few, a certain artistic taste, a certain distinction, not exclusively belonging to gentle birth, but sometimes associated with it, made

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